Move over Po, the pot-bellied kung-fu panda in the movies, because there are new shaolin stars around. It turns out red pandas are not only skilful acrobats in real life but are the kick-ass Chinese mammals of a new card game from Morning Games. Ha-cha!
So, you probably want to find out more, I mean that is why you’re reading this review right?
For some reason, and in an uncharacteristic way, I thought Red Panda was going to be tricky to learn. I’d watched a how-to-play video with crazy people dressed up as red pandas and it kinda scared me. I didn’t want to be like them, and it all seemed a bit complex. I am delighted to say I was wrong. This game is a breeze to play, but perhaps not so easy when dressed up in mammal cosplay. The rulebook continues the shaolin theme and uses words that won’t be familiar to most which doesn’t help either. With all that in mind I’m gonna make this as simple as I can so you’re not put off. I will not be wearing fancy dress while writing this review either.
Ten cards are distributed, face-down to each of the 2-5 players (8 cards each in a 6 player game). A pagoda pentagon is placed in the middle of the table and on top is an invisibility token. On a player’s turn they have two options: play or pass. If playing, you turn over the top card off your deck and place it next to the pagoda on a side that matches your colour and number. Cards have special powers but I will get to that in a moment.
If you place the third card of any colour you have to take all three cards and place them around your deck and you don’t get to use its special power. If you already have cards placed on each side of your deck and you need to place another card around it, you are out. In contrast, if you place the fifth different card around the temple you get to discard one of each colour from the game and choose whether to rid yourself of all penalty cards around your deck or play another card.
If you decide to pass aka meditate, you skip your go and have to take a single card of your choice from around the temple.
The winner of the game is the panda who is left standing or the first player to clear their deck of cards. I’m still not sure I have simplified it enough!
As I mentioned, the cards activate special powers when played. They are as follows:
The blue card allows you to steal the invisibility token from the centre or from another player. You can use this like meditation to skip your go, but without penalty.
The purple card, which clearly depicts a farting red panda, allows you to look at your top card, very handy indeed in a push your luck game!
Red means you have to perform another action (play or pass), great early on, a bind when you have already pushed your luck.
Yellow allows you to move your top card to another player who places it at the bottom of their deck, great for a quick advantage over a leading player.
Green cards mimic another ability of a card already around the pagoda.
Cards with two pandas can be placed in the position of either of the colours depicted on the pandas’ backs. You don’t get a special power but you do get a choice.
What it’s like
You will get the hang of this game in one play. I say that because that is how long it took my 5 year old to grasp the game. It is pure and simple push your luck fun. Yes you need to think when passing might be your best option, but this comes quite naturally so strategy is at a minimum. This isn’t a negative if you are willing to take this game at face value. As long as you are aware this is a lightweight family friendly, quick and easy card game you shouldn’t be disappointed.
To that end, this is one of my boys go-to games when they are playing without a grown-up. All three of them get it and are competitive which ensures enjoyment for all. As an adult, if you are willing to embrace the push your luck and light strategy of the game you will enjoy playing Red Panda too.
Other than passing the occasional card, players don’t really interact with one another. However, the push your luck element keeps all players engaged. You will be eager to see if your opponent fails on the turn of a card or pulls off a fluky lay of a card.
The first thing you will notice with Red Panda is the amazing zipped wallet. Not only is this super cool looking, but it’s small size means you will be transporting this all over the place.
Once unzipped, you get to see the marvellous artwork of the cards. The rule book with its theme-based terminology isn’t as simple as it could be, but once you have got the hang of the game, it’s a breeze to play. The rules are nicely illustrated though so you soon get to grips with it all and I understand why the creators have embraced the theme.
Overall, this is a very good looking little parcel.
What the kids thought
Harrison (12) says “Red Panda is a great game, cleverly thought out and quick to play too. I really like red pandas so they chose a good animal to theme it around.”
George (9) also thought it was a brilliant game “I like all the different characters on the cards and their special moves, and really like the invisibility token” he said.
Max (5) reckons “you need to make good choices, whether to meditate or risk it. I really enjoy winning. I like the front cover [of the wallet] – you can bring it wherever you want as it’s not in a box.”
Final thoughts on Red Panda
Red Panda is a push your luck game designed by Romaric Galonnier and Derek Laufman. It’s published by Morning Games and distributed in the U.K. by Gen42 games.
My family clearly love Red Panda. They like the simple gameplay, the push your luck elements and deciding when to risk it and when to play it safe. I’ve also never heard my three boys argue over Red Panda which, as a parent, is always a treat! The lack of complexity is a major factor to the amicable play, most arguments in my house result in an accidental rule break. You could also attribute this to the lighter gameplay and the lack of investment in strategic thinking. Losing to luck is annoying, but losing because you played a clanger is mortifying and can get the defensive prickles up!
While my family have really enjoyed playing Red Panda, I can’t imagine many times where I will play this without the kids. It is perfectly enjoyable, but it is probably too lightweight for me to bring to the table. However, if you have children, and you like to unplug from electronics and play a game, this is a superb option for younger players. In that scenario, you will enjoy playing it too. The quick play time is a bonus and you will all be regularly asking for another game.
Number of players: 2 to 6
Board Game Review Recommended Age: 5+
Publisher’s Recommended Age: 7+
Playing Time: 15 minutes
Setting Up and Take Down Time: 1 minute
Designers: Romaric Galonnier and Derek Laufman
Publisher: Morning Games
As long as you buy this expecting a lightweight card game, that is child friendly, with loads of push your luck, Red Panda will not disappoint. It works really well as a family game as all ages can compete equally. My three boys love it and if it were solely up to them it would’ve snuck into the Hall of Fame!
Artwork and Components
Value for Money
- Great family game for all ages
- Great artwork
- Push your luck
- Rules being a little over complicated
- Very lightweight
- Your kids can actually beat you!
Buy Red Panda
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