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Game Preview: Lookout Games — Patchwork and Murano

W. Eric Martin
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More and more European publishers are making a place for themselves at Gen Con in the run-up to the Spiel convention in Essen, Germany, with Germany-based Lookout Games being one of those newcomers — but with Mayfair Games having purchased a controlling interest in Lookout in late 2013, I would have been surprised not to find Lookout touting its forthcoming titles in Indy.

All images feature prototype components and artwork

In addition to new releases Gold Ahoy! and Johari — which debuted at Gen Con 2014 and which I'll cover in separate posts — Hanno Girke from Lookout Games was showing two titles due out at Spiel 2014, with one of them being Uwe Rosenberg's Patchwork, a new entry in Lookout's two-player games line. For those who want something from Rosenberg other than variations on farming and earth-moving, Patchwork is your game — although whether you'll like the game is another matter, of course.


As you might guess from the title, Patchwork takes its inspiration from quilting and during the game each player tries to put together a cohesive (and high-scoring) patchwork quilt on a personal 9x9 game board.

To start play, lay out all of the patches at random in a circle and place the spool (which won't be a spool in the final production) directly counter-clockwise of the 2-1 patch. Each player takes five buttons — the currency/points in the game — and someone is chosen as the start player.

On a turn, a player either purchases one of the three patches standing clockwise of the spool or passes. To purchase a patch, you pay the cost in buttons shown on the patch, advance your time token on the time track a number of spaces equal to the time shown on the patch, move the spool to that patch's location in the circle, then add the patch to your game board. You're free to place the patch anywhere on your board that doesn't overlap other patches, but you probably want to fit things together as tightly as possible thanks to (1) a penalty for empty spaces at the end of the space and (2) an internal desire for beauty that's marred by the sight of empty spaces.


If your time token is behind or on top of the other player's time token, then you take another turn; otherwise the opponent now goes. Instead of purchasing a patch, which you might avoid doing because the patches are too expensive/ugly or you don't have enough buttons, you can choose to pass; to do this, you move your time token to the space immediately in front of the opponent's time token, then take one button from the bank for each space you moved.

In addition to a button cost and time cost, each patch also features 0-3 buttons, and when you move your time token past a button on the time track, you sum the number of buttons on your game board, then take this many buttons from the bank.


What's more, the time track depicts five 1x1 patches on it, and during set-up you place five actual 1x1 patches on these spaces. Whoever first passes a patch on the time track claims this patch and immediately places it on his game board, likely filling a hole and lowering the universal OCDometer just a smidge.

When a player takes an action that moves his time token to the central square of the time track, he places the purchased patch (assuming he had purchased one and wasn't passing), then takes one final button scoring from the bank. Once both players are in the center, each player loses two buttons for each blank square on his game board. Whoever has the most buttons wins.


The subject matter of Patchwork isn't "serious" — assuming, that is, that you find ludic representations of business management and space battles to be serious — but the gameplay is, with each player trying to figure out the best patches to purchase, the best ways to build his patchwork, and the best times to pass.

In theory all of the patches are available to both players, but naturally you want to stick that spool in places that disadvantage your opponent, giving him a run of patches that he can't afford, for example, or patches that provide no buttons when he's about to trip past a scoring line, or patches that won't allow him to claim a 1x1 patch but will instead give the turn back to you so that you can claim it. You want huge patches to cover the game board and avoid the endgame penalty, but those tend to fit awkwardly with others or have no buttons or cost a lot of time. As in all good games, everything's a trade-off and you have to do the best you can; well, do better than that guy across the table since you're being judged only relative to him and not on some cosmic level. We'll save that for tournaments and our eternal playing sessions in the Field of Rushes.

•••


Lookout Games' other Spiel 2014 release at Gen Con 2014 was Inka and Markus Brand's Murano, with Murano being a small group of seven islands near Venice that's well-known by tourists for its glassmaking. As in Venice, the islands of Murano are separated by canals, so gondolas and transportation are at the heart of this game.


Unlike with Patchwork, I didn't play Murano at Gen Con 2014, so I'll present only a rough version of gameplay.

The game board depicts the islands of Murano, with the islands being divided up into building sites and walkways. Surrounding the islands is a series of action spaces, with gondolas being present in some number of them at the start of play. On a turn, you move one of the gondolas in clockwise order (although everything might be flipped to move counter-clockwise prior to publication) to an empty space, then take the action shown there. You can't pass another gondola while moving or land in an occupied space, but for a coin you can move a gondola that's in front of the gondola you want to move, and you can pay to move multiple gondolas, if needed.

Some actions place shops on the islands, with shops coming in different types. You mark a shop to show ownership, and when tourists show up later — I believe due to you flipping the walkway tiles to reveal subterranean tourists — they will shop at various stores depending on their proximity and the goods they offer. You also need to take actions to move your personal gondolas to islands so that you can take actions there.


Why are you doing all of this? To score victory point cards in hand, and actions on the board will let you gain additional VP cards to give you direction to your actions or let you profit from what you've already done.

You can also use some of the buildings to create glassworks, and those glassworks come into play on the VP cards, through tourist sales, and via an action space shown at the bottom of the game board image that lets you sell different types of glass for money.

All in all, Murano comes across as very much a Lookout Games title, not least of course due to the Klemens Franz artwork!
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