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Subject: First Impression: Patchwork by Cardboard Vault rss

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Phoebe Wild
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Patchwork is a recently released game by publisher Mayfair Games and designer Uwe Rosenberg of Agricola fame. I’ve written up the gameplay and my initial thoughts after my first play.

If you already know how to play, feel free to skip ahead to the “My First Impression” section.

Gameplay

Patchwork is a 2-player game in which each player is trying to construct the best quilt by using their buttons to purchase patches of different shapes and sizes and place them together. However, whoever has the most buttons when players reach the end of the time track is the winner, so you have to think carefully about how you spend them!

To set up, the time track is placed in the middle of the table, and all of the patchwork pieces are randomly arranged in a circle around it. A neutral token is placed in the circle just before the smallest piece in the game, the 2x1 rectangle.



Each player is also given a board that they will make their quilt on, and five buttons.



The start player will be randomly selected, but during the game players do not necessarily alternate turns. Instead, the player who has spent the least time, and is behind on the track in the center, takes their turn. This is a rule I forgot when I taught and played the game, and trust me that leaving it out makes the game very strange! (Luckily, we corrected our play halfway through.)

You can choose to do one of two things on your turn: buy and place a patch or receive buttons

Buying a patch

The player can take one of the three patches clockwise in front of the neutral token. To do so, they move the neutral token to the patch they would like, pay the cost indicated in buttons, place the patch on their player board and finally move their time marker forward the indicated number of spaces.

In the example below, the green player may take the 2x1 piece, or the cross piece, as they do not currently have enough buttons to pay for the L-shaped piece.



They decide to take the cross as shown.



They then pay 5 buttons (all of their starting money), and place it anywhere on their quilt board.



Finally, they move forward on the time track by 4 spaces.



Receive buttons

If the player is behind on the time track, they can choose to advance to the space in front of the other player and take one button for each space they move.

Continuing from the example above, the yellow player could do this, moving 5 spaces forward and taking 5 buttons.



The time track

As players advance along the time track, they receive income. When a player crosses the button symbol on the track, they receive as many buttons as they have on the pieces of their quilt. For example, the cross piece that green placed shows two buttons, and will provide two buttons each time green receives income.

Players may also receive leather single-space patches. The first player to cross a leather piece on the time track immediately places it on their board, potentially filling in a gap in the quilt.

Once both players reach the end of the time track, the game ends.

Final scoring

Players add up all the buttons they have, and then subtract 2 buttons for each empty square on their quilt board. Additionally, the player who first made a solid 7x7 square on their board during the game (if any) earns a bonus 7 buttons.



The player with the most buttons has succeeded in making the most beautiful patchwork!

My first impression

The first half of the game was slightly strange, because I had forgotten the rule about the player furthest behind on the time track taking their turn. (To be fair, it was the third new game I’d taught and played that night!) Without that rule, the person ahead was stuck continuously buying more patches (not having the option to skip ahead and take buttons), both running out of money and pulling farther away from the player behind. Once we realized my mistake, however, the game improved drastically!

I really enjoyed the element of time being a resource. It’s a mechanic that I’ve seen variations on in other games, such as Village and Trajan, and it always introduces interesting choices to consider during the game. In Patchwork, players have the same amount of time as each other, and the same amount of time every single game. The game isn’t about racing each other to buy more and more pieces, it’s about trying to use the little time you have as cleverly and efficiently as possible. I also think it ties in well with the theme of the game – I imagine two people entering a patchwork competition, with a limited amount of time to work on their project that they have to use as carefully as they can.

The other interesting aspect of the time track is that you need to be thinking about where you’re moving to on the track, in relation to your opponent. You don’t want to get too far ahead and allow them to gain a lot of buttons by skipping ahead of you. You also don’t want to stop on the space right before the leather patches, because then your opponent can again jump one space ahead of you and use it on their quilt instead. When you buy a patchwork piece, you need to be thinking about where it will leave you on the time track and what advantages you might be offering your opponent, and not just whether it will fit nicely on your board or how many buttons it gives you for income. I only saw a little bit of this board manipulation in my first game, but I think that was because we were getting used to the rules and we played incorrectly for half of it. It seems that being mindful of how you’re spending time in relation to your opponent will be important – more plays will tell!

You also have to think carefully about how you build your quilt. You need to find a balance between the cheaper pieces that don’t give you income, and the more expensive pieces that do. You need to find a balance between fitting all your pieces together perfectly, and covering more space with those large but difficult to fit in pieces. We both started trying to make “perfect” quilts, but soon ran out of options. At the end of the game especially, both of us started buying the large pieces in a mad rush to fill in more of our quilts and avoid losing points from those empty spaces. I also found that purchasing pieces that provide income early in the game gave me a large advantage at the end. Each time I received income, those pieces were paying me back, and ended up providing far more than what I paid for them. The main difficulty with this strategy is constantly having a shortage of buttons at the start, because each of those pieces is so expensive.

