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Top 5 Pandasarus Games

Sonara

Here at Zatu, we like to highlight the hottest publishers. It might be because they hit a milestone, or we just love their style. The chosen designer of this post is one who caught my eye a while back because of their fantastic logo but also because they have so many dinosaur-based games floating around. Like… a lot of dinosaur games. Of the 22 games Zatu has, including those currently out of stock, five have a dinosaur theme. Despite this, only one of our top five is dinosaur based. AND YET! The games are so diverse, so cleverly thought out and so interesting to jump into. Sit back, turn on the Jurassic Park soundtrack, and let’s see how we get on with Pandasarus games!

Sonora - Hannah Blacknell

What is my favourite genre of games? It is the roll and write. I just love the simplicity of the components, how you must mitigate lady luck, the small table space they take up and the combos they produce. Imagine my excitement then when I discovered that there was a combotastic flick-and-write game on the market!

Sonora is firstly an utterly beautiful game, the box is by far and away the most gorgeous in my collection. The game is also brilliant. Players flick their discs onto the board, this game is played in the box so there is such a small table hog. The discs get flicked in turn after turn, you can power flick to knock someone’s piece out of their careful position or try to hit your previous poor shot into something altogether more useful. I am no good at the flicking aspect really, but I thoroughly enjoy having a go. My favourite part of the game is what you do with the numbers, the writing part.

There are four regions to your dry-wipe player board and each works in a slightly different way and offers you unique scoring opportunities. You will want to do everything in all of the regions and of course this will simply be impossible, but I have yet to find a way to not focus on crossing off regions equally. Which is what makes it great. Each move will cause a cascade of bonus actions allowing you to cross off a bunch of other things. If you haven’t tried a combotastic flick and write then you really need to check Sonora out!

Machi Koro 2 - Favourite Foe

Pandasaurus Games are a really interesting publisher; their range of games is very diverse (think Dinosaur World, Passtally (a personal favourite of mine!), The Loop, Brew, The Mind and more). When they release a hit, however, I’m glad to say they give us more of what we love. 

Machi Koro 2 is one such example. After the sweetly illustrated set collecting, dice rolling, tableau building Machi Koro came out in 2012, they added on some expansions to keep . Then, last year, they upped the city construction again with #2.

Like its predecessor, it’s a fast playing card game that has an income engine running at the core. To win the game you need to be first to build three landmarks. And to do that you need money. To get money, you need buildings that pay out whenever their number comes up on either your own roll of the dice (one D6 or both – you decide) or your opponents. Yep, it’s one of those delicious I-get-something-every-turn passive reward games! 

Unlike Machi Koro, this reworking gives each player a few coins and the chance to choose the humble beginnings of their own cities. There are also more special building effects (most importantly those that affect your opponents upping the interaction levels). The juicier bonuses are saved for the higher numbered cards, but that makes sense as the chances of rolling just the right number with your double D6 are lower. But whether you spread your chances by building a diverse cityscape or double up on firm favourites that are more likely to pay out regularly, when those powers are triggered, they make for some sweet money making combos indeed. 

Machi Koro 2 is a fast playing, friendly, little engine builder with lovely quality cards. It also requires you to keep at least one eye on what your opponents are building. If their city is paved with gold with building numbers similar to yours, it may be time to diversify your property portfolio and hit up some less frequented establishments! Having said that, it isn’t a major brain burn, and it can come down to a simple race to buy the final landmark. But it has a neat split dice trick (a little bit like Space Base from AEG) and opportunities to reward passive players which we really like. 

Gods Love Dinosaurs - Luke Pickles

Some board games are there to make you feel like gods. Moving your pawns about, taking specific actions, building civilisations, and so on and so on. This game doesn’t just make you feel like a god… you ARE a god! In Gods Love Dinosaurs, you are terraforming your own planet, in a way very similar to Cascadia, by laying your domino-like tiles out, creating a habitable environment for mice, frogs, rabbits, tigers and eagles. There’s a clear food chain here between predators and prey, so pretty reasonable. Buuuuuut you also LOVE dinosaurs. So you want to make sure you get as many as you can out there, or at least, potential dinosaurs. You see, dinosaurs rule the food chain, so when they eat the predators, they have enough energy to lay an egg. Eggs and dinosaurs are points and the most points is the winner.

There are a few extra steps, like the tile drafting can activate different animals and triggering their abilities, which provides extra food for your dinosaurs. You also can go down the rabbit hole of creating aesthetically pleasing habitats, which is deeply satisfying but can cause issues with your dinosaur feedings. The strategy is simple, the gameplay is fun and this game has a great title! I think it’s a very worthy addition to the dinosaur titles Pandasarus have published, so get it when you can! 

The Mind - Ian Peek

The Mind is mental. The Mind is meditative. The Mind is minimalist and moreish. To me it’s marvellous, to many it’s Marmite. It’s something you simply have to try – a must. I’ve heard two prevailing views of The Mind; polar opposite player perspectives.

If you were lucky enough to meet Zatu in person at the Games Expo last year, you might even have had a live demo of it at our stand… But what makes The Mind so divisive?

The Mind is so simple, some complain it’s barely a game at all. To others, this same reproach is its genius. You have one deck of cards – the numbers from 1-100. Give this a good shuffle. You also have three lives (careful with those) and several shurikens (lifesavers, potentially). Each player (2-4 of you) is dealt a single card.  You’re ready to begin Round 1. 

Who goes first? Well, that’s the game. The Mind has no pre-determined play order. Players take their turns whenever they feel like it.  Your shared goal is to play all your numbered cards in the correct order – no talking. Zero communication; your only tongue is time. An in-sync instinct for when the next card should go down. Get this right and you’re on to the next round – deal each player two cards this time. Get this wrong and you’ll lose one of those lives you were supposed to be careful with. Not sure? A shuriken can dispose of each player’s next card. To win you’ll need to reach the end of Round 12. Thankfully, some rounds reward you with extra lives (or shurikens) for completing them. Good luck! By the end of this, you might just feel like you can read minds…

The LOOP - Craig Smith

As I mentioned in a feature a while ago about introducing a loved one to board games, I have been playing a lot of cooperative games. Last year Pandasaurus Games gave us The LOOP, and what a wild ride it is too!

1-4 players take on the roles of time agents. Your mission is simple: stop Dr Faux from destroying the universe. Around the board are seven different missions. To succeed, four of those seven missions must be completed. However, Dr Faux’s antics will make their completion anything but easy. 

Once per turn, a number of Dr Faux clones will appear on the board in eras either in the past, present or future. You will then draw a card to find out which era Dr Faux’s time machine will move to next. The time machine can then cause rifts to occur in his current era, or the ones adjacent to it. As well as completing missions, you need to ensure that there aren’t too any rifts forming. You do this by using a selection of artifacts from your hand. Some artifacts can be ‘looped’, meaning they can be reused at the expense of energy cubes.  If an era takes on too much damage, it becomes a vortex. If one era becomes a vortex twice, or if four separate eras become vortexes, you lose. What I enjoy about The LOOP is how the intensity ramps up as the game goes on. You can feel your chances of winning slowly diminishing the further the game goes on. You can have different combinations of agents, as well as changing the difficulty of the game. There are some great cooperative gaming experiences, and The LOOP certainly sits amongst them.