Tabletop Tuesday: Great for Two (part 4)

The final two-player focussed game (for now) is Patchwork. At this point, the name and the colourful header image will have most readers rolling their eyes. Because yes, the game is all about filling up a 9×9 grid with colourful pieces to finish a beautiful (cardboard) quilt. But if sewing quilts is not your thing, you can easily imagine it’s a 9×9 Tetris game!

How it works

Each player is given a cardboard template with squares in a 9×9 pattern and a time token. The goal is to fill the board as much as possible with differently shaped patch tiles. The patches basically look like every Tetris block and more. They are randomly scattered around a time board in the middle of the table. The neutral pawn is placed to the right of the smallest patch. On a player’s turn, they may purchase one of the three tiles to the right of the pawn.

The neutral pawn indicating which patches may be bought.

The game currency is none other than buttons and each player gets five to start off with. If you want to pick up a patch for your quilt, it will cost you the number of buttons indicated on the patch. Each patch also indicates how long it will take to “sew” it on your quilt. Once a patch is bought, it needs to be immediately placed on the player’s board.

Sewing takes time

After a patch is bought, the player moves their time token the number of spaces on the time board as depicted on the patch. As the game progresses, one player will naturally move further away from the other on the time board. The player who is behind will always play next. As long as a player stays behind, they can play several times in a row.

However, the player that is behind on the time board can elect to pass their buying round and advance on the time board. This is often done due to not being able to afford patches, or to earn more buttons. They can then move their time marker one block in front of the other player. The perk? They then earn buttons equal to the number of blocks they moved.

The time board

Players low on buttons are further incentivised to move their tokens to reach special spaces on the time board. The first player to cross a special patch space gets a 1×1 patch. These are great for filling up random spots on your quilt. The other special spaces are button income spaces.  Whenever you cross over one of these spaces on the board, you receive a number of buttons equal to the number of buttons present on your quilt.

Patchwork Planning

Patchwork requires different kinds of decision making.

Taking and placing a tile allows you to fill your quilt with patches, which don’t inherently earn you points, but does prevent you from losing them during the final scoring. Each open space left on your quilt is worth -2 points. Advancing to receive buttons allows you to collect the buttons required to buy patches, as well as earn you points. Each button adds to your score at the end game. The balancing act here is time. Both options advance you a certain amount of time forward along the track, putting the end of the game closer with each turn.

The order of patches available for purchase is open knowledge, so long-term planning can come into play. You can plan ahead which shaped patches you want to buy, provided your opponent doesn’t interfere by buying one of the patches you’re eyeing. When purchasing a patch, you have to consider a number of things: cost in buttons; cost in time; the number of buttons awarded during button income; and how it fits on your quilt. All of these factors take the current layout into account, making the decisions you make different in every game.

Who would like Patchwork?

Patchwork is strictly a two-player game. So if you and your roommate or significant other love abstract puzzles, get Patchwork. The game is relaxing and simple but stays captivating by condensing a number of meaningful and interesting decisions into a basic game. Because each game and the required strategies are vastly different, the same player does not dominate every time. And since play time is only between 15 and 20 minutes, it’s easy to replay if your figurative sewing machine short-circuited.

Patchwork is an extremely original game that has won multiple awards over the last couple of years. It’s a refreshing addition to any boardgame collection.

Games, sports, music, series, reading. I think I have too many hobbies.

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