1-5 players, Competitive, Civ Creation Resource Management
Designer: Jamey Stegmaier
Artwork: Andrew Bosley, Rom Brown
Publisher: Stonemaier Games
Overview of Gameplay
In Tapestry players will be manipulating resource totals around in order to gain other items all in an effort to achieve those delish victory points. The game is actually very simple and ramps up the strategy the longer you play. A typical revolution around the board consists of each player either taking a “Advance” turn or an “Income” turn. An Advance turn is the primary turn player will be taking which consists of simply spending one (or more) of four resources to pay for the cost of advancing one of your player tokens up one of the four advancement tracks on the board. Doing this in turn allows the player to collect something such as a new invention card or exploration tiles which you can then manipulate depending on the actions.
So around and around the table players will be doing this, each player trying to maximize the amount and quality of advancements they take before they have to move into a new era. BUT when a player does eventually run out of resources to spend they will have to take the second of two main actions, the Income turn. Now the income turn is very important as it not only refills some of your resources but gains you precious other things including victory points. The first thing you will be doing will be activating any action that your particular civilization has. Now some civs have ongoing abilities that activate during other points in any round but there are quite a few that ONLY activate at the beginning of the income turn. After that you will be playing one of your Tapestry cards to your player mat which will either unlock an ongoing benefit for you during the entire next era (which is the turns in between the Income turns) or some immediate benefit. After that you can upgrade one of your Tech cards if you have any played and collect vp’s based on whatever is uncovered on your player mat (from playing income buildings on your capital city mat) and finally gain some resources, the amount also based on uncovered areas on your player mat.
Players will all be taking the income turn at different times depending on how efficient they were with their resource spending. Also you will only be playing a total of three Tapestry cards to your player mat over the course of the game so you do have some variety on which card to play when to try and gain the most benefit out of it. Once you take your fifth income turn, (one right at the onset of the game, one for each of the three placed tapestry cards and one more at the very end) your game is over. And since each players game may end at different times you can sit back and watch to see how others may stack up on points in comparison. Whoever ends the game with the most points, wins!
Ok let’s get into the meat and potatoes here. The components are excellent all around as to be expected from Stonemaier Games. The game has a premium feel coming off of it as soon as you open the box. The little income buildings have four different sculpts and colors to differentiate them. The cards all have a nice finish on them and they have a good thickness to them. The three custom dice all look great and have a nice hefty feel to them. But the big standout here is the landmark building minis. Each one is uniquely sculpted AND fully painted which really makes them standout and honestly they just look really cool. The board is also well designed with nice rounded edges and a kind of matte finish to it AND is also double-sided for different player counts.
Now the player mats have this very nice rough texture to them that interestingly enough interacts with the resource tokens in a specific way. So playing the game you will be moving these four plastic tokens left and right on this track to determine how much of each you have to spend. Well depending on which side you flip each token you could have a nice smooth slide or a more “grabby” side that kinda sticks to the rough surface. Not sure if these were designed like that but I think it’s a nice touch. HOWEVER I do believe those resource tokens are a tad too big. I have fiddled quite a bit with these things and many times all four tokens end up crossing paths or all rest on the same section. The areas the tokens are meant to reside are just not big enough for the size of said tokens. The resource tokens themselves are shaped like the corresponding resource they are meant to represent. BUT they are peculiar shapes that everyone (including myself) has just given nicknames because we are not sure what they are. There’s a star and a mushroom and bag of gold and an……overweight middle-aged man.
On top of that the color combos are kinda tricky to get down. Now each resources color corresponds to a particular colored income building BUT the color for the corresponding advancement track (where you will find most of its upgrades) is a completely different color. So as you are eyeballing your player mat plotting out an epic strategy based on certain income buildings you then have to search for the correct advancement track on the game board. One other minor thing the colors of the Farms (brown) and the houses (Gray) are kind of hard to distinguish on the game board, this of course could just be a “me” thing but I have done many double takes between those two specifically.
There is also something to be said for table space. The board itself isn’t THAT big but you need space to one side for the tech and tapestry cards, the exploration tile piles, the landmark building board and the few other landmarks that don’t go on that particular board. Even after all that your player area commands a large swath of space as well. I’m super torn on how I feel about this as I do think once put together your player area looks fantastic HOWEVER the amount of space each player needs is very large indeed. Each player will pick a particular civilization to play as which is placed down in front of them, then players will take a generic player mat which is place to the immediate right of their civ mat. Now players will choose a particular capital city mat based on their starting location which is placed to the immediate right of the player mat. AND THEN you need to make sure you have space to the right of the capital mat for any tech cards you invent during the game.
