OVERVIEW Patchwork pits 2 players against each other in a competition to fabricate the best quilt, resulting in the winner having the most buttons at the end of the game. Buttons are the currency for the game and also are used as victory points at the end of the game for scoring.
SETUP AND GAME PLAY To set up the game, place the central time board in the center of the table and randomly place all of the patch pieces in a circle around the time board. You can choose either side of the time board to use. Place the small 1-piece patch pieces on the respective spaces on the time board. And place the player’s time tokens on the starting position. Place the Neutral token in the space between the smallest tile and the next tile in a clockwise direction. This marks the starting position of the neutral token. Each player takes a player board and 5 buttons and places them in front of them.
Determine first player. Turn order for the game is determined by position on the central time board. Whoever is furthest behind in the time board, takes the next turn, so it is possible for one player to have multiple turns in a row. On a player’s turn there are 2 options: choose and place a patch or advance and take buttons.
To choose and place a patch, you can choose one of the three patch pieces in front of the neutral token, in a clockwise direction. Each patch piece has 2 costs on there. One cost is in buttons, the other is in time. To select that patch, you pay the amount in buttons and advance your time marker the number of spaces on the time board. Move the neutral token to the space where the chosen patch piece was taken from. Some patch pieces have buttons on them. I will cover that in a minute. Once you select a patch, you need to place it on your board. When you place the patches on the board, you want to be efficient on filling the spaces because there will be a penalty at the end for each unfilled space. Once a patch piece has been placed, it cannot be moved. The other option is to advance and take buttons. To do this, you do not take a patch piece and the neutral token does not move, rather you move your time token to the space immediately in front of the lead player and take buttons equal to the number of spaces you moved your time token. This may be necessary to gain buttons to be able to afford patch pieces or as a strategy to manipulate the patch piece choices of your opponent. As your time token advances on the board, you will cross certain spaces on the board.
The first person to cross a space on the board that has a single patch piece, takes that special patch piece and immediately places it on their player board. When a player passes over a button space, it generates button income of 1 button for each button showing on the patch pieces on your player board.
As players are building their patch quilt, the first player to completely cover a 7×7 area on their board, the take a bonus token for end of game scoring. Play continues until both players’ time tokens have reached the end space in the central time board. To score, determine your total number of buttons, adding the bonus tile of awarded. Subtract 2 points for each open space on your player board. The player with the most points is the winner. In case of a tie, the player who reached the end first wins.
REVIEW Patchwork is a solid entry for the 2-player series of games that have been released over the years. It recently was awarded a 2014 Golden Geek award for best abstract game. It is abstract in the sense of working to build a patch quilt out of different sized and shaped pieces. The game has sort of a Tetris-like feel, working to place pieces together and not leave gaps. The component quality and artwork are outstanding. The little price tags on each patch piece are easily read.
Game play is a lot of fun. Having two options per turn keeps the game moving along and really keeps AP to a minimum. The pacing of the game and strategies presented in the game provide an enjoyable experience that does not overstay it’s welcome. With a game taking less than 30 minutes, you do get a good brain workout without a lot of fluff. Even though you only have two options per turn, there is an underlying strategy in the game to give yourself the best options while limiting your opponent’s choices. Will you choose a patch piece? If so, what piece? Patch piece selection itself is very important. There are associated costs to consider and one must weigh out the options of choosing a cheaper piece that fills a lot of space or paying more in time and buttons to have a patch piece that will generate income the rest of the game. Do you choose a piece that you can still use, maybe not being the best piece, but really limiting the choices for your opponent? Do you opt to advance your time token to take buttons at the cost of losing time, but preventing your opponent from having access to a key patch piece? These are the questions you will ask yourself while playing Patchwork. Another important aspect in this game is position on the central time board. Being able to claim the special patch pieces is going to really help in being able to fill in spaces that could not be avoided, and potentially helping to claim the bonus 7×7 token. This positioning of your time token goes back to the choices of patch piece selection to get your time token in the right place at the right time.
I find this game is perfectly balanced for 2 players. With more than 2 players, I think there would be too much chaos created with the movement of the neutral token to prevent any forward planning, which I find is an element of this game that is important. Although this game is only for 2-players, it does find a place in a family setting. The game can be played by couples or good for some one-on-one interaction time with other family members. My oldest daughter is not really into playing games, but her and I have sat down and played this one on a number of occasions, typically resulting in her winning the game.
From a family perspective, this game does offer some great benefits, with the greatest being developing spatial visualization abilities. As the game unfolds, the patch piece in hand can be physically rotated or flipped to be able to be fit into a specific space, but prior to selecting that patch piece, the player must be able to visualize in their mind what pieces work and how. Being able to mentally work out a puzzle like that presented in Patchwork helps exercise the brain to be able to process more complex operations. I find this game a lot of fun to play and also a great tool for giving the mind a good exercise as well. Although not a game that I would play over and over and over in one sitting, it is something that certainly can hit the table when in the mood for a quick game with some substance.