Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 10 September 2019

The Curliest Wurly:- Passtally

Game: Passtally

Publisher: Pandasaurus Games

Designer: Masaki Suga (須賀 正樹)

Year: 2018

Passtally is a 2-3 player abstract strategy, tile laying game in which players will take turns placing tiles and moving their pieces in order to connect them. At the end of each round points will be rewarded to the active player for each pair of their tokens that are connected based on how many tiles, the joining line passes over. The game will end when either one player reaches a point cap, the tiles run out, or there are no legal moves left to place tiles.

The game is ludicrously simple to play. Each turn you can do 2 actions, each of which can be one of two things. You can add a new tile from the board. If you choose to do this you take one of the three available tiles and place it however you'd like on the board Tiles can go on top of each other but they must go over 2 tiles when doing so and you must always place a tile in a way that it does not break the lines on the board. After you are happy with your placement you draw the next tile from the stack into the market. Alternatively you can move one of your markers. When you do this you can move a marker up to two spaces around the outside of the board, jumping over any opponent pieces along the way. After your two actions your round ends, for each pair of markers you have connected to tally the number of tiles it passes over (it may pass over the same tile multiple times, and tiles score more points if they are higher up), then use the conversion chart to change that into points.

Sounds simple enough right? Well Passtally isn't just a student of 'simple to learn difficult to master' it's the professor, and it's about to teach you that life is not always easy! At first the board is all straight lines and everything is wonderful, but once these tiles start getting added it becomes increasingly difficult to work out where the lines are going. Combine that with the options to move around the board and add a new tiles and you are trying to calculate a humongous number of variables! Be ye warned; Passtally will induce AP in all by the fastest players, and that's one of the biggest downsides for me. I'm rarely the player who takes the longest in a turn, but there is something about the brightly coloured tangle of lines that sends my head into a spin. I can look at the board for minutes and not see a move that is any better for me than what I already have.

The board starts as an empty grid of straight lines, but even early in the game things start to get a bit more twisted.

In fact change is an incredible driving factor of this game, there are often simple moves you can do to add one or two extra passes to your turn. But often you are attacked, your line is disrupted so that you are forced to find a new path. This can be when you find that new opportunity that you never saw before that reaps huge rewards. Passtally has incredible depth to it, no two games will ever be the same and each time you are going to have to stay on your toes and be willing to look for opportunities. This is not a game you win by incremental improvements.

The higher up a piece is the more points you receive for passing over it. Doing a loop over a high tile is a sure way to build up big points.

So overall Passtally is fantastic. Honestly it's a beautifully designed, simple to play yet impossible to master abstract game. And yet I'm not the hugest fan. Perhaps it's how my mind works, but I simply freeze up when I look at all my options. I get fixated on a mediocre move and miss out on the power plays, and because of that this is a game that I will never be good at. Passtally is a game that I fear I am doomed to appreciate from afar, but not actually enjoy playing myself.

I'm sorry Passtally: It's not you, it's me.


Passtally was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £28.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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