Full disclosure: A review copy of Prowler’s Passage was provided by Renegade Game Studios.
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Another day, another review! This time, we’ll be checking out Prowler’s Passage, a new two-player game of thieves, tunnels, and intrigue from Renegade Game Studios, publisher of other games reviewed on this blog, such as Lotus, Lanterns, Pie Town, and more.
In Prowler’s Passage, you and a rival thief will dig far below the city to try and collect a variety of priceless treasures, and by laying these tunnels vie for control of various districts of the city. You’ll be after jewels, books, statues, and more to try and control the city. Will you become the greatest thief of all? Or will your efforts and schemes come up short?
First, easiest thing to set up is going to be the board:
This should sit between the two players, and will be used to track control of the Districts. To that end, add the five District tracker tokens to the board, in the spots matching their shapes:
Now, build this city! Take the tiles:
Shuffle them up, spin them a bit, and place them in a sorta-pyramid shape. Three connected to the board, two connected to them, and then one at the point. Align them such that the circles on the corners of the tiles are all completed, like this:
Now, you can add statues to the relevant spots. Those are going to be the three complete grey circles that are created as intersections of tiles, as well as the middle:
This one is interesting — take the object tokens (there are 27 of them and some but not all are double-sided), shuffle them up, and put them on every full sorta-grey circle (they’re a bit less opaque, and there are three on each tile as well as one on each tile-tile boundary):
Great, you’re almost done. Shuffle the Achievement cards, take three, and slot them above the board:
Finally, as one last thing, give each player a set of tunnels in their color:
Oh, also, set aside the score sheet; you’ll need that later.
You’re all set! Choose a player to go first, and you’re ready to go:
So, a game of Prowler’s Passage is played over a series of turns, culminating in two scoring phases. One of these phases is Mid-Game Scoring, the other Final Scoring. The player with the most total points after these two phases is the winner!
On your turn, you’re gonna place one of your tunnels on any edge on the board that’s got an Object Token on it. Take the Object token, and then move the token(s) matching the District(s) on the two spaces your tunnel is between one space closer to you. Add the Object Token to your stash on your side of the board.
- If you took a Golden Shovel, move any District tracker token one additional space towards you.
- If you took a Double Shovel, move the two District tracker tokens you just moved one additional space towards you.
Shovels are fun! Since the Object Tokens are double-sided, do not flip them over.
If you’ve placed a tunnel such that every path towards a statue is now covered by a tunnel (essentially, you placed the final path towards a statue), you can take the statue! You’ve undermined it and it’s yours, now. It’ll look great in your lawn, which is really the dream.
If you ever fulfill the criteria for one of the Achievement cards, you claim it immediately and place it in front of you. Once it’s claimed, your opponent cannot claim it. It belongs to you, now.
If, at any point, a turn ends in which one of these cases are true:
- Two statues have been stolen;
- Both players have placed 8 tunnels
The current phase of the game ends! You’ll enter what’s called Mid-Game Scoring. During this phase, you’ll score the following criteria:
- Path Length: Score 2 points for each segment in your longest path. You may only count a tunnel once in your path; no doing weird looping stuff.
- Statues: Score 1 point per statue you’ve stolen.
- Object tokens: For each type of object tokens you have (except Shovels, which are nice but not worth money), score as follows:
- 1: 1 point.
- 2: 3 points.
- 3: 6 points.
- 4: 10 points.
- 5: 15 points.
- 6: 21 points.
- 7: 28 points. Dang.
- District Control: Score points for each District’s particular control scheme, provided you control that District:
- Banking: Gain one point for every Gold token, and then gain five additional points.
- Political: Gain one point for every Book token, and then gain two points for every District you control (including this one).
- Market: Gain one point for every Jewelry token, every Statue you’ve stolen, every Achievement you’ve gained, and every space past the middle of the board you’ve moved the Market tracking token towards you.
- Residential: Gain one point for every Keys token you have, and then gain X – 2 additional points, where X is the length of your longest path.
- Castle: Lose one point for every Shovel token you have, and then gain 3 points per pair of Object Tokens you have of the same type.
- Achievements: You do not score Achievements during the Mid-Game Scoring Phase.
Sum the total, and then resume play. Play continues until both players have placed all of their tunnels, at which time you’ll perform Final Scoring. It’s exactly the same as Mid-Game Scoring (since you score all the same things again), but also add in the points you’ve earned from the Achievements you’ve collected over the course of the game. The player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
Uh, it’s two-player only. So, none.
- It’s generally a good idea to build a tunnel on a location that has a token matching one of the two Districts bordering it. That way, not only do you get a token, you also score extra points, if you end up controlling that District! That’s always nice.
