Pandas plus poker equals party.
If you’re anything like me, you like the ideas of good ol’ fashioned Texas Hold’em, but wish it had more of a twist. Well, friend, have I got a game that puts more than a few twists on it: Pandánte.
In this game, the players each have a board with one of 10 possible hand combinations on it. They’re given a stack of chips, and then everybody is dealt two cards. Everybody ante’s one “gold” into the pot, then three more cards are dealt into what is normally known as the flop, but what Pandánte calls The Splash. After that comes a betting round, where players place two gold on their board corresponding to the hand they are claiming to have based on their cards and the splash. This is the crux of the game: you don’t actually have to have anything! You just have to convince other people you do. Of course they’ll be able to call you out later after more cards have been dealt, but at great financial risk to themselves if you happen to be telling the truth.
One of the other big differences between this and Texas Hold’em is that you can exchange cards during parts of the game known as “Snacks.” Here, you can pay a certain amount of gold to trade one of your cards for something in the hopes of getting a better hand, or at least telling a better lie. Mix in the Ability Round into each hand and you can create some really great chaos. One ability lets you add a sixth card to the community cards, while another allows you to fold and take back your last bet if things are getting too heated for you.
An aspect of this game that I really love is that it’s innately built to keep players playing the game and less about elimination. One way Sirlin Games does this is by adding a Magic Gold Fairy that will refill you back to 20 gold at the end of a hand where you’re below that amount. Not only does that keep players playing the game, but it helps feed more gold into the game to help other players reach the gold cap for victory. Of course, you can play more like classic poker and go for elimination, or even play for real money. It’s that kind of flexibility in a game that I really respect.
From a presentation standpoint, I’m absolutely in love with this game. I purchased the deluxe set, so I received the elegantly designed poker chips, the minimalist card set, and the sturdy player boards, all wrapped up in a very posh case. It’s a sturdy investment, retailing at $99, but if you have the cash I highly recommend it. Otherwise, Sirlin Games’ website offers cheaper versions of the games if you already have your own favorite poker chip set, and even a printer-friendly version of the game, if you really want to play on the cheap.
Pandánte is a game that should appeal to a wide audience. Most folks will appreciate the Texas Hold’em trappings, geeks will love the addition of powers and tricks, and everybody loves pandas.