Finally, I think the components are well done. The patchwork pieces are nicely patterned, and make the completed quilt a pretty sight. My Essen edition also included real buttons, real fabric patches, and a cute spool of thread as the neutral token marker (alongside the regular components), which add to the theme and flavor of the overall game.



I’m looking forward to playing Patchwork with the correct rules from start to finish! There are more factors to consider in the gameplay choices than I initially thought there would be – it’s not just about fitting your pieces together nicely! You have to spend your buttons carefully to buy those perfect pieces, while also thinking about how much time you’re using up and whether you’re setting your opponent up for an advantage. I think Patchwork will end up being a nice strategic addition to my 2-player game collection.
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P. oeppel
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Nice "first impression" of a really nice game. I really like the time track mechanic that I first saw in Thebes

Minor nitpick about your start setup. The white pawn starts behind the 2x1 piece, not in front of it.
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Phoebe Wild
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pinoeppel wrote:
Nice "first impression" of a really nice game. I really like the time track mechanic that I first saw in Thebes

Minor nitpick about your start setup. The white pawn starts behind the 2x1 piece, not in front of it.


Thanks!

And the white pawn actually is behind the piece (the piece is in front of it), moving clockwise. I probably should have positioned the photo so that the pawn was at the top of the photo to avoid visual confusion!

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P. oeppel
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MissJekyll wrote:
pinoeppel wrote:
Nice "first impression" of a really nice game. I really like the time track mechanic that I first saw in Thebes

Minor nitpick about your start setup. The white pawn starts behind the 2x1 piece, not in front of it.


Thanks!

And the white pawn actually is behind the piece (the piece is in front of it), moving clockwise. I probably should have positioned the photo so that the pawn was at the top of the photo to avoid visual confusion!



Sorry for my confusing wording. What I meant was that the white pawn should be placed such that the small piece is the last one to reach (i.e. as if the pawn just passed it).
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Phoebe Wild
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pinoeppel wrote:
MissJekyll wrote:
pinoeppel wrote:
Nice "first impression" of a really nice game. I really like the time track mechanic that I first saw in Thebes

Minor nitpick about your start setup. The white pawn starts behind the 2x1 piece, not in front of it.


Thanks!

And the white pawn actually is behind the piece (the piece is in front of it), moving clockwise. I probably should have positioned the photo so that the pawn was at the top of the photo to avoid visual confusion!



Sorry for my confusing wording. What I meant was that the white pawn should be placed such that the small piece is the last one to reach (i.e. as if the pawn just passed it).


Hmm, you are correct! Oops! I wonder what the reason for that is.

When I (mis)read the rules, I figured that the 2x1 patch was meant to be in front of the pawn in clockwise order so that the first player would always have something they can afford, regardless of what the other patches cost.

Now it seems like the game could get stuck. If you're the first player, and all the patches in front of the pawn cost more than your starting 5 buttons, what do you do? You can't skip ahead to earn buttons to buy patches, because you're the first player and no-one is ahead of you. You could let the other person go first but that wouldn't make a difference to anything - they still wouldn't be able to afford a patch or have a way of being able to afford a patch.

Anyone have thoughts on what to do in this situation? As I said, my impression was that the initial pawn placement was done so as to remedy this issue, but the actual rule means that you can't choose to purchase the 2x1 patch because it is behind the pawn.
 
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David van Damme
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MissJekyll wrote:
Now it seems like the game could get stuck. If you're the first player, and all the patches in front of the pawn cost more than your starting 5 buttons, what do you do?


When this happens you move counter-clockwise for the entire game, creating a Southern hemisphere patchwork.
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P. oeppel
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I don't see a road block. You would simply jump onto the field in front of your opponent, which would be the first spot on the track, earning you one button. This is not different to the situation that you can encounter mid-game, when you advance to the spot that's occupied by your opponent. Since you are on top, it's your turn again.

For me the small piece was simply picked arbitrarily to determine the start position of the white pawn after randomly placing the patches on the table.
 
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Phoebe Wild
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pinoeppel wrote:
I don't see a road block. You would simply jump onto the field in front of your opponent, which would be the first spot on the track, earning you one button.


True! For some reason, I had in my head that jumping ahead for buttons wasn't possible if you're on the same space as your opponent, but of course it is. It would mean the first couple of turns would just be players leapfrogging each other (depending how much they cost), but as you say it's not really different to what could happen mid-game.
 
