Roll with the Punches and Kicks in ‘Kung Fu Panda: The Board Game’

Gaming Tabletop Games
Become the Dragon Warrior and join the Furious Five. Image by Michael Knight.

Enter the world of Kung Fu Panda as you help Po and the Furious Five defeat Tai Lung and his minions in order to save the Valley of Peace.

What Is Kung Fu Panda: The Board Game?

Kung Fu Panda: The Board Game is a cooperative game in which players simultaneously roll their own pool of dice and use the results to move, fight enemies, and unleash special moves to complete their objectives before the sand runs out of the timer. The game can be played by 2-4 players and each mission lasts about 10 minutes while a multi-mission adventure can take around 30 minutes to complete. Based on the movies of the same name, this game is appropriate for children 8 years old and up. The list price of the game is $59.99.

Kung Fu Panda: The Board Game Components

Here’s what comes in the game:

  • 6 Detailed Character Figures (Po and the Furious Five)
  • 2 Boss Miniatures (Tai Lung and the Wolf Boss)
  • 28 Minion Miniatures (Slashers, Spearmen, and Grunts)
  • 6 Hero Boards
  • 4 Dials of Destiny
  • 16 Action Dice
  • 12 Special Move Cards
  • Sand Timer
  • 30 Colored Base Clips
  • 4 Red Health Counters
  • 4 Green Dial Counters
  • 20 Scene Tiles (8 Long, 12 Square, reversible)
  • 6 Wall Tiles
  • 6 Objective Tokens
  • 6 Spawn Tokens
  • 4 Card Tokens
  • 3 Enemy Reference Boards
  • Extra Damage and Extra Move Tokens
  • Dumpling Token
The black ink highlighting on the miniatures give them a nice look. Image by Michael Knight.

While they are not painted, the miniatures included in the game look nice. They have a black ink highlighting which accentuates their details. Colored base clips are attached to the miniatures to quickly distinguish friends from foes as well as the different types of enemies. In the rush of die rolls during the rounds, the colors make it easy to know what you are up against without having to carefully study the miniature.

The icons on the dice represent the actions you can take during the game. Image by Michael Knight.

Each player gets four action dice. There are five different icons on each die: 2 Move, 1 Punch, 1 Kick, 1 Claws, and 1 Chi.

Put the scene tiles together to create the maps for each mission. Image by Michael Knight.

For each mission, players use the scene tiles to create a map of the area through which they will be playing. The icons in the corner of each tile represent the dice needed to move into that tile. Wall tiles can be positioned between scene tiles to create barriers. Players must break through walls with the designated dice in their pool in order to move to the next scene tile. The instruction manual shows you how set up the tiles for each individual mission.

The hero board and Dial of Destiny combined. Image by Michael Knight.

Each player gets a hero board which keeps track of their character’s health as well as lists their unique ability. A Dial of Destiny connects to the hero board. As Claws are rolled on the dice, the green dial token is moved around the dial to spawn enemies, deal damage to your character, and activate special play effects. This essentially controls the enemies.

Special Ability cards give your hero an additional ability. Image by Michael Knight.

Special move cards provide an additional action characters can use by spending their Chi dice. In single mission games, players draw a number of cards equal to the number of players and then can distribute one to each player as they choose. If playing a series of missions, players only receive special move cards if they obtain the dumplings in the previous mission.

The reference cards. Image by Michael Knight.

These quick reference cards show what dice you need to defeat each type of enemy as well as how much damage they inflict on your characters.  The dice you need to defeat Tai Lung varies depending on the number of players in the game.

Some of the tokens used during missions. Image by Michael Knight.

Several tokens represent items and objectives used during the missions. Villagers need to be rescued, dumplings and scrolls to be collected, and items such as gongs and levers are used during missions. Green spawn tokens show where additional enemies spawn onto the scene tiles.

How to Play Kung Fu Panda: The Board Game

The first mission. Image by Michael Knight.

