Full disclosure: A review copy of Trash Pandas was provided by Gamewright.
I’m trying a new thing for the next couple hours I’m stuck on this airplane, which is writing board game reviews! Hooray. It’s very cramped on here and it doesn’t smell great, so that’s all very fun. I guess I could have watched a movie? Who knows. I’m sick of travel. What I’m not sick of is board game reviews, so, let’s look at Trash Pandas, a Gamewright title.
In Trash Pandas, you take on the role of aggressive raccoons who are seeking to establish themselves with goods. Naturally, all the goods they get are garbage, but we don’t have to tell them that. They’ve gotta be sneaky, though, otherwise they’re going to get kicked out of the trash they love so much. Will you be able to sneakily steal your way to victory? Or will you end up trashless?
Shuffle the cards and place them in the center:
Place the tokens out, as well;
Give the start player the die and 2 cards:
Give players one more card each in turn order:
- Start player: 2 cards
- Second player: 3 cards
- Third player: 4 cards
- Fourth player: 5 cards
You should be ready to start!
A game of Trash Pandas is pretty simple. You’re raccoons and you want to stow away junk to enrich yourselves. As you do. However, try to take too much trash in one go and the homeowners you’re liberating your goods from will likely get upset and chase you off. Again, expected. Once the game ends, the player with the most points wins!
On your turn, roll the die and take the pictured token. You may either stop rolling, or continue rolling. If you continue, you may roll and take tokens until you choose to stop or bust, which is when you roll a die face that matches a token you already have. When that happens, you immediately stop rolling and draw 1 card. Your turn ends, and you do not resolve any tokens. Tough! If you ever claim all 6 tokens, you may immediately take another turn after your turn ends.
When you resolve tokens, they generally let you draw cards, stash cards, steal cards, or sometimes a mix of those. As you’re doing this, you may want to use cards to bolster some actions. You cannot use cards gained this turn for their effects; you can, however, stash cards you drew this turn. No problems there. Stashed cards can potentially provide bonus points at the end of the game.
When the final card is drawn, the game ends after that player’s turn. Now, reveal all stashed cards and calculate who has the most / secondmost / etc in each category. If there’s a tie in a category, award all tied players one fewer point than they would normally earn for gaining that place.
After that, the player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
I’m not a big fan of the two-player game in this one. It really feels like it comes down to which player rolls better, especially early in the game, and there’s not a lot of things that mitigate that (especially if other players aren’t trying to pile on the leader). Even then, that’s not my favorite mechanic, but at least it’s somewhat of an equalizer. If you run out of cards in a two-player game, you’re essentially dunked, as well. Your one card will likely get stolen if the other player rolls well, so you can never build up your raccoon generational wealth. And that’s kind of frustrating? At higher player counts, players tend to leave the player with one card alone for a bit out of some sense of fair play, which means you’re never dunked out completely. And it’s not your opponent’s fault, entirely! They have to steal from someone. Either way, I prefer higher player counts for this one; it’s also a lot more dice rolling that you’re not personally invested in, so you can cheer when they fail.
- Don’t run out of cards. I really mean it. If you do, you’re essentially vulnerable to being pinned. It means that stashing is a useless action for you, and unless the one card you draw is a steal-blocker, other players can continue to knock you down by taking the few cards you have left. As I mentioned in the section above, at higher player counts you may see some players relent, a bit, but that’s not guaranteed. So, if you’re super excited about getting stuck, go for it. If not, maybe be a bit more conservative?
- I haven’t tried this, but it’s an interesting idea to tell other players you have a steal-blocker in your hand. Even moreso if you’re lying. One of the tokens has you reveal a card from the deck, so, sometimes other players will just know you have it, but it’s an interesting idea to try and gently bluff that you have it. Who knows if it’d work. It usually is enough to get people to stop robbing you, though, which is nice.
- You’re going to have a personal risk tolerance; try to stick to it unless you need to. I usually won’t roll if I have 3 or 4 different tokens, personally; I think it’s not worth the marginal gains. Note that this changes if I’m out of cards and have gotten mostly Stash actions; then I’m going to roll a bit more because I need some cards in my hand.
- If a player is significantly ahead of you, you kind of just have to go for it. That’s kind of the complex beauty and trouble with press your luck games. If you get stuck behind the power curve, you’re kind of … super stuck. This means you’re going to have to play more aggressively if you want to catch up, which might lead to your getting wrecked.
