Gen Con 2023 – Pandasaurus

Definitely a company to watch, I’ve been keeping an eye on Pandasaurus for some time. There were several games featured including one of my most anticipated games, The Fox Experiment. I got the low-down on Unrest and After Us but Emerge, Sea Salt and Paper, and Roller Coaster Rush were all on display in the booth.

The Fox Experiment

Based on an old Russian attempt to domesticate foxes by breeding out aggression over generations, The Fox Experiment is a worker placement style game that has players breeding foxes in one round and then putting them up for grabs for breeding stock in the next round. Each fox has a gender and then a list of four traits. Each trait corresponds to a specific color of dice in the game. Players breed foxes by pairing up a male and female, collecting all their associated dice, rolling them, and then chaining similar color dice together to make complete symbols (dice show symbols and half-symbols.) Making a complete symbol allows a player to fill in circles in their new fox card from left to right. You can see at left that “Mange” (naming your foxes is mandatory) has one purple, one yellow, and two pink traits. Fox cards have four rows of blank boxes and circles. Filling in boxes will give that fox a colored die to roll next round while circles provide the breeder (this round) to gain bonus tokens that can be used to upgrade their fox-breeding operation. In addition, the breeder of the “friendliest fox” (the one with the most filled-in spaces) is awarded extra victory points in that round.

One big source of victory points is to try to breed foxes to satisfy the requirements on one’s personal goal card. These cards have three sections, from easiest (often one or two boxes of three colors) to hardest (two or more of several colors.) When a player breeds a fox to satisfy a requirement, they place their fox token there to remind them of the awarded victory points. Thus players are always trying to breed for specific traits and will often want to continually breed along the same line of foxes. However, bred foxes are always placed back into the central pool so an opponent can swoop them up next time unless a player has chosen to go early in the next round.

In order to improve one’s fox-breeding capabilities there is a research-track sort of card that can be improved over time. Players must turn in sets of the same color tokens to advance on the track. These tracks allow players to do things like breed more than one fox at a time, work on more than one fox scoring card at a time, and grant players more “joker” dice when breeding (players start the game with one reusable joker die.)

After five rounds of breeding foxes the game ends and victory goes to the player with the most points (surprise!) My understanding is that backers of the Kickstarter should have it in their hands in a month or two so it should be appearing in stores sometime this fall.


Unrest is a short asymmetrical two player card game that should be out in December. In it, one player is the Rebellion trying to liberate 3 locations by playing cards to complete missions in order to liberate cities while the Empire uses power tokens to mess with the Rebels until they exhaust their deck.

To setup the game, the rebel player is given a deck of (mostly numbered) cards, the empire is given four power tokens, the five location tiles are placed in the middle, and four goal cards are drawn. One (in green) is present in every game while the other three goal cards are picked at random from a set of 11. The rebel is trying to satisfy a goal card at a location to “liberate” it. The green goal simply requires the total value of the cards at a location to be 21 or more. Other goals include having one card of each color at a location or three of a kind at a location. When a goal is satisfied, that location (and the cards) are removed and the game continues until a total of three goals are met or the rebel runs out of cards in their deck.

To start a turn, the rebel will place an “area of interest” token between two locations. They then place three cards in front of them, two face down and one face up. Next, the empire player gets to pick two of their power tokens to use this round. (They will use the other two the next round and then all four will refresh.) The tokens allow the empire to reveal a hidden card, move a card to any other district, destroy any card, or blockade a specific district entirely. After tokens are used, the rebel assigns their cards to one location. If a mission is completed, the cards are revealed and the cards and the location marker (now liberated) are set aside. The mission card still stays in play. As mentioned, this continues until the rebel runs out of cards (they start with a deck of 24) or they liberate three locations.

After Us

After Us is a 1-6 player deckbuilding / engine building game set in the far future where apes have evolved and now control the earth. It should already be out in stores.

Players start the game by drawing four cards from an eight card deck. Players then place their cards out in a line. The bottom of each card has symbols and boxes in three rows. Once the cards are laid out, players activate the card abilities left to right starting in the top row and then moving downward. Only actions in a completely filled black box are activated, which is an important consideration as many cards have half-filled boxes on the edges which must be lined up with a neighboring card to use.

Card abilities are the typical fare: gain resources, convert resources to other resources, or convert resources into points. Note that this step can be done simultaneously which keeps things moving on. Players may then buy 1 new card from the central tableau. Cards will generally provide several actions at the same time but cards tend to specialize in different things, for example gaining specific resources or gathering points. Players reshuffle cards when needed.

All the typical deck builder things are in play, drawing (and playing) extra cards during a turn, chaining combos, and that ever so important decision of when to stop going for improving your deck and when to start collecting those points in earnest.


There seemed to be a game of Emerge going at every spare table at the Pandasaurus booth and in their play room. The game has players building little islands and populating them with cool little animal (and plant) meeples.

Each round of the game has three phases. In the Ship phase. This is primarily the round marker, but it also triggers specific events as the game moves on (like giving players more dice, they start with 6 and end with 10 dice.) On the 8th round, the game ends.

The next phase is the Modifier phase. This is when players can mess around with their player boards and customize them, making each player’s board unique throughout the course of the game. Basically, each die value triggers a specific discovery. Players can overwrite that on their board by placing a tile. This changes the action associated with that die value. It could be the same as another spot on the board or a completely new power.

Finally, there is the discovery phase. Here players roll their dice and assign them onto their board. Discoveries always cause something to be placed on the central game board. Organisms are placed onto the islands while tectonic discoveries introduce new island pieces. There are various goal cards in the game and players score points by achieving them in this phase. Players are also able to buy Research Tokens which grant a one-use power within the game. Unused dice in this phase can be kept on a player board until next round or rerolled during the next die rolling phase. Endgame scoring (in addition to goal cards) consists of the number of organism meeples times the height of an island (one, two, or three levels.) Players get a bonus 3 points if they have one of each organism on an island.

Beacon Patrol

Beacon Patrol is a 1-4 player cooperative tile laying game. Players place tiles next to those already on the board and slowly work out a grid of tiles. The goal is to fully “explore” tiles by surrounding them on all four sides. Tile placement goes along with a little ship meeple and spending for its movement (which is sometimes necessary) is part of the resource management. Those wanting more complexity can take advantage of a few mini expansions included in the box.

Sea Salt & Paper

I love the origami theme and artwork of Sea Salt & Paper. Its a 2-4 player card game based around set collection. It’s one of those games where you call the end of the round when you think you have the most points and hope you have the most. The cards have various effects and well played cards can combo off each other. Did I mention the art? Some of it is origami made especially for the game.

Roller Coaster Rush

There was just the lonely dregs of a past Roller Coaster Rush game in the back of the Pandasaurus room. It’s been out awhile but it’s still on my to-do list to give it a spin. Dale Yu gave it a review last spring.

About Matt J Carlson

Dad, Gamer, Science Teacher, Youth Pastor... oh and I have green hair. To see me "in action" check out Dr. Carlson's Science Theater up on Youtube...
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