Setup

Before you begin setting up, you need to decide how long of a game you want to play. You can choose from a single mission, a three-mission adventure, or all nine missions linked together to form a story. There are also two tutorial missions which help players learn the mechanics of the game. One focuses on moving around the scene tiles while the second adds enemies and combat. It is a good idea to play these tutorial missions until all players are familiar with the mechanics. After looking over the mission or missions you have chosen to play, each player selects their hero. Since this is a cooperative game, pick heroes that compliment one another and can meet the challenges of the mission. Players then collect their hero miniature, the matching hero board, and then attach a Dial of Destiny to the hero board. Place a red health counter on the highest health level on the hero board and the green dial counter on the starting position of the Dial of Destiny. After each player has four action dice, follow the directions for the mission to assemble the scene tiles. Next place enemies, obstacles, and other tokens for the mission onto the scene tiles. Finally, place your heroes in their starting positions. You are now ready to play.

Gameplay

Players must work together to get from their starting scene tile or tiles to the end scene tile. Along the way, they must fight against enemies and complete objectives. Each mission is divided up into 2 or 3 rounds, with the exception of one mission with no round limit. The rounds are about 3 minutes long and timed by the sand timer. During each round, players roll their dice and take actions simultaneously. While they can play individually as they move from scene tile to scene tile and defeat enemies, there are some objectives which require them to work together. When the sand in the top of the timer is empty, the round is over. Players can then take some time to plan out their actions for the next round. Once all players are ready to continue, turn the timer over to begin the next round .

Spend dice from your pool so you Hero can take actions. Image by Michael Knight.

The core mechanic in Kung Fu Panda: The Board Game is rolling the dice. Each player has four action dice which they roll to create a dice pool. From those four dice, they can spend some or all to complete actions. Spent dice are picked up by the player and held in their hand. They can be re-rolled to add to the dice pool. Players can also pick up dice from the pool if they want to roll them again. You can also perform more than one action with the dice in your pool so long as you don’t spend the same die on different actions. For example, a player could roll a move action, a punch action, and two kick actions. With those four dice, the player could move into an adjacent scene tile (if the cost was only one move action), then defeat a Spearman (a punch action) and a Slasher (two kick actions). Since all four dice had been used, they would then be re-rolled to form a new dice pool.

To move onto this rooftop tile, you will need to spend a movement action and a kick action. Image by Michael Knight.

Moving around the scene tiles is easy as long as you have the right dice. You pay the cost of the scene tile you want to enter. Some only cost a single move die. Others cost additional actions. If you are leaving a scene tile containing enemies, you must pay an additional move action for each enemy. Therefore, it is best to clear out some if not all enemies before advancing. Many of the missions have obstacles such as walls. These must be destroyed before moving past them. Again, just spend the actions displayed on the obstacle out of your dice pool and the obstacle is then removed. One player can do this or players can combine their actions from their dice pools to complete this task.

Defeating enemies is easy, as long as you roll well. A single punch will remove a Spearman while Slashers take two kicks each. A Grunt is tougher requiring two punches and two kicks. The Wolf Boss takes a kick, two punches, and a Chi action. Tai Lung, the main boss of the game, can’t be defeated by a single player. You need to spend one punch and 5 to 11 Chi depending on the number of players. Combat is pretty straightforward. However, the enemies can also attack you. If you roll any Claws actions into your dice pool, they must be resolved immediately. Advance your green dial counter on your Dial of Destiny one space for each Claws die, completing each effect before moving to the next space on the dial.  Some spaces are empty so there is no effect. If an enemy silhouette appears, you spawn an enemy of that type in the listed spawn tile. However, if there is an Enemies Fight Back icon in the space, you take damage for any enemies in the same scene tile as you. Spearmen and Slashers each inflict one damage while the other enemies inflict two damage each!

Each of the four Dials of Destiny is a bit different. Image by Michael Knight.

