An Interview with Pandasaurus

Nelly Steiner Publisher Spotlight

We have a very special publisher that we are highlighting for the month of January, Pandasaurus. Pandasaurus has published some of the most beautiful games that we carry at Mox such as Dinosaur Island, and some award-winning titles including The Mind and one of our best-selling games, Machi Koro. With a line up like this, we’re super excited to get an exclusive interview with Molly Wardlaw (Pandasaurus Co-Owner).

(Mox) Tell us a little bit about the history of Pandasaurus and your overall mission. 

(Molly Wardlaw) We created Pandasaurus in 2012. At the time, it was just on a bit of a lark. Kickstarter was blowing up and we wanted to dip our toe in and perhaps make a little bit of money to help with our wedding. The Kickstarter did phenomenal, for the time. It was Tammany Hall. From there, Pandasaurus was a side project until we got the rights to Machi Koro. The success of that title allowed us to expand greatly and since then, the company has grown from just Nathan and I to a full team of very talented people with a global presence.

(Mox) What sets Pandasaurus apart from other publishers? 

(Molly) I always say our focus on detail, especially with art and gameplay. We have always cherished the art direction process. Even when it was not as common to care much among US publishers. We never scrimp on it and we are bursting with ideas. Art is what makes a good game great. It opens it up and immerses us in a new and mesmerizing world. We also have a very hefty dev process that lasts months. We never want to put out a game that is just ok. It’s the little things that make a Pandasaurus Game a Pandasaurus Game.

(Mox) Can you walk us through the process of developing a game before adding it to your catalog (what’s the secret sauce)? 

(Molly) The first step is quoting the game to find out how much fun we can have with components. We often do this before the game is even signed. From there, finding the right developer and getting the game into testing is of utmost importance. It then goes through many, many rounds of playtesting and changes.

When dev is close to complete, we can move on to art. We need a general idea of final components to find and reserve the right artist for a title. Finding the right artist can be tricky. To start, we will make a Pinterest board of all of the general ideas we have for the world. We then compile all of these images to explain to the artist what we are feeling. This includes illustration style, color palette, and often general composition of the front cover.

Once we have illustrations, we move on to graphic design. We have an incredible designer with a brilliant eye. He is also a game designer, which is quite helpful when it comes to making UX decisions.

Throughout this entire process, we are typically going back and forth with the factory on component design and execution. If there are plastic parts, we have to figure out 3D mold designs at an early stage, as that process takes the longest time at the printer. Add in rulebook editing and design, and you have a close to finished game. Once files are approved for printing, we move on to the fulfillment, distribution, and marketing areas of releasing a title.

(Mox) How do you balance catering to local as well as big-box and online retailers? 

(Molly) We know that FLGS (friendly local game stores) are the backbone of the community and we have an active FLGS program. We support them through marketing and outreach through distribution, as well as through our direct sales program. One of the things we do is provide marketing kits to any interested retailer. This includes a bevy of images that can be used on social media or printed items, as well as access to positive quotes from reviews. We also offer a number of promotions and discounts to FLGS. Anyone interested only needs to reach out! We are also planning to expand our outreach program next year to include the addition of special promotional items for all of our titles only available through FLGS.

(Mox) You’ve been releasing games with new and out-of-the-box mechanics like Sonora and CTRL, what inspires you to bring in these types of games/ ideas? 

(Molly) We are generally an out-of-the-box company. Nathan and I like to routinely go to stores, look at what’s on the shelves, and go in the opposite direction. This goes for art, theme, and mechanics. So when someone brings us a design like Sonora or CTRL, our ears perk up and we get excited!

(Mox) You have an increasing amount of dinosaur games, what is the dinosaur mashup you would like to see next? 

(Molly) Nathan hates that we now know that dinosaurs were basically birds. I’d like to do an entire game on dino-birds!

(Mox) Looking forward to the coming year, how do you see in-person/ digital conventions affecting the industry? 

(Molly) Not having cons this year has been such a blow from a personal and marketing standpoint. Digital cons have helped, but it’s just not the same. The energy and the word of mouth is missing. We’ve had to really reach outside of the box to find and affect gamers. Luckily our Marketing Manager is brilliant in that department. But it’s been a struggle. However, I do not think that digital cons are going anywhere. They are an effective and affordable way to bring people together. Fingers crossed that our cons come back in 2021. They are among the worst hit by the pandemic in the entire industry. My heart goes out to them, especially since they are one of the main pulses of our community. I am sure they will be much smaller for a while. But here’s hoping we can see you all in person next year.

(Mox) Are there any games in the pipeline you could give us a sneak preview of? 

(Molly) Mark your calendars for a January announcement. Our Marketing Manager would kill me if I spilled the beans! But expect a lot of magic and whimsy. (Umbra Via was announced 1/13 here)

(Mox) What is your favorite game or mechanic, and why? 

(Molly) I’m a big fan of dice manipulation. Few things are as satisfying as that feeling when you think you are done for, and you eke out the win with a crafty pip.

(Mox) Ok, one last question. What is your favorite food to eat while gaming? 

(Molly) I want to say anything that doesn’t mess up the components. But I would be lying if I pretended that I wasn’t constantly trying to combat chip dust. Popcorn is usually not as cruel!

(Mox) Thank you Molly for giving us that inside scoop. We’re at the edge of our seats waiting to find out about that January announcement!

Pandasaurus at Mox Boarding House

Board games are the perfect way to spend an evening while the evenings are still long through these winter months. We’re offering 10% off any Pandasaurus titles all month, so make sure to stop by. With such a diverse catalog of games, there really is something for everyone.

-See you at Mox