Publisher: Lookout Spiele
Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
Artist: Frans Klemenz, Fran, Rex Lee, Gru TSow
Release date: 2014
Favouritefoe score: 9/10
*Abstract * Strategy * Polyomino * Tile layer * Festive Re-wrap * Perfect Information * Economic *
Playing Uwe Rosenberg’s most celebrated and beloved polyomino games at Christmas? Yes please! Playing a festive re-design of it? Holy moly yes! Brace yourself for some serious warmth; we are going to snuggle under a blanket and unwrap Patchwork; Christmas Edition!
If you know Patchwork then you will know the game and how it works – this version brings nothing new to the technical game play itself. But it is a beautiful, seasonal rendition of Rosenberg’s tile laying two player powerhouse. And, not that we technically neeeeeed it, the novel, colourful present wrapping design is a perfect excuse to add it to your existing collection, or to give it to somebody who has been very good this year!
Setting up Santa!
If you don’t know how to play Patchwork (Christmas or otherwise), the game is simple to set up, easy to learn, and fairly quick to play (around the time it takes for your mince pies to cook!). But underneath the lid is layer upon layer of tactics, strategy, and depth that belies its small box size and cosy cover. And Patchwork Christmas edition is no different.
In this festive version, each player begins with a blank 9×9 board (silver or gold) and five golden buttons. The time track board is placed in the centre with the players’ gold and silver tokens placed at the start and all the polyomino present patches are arranged in a circle around it. On the time track are placed five additional single patches which will be gifted to lucky recipients as the game plays. The Christmas tree marker is then placed immediately to the right of the small 2 button-1 space candy striped patch and that’s it; time to put the Quality Street down and get ready to puzzle out those polyomino presents!
On your turn, you have two available moves; buy one of the three patches located clockwise of the Christmas Tree marker, or pass. If you want to flash your game cash, you will need the buttons in your supply to buy it, and then immediately place it on your board. You can flip, twist, and reverse the patch, but you cannot overlap existing patches, or allow it to overhang the edge of your board.
The Christmas tree marker then replaces the present patch you have just taken, and your marker moves along the time track the corresponding number of spaces indicated by an egg timer icon. If you don’t have enough buttons to purchase the perfect present, you must pass and move ahead to the space in front of your opponent on the time track. By passing, however, you gain a button for every space you advance (more gold buttons……my precious!). And, if you cross a button printed on the time track, you’ll also receive a button for each one already on your own board. Button bonanza! Pass a beautifully wrapped single present bonus patch, and you will be able to add it to your prezzie pile! What’s more, if you are the first to completely fill a 7×7 portion of your board as you are tessellating your tiles, you will receive Santa’s seven point bonus! Quiltastic!
Your turn continues until your token advances ahead of your opponent on the time track and the game ends once you both reach the centre square. But whilst this game embodies a number of races, the first reindeer past the post won’t necessarily be the one wearing the Christmas crown at the end!
Crunchy Christmas Cracker!
Whilst the choices in this cosy looking game look simple, the decisions you make are critical. Ultimately, you need the most buttons at the end of the game to win. And, whilst some patches represent 2 or 3 buttons each (pay day every time you go over a button on the time track!), the trade-off is two-fold. You suffer a greater dent in your currency stash, and you have to move a higher number of spaces ahead of your opponent. Double ouch as this potentially enables them to rack up several turns in a row and prevents you from affording better patches next time.
On top of this, you can only choose from three predetermined patches each time. As such, your opponent’s choices are directly affected by your selection. ON that basis, you have to decide whether to focus on your own gains or frustrate theirs.
The temptation to race ahead to secure a bonus single patch or to go over a button must also be balanced. You need to consider whether to slow down in order to pack out your board and fill up those empty spaces before one of you reaches the end of the time track. If you don’t, you’ll be on Santa’s naughty list, and incur a 2 button penalty at end game scoring for each vacant square on your board. Because of this reverse-racing element, passing, rather than a no-other-option turn then takes on a tactical aspect that can frustrate your opponent like a tiger tangled up in tinsel!
Underneath the pretty wrapping present paper, Patchwork Christmas is the same tight resource management game for two as the original Patchwork. No denying, however, that the festive re-design is so lovely that it becomes pretty irresistible at this time of year.
I can see why Uwe Rosenberg is hailed the king of polyominoes; he has managed to design a tight 2 player game where all the information is laid out on the table (literally), and yet it is still impossible to predict what is going to happen. Your next choice is always going to be directly impacted by the decision just made by your opponent, and there is no random and unforeseen luck of the draw for which a deck or a dice to blame Combine this with the almost infinite replayability that the circle of patches provides, and Patchwork Christmas becomes a game perfect for those who love a little festive cheer at any time of the year.