Disclaimer: This review is from a review copy of the game that was provided by Stonemaier Games to Open Seat Gaming, but opinions are our own based on several plays of the game.
Publisher: Stonemaier Games
Design: Jamey Stegmaier
Art: Andrew Bosley, Rom Brown
Mechanisms: Hand Management, Tile Placement, Track Movement, Variable Player Powers
Number of Players: 1 – 5
Game Time: 90 – 120 minutes
Description: Tapestry sees players taking control of civilizations and advancing in Exploration, Science, Technology, and Military to amass victory points. The player with the most points once all players have finished their 4th Era wins!
The game begins with each player receiving an income board and buildings, a random civilization and capital city, and player markers to place on the advancement tracks, score track, and any other places that specify so. Each player’s first turn is an income turn.
Income turns consist of 4 steps, not all of which are used every income turn (the player mat has a helpful reminder of which steps to take when). You will generally play a tapestry card (with a powerful one time effect or a passive effect that lasts the entire Era), upgrade a tech card, activate your civilization’s special ability (some civilizations have passive effects or effects that trigger at other times, but many have an income turn ability), and take income. Income starts out small, but as you place income buildings into your capital and uncover more spaces on your income tracks, you will gain more rewards each income turn after that.
The main portion of the game, however, is what players chose to do on Advance turns, which are what the Eras are made up of after taking an Income turn. Advance turns are fairly straightforward at the beginning: choose an advancement track, pay the resource cost, move up one space on that track, then use that space’s action (there may also be a bonus you can pay an additional resource to use). Actions range from getting/placing territory tiles, placing military outposts, gaining or upgrading tech cards, advancing on other tracks, placing income buildings from your income mat into your capital city mat, and more! As you move up the advancement tracks, and gain tech cards and other bonuses, your Advance turns will start to trigger more and more and you’ll get more accomplished in a turn and in each Era.
If a player cannot pay the cost for any advancement track, or they simply wish to end their current Era, they can elect to take their next Income turn rather than an Advance turn. This begins a new Era with the steps mentioned above for Income turns, and if the player is the first of their neighbors to enter that new Era they get bonus resources!
The game ends when all players have taken their 5th Income turn, thus ending their 4th Era. This may happen at different times for different players, so some players may have more total turns than others. Once everyone is done, the player with the most points wins!
Sarah: Tapestry is a brilliantly designed and produced game. Is it a traditional Civilization game? Not from what I’ve heard or what I understand about civilization games. Does that matter to me, not one bit. Tapestry is a fun Euro style game that leaves you thinking about what you could do differently next time. My favorite aspects of game play are the Technology cards, the buildings, Capital city mat, and overall replayability.
I love the double benefit technology cards and the different things you can do with them. The circle (benefit from first upgrade) is something that is generally helpful, whether its a resource, victory points, an income building, etc. The square benefit (from a cards second upgrade) is usually really advantageous, but you have to wait until either you or the players on either side of you have gotten to a certain specific point with their civilization. My favorites are the technology cards that give you a landmark building when you are able to get the square benefit (particularly the barn), the assembly line which grants you benefits from your other technology cards, and the eyeglasses which give you technology card bonuses.
Next are the buildings, both income buildings and landmarks can be placed on your variable capital city mat. The four varieties of income buildings come off of your income mat and will provide that benefit to you during your next income phase. They also only have a single square footprint for your capital city grid. The landmark buildings are gained either when you are the first to a certain spot on an advancement track or when you invent something via your technology cards. Each landmark is a specific building with a specific footprint for placement within your capital city. The capital city mat is an intriguing Sudoku-like puzzle where you are trying to complete rows and columns to earn points in your income phases, while simultaneously filling three by three squares to instantly acquire a resource of your choice. When a player is able to fill half to two-thirds of their capital city map it feels like a great accomplishment.
The replayability of Tapestry is a magnificent feather in its cap. With 16 different civilizations, 6 different capital city mats, the different tapestry and technology cards, landmarks, and territory tiles you will have to employ different strategies each game in order to be the most efficient and score the most points over 4 eras.
The production quality of Tapestry is top of the line, which has been one of Stonemaier Games’ trademarks as of late. Included in every game are the painted landmark building miniatures sculpted by Rom Brown, linen finish on all the mats, cards, and rule book, a solid insert, as well as wonderfully evocative, imaginative, and diverse art by Andrew Bosley. Does that mean the game is kind of pricey, yes, but the consumer definitely doesn’t need to look into after market customizations or inserts, which is great. The slim 4 page rule book and double sided reference guide are also standout elements of the game that get you playing faster and help you decide on how to optimize your play.
