Designed by David Sirlin
Published by Sirlin Games
2 to 6 Players
30 to 40 minutes
Gambling (Poker), Player Abilities, Bluffing
Have you ever heard of a gambling panda bear? Chances are that if you have, you are already familiar with David Sirlin's other Fantasy Strike games which feature a gambling panda bear - who, just also happens to be a good fighter. :) Pandante is a game that is very different from the fighting games Yomi and Flash Duel. It still has the wonderful bluffing that is so prevalent in his other games and it is a fun unique twist on Texas Hold'em Poker. Clever name too! "Panda" and "ante" combined together...very cool.
If you don't enjoy playing poker, don't leave yet - because Pandante provides some really great mechanics that may just change your mind about poker - well... at least the way the pandas play it. I have had friends who don't really enjoy poker play Pandante and they ended up having a blast. Pandante overs a unique deck of cards to start - 6 different colorful suits with numbers 1 to 10 with 1 Joker.
There are a few more possible poker hands as well including a 4 of one color (a Floosh) and a Rainbow Straight. Players are dealt 2 cards that are kept hidden, and as the game progresses, 3 cards are flipped over to create The Splash (community cards that everyone can utilize - similar to Texas Hold'em). Players ante before each Gambit and players place bets and have the opportunity to draw and discard a card by "snacking." Another card is flipped over and added to The Splash - this is called The Paw. When players make their bets, everyone is betting exactly 2 gold on a certain hand indicated on their player board. Everyone goes around once, so there isn't the back and forth from matching bets and raising bids. "Snacking" is available to everyone, but the person who bid the highest hand gets to "snack" for free by drawing a card and discarding a card face down.
Other players will need to pay 2 gold for every step down in value their hand bid was to the highest one. This game mechanic is brilliant as it encourages players to bet bigger earlier. There is a lot of bluffing in this game, so watch out! Players can fold during the game, but it really is a lot less likely than regular poker. For one thing, all players will have a chance to perform some special abilities each turn. These can greatly swing the tide in your favor at the last minute. One of the other cool things is the Gold Fairy that keeps people in the game even if they lost all their gold in a previous Gambit. This is a nice change as it keeps everyone involved in the game.
I really enjoy the components of Pandante. The cards are colorful and well laid-out. The deluxe version has an amazing faux leather feel to it with magnets to keep it closed. The poker chips provided are very nice quality - pretty much the best poker chips ever! The cards are nice quality for traditional type cards and the rule book is well done.
Currently Pandante: Light and Dark is on Kickstarter (for about the next week) - and it is sitting around 34k of 50k for funding. Light and Dark is a great opportunity to get in on the Pandante action. David has updated the base game rules with many little things that will make the game even simpler and better! One thing is a centralized play mat where all the betting will take place. Rules simplified, central mat, and new Casino type cards - this expansion is a no brainer for fans of Pandante and if it looks like you could enjoy Pandante, it is a great time to get the updated version with the Light and Dark expansion. And if you are feeling lucky, you could always get the deluxe! And as a special treat, David announced a few days ago that he is giving some stretch goals for free (or free upgrades)! Very cool. You can read about those in the updates section or by clicking HERE.
Pandante at its core is a game of bluffing...well, bluffing, and pandas...and poker. Pandante is a fun poker variant that I think everyone should at least try. You may be surprised at how much you enjoy panda poker and that is How Lou Sees It! (Check out the more detailed video review below!)
I was given a copy of Pandante (First Edition, Deluxe Version) by Sirlin Games for the purpose of this review.