Posted by: gschloesser | November 18, 2015

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.

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Responses

  1. While the concept of time is very important in Around the World in 80 Days, the turn order is clockwise from the player who took the clock token on the previous turn. (Not based on where the player is on the board)


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