If you told me I was going to enjoy a game of puzzles and quilts I would’ve said “who are you and how did you get in my house?” Then I’d say you were crazy, because I’m not good at puzzles nor do I have the first inkling about quilting. Well, my nonexistent prayers have been answered, because the boardgame style Patchwork is an endearing fusion of the two. A combination I never really asked for, but sort of realized I kind of wanted it too.
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Like many transitional boardgames to the tablet/mobile environment, Patchwork isn’t looking to be the next yearly triple AAA gaming franchise. Rather it wants to be a charming rendition of its physical counterpart, because let’s face it, I’d be hard pressed to get a batch of friends together for hardcore competitive quilting. So in that vein, I always ask, does X game do what it’s trying to do well?
Patchwork would answer yes. In this visual fusion of artistic stitch-work and mobile game, the goal is twofold for players: create the perfect blanket and get their player piece to the end of the board with the highest points. Sounds like a mouthful of cotton; how does this work?
Well, like many mobile games, starting it for the first time lead me to the tutorial. A sweet, charming soundtrack filled my ears while the game tugged me along, claiming that before I can become a “master of quilts” I needed to learn. With what was being thrown at me, I figured it would take a while before I knew what was what, but actually, the game is pretty easy to understand. The tutorial, more so.
So as mentioned, you and your opponent must create a perfect blanket, or close as you can get. A good blanket has lots of coverage, a bad one is littered with holes. This system is represented by a grid style square, where players pick a piece of quilt and put it somewhere in the grid. Here’s the Tetris-like aspect: these pieces can be rotated, flipped, and moved anywhere, with shapes much like you’d see in the Russian puzzle counterpart.
But, the pieces aren’t free, and in comes a mini-economy system mixed with the board. When players mingle about on their quilted gameplay screen, the board is represented on the left with player pieces as buttons. Each turn, a player moves, and this is determined by a few things. One is that, whoever is last on the board will always go first. So, if my button is ahead of yours, you’ll continue to take turns until you’re ahead of me, and vice versa.
Another factor modifies movement, which is those fancy quilt pieces I mentioned. Each new turn, a random three pieces is available to “buy” for the player. Buy? With what? Buttons of course. At the bottom right and left, each player has an indication of how may buttons they have, and how many they earn. There are a couple ways to get buttons, and they’re done from the game board.
When it’s your turn, you might choose not to buy a piece or lack the resources to get one. In either case, “passing” will just move you, but give you buttons in the process. Now, the other, better way is to “bank” buttons. Some pieces you get will have little blue buttons in them, such as 2 or 3. They need to be purchased too, but once you put them in your quilt, you’ll get an increment of a yarn’s idea of cash each time you pass a blue button on the game board. So if I have 3 pieces on my quilt, and between them all they’ve got 6 blue buttons, I’ll get 6 of those to my “bank” to spend on better pieces.
Some other small factors come into strategy too. as your pieces move closer to the center on the game board, you might pass square patches, which conversely count as one tile on the quilt. If you pass it, you get it, gaining a tiny advantage. Also, pieces of quilt you buy have hourglasses on them, indicated the amount of spaces you’ll move on the board. Depending on the situation, this can be good or bad, because while you get closer to the center, so too does your opponent.
With this simple yet surprisingly complex patchwork of rules in place, how does the whole thing stitch together? Much like I didn’t expect to enjoy this cute game of yarn owls and building blankets, I also didn’t expect how far you might want to think for achieving success.
Gameplay-wise everything is smooth, understandable, and quite easy to pick up. That smoothness as each turn passes by helps mingle with your yarn-y trials ahead. You’re met with several challenges: managing a tiny “economy,” figuring out if it’s good to move ahead of your opponent, buying certain pieces, and then configuring those pieces into a uniform blanket. It’s enough that, you can have an amusing game with a friend or, I can’t believe I’m saying it, play competitively against others online. And I don’t mean general versus, I mean this game comes with a ranked feature.
While you quest on the seas of the internet to become champion blanket builder, you’ll be met with the absolutely lovely aesthetic of the game. Surprise! It all looks like it was composed with grandma’s stitching. But that’s alright, because it helps the game stand on its own visually. It’s quite charming, a refreshing break from our usual frontier of gritty realism and non-cotton based reality. You can’t get mad playing it because of the visuals, that’d be like getting angry at a comfy blanket on a cold winter night.
Mixed with these sickeningly sweet visuals is the soundtrack, which is also adorable. The music is its own, and the songs are surprisingly vibrant. They’re a pleasant mix of endearing and relaxing, giving a significant degree of character to the game, if it didn’t have enough already. While the rest of the audio is a simple myriad of chings and beeps, perhaps it’s preferable, because you might find yourself liking the soundtrack more than you expected.
If I had a word to pick for Patchwork it’d be safe. Safe like a quilt made with love wrapping you up at night to fend off a winter’s chill. Safe, also, in terms of gameplay and sound. It takes components from other successful game types and mixes them to create a new formula, while putting a layer of stitch visuals as cotton icing on the blanket cake. No redefining genres, just using materials that work. And that’s okay, because the end result is a calming versus based puzzle/board game. It isn’t boisterous, obnoxious, or pretentious, just relaxing fun, something that any age group can test their wits against.
- Colourful visuals with enough style to make graphics stand out
- Charming music with good list of endearing songs
- Challenging gameplay that's easy to learn for anybody, but tricky to master
- A bit niche, style may not appeal to everyone
- No inclusion of larger, more complex tables for longer play