Each hero starts off with only four health. Therefore, if you roll a Claws action while you are in a scene tile with a Slasher and two Spearmen, you take 3 damage. Once you lose all four of your health, your hero is KO’d. Place your hero miniature on its side in the scene tile where it was and stop rolling dice.  Not to worry though. One of the other heroes can revive you if they are in the same scene tile and spend two Chi actions. You immediately upright your miniature, reset your health up to four,  and begin rolling dice again. Only Po has the ability to heal himself by spending a Chi action for each point of health restored. Therefore, if playing as one of the other five heroes, you can expect to be knocked out at least once per mission.

Unique abilities for each Hero are listed on their hero boards. Image by Michael Knight.

Po’s s ability to spend Chi to heal is very useful. Each of the other heroes also have their own unique abilities. Most convert Chi into something else. Viper can use Chi as a movement action. Tigress can use Chi as a punch action while Monkey converts it to a kick. Crane can use a Chi to pay the costs to move to another tile which requires more than a move action. This does not allow Crane to fly over walls. Mantis does not convert Chi to anything. Instead, Mantis can move out of a scene tile with enemies without having to pay any extra movement actions.

Winning the Game

Mantis rescues a villager and completes one of the mission objectives. Image by Michael Knight.

Each mission has its own win condition. Your heroes may need to rescue civilians, obtain scrolls, or complete other objectives such as defeating enemies. If the timer runs out on the last round before you complete all your objectives, the mission is lost. There can also be objectives you must complete before the enemies complete their own objectives or you lose.  Finally if all heroes are KO’d, so no one is left to revive the heroes, the enemies win. Only by working together can the heroes emerge victorious.

Why You Should Play Kung Fu Panda: The Board Game

Kung Fu Panda: The Board Game is quite different from most other games. There is no down time for any of the players. Everyone is rolling dice and spending actions as fast as they can. The breaks between rounds can be a welcome respite for players to catch their breath and plan ahead. The game really encourages players to work together. This becomes even more important as heroes start taking damage and eventually get KO’d. Until that hero is revived, they can’t do anything to help the team. As a fan of cooperative games, I really liked the need for players to work together. Before starting a mission, we plan out what we are doing. Some missions have divergent pathways with multiple objectives, so we decide who is going after each objective. It took a bit of play before we really started sharing our dice pools. In early missions, we would just keep rolling dice over and over to get the one we needed. However, as we learned to share, we actually didn’t feel quite as rushed. Sometimes you just can’t roll a Chi, but can use another hero’s die, as long as both  heroes are in the same scene tile. This also encouraged use to stick together, or in a four player game, to divide up into pairs for mutual support.

For more challenge, flip the Dials of Destiny over to their Awesome Mode side. Image by Michael Knight.

Though there are only nine missions, the game designers did a great job of making each mission different. The layouts of the scene tiles differ as well as the objectives. The changing objectives require the players to modify their strategies for each mission. In addition, some of the scene tiles in a few of the missions have high costs to enter and one can even inflict damage on the heroes. If you complete all the missions, then try them again in Awesome Mode. In order to do this, flip the Dials of Destiny over to their Awesome side. These dials have no empty spaces. Therefore, every Claws die inflicts damage, triggers a mission effect or spawns enemies. Plus in Awesome mode, Grunts are spawned as well as Slashers and Spearmen. This makes the game much more challenging.

Those who enjoy the Kung Fu Panda movies will most likely enjoy this game. Even those who are unfamiliar with the movies can enjoy the fast-paced gameplay. Since it is so different from most other games, Kung Fu Panda: The Board Game offers a change of pace for families or game groups. While the game box states the age suggestion as 8 and up, the game includes a Young Masters Mode which can be used for younger players. This mode lets  players take a pause action at any time and you cannot lose by running out of rounds. Claws effects can also be ignored so young players do not have to worry about taking damage or getting KO’d. Though I have not watched the movies, I enjoyed playing the game with my children who had seen the movies. We did have difficulty keeping an eye on the sand timer. We were so engaged in the game that we forgot to look to see when the sand had run out so some rounds ended up going longer than they should have. However, this was easily solved by setting a timer on a cell phone with an alarm for three minutes.  So if you love Po and the Furious Five, or are looking for something fast paced and different, give Kung Fu Panda: The Board Game a try.

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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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