Emperor's Garden

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Emperor's Garden
Diz Hooper
EG setup.jpg
Try destroying the Fujiwara clan to assert the new Emperor's power
:Players Players: 2 - 4
:Time Length: Long?
:Complexity Complexity: Medium
Trios per color: 1
Number of colors: 2-5
Pyramid trios:
Monochr. stashes: 2-5
Five-color sets: 1
- - - - - - Other equipment - - - - - -
Hanafuda cards, VP markers
Setup time: 1 minute
Playing time: 30 minutes
0.5 Hr
- 45 minutes
0.75 Hr
Strategy depth: Medium
Random chance: Some
Game mechanics: Victory points, Guessing
Theme: Japan nobility
BGG Link:
Status: complete? (v1.0), Year released: 2987


NOTE: These rules have been edited to reflect the changes of the Second Edition, which can be found at http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/60727/emperors-garden-rules-second-edition



Japan in the year 1150 AD: the Fujiwara clan has held the emperors of Japan in their hands for more than 200 years. Now a new emperor has come to the throne, and he is determined to reassert the authority of his office and destroy the power base of the Fujiwara clan.

The emperor has summoned great warlords from across the land to assist him in this great undertaking. However, the agents of the Fujiwara clan fill the capital, so it is necessary to meet in private in the emperor’s garden. Even in this secluded place, it is not possible to meet in person. The great warlords must visit various locations and decipher the clues that the emperor has hidden in his garden.

The warlord that can decipher these clues will be the one to destroy the Fujiwara and will have taken the first step toward becoming Japan’s first Shogun!

What You Need

Emperor’s Garden is a game for 2 to 4 players. To play Emperor’s Garden, you will need one set of Treehouse pieces, one deck of Hanafuda cards (Japanese playing cards), and a set of glass beads (or any other marker to record points).

You may use a deck of traditional Western playing cards instead of a Hanafuda deck. Remove the Jokers and one rank of cards (e.g. the Kings or Aces) and play with the rest.

Game Set Up

To begin, each player gets one set of Treehouse pieces (1 large, 1 medium, and 1 small pyramid) in one color. Each player should set their pyramids in front of them. The large pyramid represents the player’s samurai. The medium pyramid represents the player’s priest. The small pyramid represents the player’s poet. Each piece has a special power that will be described below.

Once each player has claimed a set of pyramids, choose one set to represent the emperor. For the emperor, take the large pyramid of his set and return the other two pyramids to the box. This large pyramid will represent the emperor himself.

To create the GAME BOARD, shuffle the Handafuda cards. Once shuffled, draw five cards and place them face up on the table like this:

EG setup.jpg

Then draw four card and place them to the side of the board face down. These represent the gardens where the emperor has hidden his secret messages. These will be referred to as the SCORING CARDS.

Then each player draws a card. This card represents the AGENTS of the players. Each player should look at their card and then place it face down in front of them. Do not reveal this card to anyone at this time.

If playing a 3-player game, the remaining cards will be placed in a face-down stack in a place that will be convenient for all players to reach. This will be referred to as the DRAW DECK.

If playing a 4-player game,remove three cards face up so that all players can see them. These cards are out of the game. Being able to see these cards will help players determine which suits are scoring suits.

If playing a 2-player game, then remove one card face up from the game.

Finally, the emperor’s piece is placed on the center card on the game board.

Then players take turns putting their samurai piece on one of the remaining cards after determining play order in a way that all players can agree on (roll of a die, rock-paper-scissors, or any other method is acceptable).

Before game play begins, the players will take turns to look at one of the scoring cards. A player may only look at one card. Players are allowed to look at a card that a previous player looked at, if they chose to do so.

The game is ready to begin!

Game Play

On a player’s turn, the player has two actions:

