Patchwork

Design by Uwe Rosenberg
Published by Mayfair Games / Lookout Games
2 Players, 20 – 30 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

Patchwork

Early in his career, Uwe Rosenberg developed a reputation for designing highly creative and sometimes quirky games.  These included games such as Bohnana, Klunker and Mama Mia.  Over the past decade or so he has moved on to designing deeper and more strategic designs and, indeed, has a loyal following of gamers that eagerly await his next creation.  Many have become game club staples, including his juggernaut Agricola.

One of his more recent offerings is Patchwork, which is neither quirky nor terribly strategic.  Rather, it is a lighter 2-player game that challenges players to place oddly-shaped quilting patches into a growing pattern.  The game has a decidedly Tetris-like feel, but players must accumulate buttons in order to purchase the patches they covet.  Care must be taken, however, as in addition to serving as currency, buttons are also victory points.

Each player receives five buttons and a blank board upon which their quilt will be formed.  Each board depicts a 9×9 grid, onto which the Tetris-like pieces will be placed.  The central board depicts a quilt, but serves solely as a timing track.  The 33 patches are randomly placed surrounding this board and the “neutral” pawn is placed immediately following the small, 2-space patch.  Each tile depicts its cost in buttons, the amount of time spent to attach that patch, as well as the number of buttons—if any—the patch will provide at certain points during the game.

A player’s turn is quite simple.  He may purchase one of the three quilt patches immediately in front of the neutral pawn, moving the pawn to that patch’s location.  The player must have enough buttons to purchase the patch.  The patch is then placed onto the player’s board, completely fitting inside the grid without overlapping any other patch.  There is an incentive to form a compact 7×7 quilt, as the first player to do so receives a bonus tile worth seven buttons (points).

Patchwork2After placing the patch, the player moves his marker on the time board a number of spaces equal to that depicted on the selected patch.  If the marker moves onto or past one of the single-space patches on the board, the player takes it and places it onto his board.  These 1-space patches can be quite useful in filling those pesky open spaces in one’s quilt.  Likewise, if the marker reaches or passes a button symbol, the player receives a supply of buttons equal to the number of buttons depicted in his growing quilt.

If a player does not desire to take a patch—or cannot afford one of the three available—he may instead move his marker one space ahead of his opponent’s marker.  The player then collects one button for each space moved.  This move does reduce the time available to a player, but is sometimes necessary in order to replenish one’s supply of buttons.

An important feature of the game is that players do not necessarily alternate taking turns.  Rather, the player who is furthest behind on the time board takes his turn.  Thus, it is possible for a player to have numerous consecutive turns.  This mechanism has been used to great effect in other games, including Thebes and Around the World in 80 Days.

The game ends once both players reach the end of the time board.  As each player reaches the end, he scores his buttons.  Once both reach the end, they tally their buttons, but must deduct two points for each blank space on their board.  Thus there is a huge incentive to cover as much as one’s board as possible.  I can speak from experience, as for some reason I’m terrible at making quilts, leaving numerous empty spaces.  My wife, on the other hand, must be a closet expert quilter!

Patchwork is a fast, fun game that is certainly much lighter than most of Rosenberg’s offerings.  There are decisions to be made in regard to what patches to purchase.  The tiles that seem to fit better often cost more and consume precious time.  Many, if not most tiles are oddly shaped, forcing players to carefully plan their quilt so as to avoid numerous empty spaces.  There is an incentive to take patches depicting numerous buttons, but these are usually oddly shaped and/or cost more.  All of these present the players with dilemmas that must be solved in order to perform well and best one’s opponent.

It is interesting that two games—Patchwork and Quilt Show—with the unusual theme of quilting were released in 2014.  It is certainly not a theme that is likely to appeal to most gamers, but could be one that has more appeal in the family market.  Nevertheless, in spite of the theme, Patchwork still has enough decisions to prove challenging and interesting to gamers, even if most of us don’t know the first thing about appliqué, baby blocks, batting or curved piecing.  No, I didn’t know those terms either; I had to look them up!

NOTE:  Special thanks to Stephane (SleuthGames) for use of the excellent photo.

Thoughts of Other Opinionated Gamers:

Dale Yu: I have very much enjoyed Patchwork – I’ve probably played it about 10 times now since Essen.  It is a fairly straightforward game – you don’t have too many decisions on any given turn.  As you can only look at the next three patch pieces in the circle, you can quickly decide if you want to buy them or not.  Otherwise, you pass, take some buttons and wait for the next turn.  As you get closer to the strategically important one-square patches on the scoreboard, this might cause you to change your strategy a bit if you want to “win” the race there to get that single square.

As Greg said, the timing mechanic is a interesting twist – though nothing new (seen in many other games before including Jenseits von Theben and Around the World in 80 days).  There may be a time or two where you end up buying a patch you don’t really want because it doesn’t cost much time and it will allow you to go again to buy a patch you really want/need.  I generally don’t play many 2p games around here, but this one is good enough to remain in my collection for those rare occasions!

Eric Martin: (four plays on a purchased copy) Patchwork is a brilliant mix of money management, spatial planning, opponent reading, and time management. What’s more, it’s a perfect information game that (so far) doesn’t inspire mapping out in terms of decision trees because so much of the game is open once you’re past the first few turns. Which of the pieces might my opponent take? Or will he take more than one? Or pass to build up for something just beyond the horizon? What will my choices be next turn, and what should I get next?

I suppose at some point in the future some goober could analyze the placement costs and return value of all the pieces based on the current game situation, but I hope such efforts don’t come to pass.

Lorna: A 2 player game with a quilting theme. This game is squarely in the Tetris/puzzle-like game family so nothing new there but it has a nice mechanism for turn order and income.

Ratings:

4 (Love it!): Eric Martin
3 (Like it):  Greg J. Schloesser, Dale Yu, Lorna
2 (Neutral):
1 (Not for me):

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About gschloesser

Greg Schloesser is the founder of the Westbank Gamers and co-founder of the East Tennessee Gamers. He is also a prolific reviewer of games and a regular contributor to numerous gaming publications and websites, including Counter, Knucklebones, Boardgame News, Boardgame Geek, Gamers Alliance and many others. Greg has been a gaming enthusiast his entire life, growing up in our hobby mainly on the war game side. His foray onto the internet exposed him to the wonderful world of German and European games and now nearly all of his gaming time is devoted to this area of our hobby. He travels to several gaming conventions each year and is the co-founder of Gulf Games, a regional gaming get-together held in the Southern USA. Greg was born in 1961 and lived his entire life in New Orleans before moving to East Tennessee in 2005. He is married and has one daughter (now married.)
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