Now all this looks incredible when attached and laid out in front of you, a fine display indeed. But boy is it a table hog. Depending on the table you may have to end up just placing the three mats however you can to have them fit, WHICH of course works just fine and the only thing you will be missing is the conformity of the mats. But ugh, breaking them up is like breaking up the Power Ranger Megazord into the smaller and (less cool) pieces.
One last thing, and this will basically fly into the face of everything I said about table space but I wish there as a small board to hold the other random six building miniature landmarks that are not a part of the advancement tracks. There is a board to hold the regular landmarks but the other six (which you can gain through invention cards) are just kinda set aside. Perhaps a bigger landmark board with a labeled section just for those? Or a separate smaller board even. Overall, really impressed with the components and game board with only a few minor “quality of life” things that don’t really affect gameplay being the downside.
The insert is pretty good. It houses all the landmark minis and even though they are not labeled and of different sizes, they are super easy to put up after you have played a couple times. Not only that, but there is a picture of the corresponding spots they go in on the side of the inner box. There are also two rather deep sections that you can store the tiles, dice and cards in with a clear topper to make sure everything stays in place. You will of course have to bag up all the rest of the components such as the income buildings and player tokens but the game comes with a bunch of baggies to do just that.
Visual Appeal /Theme
The overall theme of the game is civilization building. You pick from a very large batch of completely different civs right at the beginning and start improving your civilization through various enhancements. Now if you look TOO deep into the words and flavor of these advancements, it might bewilder you a bit. But just remember this game isn’t based on our REAL world’s progress, this game basically takes real world things and lays them out for each player and says, “take your pick, how do YOU want to advance”.
An example of this is that a player could advance to nuclear weapons on one track but could still be stuck on pottery on another. Now for me this didn’t pull me out of the “realism” of the game at all as I just took those words more as flavor than anything. I mean considering you are primarily advancing to get those luscious benefits, not the flavor, it makes sense.
The artwork both on the board and the cards is excellent and the different civ mats look excellent as well. Overall super impressed with not only the artwork, but style. The only thing that could be tweaked would be that some of the colors are a bit too muted. Primarily the grays and browns for those respective income buildings.
Omg. The return of the soft, supple rulebook! Before I opened my copy I had read that the book was only 4 pages and for a moment was like whaaaa? But then read that it also was made of the same material that the Wingspan rulebook is. Pre-Ordered. The softness of these pages cannot be overstated. I need a blanket of this, a full four page Tapestry rulebook blanket.
But yeah four pages! That’s nuts if you think about it, and these are not four pages crammed with tiny printed information either. There are some picture examples and, overall, very well explained rules. Now that said there were a couple things I had to infer as they weren’t literally spelled out for me and a thing or two that I assumed based around other rules but overall very impressed with this rulebook. It does a very good job of getting you into the game and playing very quickly.
Now the Automa rulebook was much more challenging to comprehend. That rulebook was also super short but after one read through that I had MANY more questions. The actions are more confusing and I think a better explanation of each automa action with picture example would improve it. One particular automa action had me really scratching my head for a while until I deciphered it and I think it mostly boiled down to the way it was worded. Of course after finally figuring out how it’s played, looking back the actions are really simple, it’s just understanding it in the first place.
Player Interaction/Fun Factor
The player interaction is pretty low. On a normal turn you will be manipulating your own player mat to meet your own ends. That said, there are many things that players can do that will impact other players in some way. Players will be climbing these advancement tracks and as they do the first player to reach each new tier will gain one of those special and unique landmark minis to add to their personal capital city mat. There are only ONE of each of these so the first to nab it is it.
Speaking a little more on those and the capital city mat, when players gain income buildings and landmarks they add them to this mat to try and fill in spaces in an effort to complete 3×3 sections and full rows and columns. For each 3×3 section filled up you can gain any one resource and for each row and/or column filled nets you victory points. So the primary thing to being the first to snatch these landmarks is that you can fill up quite a few spaces all at once on your capital mat whereas the little income buildings only take up one tiny little square each. To be honest though I do wish the landmark buildings did give some other differing bonus OTHER than just filling up spaces. I mean there are some cards that give you more points based on how many landmarks you have but that’s only IF you draw and place those.
SO back to player interaction, another form of interaction comes from the conquering of territories. As you explore and lay down new tiles (which also give vp’s and usually some other reward) you are opening up a whole new world of land to potentially take over. As you progress up the military advancement track you can plop down these little control point tokens of your player color on adjacent explored tiles. If you happen to toss one down on a tile that already has just one of another players color then you basically overthrow them from the land and take it over. Toppling their control tower but leaving it there as a grim reminder to never dare resist them again. In game terms once a tile has two control tokens on it, you CANNOT overthrow it, so even a toppled token still counts as one. BUT if you do this and the other player (who you are attempting to overthrow) slaps down a “Trap” card then it is YOU who is overthrown! These devious trap cards are disguised as regular Tapestry cards so players never really know what you have in hand.
