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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Thursday 12 September 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Passtally

Game: Passtally

Publisher: Pandasaurus Games

Designer: Masaki Suga (須賀 正樹)

Year: 2018

Passtally is a recent release from Pandasaurus Games - a publisher who certainly have my attention. Not only do they publish one of my favourite games of all time - Wasteland Express Delivery Service, but they also have Machi Koro Legacy - a game I'm hotly anticipating. In addition, they've definitely got an eye for identifying cool games from Europe and Asia and bringing them to a broader audience. They localised The Mind for North America, then Passtally, originally from Analog Lunch Box, out of Japan, and they are also bringing Silver and Gold to North America and hopefully other English markets too.

Passtally is a delightful looking tile-laying game. Amazingly produced, with the thickest punchboard I've ever seen and a fantastically useful insert. The slick and simple appearance is a great clue to the simplicity of the game, but don't be fooled by the bright colours - Passtally is a fiendish game!

Passtally is an abstract tile-laying game for 2-3 players. To start the game, each player picks four starting positions on the board - one on each edge. Your goal on each turn is to create pathways of the board that make pathways between your tokens located around the edge. On each turn you take two actions, either placing a tile or moving an edge token up to two spaces around the perimeter, then you score. Scores are based on the number of tiles you pass when tracing your path - your pass tally! The tiles are hexagonal - coming in six different colours that correspond with the types of path on the tile. When you add a tile to the board you can add it only level one, or you can add a tile to an upper layer, so long as it bridges between two tiles on the layer below. When tracing your connected path, a stack of tiles counts as a number of passes equal to the height of the stack. Over the rounds, your scores will get larger as your snaking paths increase in value. Eventually either the tiles will run low or someone will hit fifty points, which triggers the end of the game and most points collected over the course of the game wins.

Passtally is delightfully simple. To set it up on the table takes about 30 seconds, to explain it takes another 60 seconds and then you’re ready to play. Turn one is easy and then slowly, as the turns pass by, each decision becomes more and more complex and intricate. Each turn you’re desperate to progress into a new scoring bracket. If your opponent didn’t screw up your connections, then it’s sometimes harder to do more than add two tiles into the mix. If they did mess everything up then you’re starting from scratch trying to assemble something awesome – often actually doing better than if you’d been left alone.

This is perhaps the one flaw that can be found in Passtally, you almost want your opponent to mess things up – more often than not, they’re not being as destructive as they think and actually make you do even better. There are some traps you can fall into, such as being stuck in a corner or with a really small scope of opportunities and to take a whole turn to get out of that situation is a lot more punishing than hoping an opponent sets you free.

I really applaud the game designers for being honest with the player count in Passtally. A player count of 2-3 players may seem a little odd and I'm not sure of the reasons to cap it at three. However, I know I wouldn't want to play at four players and I'd even hesitate to play at three players because some turns can be very slow. It's a really mind-bending game and for some, the analysis paralysis will be too overwhelming. Its totally understandable, but to wait for your turn whilst three other players agonise over theirs would ruin the experience for me.

Passtally is the style of abstract game that just clicks for me. I would typically say that we don’t play two player abstract games because Amy always wins, but Passtally proves that that’s not true. Whilst Amy is good at planning linger term movement chains in games like Onitama or Santorini, it seems that I can quickly turn a spatial puzzle like Passtally and identify my optimal scoring moves from a more tactical perspective. Not to say that I find Passtally easy – those moves are still a really rewarding challenge to identify, but it seems to be much easier for me to visualise.

Passtally is a game that I both admire and love. It could become my go-to abstract game and hopefully I can find a playing partner who enjoys it to my same level. A word of warning to my Dad, that you’re my next target and I really hope we can enjoy it together! For the Yellow Meeple, Passtally is an 8.5/10.

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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