My Wife Always Wins - An Uphill Battle in Boardgaming! - Patchwork
This Week’s Game: Patchwork
My wife, Lyndsey, and I went out this weekend for an early Valentine’s Day date. While she’s a misery at the gaming table, Lyndsey is actually pretty cool in other facets of life. For instance, I know I’ll never really have to suffer through a “chick flick” or “rom com” on Valentine’s Day. Nope, at Lyndsey’s choosing, we went to the local theater to see John Wick 2.
If you aren’t familiar with them, the John Wick movies surround an ex-assassin who was wronged by the criminal organization to which he used to belong. In the first film, Wick (played by Keanu Reeves) goes on a rampage through New York City to take down the syndicate and anyone else who stands in his way. It’s a great film, and I recommend it to anyone who’s interested in crime / action films.
As good as the first movie was, it didn’t do well in theatres, so I figured the sequel wouldn’t either. Boy was I wrong. We got to the mall ten minutes before show time and it was sold out. It was early, and we had a lot of the night ahead of us; I shuddered, knowing what was coming next.
“Let’s just head home and play Patchwork,” Lyndsey said. Patchwork was a new game in our collection, and – despite its buzz – it didn’t really strike me as interesting. Before I could voice any objection she cut me off: “We didn’t get to see John Wick. I need to see somebody get destroyed.”
Somebody. Just my luck – that somebody was me.
Patchwork is an abstract game for two players. In Patchwork, each player has a 9x9 tile upon which they try to construct the best patchwork quilt using the various game pieces available. There is a time board (much like last week’s The Dragon and Flagon). Like other games with a time track system, it is possible for one player to take multiple consecutive turns depending on where she falls on the track and what her turns cost.
The game is set up with the time board in the center, surrounded by all the fabric pieces in an ellipse – as shown above. A neutral token is placed between two fabric pieces; this token determines which fabric pieces are available for purchase. There are multiple spaces on the time track where players can pick up extra buttons (based on how many of their fabric pieces have buttons on them) or 1x1 fabric pieces to fill the odd space here or there.
A player has one of two options to complete on each turn. He can move forward on the time track to collect buttons (which are the currency in the game). With this option, the player moves his token one space ahead of his opponent’s. One button is awarded for each space the token moved by this action. The second option is to purchase one of three patches of fabric with buttons. Players pay the cost, place the fabric on their 9x9 tile, and then move their token ahead according to the time cost. When each player reaches the last space on the time board, the game ends, and each quilt is scored.
Scoring goes as follows: one point is awarded for every button in a player’s inventory. There is also a special fabric piece that is awarded to the first player to get a complete 7x7 quilt on her tile. This piece awards an additional seven points at endgame. The player then loses two points for each square on the 9x9 tile that isn’t covered by a piece of fabric. It is very possible to end up with negative points because of this.
Download the full rules here.
Time to Play
I took the first turn, and started by purchasing a fabric piece for two buttons. Its time-cost was also two. I placed the fabric near the center of my 9x9 tile. I decided on the strategy of buying cheap pieces, with cheap time costs, and building from the center. It struck me that doing so would allow me to take more turns, have more options for fabric, and give me a chance at the 7x7 bonus early.
Lyndsey took almost the exact opposite strategy. She bought a four-button, six-time piece of fabric and placed it toward the outside. It was particularly expensive, but it also had two buttons on it, which would allow her to collect that much currency at each button space on the time board.
I continued to buy small through midgame, and came close to my 7x7. Lyndsey continued to buy big, which gave me opportunity for far more turns. As such, my board was more covered than hers by the midway point.
But the midway point isn’t when one wins the game, and there was still plenty to play. My “buy small” strategy had proven well thus far, but it put me in a rough position for the remainder of the game. As my board filled up, my fabric pieces were only showing eight buttons, which means I would collect that many at each button space on the time board. But Lyndsey was collecting 12 at each space, which meant she could out-buy me in most cases.
That is precisely what she did for the rest of the game. I only needed one more piece to fill my 7x7, but each time a fabric piece was available that would have fit that space either: I couldn’t afford it, or Lyndsey purchased it to block me. She also made sure she was the first to the 1x1 spaces on the time board so that I couldn’t get those pieces either – which would also help me fill that space.
In the end, Lyndsey had more space covered on her quilt and, of course, more buttons. With 27 buttons and 11 open spaces (worth -22 points), she ended at five. I had 23 buttons, with 15 open spaces, so I ended at negative seven. I’m not sure which was worse, getting beat by a gap of 12 points, or ending in the negative.
There was still something worse. Just for good measure, I looked at some of the pieces Lyndsey blocked me from getting to complete my 7x7. If I had picked up any one of those pieces, I would have ended with one more button, four more spaces covered, and had the 7x7 bonus. That would have been 16 more points and would have given me the game. Sometimes it’s better not to know these things; it’d be so much easier to take the loss (and Lyndsey’s victory dance) if I thought I was beaten by luck, rather than having been outplayed at every turn.
As you may have been able to tell from the games we’ve showcased so far, theme is of great importance to me in the games we play. A good story is just as important as great gameplay. In many cases, a good theme can make an otherwise bad board game fun. It is much more difficult for a game lacking theme to make up for it with gameplay.
Patchwork is not a poor theme, by any means. But, it is not a theme for me. Needlework – including the idea of crafting a quilt out of random patches of fabric – just isn’t my cup of tea. The outlet for my creativity is writing, not crafts. Lyndsey is the crafty one, so this purchase was for her.
But, as I said, gameplay can make up for theme in rare cases. The gameplay needs to be phenomenal in those cases, and Patchwork fits the bill. It’s got simple mechanics, but the amount of strategy that goes into each turn really pulls you into the game. Each turn has to consider time management, resource management, and space management on the 9x9 – all of the things I did rather poorly. But still, the dynamic, intricate strategy involved really caught my interest. After this initial loss to Lyndsey, I found myself wanting to play again and again. And since games are only about a half hour (another plus), we were able to get in another half-dozen games over the weekend.
Don’t even ask. I lost them all.
Brian Shabbott is a 31 year old aspiring writer. Brian spends much of his time playing games with friends and family. Brian loves to compete and play games he loves - but he never wins against his wife! Brian is looking forward to introducing himself as a writer and producer for you!
Follow Brian on Twitter @heyshabbott
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