Updated: May 19, 2021
Pilfering Pandas is something of a departure for the husband and wife design team of Janice and Stu Turner, and publishers Wren Games. Their previous games (Assembly and Sensor Ghosts) have both been space themed. By contrast, Pilfering Pandas is set in a slightly anthropomorphised zoo where the eponymous pandas have the sort of relationship with the zookeeper that Hanna Barbera's Yogi Bear and Boo Boo had with the Jellystone Park Ranger. Tho' the setting is very different, fans of the earlier games will recognise some similarities in aspects of the game play.
The premise in Pilfering Pandas is that the pandas are stealing food from other animals as part of a cunning zoo escape plan. They are in cahoots with the meerkats and they'll be trying to collect rummy-style runs or sets of cards to pass on to the meerkats in order to advance on the score track. It's a very versatile set collection game because it can be played as a 2-4 player competitive game (panda vs panda) or as a fully cooperative or solo game (pandas vs automata zookeeper).
The competitive game is appealing, tho' play is not quite as simple as you might expect from the colourful geometric animal artwork from Gianfranco Giordano. It's the cooperative game, however, that will especially remind players of other Wren titles. As in the space-themed games, players are working to a common objective against what is, in effect, a countdown timer - in this case, the zookeeper who is chasing after the pandas' single shared track marker. If he catches up, it's game over for the pandas. But the designers don't want to make it too easy for you. Cooperating players need to keep their hands to themselves. By this, we don't mean the game is #MeToo, just that you can't share details of the cards you have in your hand. At the end of each turn, you have to discard a card to a common stash from which other players can pick up. It's possible to pick up multiple cards to get the one or two you need that are buried in the stack but this prompts a sprint from the zookeeper which can put him in perilously close pursuit.
You can regulate the level of challenge, which adds still further to this game's versatility and replayability. And tho' what we're showing here on Board's Eye View is only a preview prototype, you can already see that it's going to be a game with great table appeal.
Pilfering Pandas will be coming to Kickstarter on 19 May. Click here to check out the KS campaign.