Lay tiles to create increasingly-complicated paths in Passtally, an abstract game for 2-3 players from Pandasaurus Games. Passtally was designed by Masaki Suga, and is appropriate for players ages 8 and up.
How to Play
The goal of Passtally is to make complete paths across the board between matching pairs of your own colored pieces. After each turn, you’ll earn points, depending on how many tiles were involved in your path.
Each player chooses a color, then players take turns placing a square of their color on an open spot of each side of the main board.
On your turn, take a total of two actions. For each action, you have two options:
- Lay a new tile – choose one of the three face-up tiles near the board and place it on the grid. You may layer tiles (and you should!), but if a tile is above the first layer, it must be resting on two other tiles.
- Move a marker – move one of your colored markers up to two spaces around the edge of the board. Skip spaces covered by other markers.
After you’ve taken two actions, score your paths. You’ll score points for an unbroken path connecting two of your colored markers. Each tile the path “passes” through gets “tallied”. Every layer underneath a tile adds another “pass”. Add up the “passes” from both paths (you did create or maintain two paths, right?), and convert them to points.
Then the next player takes their turn.
Ending the Game
The game ends when a player reaches 50 VP on the track (finish the round so all players have an equal number of turns), when one of the stacks of tiles is used up (finish the round), or when no tiles can be legally placed on the board (end the game immediately).
Passtally is easy to understand but rewards intense concentration and planning. At times it feels more like a math puzzle (how do I maximize passes) rather than a game.
While there are a few tools to make your job easier (markers you can place to indicate a 3rd- or 5th-level piece, color-coding on the tiles), overall we found ourselves spending a lot of time repeatedly tracing out the same paths on the board before making a move. It’s just a little bit too much information to hold in your head all at once.
Passtally rewards focused thinking, and calculating a route that runs through multiple tiles at higher levels multiple times can be incredibly rewarding. It seems at the beginning like the points will never rack up, but passing through two or three tiles at level three or five can very quickly escalate your score.
“This game is for the NPR listening, Wall Street Journal reading, puzzle aficionado crowd.”Andrew
Because of all of these reasons, Passtally feels very cerebral. If you engage in a competitive game, you’ll leave feeling like you’ve really exercised those processing muscles, which is a nice change over games that reward domain knowledge. If you have a kid that “gets it” they can be very quickly competitive in a game like Passtally.
Unfortunately, the flip side is also true. Passtally can be prone to encouraging a runaway leader. Once someone has a high-value path, it’s hard to disrupt it without reducing your own chances for points. In our own plays, it has always been a bad choice to use a tile to block another player if it can’t also increase the “passes” in your own paths.
The puzzle is more interesting (and less about blocking) at three players. The board placements feel chaotic at times, but in a mind-stretching way.
Speaking of chaos, Passtally suffers from the same problem all tile-stacking games do: it’s a mess. Even though the pieces are all the same shape, it’s still easy to knock one or two out of place.
Fortunately, the box design makes it very easy to put the game away almost completely set up to play again, so that mess doesn’t extend into the box when itching to play a game.
If you like deep logical puzzles that reward you for multi-threaded thinking, and you have game partners who are the same, Passtally may just be for you. You can find Passtally at your FLGS or on Amazon for about $25.
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The Family Gamers received a copy of Passtally from Pandasaurus Games for this review.
Number of Players: 2-3
Age Range: 8+ (we agree)
Playtime: 30-45 minutes