- That said, in general, you do want to try and align your Objects taken with the Districts you’re trying to control. Don’t control Districts where you only score 2 – 3 points because you weren’t planning well. The goals that they reward are the goals you should strive to fulfill, in addition to getting objects of that color so that you can score even more points.
- It’s not a bad idea to get a sense of which Districts and Objects are the most and least common. The variable setup makes this kind of … variable, yes, so it might be worth getting your bearings before charging in recklessly. Otherwise, you risk making a bunch of really bad decisions that you may not be able to recover from in time.
- You have some control over when Mid-Game Scoring occurs. Use it to your advantage. If you can time Mid-Game Scoring right before your opponent would have a big swing on their turn, you can scrape out some extra points and cost them big. If you’re already doing well, then prevent Mid-Game Scoring’s advent until you’ve managed to get even more points. Either way, it’ll happen after your eighth turn. Just try not to trigger Mid-Game Scoring early if you control the Castle and all you’ve taken are Shovels. That has a nasty way of lowering your score, rather than increasing it.
- The Achievements matter, but don’t let them consume you. They’re usually worth between 3 and 6 points, so don’t like, trip over yourself trying to claim them. Instead, use one or two of them as guiding principles and try to claim them naturally over the course of playing the game. They’re still worth having; they’re just not worth dropping everything to claim.
- Try to build a long path. 20+ points on just a long path isn’t too shabby. You should try to keep doing that, when and where you can.
- It doesn’t always make more sense to block your opponent. You should definitely block them if they’re going to make a big score on your turn (make sure they don’t get 7 of the same Object, for instance), but you should probably focus on scoring your own points during the game rather than specifically trying to block them at every opportunity.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Cool theme. Rival thieves! That’s always fun.
- Great art. I love the purple on the game box, as well! The color is nice, generally speaking, as well.
- Good quality components. The board and tiles are nice and thick, the pieces are all well-cut, bright, and fun to look at, and the whole thing is a good size for both its box and the game itself. It’s very well-made, which, to be fair, I kind of expect from Renegade, at this point, but it’s still nice to see every time that it happens. Just a quality product.
- Reasonably easy to learn. The only difficult thing is scoring, in my opinion, and that gets easier after you play it a few times.
- The Mid-Game Scoring thing is a neat addition. It sort of allows you to double up on things you’re going to try to emphasize at the end of the game. Whether that turns out well for you or not depends on how well you play, which is an interesting gamble.
- The tug-of-war for District control is a fun mechanic. It’s very reminiscent of the military track in 7 Wonders: Duel. I liked it then, and I still like it now, though I prefer Prowler’s Passage’s use of multiple tokens to track it. Makes it feel a bit deeper.
- The double-sided object tiles are awesome, but be careful with them. Since they’re double-sided and their current side matters, make sure you know which side is up before scoring. You don’t want to flip them and gain a significant number of points from the flip, and this can happen absentmindedly. I appreciate that some are double-sided (as the variation makes the game more dynamic across games), but it increases the risk of people accidentally flipping it during the game. Just be careful.
- The statues only being worth 1 point is kind of weird. It feels like a big deal to get a statue, but it’s … not? Just an odd quirk of the game, I suppose, but a few players have mentioned it.
- The myriad scoring options can be a bit overwhelming for new players. There’s a lot going on with scoring, so it’s often helpful to walk through everything before (and during) your first game. The player aid isn’t terribly helpful for scoring until you’ve gotten a few games under your belt; then it makes perfect sense. That’s not terribly uncommon with player aids, but it can make the game feel a bit intense on your first play.
- It can be a bit difficult to tell some Districts apart. The shapes help a bit, but making the different elements a bit more prominent would have helped us in our first game. You’re often looking at the tiles from far enough away and at an angle that a few places can kind of blend together, which can lead to some misplays. Oh well.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, Prowler’s Passage is super fun! I like a good network-building / path-building game as much as the next person (as evidenced by my love for Near and Far, Tsuro of the Seas, and other such games), and this is a great example. I like that while you’re rival thieves, you’re never really stealing from each other, so the actual conflict is pretty de-emphasized, despite being a two-player game. It’s not as hate-drafty as 7 Wonders: Duel, which I really appreciate; the major source of player-to-player contention is the District control track, which still feels rather impersonal. I appreciate that, a lot, honestly. The scoring does get easier after repeated plays, I assure you, even if it’s a lot to take on in your first game. Either way, if you’re looking for a fun two-player game of thieves and treasures, Prowler’s Passage is a solid choice!