[You may prefer the PDF version of the rules, which have a few additional examples.]

Your goal is to build a path across the bamboo forest, using wood gathered from the forest itself. You begin with two spaces, and can harvest from nearby spaces. With enough harvested bamboo—and the right claim on the land—you can build another spot elsewhere in the forest. You decide whether to build along your most direct route across the forest or where there is the most bamboo to harvest. Swap parts of the forest itself to improve your future harvest, diminish an opponent's, or move a card into a path to be built upon later.


  • Two 52-card decks of cards.
  • 10 tokens per player for marking cards claimed in the forest of cards.
  • 1 disturbance token per player.
  • 60 counters representing reeds of bamboo collected from the forest.
  • For a two-player game, you will need about 30 minutes; for a three- or four-player game, about 45 minutes.


  • The forest of cards: The grid of green cards on the table.
  • Adjacent: North, South, East, or West on the forest of cards. Diagonals don't count.
  • Vacant: Cards that are face down with a token are built-up clearings. Cards that are face-up with a token on them have recently been swapped, and will not be productive again until cleared. All other cards are vacant.
  • Matching: Cards match if the values listed in the corner (A, number, J, Q, K) match. It is the corner number, not the reed count, that determines a match: a 4♡ and a 3♡ are both worth two bamboo, but they do not match. Wild cards (see below) match anything.
  • Deed cards: The black cards and the wild cards are deeds to spaces in the forest of cards that you will draw and hold. You need a matching deed card to swap or build on a card in the forest of cards. A player will typically hold some combination of cards that are face down (usable only for building) and cards that are face-up (usable for building and swapping).
  • Wild cards: Three of the deed cards are green. These wild cards match any card in the forest of cards.

Q: What are the suits (♣ ♢ ♡ ♠) for? Why do the backs have slightly different colors?

A: These features will be useful when you sort the cards into two standard decks to play Bridge or Poker. Only the value of the card (A-K), the color of the card, and the count of bamboo reeds are relevant for Bamboo Harvest.

Or try the game with two standard decks of cards. The only thing you need to know is that each card harvests its pip value divided by two, rounded up. For example, cards with 5 and 6 yield three reeds, and 9 and 10 yield five.


Build a bridge from one end of the forest of cards to the other, connecting the North and South ends or East and West ends.

  • The bridge consists of a sequence of adjacent cards that all have built tokens on them.
  • Your path can change directions and may go along one edge. As long as the start of a valid path is on one side of the forest and the end is on the opposite side, it is a winning path.
  • Your path:
    1. must include at least one token from another player.
    2. may include at most two tokens from one other player.
    3. may include at most three tokens total from all other players.
  • You win if you have a complete path at the end of the build step of your turn.

Alternatively, you can win by building with eight tokens in a 3-4 player game or ten tokens in a 2-player game.


The figure shows an example layout.

  1. Sort the cards into a deck of ♣|♠ cards and a deck of ♢|♡ cards.
  2. Take one Jack, Queen, and King from the ♢|♡ deck; shuffle them into the black deck. This primarily ♣|♠ deck is the draw pile.
  3. Shuffle the ♢|♡ deck and deal out its cards face up into a 7×7 grid. This is the forest of cards.
  4. Each player gets 14 reeds to start.
  5. Deal three deed cards to each player.
  6. Each player selects one of the three cards to discard. Everyone reveals their discard simultaneously. The player with the highest-valued discard (aces low) is the starting player. In case of ties, spades beat clubs and black-backed deck beats green-backed.

    • Both the draw and discard piles will be face-down. Leaving the discards a little messy makes it obvious which pile is which.

  7. Beginning with the starting player and continuing clockwise, each player places a token on any card in the forest, flipping the card as they do so. Then, players take turns placing tokens in counterclockwise order, beginning with the last player. For example, in a three player game, the order of token placement is player 1, 2, 3, 3, 2, 1.
  8. All players lay their remaining deed cards face-up.
  9. Beginning clockwise from starting player, players take their turns until a player creates a winning path!

A sample tableau

At the end of setup, the forest of cards has been dealt out. Each player has built on two cards in the forest of cards, has two deed cards, and 14 points. To the south, there is the face-down draw deck, the face-down discard deck, and the bank.