Mostly though the player interaction is pretty limited. The downtime honestly isn’t that bad though since you are constantly scanning the board and your player mat to plot out your next turn as others are taking theirs. As the game progresses the turns do get a bit longer since the cost of advancements is continually on the rise as you move up the tracks and placements on your capital mat get even more strategic as you start filling up sections. However players with AP will find this game chock FULL of difficult choices. So many options to take with so many ways to take them depending on which resource to spend and the way choices will cascade and create new openings. Personally I love this aspect of the game, the way you can do one simple action and it turns into a massive multi-action turn.
Also depending on the civ you pick you can really get a cool engine going focusing on a certain method of play. For example I have played as the Craftsman (one of my favs) and they focus on building up a massive statue instead of building up their capital city. This means when you gain those little income buildings you can place them on your civ card instead and gain specific rewards there. BUT by doing this you are basically forfeiting all those row/column bonuses you would normally get for building up a large capital city. This in turn means you probably don’t need to focus so much on placing the “house” income buildings since those focus more on improving the vp gain of those bonuses. WHICH in turn means you can really focus on bringing out some of the other income buildings more fully. I love this. I love how each different civ brings out specific strategies for play and there are even civs that are balanced around doing whatever you want by basically just giving you extra resources or advancing your advancement paths a little quicker.
Optimal Player Count/Replayability
So the board is double-sided, one side for the 1-3 player count and the other side with a bigger starting area for the 4-5 player count. All AP prone players aside, the way this game plays out I would suggest starting at lower player counts to learn it and then ramping up as everyone becoming familiar. I mean the same could be said for any game I suppose but this one in particular is so much more enjoyable when everyone has a good grasp on what is going on. I have seen learning games of five players take around four hours and fully learned games of three/four players take around an hour and a half. Even after a SINGLE game though it becomes very apparent what you need to focus on first for your next game which cuts down play time significantly. For example, my wife went wild trying to get out “houses” to her capital city board on her first learning game only to find out that those are really only beneficial if you have a large amount of rows/columns filled up. So probably not a good section to start clearing income buildings starting out.
Also there are instructions to add a “shadow” AI player into the mix if you play a two player and solo game which creates a bit more urgency to those games. Basically that critter will be trying to gobble up those precious landmark buildings before other players. You don’t HAVE to add that in, but it’s there which I really enjoy. Speaking on the solo mode a bit more, once you figure out how to play it’s a really fun game! Since the actions are pretty simple it’s as easy as moving a particular AI token up on an advancement track and the actions the AI takes are clearly labeled on these nice reference cards so you can whip through turns pretty quickly. Plus the points during each AI income turn ramps up DRASTICALLY each era it goes through. So, speaking from personal experience here, don’t let your guard down. I was so sure I had a win under my belt because of my commanding lead only to be defeated on the last era because of its massive point gain.
I think the replay value game here is very large. Beyond the decently sized decks of different Tapestry cards and invention cards there are SO MANY different civilizations to choose from that each game is a completely different experience. I went through each one and read up on them to try and sort them out into piles of similarities. I only found two that really focused on just gaining you flat out resources every income phase and two that really focused on advancing your tracks. The rest were unique enough from each other that you could easily form entire game changing strategies from them. For example the Inventors focus on gaining benefits from yours or others invention cards and you could form an entire strategy of bringing out that certain income buildings to your capital that enhances the vp gain you get from how many tech cards you have. And this is just one example of a plethora of options.
Positive Final Thoughts
This is a very fun and exciting game where you can form all kinds of different strategies based around your specific civilization. Not only that, but it seems like whichever strategy you employ has its own merits. Just going in on one of the more “basic” civs you can delve down certain advancement tracks and see how the game differs between you and opponents. It’s truly a marvel to behold. With the large amount of options for player count this game is very wide open for both play style and quantity of players.
Negative Final Thoughts
Table space can be an issue for those with limited sized tables but at the same time I would like a mat for the extra six landmarks. I wish the income building’s and the resources had more clearly labeled differentiation to tell them apart as when I teach the game I end up calling them by their color BUT, at least for me, the colors are muted enough (the gray and browns particularly) that I still have to point them out. I also wish the landmark buildings had more going on with them other than just their size and ability to take up more spaces on the capital city mat.