  1. Draw a card from the draw deck and place it adjacent to another card on the game board. As long as one side is placed adjacent to a card side of the same length, anywhere on the board is acceptable.
  2. Then a player may take one of the following actions once:
A) Place one of their remaining pieces on the board in an empty garden space. This way you can get more of your tokens on the board or replace tokens that have been eliminated.
B) Reveal an agent to remove all opponent pieces that are on garden cards of the same suit. Show your agent card and remove it from the game. For every piece that is removed, the player who played the agent will receive points (three points for each samurai removed, 2 points for each priest removed, and 1 point for each poet removed). Those tokens have been assassinated! The player that played the agent card takes one glass bead for each point earned. The emperor piece is immune to this effect. He is too well guarded to be assassinated and is a master swordsman himself.
Don’t waste your agent, though. Any unused agents remaining at the end of the game are worth 2 points. Also, if there is a tie at the end of the game, the player who still has his agent will win.
C) Use the Samurai’s Ability – the samurai has the power to issue commands and can move your own pieces. To use the samurai’s power, your samurai must be on the board.
When you use the samurai’s power, choose one of your pieces to move (samurai, priest, or poet). That piece may move any number of spaces in a single direction (up, down, left, right, or diagonal). A piece may not move off the board and it may not jump gaps in the game board.
If your piece encounters another piece controlled by an opponent, then your piece may push that piece if it is of lower value (samurai can push priests and poets, priests can push poets, and poets cannot push any pieces). The pushed piece will move one space in the same direction as your piece is moving. If there are no spaces to push the opponent’s piece in that direction, then it is pushed off of the board and it is returned to its owner’s hand. You may not directly push your own pieces. If you push any tokens off of the board, you will receive points equal in value to the token that was pushed off the board (samurai=3 points, priest=2 points, poet=1 point). Take one bead for each point earned.
You may encounter a move that requires you to push a group of pieces lined up in a row. You may do this if the initial pushing piece is larger than the pushed piece that is adjacent to it. For example, if you moved your priest to push an opponent’s poet and immediately after the poet is an opponent’s samurai, you may push that entire group since the initial push is legal. If the emperor is part of a group that you are trying to push, it is not allowed. The emperor cannot be moved by pushing. All must give way in his presence.
D) Use the Priest’s Ability—the Priest the power to rearrange the garden based on his interpretation of geomancy. The will of the gods must be obeyed! To use the priest’s ability, your priest must be on the board. Pick up one unoccupied garden space and move it to another location on the board following the rules for card placement. This may be used to protect your pieces or to isolate other players’ pieces.
The priest may use his ability to score points as well. If the space that the priest moves completes a set of four adjacent cards of the same suit (or rank for Western cards), then you score 2 points. Take a bead for each point scored. Be aware that you may only score points for completing a set of four cards on the board with the priest’s ability. If you complete a set with your initial card placement, you do not score any points. Also, be aware that when you complete a set, you are highlighting to other players which suit is not a scoring suit.
E) Use the Poet’s Ability—the poet has the power to move the hearts of even the greatest men of the land—even the emperor. To use the poet’s ability, your poet must be on the board. You can move the emperor in any single direction any number of spaces. The emperor must stop if he reaches the edge of the board or a gap in the game board. The emperor may push any pieces, including samurai. All must make way for the emperor. All pushed pieces follow the same rules as outlined under the Samurai’s power.
If you push any tokens off of the board using the poet’s ability, you will receive points equal in value to the token that was pushed off the board (samurai=3 points, priest=2 points, poet=1 point). Take one bead for each point earned.

The game continues until all of the cards in the draw deck are used. When a player starts his turn and the draw deck is empty, the game immediately ends and scoring begins.

Winning the Game

The scoring cards are revealed. If a player has pieces sitting on a card of the same suit (or rank with Western cards), then that player will score points.

  • A samurai on the same suit as a scoring card = 3 points
  • A priest on the same suit as a scoring card = 2 points
  • A poet on the same suit as a scoring card = 1 point


It is possible that there will be 3 to 0 cards of the same suit as a scoring card on the board. Depending on the number of cards on the board of a scoring suit, the number of points may increase.

  • If there are 3 cards of a scoring suit on the board, then points are scored as listed above.
  • If there are 2 cards of a scoring suit on the board, then points are doubled for that suit.
  • If there is only one card of a scoring suit on the board, then points are tripled for that suit.


  • If you have a token sitting on a card of a scoring suit and the emperor is also sitting on a card of that suit, then you receive 5 points.


  • If you still have your agent card, then you receive 2 points.


The player with the most points wins.

If there is a tie, then the player who still has his agent at the end of the game wins. If there is still a tie, then the player with the most pieces on the board wins. If there is still a tie, then the player who has scored with more than one suit wins. If there is still a tie, then the player with the most pieces adjacent to the emperor wins.

Hanafuda Cards: The Twelve Suits

A deck of Hanafuda cards is made up of twelve suits. Each suit contains four cards for a total of 48 cards. Each suit represents a month of the year and depicts flower, plant, or seasonal event related to that month. As you play Emperor’s Garden, remember that if four cards of a suit are showing on the board, then it can’t be a scoring card. Keep track of the suits!

Hanafuda suits.jpg

External Links

Emperor's Garden on BGG