The one part of the game I’m not completely sure how I feel about is the variable length. On the one hand, there is no reason to make this game have an artificial end point or certain amount of turns. On the other, if you are the first or second person to reach your 5th (final) income phase and everyone else has several more advance turns to take it may prove to be discouraging to first time players of the game. Typically if you finish the game early, you aren’t going to be in a good position to win and you are just waiting to see how much your opponents have pummeled you. That is my only small quibble or inconvenience related to this fantastic game.
In short, Tapestry is an excellent game that is definitely worth your time.
Marti: When I first heard about Tapestry, I wasn’t super excited about it. Civilization games have never really been my jam, so I (wrongly) assumed that I wouldn’t be super into it. But, Sarah and Scott were both pretty excited, and we graciously got a ding-n-dent review copy from Jamey, so I dove into it as well.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. And, as you’ll hear from both Sarah and Scott, this isn’t really a civilization game. Sure, it has a civilization theme. But it’s definitely a lot more about engine building than it is about making a civilization. And, in the past year, I’ve found that engine builders just click with my brain.
The fact is, the basic gameplay of Tapestry is exactly what I like. It’s real simple to know how to play the game. The complexities come into play when you actually start trying to strategize and determine what it is that you need to do in order to maximize your output as the civilization that you have.
The capital city board is a neat little addition to the game, and I like the puzzle that it provides. Trying to figure out what buildings you want to put where, while trying to get more points during income and get free resources alone the way makes for a fun little challenge.
Tapestry is a little bit of everything, but I don’t think that it has an identity crisis. It’s a little bit of a civilization builder, but not completely. It’s kind of a tile layer, but not completely. What brings it all together is the big engine that you’re trying to build throughout the game – it’s what makes everything else work.
The production is top notch. As with every Stonemaier Games game that we’ve ever played, you will find attractive art, high-quality bits made from solid materials, and good quality card stock. I’ve only got two small complaints about the production: 1) the capital city board could have been a little thicker (but that’s more of a me thing); and 2) It was a little overproduced. I would have been totally cool using tiles as buildings on my capital city, and then having a deluxe edition in this style.
Some of the civilizations are a little imbalanced. For example, the Alchemists, who “push their luck” to try and get extra moves up the civilization tracks in each of their income phases are a little weak (they recently errata’d this so that the Alchemists start the game with 2 extra resources to try and balance it out). Whereas, other civilizations (the Craftsmen, and we’ve heard the Futurists but we haven’t tried them yet) are more powerful. I think that, with more large-scale info from games (which Jamey is collecting), these will balance out a little more.
What is great about Tapestry is the discovery of the game. Every single time that you are dealt a civilization and those Tapestry cards, it’s all about discovering what you’re able to do. We’ve played it multiple times, and every time we play, my brain gets the all-important “a-ha!” moment and the victory points just start to roll in. If you’re someone who enjoys discovery as a part of your engine-builders, Tapestry is 100% for you. It’s just good, solid fun.
Scott: Tapestry is one of those games where you read the rules and think “this is gonna be really short, you only play 4 eras.” Then you play your first game and you start building up your resources and engine and then you’re like “oh, OH, I GET IT NOW!” and it turns out to be WAY more in depth than it seems on the surface. I like those kinds of games. The seeming simplicity of the game (which has just a 4-page rulebook + a double-sided reference sheet) masks a really in-depth and crunchy experience.
Multiple paths to victory are always a plus. With 4 different advancement tracks to progress on, in any combination you want, plus the Tapestry cards to give you powerful one-time effects or whole era powers that can steer your playstyle, or improve the way you’re already going, each game definitely feels unique even if you end up with civilizations that want similar main tracks (like the Militants and the Isolationists ironically both wanting to rank up in Military). The tech cards can potentially give you boosts as well, or just let you have some fun!
A concern I have is that the Science track might be more powerful than the other 3 tracks, which isn’t inherently bad, but if someone invests heavily there and others don’t then in many of the games I’ve played so far the science-heavy player ends up blowing way past everyone else on the VP track, especially in their last era. While not getting the bonuses for most the bonus track progress you get, getting the better track rewards faster is still really good and seems like it might be the go-to “do this to win” strategy. I’ve still enjoyed every game of Tapestry I’ve played, and it will require more investigation to see if this is actually true (or if the science players those games just had better overall strategies than other players, as opposed to the science track getting them ahead in and of itself), but it’s a concern I felt I should mention.
Tapestry is a very good and very enjoyable game, and I’ve felt satisfied at the end of every game I’ve played. It’s very fun to try different strategies and different civilizations, and also to try and find new combos.
Purchasing Information: Tapestry is out now, but is between printings and may be difficult to get your hands on for a couple of months. It will be available via the Stonemaier Games website, online retailers, and from your local friendly local game store. MSRP is $100.
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