Turn sequence

Each turn consists of four steps: one build, one swap, harvest, manage deeds. Players must harvest and discard down to three cards at the end. Buildng, swapping, and revealing are optional. Order matters! Build first, then remove the disturbance token, then swap, then harvest, then turn cards face-up.

1. Build

  • Pay 30 reeds.
  • Discard a deed card (face up or face down), and flip over any vacant matching face-up card anywhere in the forest of cards. It does not have to be adjacent to any already-built clearings.
  • Place your token on the card you just turned face-down.
  • Is this a winning move? Your winning build must be with a regular, non-wild deed card.

2. Swap

  • If the player's disturbance token is on the board (from a previous swap), clear the token from the board now, whether doing a new swap or not. The area is no longer disturbed and may be swapped again during this turn.
  • You will need a face-up deed card, a vacant matching card in the forest, and one other vacant card in the forest. Plan ahead—you may only turn face-down cards face-up in part 4 of your turn (see below).
  • Swap the matching card and the other card in the forest.
  • Put the disturbance token on one of the swapped cards (player's choice).
  • Cards on the path between the two cards may be occupied. The swap happens via helicopter.
  • A wild card matches anything in the forest of cards, but it may only be used for swapping once. After swapping with the wild card, put a marker on it to indicate that it may not be re-used for swapping.
  • The cost of the swap depends on the length of the path between the cards:

    • Adjacent cards are one edge away = 0 reeds
    • Cards two edges away = 0 reeds
    • cards three edges away = 5 reeds
    • cards four edges away = 10 reeds
    • and so on, adding 5 reeds for each additional edge traversed in the path.

3. Harvest

  • Every token on a clearing built by the player harvests from one adjacent, vacant card (if any).

    • Player reed stores are public information. If asked, report how many reeds you have.
  • Numbered cards (including Ace=1pt) harvest the number of reeds on the face of the card (not the number in the corner, which is used only for matching).
  • Harvesting from a Jack, Queen, or King produces a draw of one deed card from the draw pile.

    • If the draw pile is exhausted during the game, shuffle the discard pile to make a new draw pile.
  • If two or more cards adjacent to a token match (that is, the values in the corner match), harvest from all of them. One token by four matching five-reed cards would harvest 20 reeds in one turn!
  • Each token's harvesting operation is independent of that of every other, and bamboo grows very quickly. Thus, multiple tokens may harvest from the same card.
  • {\em Optional buy:} A player who does not have any tokens adjacent to any vacant face cards has the option of paying 10 points to draw a card.
  • Don't like a card you just drew? You may discard and redraw one drawn card per turn.

4. Manage deeds—reveal and discard

  • If you have more than three deed cards (whether face-up or face-down), discard down to three.
  • Optional: lay face-up any number of deed cards you have kept face down.

A game by Ben Klemens

Artwork by Alison Labonte
Thanks to Nora G Albert (lead tester), Brian Agnew, Fong Bahn, Ishai Barnoy, Kevin Berney, Kayla Block, Vince Bradley, Claire W Brown, Charles Cole, Matthew Dahlhausen, Miranda Delahoy, Gabriel Fuentes, María Garcia, Elizabeth Graeber, Barbara Grinnell, William Kennard, Guy Klemens, Ronit Klemens, Mike Kuta, Marc Labonte, Chris Leung, Laura Lorenz, Dylan Matthews, Will Maldonado, Leah Marcus, Brett Moran, Tim Mossman, Ryan Nini, Ryan Nunn, Tony Ojeda, Kelly Overbay, Allie Percy, Dan Peterson, Bharat Ponnaluri, Alison Raab, Anindya Roy, Abigail Rudman, Scot Ryder, Leslie Shages, Jonathan Smith, Austin Smokowicz, Josh Tauberer, Josh Tokle, Doreen Triebe, Jim Ulbright, Don Vetal, Ananth Virahthi, Emil Volcheck, Marguerite Wakeman, Ryan Walker, Sarah Weissman, Thomas J West III, Caroline Wilson, Eric Wright, Christine Zhang, and Weihua Zheng for playtesting and suggestions.
Contact: bk@123mail.org

Send comments or suggestions to bk@123mail.org.