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BORD GAME MAKER

We throw back the curtain on the unsung manufacturer responsible for producing some of the most acclaimed tabletop titles of the last decade – and a name you’ve probably never heard before

If you’re at least a passing fan of board games (a likely guess given you’re reading this magazine), you can doubtless name a dozen designers whose work you enjoy – Matt Leacock, Rob Daviau, Richard Garfield, Jamey Stegmaier, Corey Konieczka, Vlaada Chvátil, Uwe Rosenberg… the list goes on. What’s more, you can probably rattle off at least a handful of your favourite publishers: Z-Man, Bezier, Plaid Hat, Portal and maybe even niche start-ups discovered through Kickstarter or in the corner of conventions. Yet, even if you’re a more studious follower of the industry, you’re unlikely to have come into contact with the company that actually turns many of these creators’ ideas into the printed wood and card that ends up on your table.

In a business still populated by supercentenarian game makers such as Ravensburger, Kosmos and Hasbro (alright, Hasbro’s ‘only’ 94 years old, we’ll admit), Panda Game Manufacturing is a relative infant, having first appeared a decade ago as the result of now-CEO Michael Lee engineering a single project he discovered on BoardGameGeek in 2007. Lee quickly brought on his brother, COO Richard, and committed to Panda full-time. The very next year, in 2008, Panda was responsible for producing two titles whose popularity and influence endures today: Ultimate Werewolf and Pandemic.

“The game that we have probably produced the most of in terms of quantity, and that is most well-known, is Pandemic,” Panda’s vice president of business development Brent Kinney tells me. “Pandemic has become a crossover hit and has landed in big box stores.”

Panda’s Brent Kinney.
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