Xian lies on the Eastern edge of the Panda Kingdom. It was a region filled with bustling cities, vibrant markets, strong warriors, and honest leadership. But ages ago, a brotherhood of human Ninjas attacked and drove out the panda populace, taking Xian for themselves. The have controlled the territory for what seems like forever. What was once one of the most important locations to the pandas, now exists only in the whispers and legends of those that once knew it. All that is about to change!
With a new Emperor sitting atop the Black Lotus Throne, the time is right to take back what rightfully belongs to the pandas. Four ancient Panda clans will put aside their differences and fight to take back control of Xian. The alliance between the White Fist, Yellow River, Night Lily, and the Sand Fox, is a tentative one. However, they have the shared goal of purging the land of the Ninja menace. But they will also be competing to earn the most honor and take their place beside the Emperor to rule over Xian. Only one Clan will prevail!
In Way of the Panda, 2 to 4 players take control of the Panda clans and fight to regain control of Xian. Over a series of rounds, they select actions that allow them to defeat the Ninja forces controlling the roads between the cities and villages of the region. Once Xian has been rebuilt to its former glory, the Panda clan that earned the most honor through victory points will take their place at the side of the Emperor.
Each Panda clan has three Champions: the Monk, the Governor, and the Warrior, as well as a team of Guards. Each of these Champions has different strengths and abilities. Throughout the game, players develop their Champions’ strengths to allow them to travel through Xian easier and defeat more Ninjas, as well as send them on quests to earn them end game points.
The action in Way of the Panda is broken up between the Map board, which represents the land of Xian, its various Villages, and its roads, teeming with Ninja invaders, and the Game board, where players will select their actions and track their points.
The game starts with the players placing their Champions in different Villages and a certain amount of Guards (depending on player count) on the roads. The Game board lists 24 different available actions for the players to take on their turn, laid out in a 4 x 6 grid. The first three columns refer to actions that can be taken by the Monk, Governor, and Warrior, respectively, and the final column refers to actions that can be taken by any of the Champions. Players select their actions from the grid, paying Guards and Action Points to execute them. The further down the grid an action is, the more powerful it is, but once a player has taken a lower action, they can never select one higher up on the grid. Rounds must be carefully planned out, so that players will have enough Guards and Action Points to accomplish the tasks they want.
Actions allow Champions to move around the region from Village to Village, defeating Ninjas along the way, increase the Strength of a Champion, send a Champion on a Quest, or build a new building in a Village to help return Xian to its former glory.
Champions start relatively weak, only able to travel along roads with one Ninja, defeating them in the process. As the game progresses, they increase their abilities and are able to travel the land more freely.
The goal of Way of the Panda is to regain enough control of the land to drive out the Ninjas. As Champions move via roads through the land, they defeat one Ninja for each road they cross, covering it with one of their Guards. Once a road has been purged completely purged of Ninjas, anyone who contributed can retrieve their Guards, and the player who defeated the most Ninjas on the road claims it with their own Road tile or a Neutral one.
As the Ninjas lose control of the roads leading to a Village, the Champions will be able to begin the reconstruction process. Monks build Gates, Governors build Markets, and Warriors build Pagodas. Each location can only have one of each type of building at a time, but once all three have been built, they are replaced with a City Base and the Village becomes a City. City Bases indicate that the reconstruction is well underway. They contain spaces for all three of the building types. Once they have been built again, the City becomes a Capital.
The end of the game is triggered when either the last building or the fifth City Base is placed on the board, or when a second Capital is built. The current round ends, and final victory points are tallied, with the Panda clan that has made the biggest contribution taking their place at the side of the Emperor.
During the game, players gain points for constructing buildings, and can earn bonuses for making Cities. More experienced players can add in Mandate cards, that will offer in-game and end-game goals for victory points. Finally, players will earn points for the Strength they’ve developed in their Champions and the Quests they’ve completed.
Although these Panda clans have been able to briefly set aside their old rivalries, at the end of the day, they are competing for the honor and respect of the Emperor. The goal is to rid Xian of the Ninja invaders, but closely following that is a chance to rule the newly freed region. Only one clan can ascend to the throne!
Way of the Panda will be available in your FLGS on May 25.
Learn more about Way of the Panda here.