I got Patchwork to the table later than most people because, frankly, the theme didn’t really grab me. I mean, who wants to make quilts besides grandmothers? Eventually, though, after seeing several glowing reviews about the game from my fellow Boardgame Geek members, I finally decided to check it out.
Patchwork is a two player game designed by Uwe Rosenberg that consists of each player conducting Tetris-like board building on their own 9 x 9 grid. Patchwork takes 30 minutes or less to complete a game. Players can choose one of three pieces each turn and add it to their quilt if they can afford it. Each piece costs a number of buttons and will result in that player moving his or her token further along the game board. The game board acts as a timer for the game as well as scoring chances for players to obtain more buttons, which allows them to obtain more pieces, which allows them to continue to complete their quilts. Despite its easy mechanics, Patchwork has quite a bit of strategy and is more difficult than it’s beautiful package would indicate. The first two times I played the game I finished with negative scores. That’s right, less than zero. Finally, in my third game I finished with nine points which had me pumping my fist and flexing my muscles as though I just won an Olympic medal.
The pieces are very colorful, and the varying shapes make for difficult placement decisions. Also, the economic system with the buttons is interesting because while they are necessary to purchase new pieces, some of which will generate buttons themselves, buttons are also the victory points that players score at the end of the game, so they cannot be spent frivolously. It’s a very interesting mechanic that creeps up on you as the game progresses. Pieces you want that will fit perfectly into your quilt may not be affordable if you don’t exhibit good button management.
The movement mechanism in the game is also interesting, because pieces you purchase maybe cheap button-wise, but they may move you further along the board than you wish. Also, because the player who is behind on the movement board gets to keep taking turns until he or she passes the other player, you can time purchases to maximize your turn potential, which can maximize how many pieces you can buy.
At the end of the game, players will lose two points for every empty space on their quilt. These numbers add up quickly and can really hurt your score, as I found out in my first two plays. There is also a bonus token that one player can earn by completing a 7 x 7 square on her board. In my first two games I sought this tile as though it were the One Ring, and it corrupted my strategy appropriately. In my third play I decided to just try to minimize the empty spaces on my board. Surprisingly, this actually enabled me to earn the bonus token anyway and minimized my negative points at the end of the game. I’m interested to see how this strategy plays out the more times I try it.
Ultimately, I can see why Patchwork gets as much buzz as it does. The strategic possibilities seem to grow with each play. Again, this belies the simple mechanics the game offers. And while it is abstract I suppose, there’s no denying that I am always proud of my quilt at the end of the game. Each time I’ve played it I have taken a good 20 to 30 seconds to admire my work before taking my quilt apart at the end of the game. So, don’t be like me and think this game is only for grandmas. Grab a copy, grab a friend, and have an excellent time matching stitches and wits.
So there’s my (late) review of Patchwork. Thanks for reading and remember to keep nerding on.
For this and other geeky games, check out www.dicedropgames.com