Pandante 2nd Edition and a new printing of Flash Duel are now generally available.
These games were part of my fourth Kickstarter and the rewards have now all been delivered to backers—a MONTH ahead of schedule. Four out of four kickstarters on time! Anyway, you can now get your hands on these games if you missed the kickstarter.
The joke about Pandante is that it's "for people who don't like poker and also people who do." There's actually something to that though.
For People Who Don't Like Poker
People who don't like poker might say that poker is not a very good family game and that it's way too psychologically intense to play with your children. They might say that they don't really find poker all that fun unless it's played for real money, which is pretty fair because even most poker players say that too.
Pandante is lighthearted enough in theme and mechanics that it's a great social game. The way it's set up ensures that probably about half the people are lying about their hand and everyone knows that they are surrounded by lies, which leads to lots of laughter at the table. The game is also gamey enough that it's interesting to play even without real money, like any well-crafted board game. There's fun abilities and tricks to pull off which give you more tools than poker, and the expansion is now included in the base set so you get a whole lot of content. The main mode has no player elimination, so it keeps everyone involved the whole time. For people who don't play poker, it's almost confusing to even think of this as a poker game rather than as a new card game.
For People Who Do Like Poker
But then there's people who LOVE poker. Poker lovers like that being more skilled at poker gives them an edge over weaker players. Stronger players get to crush weaker ones and take their money, which can be exhilarating. Poker has a lot of randomness, but having more skill really does pay off in the long-run.
Pandante has a higher skill ceiling than poker. This probably seems like some blasphemous claim, because poker is sacred, but just calm down and think about it for a minute. Pandante contains much of the skill elements that apply to poker, but it also makes more moves possible. There's a lot of nuance in how to use these extra moves, and so good players will be able to use them better than bad players.
One example is the "snacking" mechanic. You can pay for extra cards, but exactly how much a card is worth is a very difficult thing to know and depends on a lot of factors. Experts will be able to snack better than non-experts. Also, there are 6 abilities in Pandante and you can do up to two of them per gambit. It's easy to grasp what these abilities are (peek at another player's card, raise, add a new card to the table, etc), but of course there's quite a skill in knowing how to use these abilities. It's a whole new realm of opportunity to outplay your opponents. Thirdly, there's a lot of intentional information leak that goes on in Pandante. You bet on specific hands multiple times throughout the gambit. You snack or don't. You use abilities in a certain way, and sometimes that involves revealing a card. Even though players are lying very often, they are also dripping with information, and these tools allow someone who is good at reads to do even better in Pandante than in poker.
Pandante is quite hard to play WELL because its skill-ceiling is just so high. I think poker players will really appreciate this because they can get even more of an edge through careful play.
In the 1st Edition of Pandante, we were very concerned with making it rock solid so that it held up to serious play for real money. The good news: it was solid. The less good news: we had to add several exceptions here and there and wrinkles that slowed down the game flow.
In the 2nd Edition, we were able to really vastly improve the game flow. I think we were able to get through a gambit in something like half the time and with fewer questions from players, too. If you want to know the exact rule changes, you can see a summary here.
Another ease of use thing is that there's now a central betting board rather than each player having their own. You often have to see who bet on the highest hand, and when all the bets are on one board, it's faster to see who bet on the highest hand.
Another big thing about the 2nd Edition is that it INCLUDES the entire expansion. You get Light and Dark abilities, casinos that change the rules each gambit, Panda Champions that give each player a unique ability, and the Diamond Dreams mode that makes the diamond chips into powerups. You can use any of that stuff in any combination you want, so you can choose how much craziness is right for your group. (Recommendation: start with Light abilities and nothing else. Then add Casino cards as soon as people understand the basic rules. The Dark abilities are cut-throat and take-that oriented, so only switch to those if your group wants that sort of thing. Throw in Panda Champions and/or Diamond Dreams mode if you want to up the mayhem level.)
Here's the standard version of the game. It now comes with plastic discs for betting:
And here's the deluxe version:
It has professional-grade clay poker chips and an awesome 2" diameter metal Panda Coin. The leatherette box with magnetic latch is really classy too, and has no product information on it: that's all on a sleeve that you can throw away.
There's also a few playmats leftover from the kickstarter. Playmats don't fit into the deluxe box, so it comes with a board instead, but I personally like playing on the mat. Get one while supplies last. ;)
Flash Duel is a fast sparring match. Like Pandante, it also contains an expansion—actually two expansions—right in the box. It has a whopping 20 characters and whole bunch of modes that range from solo play, to 1v1, to 2v2, and even up to 4v1 in the Raid on Deathstrike Dragon mode (and another mode with a traitor!). Fast, simple, and a ton of variety.
The new version wasn't quite enough to call it a 3rd Edition, but it does have some nice upgrades. Component-wise, it now comes with 21 character standups instead of pawns:
Here's a list of the rest of the updates:
• A new rulebook (here) which makes the game less mathy and more about improv and bluffing. You don't know the exact contents of the deck anymore, so you can't compute things so completely. Also, you now draw more cards each round, so you have more chance to win before timeout.
• The "last hits" mechanic is removed, to simplify the rules and make the game more about trying to win before timeout happens.
• All game modes now use 40 numbered cards, rather than different modes using 25, 40, and 50 numbered cards.
• All cards and rules now gender-neutral ("their" instead of "his").
• Many abilities edited or rewritten to be clearer how they work or how they interact with other abilities. You can even see all the latest card images here.
• Many balance changes.
You can read more about:
The game design of Pandante
The graphic design of Pandante
Pandante on BGG (rate it and become a fan)
Flash Duel on BGG (rate it and become a fan)
Follow Sirlin Games on Facebook
Follow Sirlin Games on Twitter (and use #pandante and #flashduel)