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Skip Maloney
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In the category of "Was this just me?", I found it odd that the first time I played, we were calculating minus scores. Add up all the buttons you've been collecting as income, and then deduct 2 points for every 'hole' in your patchwork grid. I think we had 21 and 24 open spaces, leading us to scores of minus 19 and minus 22, or something like that. Wasn't important to remember score, so I didn't (don't).
Nothing intrinsically wrong with the mechanism. Minus scores work just as well as plus scores, with lowest number winning instead of highest (minus 19 is better than minus 22). I used to score negatively at Thurn und Taxis back in the day, but that hasn't happened in a long time. Can't think another game where negative scores are the norm. I don't know that it's the norm for this game, actually, though I found nothing
to suggest otherwise; 33 tiles (hypothetically, only half of which you'll get) mostly odd-shaped, covering from two to six or seven spaces on an 81-square grid, and five, single space tiles, of which, if you're lucky, you might get three. Not a math whiz, but that sounds like long odds on even getting close to positive scores.
I wonder whether there is a particular arrangement of tiles which can most efficiently form the filled-in, 7 X 7 square that earns you the extra 7 points (something of a sarcastic 'big deal' feel to those points). It would be interesting to know. I'm thinking that at some point when I don't have a lot to do, I might try to work it out as a puzzle. I suspect that's what the other Forum, about solo variations, is all about. First impressions, though, tell me that there aren't a lot of perfectly square (or rectangular) patches. Most of them are oddball shaped, making 'square' pieces pretty important, as well as the Special 1 x 1 patches you encounter on the Time Board.
We did spend, I think, an inordinate amount of time, trying to catch those Special Patches. Wondered, too, why they and the Collect Income icons were placed between slots on the Time Board. Why not 'on' the slot, so there's no confusion about whether you collect the income when you land, or on your next turn? Or, as we did, forget which of the two you've chosen when it comes to your next turn.
Nice little game from Herr Rosenberg. Different. Did lose sight of the theme, actually. Didn't 'see' the emerging patterns on my grid as a developing quilt.
I thought there might be room in the game for a mechanism that would allow players, once per game, the opportunity to re-arrange the pattern they've developed on their board. This would have a tendency to slow things down a bit, because the possibilities would be endless. You ain't seen analysis paralysis until you've seen it in action with spatial relationships.
I wonder, too, whether a 'game over' final Button Income process might be valuable, but that's just because I'm not thrilled about the negative score norm.
 
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Mathue Faulkner
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SkipM624 wrote:
In the category of "Was this just me?", I found it odd that the first time I played, we were calculating minus scores. Add up all the buttons you've been collecting as income, and then deduct 2 points for every 'hole' in your patchwork grid. I think we had 21 and 24 open spaces, leading us to scores of minus 19 and minus 22, or something like that. Wasn't important to remember score, so I didn't (don't).
Nothing intrinsically wrong with the mechanism. Minus scores work just as well as plus scores, with lowest number winning instead of highest (minus 19 is better than minus 22). I used to score negatively at Thurn und Taxis back in the day, but that hasn't happened in a long time. Can't think another game where negative scores are the norm. I don't know that it's the norm for this game, actually, though I found nothing
to suggest otherwise; 33 tiles (hypothetically, only half of which you'll get) mostly odd-shaped, covering from two to six or seven spaces on an 81-square grid, and five, single space tiles, of which, if you're lucky, you might get three. Not a math whiz, but that sounds like long odds on even getting close to positive scores.
I wonder whether there is a particular arrangement of tiles which can most efficiently form the filled-in, 7 X 7 square that earns you the extra 7 points (something of a sarcastic 'big deal' feel to those points). It would be interesting to know. I'm thinking that at some point when I don't have a lot to do, I might try to work it out as a puzzle. I suspect that's what the other Forum, about solo variations, is all about. First impressions, though, tell me that there aren't a lot of perfectly square (or rectangular) patches. Most of them are oddball shaped, making 'square' pieces pretty important, as well as the Special 1 x 1 patches you encounter on the Time Board.
We did spend, I think, an inordinate amount of time, trying to catch those Special Patches. Wondered, too, why they and the Collect Income icons were placed between slots on the Time Board. Why not 'on' the slot, so there's no confusion about whether you collect the income when you land, or on your next turn? Or, as we did, forget which of the two you've chosen when it comes to your next turn.
Nice little game from Herr Rosenberg. Different. Did lose sight of the theme, actually. Didn't 'see' the emerging patterns on my grid as a developing quilt.
I thought there might be room in the game for a mechanism that would allow players, once per game, the opportunity to re-arrange the pattern they've developed on their board. This would have a tendency to slow things down a bit, because the possibilities would be endless. You ain't seen analysis paralysis until you've seen it in action with spatial relationships.
I wonder, too, whether a 'game over' final Button Income process might be valuable, but that's just because I'm not thrilled about the negative score norm.

You'll get better. I found that our first game ended in slightly negative points, but now we're scoring in the 20s and 30s (mostly 20s though). The time management is important, and not always picked up on the first play. My better games have also involved a good high early button income.
 
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Erik van Trigt
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You'll get better. I found that our first game ended in slightly negative points, but now we're scoring in the 20s and 30s (mostly 20s though). The time management is important, and not always picked up on the first play. My better games have also involved a good high early button income. [/q]

I'm still most of the time "out of cash" I think to give 2 buttons for every one button to add up chances.
 
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