Lisa and Michael Eskue
Artist: Kwanchai Moriya
Trash Panda is another small box game for kids by Gamewright. I have been impressed with Gamewright even though their games are a hit or miss with my kid. However, that is to be expected since not all games appeal to everyone, kids included. Nonetheless, these small box games are wonderfully designed, with beautiful art work, compact box size, minimal but sturdy components and importantly, reasonably priced. Most of the games can be had for about $10-$15 and widely available online. So, how does Trash Panda rank among the kids games?
Fun is the most important factor, of course, but I usually look for a game that can teach my kid something else. I don’t always expect games to teach my kid hard skills, but if they can learn some math, improve their mental arithmetic, encourage verbal communication or fine tune their logic or decision making skills, that’s all gravy. In addition, since we are a gaming family, I am also on the look out for game that would teach different gaming mechanisms. I suppose I am doing that with an ulterior motive…… hoping to some day ease my child into taking a seat at the table for game nights.
Trash Panda is probably one of the more complex game for kids as it incorporates multiple gaming mechanisms we are familiar with in adult games. It has elements of set collection (Sushi Go, 7 Wonders), dice rolling with push-your-luck elements (Pickomino) and single-use power cards (loads of games have this). So, if you are looking at a game that can further expose your child to modern Euro designs, Trash Panda is an excellent choice. If they can grasp and play the game well, then the future is bright…….
Each round, players are dealt a hand of 5 cards. The goal is to roll dice for action selection and then play and stash cards in your personal pile for end of game scoring. The dice rolling is simple. Roll a single die for 6 available actions. With each roll, take a matching action counter on the table. You can continue to roll as many times as you want, but if you roll a repeat, you are busted and your turn ends abruptly. You do get to draw a card as compensation. Now, there are several single use cards that can be discarded for rerolls , but players must decide whether to sacrifice those cards instead of stashing them for points later.
The six actions are pretty straight forward: 1) draw 2 cards; 2) stash 2 cards; 3)draw/stash 1 card; 4) steal a card from your opponent; 5) Swap for any remaining token and…. 6) Mask which allows you to flip a card from the draw deck and allow other players to stash one card of the same card. For every card stashed, you get to draw another card from the draw deck. Between these 6 actions, players need to decide when to call it quits or when to push your luck. If you manage to get all six action tokens, you get another round. That’s a huge incentive to push your luck, but also pretty tough to get unless you have lots of Blammo! (reroll busted die). Mixed into the card deck are defensive cards that prevents players from stealing. By playing these cards when someone tries to steal from you, you can turn the tables and steal from them instead or or draw 2 cards from the deck.
In this way, players draw and stash cards in turn order until the draw pile is depleted and players then take their stashed cards and count the number of cards for each type they have with the majority holder getting the maximum reward. Depending on the type of card stashed, some second or third place finishers will also get points.
There is some conflict in this game as well, but it is not a central feature. One of the special powers forces players to continue to roll, thus making it easier to get busted. Using cards for their special powers makes the game chaotic to a certain degree, but also fun. Crucially, it also teaches my kid to making hard decisions: should I save the card for stashing or should I use and discard for its powers.
I love the theme for the game. Trash Panda features a raccoon, rummaging through trash, searching for food to stash. Cards colors are vibrant and funny. More than anything else, we love the names on the cards. “Nanners” is short for bananas, “Hmmm…Pie”, “Feesh” are all hilarious names only a raccoon could come up with for rotten food. I personally love “Kitteh” and “Doggo’, these are cards that can prevent stealing and we just have a blast saying it.
It’s pretty clear that the game uses many fundamental mechanisms found in modern day Euro games. Set collection is the most obvious one. Kids can learn that collecting sets of the same type is good, but to also decide how many of the cards in a set is enough. For example, if there are 12 “Nanners” in the deck, how many do you need to gain a majority? Next, push your luck die rolling. When and how to push your luck is important. Perhaps early on, there is more room to take risks. Perhaps taking risks is more important when you are losing and you need to catch up. Is it worth using some cards to reroll instead of stashing them? These are all pretty high level decision making for kids which they can pick up from the game. Trash Panda really succeeds as a game from this perspective as I find it slightly more advanced that many HABA games. I will note that the standard HABA games are great for teaching kids one or two of these core concepts per game. Trash Panda is one that melds multiple mechanisms into one game and is clearly targeted at kids with prior exposure to Euros or perhaps a slightly more mature audience. If you have been diligent at introducing gaming to your child, Trash Panda is a good follow up and shouldn’t be out of reach even for a 5-6 year old. If your kids is new to this world and is younger, then perhaps go for HABA then swing by to this later. You won’t regret it.
Initial impressions: Good
6 years 2 months: My kid absorbed most of Trash Panda pretty quickly even though I think some of the special power cards elude her. She is not playing many of her cards for special powers, save for Kitteh, Doggo as defensive cards as well as Blammo to reroll. To be fair, I haven’t really played the conflict-oriented cards that much either. She has been very competitive in playing this game, and has won her fair share. I believe she understands the concept of stashing similar cards and clearly knows the importance of diversifying her stash to win more than one category. But I think the tactical usage of special powers and the consequences of doing so is still slightly beyond her. That will come as she gets more plays. Overall, the game is fun, but made better with the theme and silly names. We have a fun time ribbing each other about collecting trash. It is fantastic. I would rank this on the same tier with Sleeping Queen and Zeus on the Loose even though I feel Trash Panda teaches higher level concepts. But all three are excellent choices and I highly recommend all of them.