Designer: J. Alex Kevern
Artist: Csaba Bernáth, Pedro Henrique Cardoso, Anita Osburn
Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
Category: Route-Building, Area Influence
Price: $35.00 Amazon.com
Prowler’s Passage is a two-player game from Renegade Game Studios. Acting as elusive thieves, players dig passageways, burrowing under a city to steal its valuable artifacts.
This game involves a theme of theft. It is quite abstracted (the gameplay basically boils down to route building and area influence), but it’s something to be aware of.
In Prowler’s Passage, two master thieves look on at a gleaming city, rife with priceless treasures. The riches are theirs for the taking… unless another thief gets to them first.
To set up this game, six hexagonal tiles are placed in a grid, adjacent to an influence track. Each hex is divided into three “districts,” in colors corresponding to the five influence markers. Item tokens are placed on all “pathways” of the grid, and “statues” are placed on the four central intersections. Three objective cards are dealt next to the influence track, and each player receives a set of “passage markers” in their color. When the game is set up, it will look like this:
The turn sequence is incredibly simple. Each round, the active player does the following:
- Place a passage marker on any pathway with an item token on it
- Take the token, adding it to their supply
- Move the influence markers matching the spaces on either side of the newly-placed passage
As an example:
The green player has just placed this passage. He took the token that was on the pathway and added it to his tableau. Then:
Since the passage is between a blue and a white space, he moves the blue and white influence markers one space toward himself. (Thematically, this signifies that he is gaining control in blue and white districts.) If the player claimed a shovel item token, he can move the influence markers additional spaces.
Players’ passage markers do not have to touch one another; any passage may be placed on any unclaimed pathway. If someone places a passage such that a statue is completely surrounded, that player claims the statue. To illustrate:
Purple just placed a passage adjacent to this statue. Since all pathways next to it are now claimed, purple takes the statue for herself.
The goal of Prowler’s Passage is to earn the most points. Points are awarded during two scoring rounds, one part-way through the game, and the other at the end. At the start of each scoring round, both players gain:
1. Two points per section of their longest consecutive passage
2. One point per statue they possess
3. Points for sets of item tokens they have collected (the more they have of a particular item, the more each one is worth)
Then, players score individually based on which districts they control (i.e. which influence markers are on their side on the midline). The player who controls each district scores as follows:
1. Yellow district – one point per yellow token they have, plus five points
2. Blue district – one point per blue token they have, plus two points per district they control
3. Purple district – one point per purple token they have, plus one point per objective card and statue, plus one point per purple marker is beyond the midline
4. Brown district – one point per brown token they have, plus one point for each marker in their longest passage beyond two
5. White district – minus one point per shovel token they have, plus three points per pair of item tokens they have
If a player ever fulfills the requirements of an objective card, he immediately take it and add it to his tableau. Objectives will provide extra points during final scoring. The game ends when both players are out of passage markers. At this time, the mid- and end-game point totals are added together, and the player with the highest score wins.
If that scoring system sounds cumbersome, it’s because it really is. Prowler’s Passage takes twenty to thirty minutes to play, but the lion’s share of that time is spent just counting up points. The actual gameplay only accounts for about five to eight minutes.
This fact makes the game a drag to play. At no point was I ever excited or engaged in what was going on. Prowler’s Passage does offer strategic decisions, but only because of its wonky scoring system.
It’s a shame, because I really like the tug-of-war nature of moving the influence markers. It’s as if this game began as a simple, intuitive system, and then had a fiddly scoring system added later.
The game’s production is nice, but it suffers from color issues. The brown and purple tokens and their matching districts are incredibly close and can be easily confused.
All in all, this game really didn’t do it for me. Prowler’s Passage may be one of those games that gets better with many plays, but it doesn’t interest me enough to find out.
A review copy was provided by Renegade Game Studios.
The Bottom Line
Prowler's Passage has some interesting ideas, but it fails due to a finicky scoring system.