Time: ~20 minutes
Times Played: 30+ (includes digital)
Uwe Rosenberg has designed several iconic board games over his career and several (Agricola, Le Havre and Caverna) have received standalone mini-box two-player versions. Patchwork does not have an older sibling that it’s trying to live up to so how does it stack as a unique two-player standalone title?
It’s the best of the bunch, in my opinion.
Patchwork is brilliant for its simplicity. This is a game that can be taught in roughly two minutes. With that being said, don’t confuse the simplistic nature of the gameplay with a brevity of depth. Patchwork provides a fair amount of consideration each turn.
The game offers players several questions that they have to ask and answer internally each turn:
Of the available pieces, how will they fit on my board? What pieces will become available because of my purchase (to me or to my opponent)?
How many spaces on the time board will I move for buying a piece? Should I buy a piece that fits less tiles but moves me less time spaces?
When will I get paid again? Do I need to get paid again?
Is it possible to get to a single quilt piece this turn? Should I?
Looking at the board and the pieces, this looks like a super light and super cute game but it packs a surprising amount of strategy behind each decision.
Over the course of the game, you and your opponent will take turns buying different shaped quilt patches and placing them on your player board. Each patch has two costs: the amount of buttons (currency/points) the piece is worth and the amount of time that is charged to your player pawn, which is tracked on the shared board. This continues until both players reach the middle zone and the game ends.
There are a few more odds and ends to this game but the rulebook is a short six pages and is worth checking out.
Patchwork is incredibly transparent with its scoring. You can visibly tell who is doing well and who isn’t and a game could be decided by the half way mark. In all of my playthroughs, games are either within five points or have a disparity of thirty or more. That can be debilitating for some people who feel as if they were crushed for being twenty-five points behind. Let me assure you that a margin of that size is considered close in Patchwork.
The replay value for this game is incredibly high. I’ve never played just one game before retiring it to the shelves and with the way the board is set-up, there are almost an infinite amount of ways to start the game.
The theme is quilt building and that doesn’t really offer much excitement. Every time I introduce this to someone, I have to basically say “trust me” for them to give this game a whirl. Once they do though, they want to keep playing but that initial barrier is hard to clear.
Once you play, the theme is cute and works with the gameplay as you make this ramshackle quilt.
But it’s also nice to mention that it’s satisfying to play a game where you don’t have to worry about nuclear annihilation, starving to death, or disappointing the Gods. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
I’ve mentioned this before in other reviews but I like games where I get to perform activities that I don’t have the talent for in my actual life. I don’t have the first idea on how to make a quilt so Patchwork appeals to me. Let’s me live out the dream of being an elder nanny for fifteen minutes.
The components included in the box are nothing short of awesome for the price. The artwork is easy to read and vibrant, which when coupled with the thick and sturdy cardboard for the pieces, button currency and boards, makes this one of the best put together games I’ve played.
My only negative is that I wish the currency was actual buttons. This isn’t even a big deal but it just seems like something that could be really neat. This is a small feature that can be remedied by going to a Michael’s or JoAnn’s and spending two dollars on a bag of buttons.
Patchwork is a game that when we pull it out, we play two or three (or more) times a sitting. It’s calm and relaxing while being strategic and cutthroat. Patchwork is without question one of our top three two-player only games. It definitely hovers between one and two on my ranking (with Twilight Struggle). In all our playthroughs of games, we’ve only found one that could replace our physical copy…
…and that would be the digital app. It is incredibly intuitive and as far as we can tell, a perfect port of the physical board game. We can play varying difficulty levels of A.I. or pick and play friends. It has gotten me through many a plane ride.
If you’re unsure if you or the people you play with will appreciate Patchwork, try the app first. My fiance and I both downloaded it for free as it has been an Amazon app of the day a few times, so keep an eye on it.
Lastly, whether it’s the digital app or the physical game, I think Patchwork is the quintessential game for couples, gateway or otherwise. It’s simple, it’s fun, and it has enough depth that it can lead to more conversation on a first date or a playful jab for a married couple.