The rules that follow apply to a game with 2 - 4 players.
a. Place the board in the middle of the table.
b. Place all the bonsai tiles in an area which is within reach of all players. This is the common supply.
c. Choose three colors at random (among brown, green, pink, orange, and light blue) and place the three Goal tiles of each chosen color beside the board (e.g., 3 brown tiles, 3 green tiles, and 3 light blue tiles, for a total of 9 tiles). Leave the unselected tiles in the box. With 1 or 2 players, use only 2 tiles per color: discard the intermediate Goals. (If you are playing with inexperienced players, you may decide not to use the Goal tiles at all.)
d. Prepare the deck of Zen cards, with:
- 4 players: use all the cards
- 3 players: remove the cards for 4 players, marked with
- 2 players: remove the cards for 3 and 4 players, marked with /
Removed cards are not used in this game. Shuffle the deck and place it face down on the board in the leftmost space, where a temple is depicted. Draw the top 4 cards and place them face up in the spaces of the board.
e. Each player receives a Pot tile of their chosen color, a matching Seishi starting tile, and a Summary card (not depicted above), which they place in front of them. Leave unassigned Pot and Seishi tiles as well as unused Summary cards in the box, as they will not be used.
f. The first player is the oldest player. Starting with the first player and proceeding clockwise, each player takes from the common supply the bonsai tiles shown in the following table. Keep these tiles in your personal supply.
g. Keep the score pad handy.