- If you’ve got five tokens and plenty of cards, it might just be worth going for the sixth. You do get an entirely new fresh turn if you manage to get all six, which will almost certainly put you on a good course to winning the game if you play your cards right. I’d recommend it, if you can.
- Know when to play your cards. Did your opponent just have a really good turn and get four different symbols? Time to force them to keep rolling. Did you just get a Draw 2 token? Double it! Or double your Stash 2! Whatever you think is going to help you win as efficiently as possible. Just don’t hold on for cards so long that they never get played.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Cute theme. Everyone loves raccoons.
- Great art. Kwanchai never lets us down, and the cards are bright, colorful, and fun. I’m definitely a fan.
- Very portable, too. The nice thing about a bunch of cards and a die is that you can basically take those anywhere. They could fit in a small Love Letter-style bag pretty easily.
- Can be taught pretty quickly. Roll until you bust or want to stop. Resolve the actions, stash cards to potentially gain points for most cards of one kind at the end of the game. Beyond the stashing element and the tokens, it’s a pretty basic press-your-luck game.
- I appreciate the component quality of the game, as well. The die and the tokens are both pretty nice, which is good.
- I am glad there are some cards to help mitigate the luck factor. They only help if you have them, which is another problem, but there are some and it’s nice that they’re in the game.
- There will likely be some card types you don’t even see during the game. There aren’t a lot of certain cards, which is odd. It might just mean that you’re ineligible for certain scoring categories because you never saw the five cards of that type when you played?
- The scoring rules for ties are really strange. This one irks me a fair amount. If you’re in a three-player game and there’s a tie for Nanners, the tied players get 6 points and all other players get 0. That means that now instead of having to deal with one player being 7 points ahead of you, you have to deal with two players gaining an uncontested 6 points. Introducing that many additional points into a game is something I’ve never seen from a tiebreaker, and I’m not sure I’m a fan of it. For a game with scoring as tight as this one, I expected ties to split the pot or something.
- I mean, even for a press-your-luck game, it’s pretty luck-based. It’s essentially a game of how many times do you think you can roll a die and get a different number, which is fine for a light game but doesn’t really carry the game much farther than that.
- The steal-blocking cards are pretty frustrating, since players won’t typically want to steal from you if they know or suspect you have them. Or, rather, once you’re successfully robbed, players will continue to steal from you until you draw a card that allows you to block it, and then once you spend that one they will likely gang up on you again. The dogpiling aspect of the game can be pretty frustrating when playing.
- The two-player game can be a beatdown if one player ever runs out of cards. Just don’t run out of cards. It means it’s hard for you to fight off the other player’s attacks, steals, and you can’t easily recover from a bad roll. You can’t have those things happen and win.
- No catch-up mechanism means that one good turn can often end the game. I’ve never seen any player get the bonus turn, but I figure it’s likely extremely difficult for players to catch up if they manage to have two dynamite turns in a row like that. Even without that, if you have one player who’s having colossally bad luck, the game might just never go anywhere for them. I wouldn’t say this game is for players who hate games with a lot of luck.
Overall: 5.75 / 10
Overall, Trash Pandas is okay, though not entirely my cup of tea. I waffled a bit between “fine” and “okay”, but settled where I did because I feel like there are plenty of games where I have a lot of control over my turn despite it being a press-your-luck game (Quacks, for instance) and I just don’t get that vibe from this one. That’s somewhat okay, since it’s a relatively short game, but when that happens I end up comparing it to other short games and trying to figure out what I like better about this one. The major things that stand out for me are the art and the component quality, to be honest; I’m a fan of raccoons but not enough that I would pick a game with a raccoon theme over a game without one on theme alone. That said, its simplicity does do it a lot of favors; it’s not a bad introduction to the genre, and there are plenty of people that are going to find its whole whimsical-raccoon thing really endearing. I somewhat do! I think it just comes down to feeling a major lack of agency and control when I play, which even for a short game isn’t my favorite. If the deck were maybe half the size or something, I’d probably be a bit more favorable on this one; I find that my need for agency is inversely correlated with the length of the game (as is to be expected from most people, in my experience). But yeah, if this were a microgame, cute! Beyond that, though, I kind of wish I had either fewer cards or more control. If that doesn’t bother you, though, or you just really love raccoons, you might be interested in Trash Pandas!