Making the Golden Panda Coin

Winning by lying is the highest honor in Pandante (on kickstarter now). When you do that in poker, it’s usually best to keep your bluff secret, but in Pandante we want to showcase that exciting moment. We want you to show everyone that you got away with it and gloat about it.

In the original version of Pandante, winning by lying gave you one of six Panda Lord cards that are powerups for the next gambit (the next hand). In this new version of Pandante, I wanted to make it even simpler: rather than picking through 6 cards with a bunch of words on them, you should win one satisfying, iconic thing. (The Panda Lords are now things you can start the game with, giving each player a special power if you want to do that.)

What satisfying, iconic thing should you get for winning by lying? What should it do and what should it look like? My first idea was that it should be a big, shiny metal Panda Coin that you can spend to draw 5 cards and discard 5 cards. That’s very powerful, but you deserve it. Also, you’ll have to use it or lose it because if someone else wins by lying while you have the coin, they’ll steal it from you.

Playtesting showed that this worked just fine. People liked it, and liked that they immediately understood the reward for winning by lying. So then started the long task of actually making a metal coin. I wanted it to be simple to match the graphic design style of the rest of Pandante, so the first thing that came to mind was a Panda on one side and the bamboo logo with the game name and company name on the back.

I wanted something similar to the Panda on the box’s front cover. Here was the first mockup:

 But it should really show the Panda holding 5 cards rather than 6, given what the coin does. Also, it needs to be graphically simplified a little to work well as a metal carving. Here was the first version of that:

One way to make a metal coin is to have exactly two heights on the face. To do that, think of the graphics as pure black and white (with no other shades) and the black areas are raised and the white areas are recessed.

You can make a nicer looking coin if you do it another way though. Rather than each “pixel” of coin being on or off, you can carve a 3D shape into it. Vertical curves that let you round the edge of a face and show more nuance. To accomplish this, I did my own “artist’s rendering” of what the metal coin should look like with various curves and different heights:

That looks pretty good, but I cheated here. The dark background behind the panda and behind the logo isn’t what a real coin will look like. A metal coin is made of just one kind of material, so it can’t have such different colors. I want there to be as much contrast as possible though, so what can we do?

We can use different textures. By making the background a rough texture and the figure a smooth texture, when light bounces off the coin it will be easier to separate the figure from the background. Here’s my artist’s rendering of that:

Looking really good now! The next step is to turn this into a 3D model that the coin manufacturers can use:

Then the final step is a physical prototype. Here it is:

This coin is huge: 2 inches in diameter! It has to be to fit in Panda paws though.
Here’s a video of it moving so you can see the contours in the light:

This awesome coin will be included in the new Pandante Deluxe on kickstarter if we unlock that stretch goal. It will also be in the $25 expansion if we reach that goal. Pledge now and let’s do it! (kickstarter link.)