A game about quilting. That kinda threw me for a bit but everyone and their sister were raving about it so I had to find out for myself. Turns out, everyone and their sisters were right.
Patchwork is a game for exactly 2 players, ages 8+ and plays in about 30-45 minutes.
How to play
Thankfully this game involves no actual sewing because the last time I tried that I ended up in the ER with a sheepish grin on my face. You’ll find Patchwork to be a bit different than your average game in both set up and play. To begin with, each player will take a Quilt Board representing their as of yet not started sewing project. The Quilt Board is divided up into a number of 1×1 squares. They’ll then take 5 Buttons (the currency in the game) and a Time Token.
There’s a third board in the game which is the central Time Board. Players will each place their Time Token on the starting space of the Time Board. Now, the most fun setup can really begin. There are a whole bunch of Patches – shaped, Tetris-like tokens – that you’re going to arrange randomly in a (fairly large) circle around the Time Board. Locate the smallest Patch (a 1×2 square Patch) and place the wooden Neutral token between that and the next patch, going clockwise. Each of these Patch tokens will have a little tag image on it that will show a number next to a button to indicate how many Buttons they cost, and a number next to a timer icon, to indicated how many spaces on the Time Board you’ll move your Time Token if you choose that Patch.
Lastly, you’ll lay out the special 7×7 bonus token and place the five special 1×1 patches on the Time Board.
The first thing you should know is that Patchwork doesn’t necessarily alternate turns. The player who’s Time Token is furthest back on the Time Board will get the next turn, which could (and will) mean players take multiple turns in a row.
On your turn, you can do one of two things. Advance your Time Token to the space just after the other player’s Time Token on the Time Board and get yourself some buttons or take and place a Patch on your Patch board.
In the first option you’ll receive as many buttons as spaces you’ve moved to get past the other player’s Time Token – advance three spaces, get three buttons. And that’s it, since the other player’s Time Token is now behind yours, it’s their turn. Remember, Buttons are currency in this game.
If you choose to take a Patch, you’ve got to follow these five steps. First, the patch must be within three patches in front of the Neutral Token you placed amidst all those patches in the game setup. Second, you’ll move the Neutral Token to be next to the Patch you’ve chosen. Third, you pay the number of Buttons indicated on the patch (some patches are free). Fourth, you will place the Patch you just bought on your Quilt board. Last, you move your Time Token on the Time Board the number of spaces indicated on the Patch token you just placed on your Quilt Board.
Some of the spaces on the Time Board have some special powers on them. There are five Special Patches, which are 1×1, leather looking Patches. These can only be gotten off the Time Board, and you only receive them if you are the first to move your Time Token onto or past them. The second special power are the Button icons. If you move past a Button icon, you then receive Button tokens! Look at your Quilt Board – many (but not all) Patches will have graphics of buttons sewn into them – count each individual button and take that many Button tokens.
When you’re placing that patch on your Quilt Board, you have to follow a few simple rules too. You can flip or turn the Patch any way you like as long as it fits entirely on the board and doesn’t overlap any other Patches. That’s where the Tetris aspect of the game comes in.
Finally, there’s a special 7×7 token – the first player to fill in a 7×7 grid completely on their Quilt board receives this token and scores an extra 7 points at the end of the game. Speaking of which….
End of the game and scoring. The game ends when both player’s Time Tokens reach the last space on the Time Board and players determine their scores. Add up the number of Button tokens you have left, and subtract 2 points for each empty 1×1 spaces on your Quilt board. That’s your score. If you had for example 11 buttons left and had managed to snag the 7×7 token, you’d start off with 18 points. If you had six empty spaces (6*2=12) you’d subtract 12 from 18 and end the game with 6 points.
Why you should play
Answer this question truly and honestly. How many games in your collection have a sewing or quilting theme? Now how many games in your collection with this theme are really engaging, allow for some interesting and thinky strategy, have just a bit of a puzzle aspect to them, allow you to build something of substance during the game, and are extremely well balanced?
Patchwork checks all of these boxes and does so in a really compelling way. You’re looking ahead in the Patches portion of the table to see where the Neutral Token will next fall, while trying to calculate how many spaces forward you want to move to get more Buttons and maybe grab that 1×1 patch you need to fill in your 7×7 grid so you can finally get that extra points token. You’re opponent is doing that very same thing too, and perhaps plotting a way to take two turns before you’ll get your next so that the Neutral Token will skip over that one Patch you really need.
It’s a lot of fun and sometimes a little frustrating in that good “oh, I can’t believe you just did that to me!” kind of way. I’ve enjoyed quite a few games while waiting for another friend to show up or between my wife and I or Luca and I. Patchwork hits that sweet spot of a 2 player filler game that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and still offers a complete gaming experience. It’s what I’d expect from Uwe Rosengberg who’s designed (among many, many wonderful games) another tight, small game I love, Bohnanza.
Be warned however, for such a small box the game ends up taking up quite a bit of space! It’s those Patches you’ve got to spread about. There’s a whole bunch of them! Other than that extremely minor thing I don’t have much in the way of criticism – rather I’m still pleasantly surprised that a game with a quirky theme is so much fun.