Giant pandas are big gamblers. In the world, people know them for their charm and intelligence, but in their natural environment, it is different. If they can gamble and play for any cash in the form of bamboo rings, it’s hard to resist the temptation. The only thing they seem to like even more is food. And when you combine two favorite activities together, then you have created a Pandanté!
Well, same name goes to a game Pandanté, as named his creation David Sirlin (Puzzle Strike, Flash Duel). He published it under banner of his small company Sirlin Games, but again had assistance with the distribution from gentlemen of Game Salute. We received second edition with a slightly modified and improved rules according to comments of fans. There won’t be any comparison as we are not familiar with the previous version.
Whole red box is a smaller one. On the cover, we see a panda sitting confidently. We will use the chance and allow ourselves to peek at contants of its nest – box. There, we will find rules and folded game board. It offers six color lines for players and different columns for players to place their bets.
For each participant, there is also prepared one help card and a pair of cardboard tokens for challenges. Big part of the content is also made by a pile of plastic tokens, that will serve as a panda bets. Another two large cardboard tokens should mark the dealer and provide reward for bluffing in shape of gold panda coin. And then there is a separate box with six champion cards, dozen casinos to visit and 61 main poker cards. On them are colored pandas in various positions with bamboo.
At the beginning of the game, players get betting tokens worth 44 gold (consisting of a stack of 1’s, 2’s and 5’s). Everyone then gets his help card, two challenge tokens and identity card of his panda champion (indicating also with color).
Game is a series of visits to casinos. At the beginning of each round, players randomly select one casino card. Then each player receives two cards from a shuffled deck of numbered cards. At that point, game board should be located in the center of the table. Rivals now place their starting bets of three gold into the pot, in the upper left corner of the board.
The duel begins by revealing a trio of cards, that are laid openly on the table with numbers up. Players secretly inspect their two cards and combinations of all five values create them some possible combinations. Panda poker starts with set of two same cards, but there is also straight, flush, full house or five of the kind. There are total of ten different possible values to achieve.
On the basis of starting sets, players now must make bets. Everyone puts two ducats on his line. He may choose column by himself. The individual sections (columns) correspond to aforementioned possible combinations ordered by value from the lowest to the most precious. Player do not have to necessarily speak the truth and choose the right place. They can bluff and try to catch their opponents off guard. Betting levels should be treated with caution, because during round in one casino has several stages and proclamation about value can be increased, but never lowered. Instead, player at this moment also can fold and give up the whole round. He places his bet money into the pot instead.
At the same time, players also have motivation to go as high as possible with their current bet. After each round of betting, there is a time for snacks – moment beloved by all pandas and break from gambling. Instead of something good in their mouth, players get a card, which can replace one of their existing pair. But it does not come free. Actually it is, but only for player with the highest bet at that moment. All others must pay two ducats for each column they are lagging behind.
And then it all goes around. To three cards in the middle, players place the fourth and everyone gets a chance to raise the stakes. Then again, all pandas enjoy some tasty snacks. And as soon as fifth card enriches the table, all opponents will get the last chance to raise their bets. Panda fight for the victory does not end there, because at that moment, they can use their special abilities.
Whoever has the highest bet at the moment can now be challenged by all opponents. One by one, they express their feeling using their vote tokens revealed at the same time. If the highest bet is considered as a lie by at least one player, leading bidder really has to reveal his cards. If he speaks the truth, the applicant must pay five gold to each participant. Conversely, when someone is convicted of lying, he also pays five gold, but only to player, who distrusted him. But when there is noone brave enough, player may not show their cards (but can get a Gold Panda token) and is winner of the round, even through fraud (no one will know!). He gets all the money in the bank. Pot in the round, where there is no winner, moves to the next round.
Game continues with a visit to other casinos, where players can harness power of gold panda coin (received for successful lying) to draw five cards and thus have a very large selection. Goal of the game is to collect sufficient cash to declared panda gambler as a true winner. This amount varies according to number of players in match, ranging from 75 gold coins for two players to 175 for six. The winner is the one, who first reaches this amount.
Pandanté is a game full of bets, risk and stress. This is practically a mandatory feature of all games, where we encounter a gambling element. Of course, we will not play for our own money, but only for tokens. But that does not change the fact, that the game is inspired probably by the most popular version of poker – Texas Hold’em. But it adds many of its own features and extensions, that make it quite different.
Basic goal for the players remains – they need to have the best combination of cards or at least successfully lie about it. But compared to the classic game, all the other players have option to accuse him of lying not only by raising bets. That makes up for true turnovers in victory and reward during gameplay. This option is very interesting and will be widely used. All this despite the fact, that the penalty for false accusation is really high. Especially towards the end of the game, players like to use this option to raise their chances for winning.
Most of the game is about two alternating phases: drawing new cards and ability to raise the stakes. Far more interesting is the chance to replace cards in hand. The players here have a great opportunity to strategize and bluff, because you can bet more at the beginning and hope to gain a better hand. And later, you may really improve it or at least new good cards may be revealed. If you want to change the card, then higher bet at first is crucial, because it lowers the cost for newly drawn card.
Game gets positive points mainly due to its huge variability. There are characters with different skills, randomly selected casino also affect gambling. But above all, its the opportunity to use light or dark Panda abilities, that really shines in replayability.
Every round and every battle on the casino floor is difficult to predict. The game often evolves unexpectedly and is full of chance and luck, players must rely on. However, in addition, in the case of the dark panda abilities, they may also use aggressive and tricky options, that include exchangings cards with opponent, reducing bet or the chance to influence the following cards drawn from the deck.
Money are always added into the bank and stays there until one player loots it. So eventually the entire match is not somehow long. Victory usually is a matter of half an hour and you can sometimes reach it even earlier. The duration of the game is slightly affected by number of players, but rather the length of each round, than their number. Required amount of money to complete the game will increase, but so pots become also more valuable.
Pandanté is an awesome variation on Texas poker. Whoever likes this game and does not mind changes in the rules, he can play very quickly and will most certainly enjoy it. It is full of bluffing, but with a slightly different development thanks to skills or accusations. Pandanté is altogether super fun game for fans of safe gambling.
If you would like to talk about Pandanté, we have to mention luck in every sentence. But anyone who has ever played poker know, how lucky you have to be. And will count with randomness from the start. Some things just can not be influenced and . And yet, in this game players can modify their cards for a fee. The main element of the game is still bluffing and possibility of accusation of bluffing! This brings into play next level of rivalry and tension. Fights are always different, but never last long enough for you get tired of folding cards into sets . Pandanté will please all fans of poker without any doubt.