Passtally is a newly released abstract strategy, tile placement and route building board game from publisher Pandasaurus Games. Designed by Masaki Suga, the game is designed for 2 – 3 players and takes around 20 – 30 minutes to play. Taking turns to place colourful tiles, the board grows as players scores do too. However, is this a game to pass on or to tally plays of? Let’s find out!
There is very little to setup in Passtally. The path tiles are shuffled and form three stacks, which are 14 tiles tall. The main board and score tracker are placed near the middle of the table. Then, players pick their player colour – taking their markers, leaving one on zero on the score tracker. Starting with the first player, everyone places one marker on a space on one side of the board. This process is then performed for the 3 remaining sides, with the order of players reversing each time a new side is started. When each side has a marker from each player on it setup is complete.
On a turn in passtally players perform two actions. Players have a choice of two different actions, playing a tile or moving a player marker. It is possible to do both actions once or do either of them twice. When playing a tile, the active player chooses one of the face up tiles in front of the piles. This tile is instantly placed onto the game board over the lines on the board or on top of two already placed tiles. Note that tiles must follow the lines of the board and cannot be placed diagonally. Instead of placing a tile, the player can choose to move one of their four markers to an adjacent space along the board. Any spaces containing an opponent’s marker is hopped over.
At the end of each turn, regardless of actions taken, the player looks to see if there are any paths connecting their markers. As a general rule the more tiles that a line traced between two of your markers passes through the more points which are scored. Passtally does tweak this somewhat as passing through level two or above tiles is worth more passes. When counting the level of the tile equals the number of passes it counts as. On top of this a tile can be counted multiple times if the line followed goes off then back onto a tile.
Passes aren’t directly translated into points, with brackets of passes scoring different amounts. While 2 – 3 passes will score 2VP (victory points) 16 – 21 passes will score you 6VP! As you may guess from these examples the increases aren’t exactly 1 for 1. The game continues clockwise until one of two outcomes is reached. When either one of the tile piles is finished or a player reaches 50 points the end of the game is triggered. At this point whomever has the most points wins.
Production wise Passtally has some of the thickest tiles I’ve ever played with, around double the thickness of a Carcassonne tile. This height isn’t perhaps just for show. It makes judging the difference between the layers and counting them for passes much easier. There are a number of 3 and 5 tokens included to help counting. Nevertheless, the tile heights make them somewhat unnecessary.
One issue with the tiles is that they do slide around a bit when knocked. When placing tiles on the base layer this isn’t too problematic, with nudged tiles just needing straightening. However, as tiles are stacked this problem only increases. Nudging tiles across multiple heights makes it fiddly to place tiles. As placing a tile is something players will do most turns this isn’t brilliant for the experience. Unfortunately, the player tokens are lacklustre. Being the same thickness is a positive. Still, they are almost like leftover tokens from a punch board than something to get excited about.
The board itself starts off empty but the tiles soon add up. By the middle of the game onwards it is busy, though more covered than complicated to read. This occurs with only two players, and there is a slight increase with three. Adding in a third player there seems more blocking from building over the top. This isn’t normally due to aggressive play. There are more changes between your turns, often at the detriment of your scoring potential. You then end up having to place tiles to trace paths in turn blocking opponents.
Pastally is much more of a puzzle than a game, with players all working on the same puzzle against each other. On paper it creates an interesting puzzle, which surfaces when playing. Alas, that exact puzzle is somewhat tainted with other players constantly mucking up your best planned moves. This is where the game and the puzzle aspects collide. Therefore, for those that like the ability to play their own game, uninterrupted by others, Passtally won’t be for you. Production wise Passtally looks nice and bright on the table and mechanically everything in Passtally works. The tile placement and drawing lines concept is a pleasant one. Alas, it does little to encourage you to play past a couple of times.
[Editor’s Note: Pastally was provided to us by Asmodee for review purposes. The game it is currently available from local board game stores, find your local store here]