When Steff and I first saw Patchwork on the shelf, we laughed. With it and Quilt Show sitting side-by-side show on the shelf, we were amazed that not one, but two quilting games had just been released at the same time. Who would ever want to play a game about quilting?
Though it wasn’t in our plans, Steff and I did. We came across it at a generous discount, and its high standing on Board Game Geek made it seem like something we could gamble on. Does the game manage to surprise in spite of its dull premise?
Each player will receive their own player board. This 9×9 grid is where the quilts will be created. They’ll also start out with five buttons. Try not to think too hard about how buttons work within the context of sewing together a quilt, as they really just act as money in the game.
In the middle is a time track. Players will have a token which will be used to gauge how much time they have left to create their masterpiece. Surrounding the time track will be the patches arranged in a circle. Each patch contains a number of values, from its cost in buttons, to the time required to sew it in, to the number of buttons you’ll receive when you land on or pass a button income space on the time track. Finally, a neutral pawn is placed to the side of the starting piece to denote which pieces are available for purchase on any given turn.
It’s always the turn of the player who is farthest back on the time track. On your turn, you get one of two options. The first is to buy one of the three patches clockwise from the neutral token with your buttons. You’ll pay the cost of the patch, move the neutral token to its new spot, place the patch anywhere it fits on your player board and move your time token closer to the centre based on the amount of time listed on the patch itself.
The other thing you can do is to jump ahead of your opponent on the time track. While you forgo your opportunity to buy a patch, you’ll gain a button for every space forward you jump. This is especially helpful in cases when you’re low on buttons.
As you build out your quilt, you’ll also push the time track closer to the end. When both players reach the end of the track, the player with the most points wins. This is determined by the total number of buttons, minus two points for each empty space.
If you’re looking for a game that is accurate to the quilting experience, Patchwork is not it. As if the use of buttons as money wasn’t enough of an indicator, buttons also act as your primary means of scoring. Building your actual quilt is more of a means of not taking negative points, though it’s totally possible to finish with a negative score at the end of the game.
Instead, approach this as a two-player abstract strategy game. In that regard, it’s quite good. On your turn, there’s a lot to consider with regards to which piece to get. Beyond trying to grab pieces that fit, you need to consider how much time it burns, how many buttons it’ll cost, how many buttons you’ll receive when you pass a button income space, and what pieces it makes available to your opponent.
Aiming to burn a minimum amount of time on every turn isn’t necessarily a viable strategy, as there are benefits to moving quickly in key spots. For one, players that reach the special 1×1 leather patches first will get to add them to their board to fill in the gaps. Burning time can also be a great way to close the game out when you’re in the lead. On the other hand, going for pieces with short time expenditures in key spots can grant you consecutive turns.
Patchwork may be a poor representation of quilting, but it is a surprisingly fun two-player strategy game. The elements of hand management, tile placement and drafting come together to form a compelling gameplay experience. If you go into this with an open mind, this one might catch you off-guard with how good it is.