It might not be the most exciting theme you have ever encountered, but don’t walk away yawning. No, from now on patching up clothing might become your favourite pastime for two. So, grab your needle and thread and stitch along.
What do you get for your money?
You get 1 time board, 1 neutral pawn, 2 time tokens, 2 quilt boards, 33 cardboard patches, 50 button tokens, 1 bonus tile and the rulebook.
How do you play the game?
The goal of the game is to create a nice patchwork on your quilt board. You do that by placing patches in different shapes and sizes on your board. You buy these patches from the general supply and pay them with buttons. You will earn more buttons throughout the game and at the end these buttons are also your points. All empty spaces on your quilt are worth minus two points, so you’ll have to make sure you make enough buttons and make sure that all your patches are a good fit.
Every player starts the game with 5 buttons and an empty quilt board. All thirty-three patches are placed in a circle around the time board, the two time tokens, one for every player, are placed at the start of the time track and the neutral pawn is placed right after the smallest patch.
The starting player begins and has two choices. Firstly, that player can buy one of the three patches that are in front of the neutral pawn.
The player then places the neutral pawn next to the chosen patch, pays the cost in buttons, displayed on the patch itself, places the patch onto the quilt and moves his or her time token the amount of time spaces forward depicted on the patch. For instance, the patch with the circles below costs one button and three time.
The patch can be rotated and flipped as long it fits on the board and the patches do not overlap.
Secondly, a player can choose to move the time token to the space just in front of the other time token and get one button for every step it takes.
Keep in mind that you do not alternate between turns. The player whose time token is behind takes its turn. When it happens to be that both tokens are on the same spot, then the players who’s on top goes first.
You’ll find two different icons on the time track: the button icon and the leather patch icon. When a player passes a button icon, that player gets an amount of buttons equal to the button icons on its own patchwork. When a player is the first player that passes a leather patch icon, it gets a leather patch, a one-square patch, and must place it on its quilt board.
The game ends when both players end their turn on or beyond the last space on the time track. Then every player counts their buttons and subtracts two points for every empty space on their patchwork. The player with the most points wins.
There’s one thing that can give you extra points and that is if you are the first to create a perfect seven by seven patchwork on you quilt. You get an extra seven points if you are the first to completely fill a seven by seven square.
The gameplay is incredibly simple, but it still offers enough things to think about. There are basically three things you have to balance the cost of the patch versus the returns, the time it takes to stitch it onto your quilt and the puzzle itself.
Every patch has a different shape and you have to realize that, in general, the more difficult, weirdly shaped patches are cheaper than the easier ones. All is relative of course, because a more ‘difficult’ patch can be the missing puzzle piece and just perfect for you.
You also have to make sure that a patch is worth you money. It fills empty spaces, which means fewer negative points, but more importantly it gives you extra income throughout the game. Income you need to buy more patches, but in the end the money, buttons, you have left is the only thing that counts.
Time, also, is an important ‘currency’ to play with. When you buy pieces that cost a lot of time, you give your opponent a lot of time to do his stuff too. If you spent less time per piece, you can buy and place more pieces in the game. However the ‘good’ tiles cost more time than the lesser ones.
On the one hand, you want to save time to do more, but on the other hand, you want to keep the pace high, because of the handy leather patches who are only awarded to the player who passes it first.
The button strategy
I did found that there’s basically only one strategy: the button strategy. I have experimented with a time strategy, where I tried to spend the least amount of time as possible, so I could take more turns and therefore buy more patches. However, it quickly turned out that when I only focused on time I lacked the continuous funds to buy more patches. Patches with a low time cost, also have no or very little button icons on them. So, yes, maybe I had more turns, but I could not effectively use them in my advantage, because I simply did not have enough buttons to spend on new patches.
So, buttons is the way to go.
Now you might think that a game with basically only one strategy becomes boring after a while, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think it’s very satisfying to solve your own puzzle and it will always be that way, one strategy or not, because the puzzle isn’t the same every time you play. It’s a similar puzzle, but not the same.
Plus, you have an opponent and he or she doesn’t always coöperate. Imagine both solving one half of a thousand piece puzzle without having agreed upon who does what half and constantly stealing each other’s puzzle pieces. It’s frustrating and challenging at the same time.
Patchwork just works
Time needs to be managed. ‘Maybe I can get an extra turn if I pick this patch?’ Buttons need to be managed. ‘This patch fits perfectly, but it doesn’t give me anything when I pass a button icon on the track’ And space needs to be managed. ‘This patch gives me three buttons every time I pass a button icon, but it leaves a lot of empty spaces behind, which I can impossibly fill later on.’
You mostly have to give in in one area to win in another and when to do what, good now vs. good later, is just a fun thing to wrap your head around.
Another thing that’s really interesting, and you will notice it in your first game, is that in the early game money is scarce. There are lots of different shapes and sizes to choose from and your quilt is basically empty, but you just don’t have the funds to optimally benefit from the offer. Along the way, hopefully, you become richer and richer, but now the patch offer is not as great any more, plus your quilt is getting fuller, so space becomes scarce.
Patchwork is therefore a perfect combination of economics and spatial planning. It’s a challenge that’s, because of its simple rule-set, fun for all types of gamers. And because of its mechanism it will be deep enough, so it can stay fun for a long time.