Main Event Games · Reviews

Review of Tapestry

Game: Tapestry

Designer: Jamey Stegmaier

Published: Stonemaier Games

Players: 1-5 Players

Playtime: 90-120 Minutes

Play Type: Tile Placement, Resource Management

 

Synopsis:

You have been left in charge of growing and nurturing your civilization, developing a thriving future as it continues to develop. Tell the civilization’s story through this Tapestry, and try to develop the most interesting story possible. 

Game Play:

Tapestry is a Civilization game in which players will be attempting to build the best Civilization over a series of turns. Each turn, every player has the option to take one of two types of turns. Players may be taking these types of turns at different times depending on their resource levels and overall plan.

The first type of turn is called an Income Turn. Think of the Income Turns as your civilization advancing into a new era. Every player will begin the game with an Income Turn. These turns consist of four steps, but on certain Income Turns (namely the first, and the last) certain steps will be skipped for logical reasons. This is noted on the player board under the table that says “Income Turn”, the numbers next to each symbol explain which turns to do each step. Let’s take a look at those four steps.

  • Activate Your Civilization Ability (If Applicable): During the setup, each player will select a civilization. Each of these have an independent ability that benefits the player in some way. While most abilities activate specifically during Income Turns, others may be constant effects. For instance, the Merry Makers give players the ability to move a tracker up one space and gain the benefit shown on that space during the Income Turn. While the Craftsman allow players to build on their civilization rather than their capital city whenever they build during Advancement Turns. The first step of Income is to activate your civilization ability if possible, follow the directions, and gain any benefit.
  • Play a Tapestry Card: Players will select a Tapestry Card from their hand and place it on their player mat. This will explain the direction their next era will take as a civilization. Tapestry Cards may give an immediate benefit such as the card Dictatorship (which allows players to move up on a single track and gain the benefit while not letting other players do that action for that turn) or it may have an ongoing effect such as Marriage of the State (for the entire era, this player is matched with another player for a single track gaining whatever benefits their partner does for that track).

    Players must play a Tapestry Card from their hand if they have one, if not place a Tapestry Card face down from the deck into your player space. If a person is the first of their neighbors (left and right) to reach an era, they also gain the resource benefit listed on that space of the player mat.
  • Upgrade a Tech Card/ Gain VP from Income Track: Upgrade one tech card from the available options and gain the benefit. Players moving a card from the bottom space to the middle space will gain whatever is listed in the circular space on a Tech Card. If they move from the middle to the top, they will gain the square space. Players must be able to meet the requirements listed below the square space to upgrade to the top row.

    Players will also gain any Victory Points showing on their Income Mats on their player board. These are unlocked when players place Income Buildings. Each track scores Victory Points in a different way. One track allows players to score based on the number of tech cards, one allows players to score a number of points outright, one allows players to score based on the number of territories on the main map they control and the final allows players to score for each completed row and city in their capital city. 
  • Gain Income: Gain Income from any exposed tiles on your income mat. Resources will be tracked using the resource track at the bottom of the player mat. Players will also draw any Tapestry Cards indicated as well as any Territory Tiles indicated, and add them to their supply. 

Income Turns end up being the longest turns in the game, and also act as a way to track when the game ends. Each player will complete five Income Turns throughout the game, and after their fifth turn they are done playing. Players may complete the game at different times. 

Advancement Turns are the other kind of turn, and players may play as many of these turns in a game as they can afford. Conceptually, Advancement Turns are very simple. A player will select one of the four tracks available, move their cube up one space, pay the cost and gain the benefit. Each tracker focuses on something different, but also has some different actions throughout. Let’s take a general look at what each track specializes in.

  • Science: The Science Track mainly focuses on two things. The first thing is improving other tracks. It does this in two ways the Science Die and outright allowing players to select another track during later gameplay. Players may or may not gain the benefit of moving that tracker forward, depending on whether the symbol depicts an “x” underneath it, but it does allow players to move up the other tracks quickly. This potentially allows them to get strong abilities faster or reach landmarks first. Players will also be able to place buildings from the “houses” section of their Income Tracker using this track.
  • Military: Military has a wider focus than Science but still mostly focuses on two major aspects. First, Military allows players to conquer discovered land on the main board. Then they are able to roll the Military Dice and gain a benefit. Second, Military allows players to place armory buildings into their capital city. Players will also see that Military gives the opportunity for players to score a variety of Victory Points towards the end of their track and even gain another civilization mat if they reach the last space!
  • Technology: Technology has two major focuses similar to Science. The first is Tech Cards. The Technology track focuses on giving players new Tech Cards and also helping them upgrade those cards. Additionally, the Technology Track gives players the capability to place markets in their capital cities. The final space of the Technology Track allows players to take their cube and place again on any track starting at the beginning. This allows players to gain additional cheap benefits, as the cost of the tracks increase as the benefits increase.
  • Exploration: Once again, Exploration focuses on two major benefits. The first being Exploration Tiles. Players are able to draw new Exploration Tiles and place them if they continue on the Exploration Track. When players place tiles, they gain the benefit depicted on that tile. When players get to the end of the Exploration Track, they are able to explore space which gives stronger tile bonuses. Additionally, the Exploration Track allows players to place farms from their Income Track into their capital city.

While moving up these tracks and interacting with the board there are a few other important things to note. First, when a player is the first to advance into a new tier during game play, they get to take the Landmark Building listed on that space and place it in their capital city. These buildings are larger than the Income Buildings, thus they help fill rows and columns more quickly. The individual buildings have no other effect.  

Another important thing to note is the achievements which can be gained for completing certain tasks. Those tasks are completing an advancement track, toppling two opponent outposts through conquering on the military track, or conquering the middle outpost. They can be completed only one time each per player and are worth the number of points shown on the furthest left exposed space. 

Once all players have completed their fifth Income Turn, the game ends and players compare their final Victory Points. The player with the most points wins. 

Components:

There are a lot of components in Tapestry that I am really excited about, but there are also some things that stand out to me as something that could have been improved. 

Let’s start with the positive though. The biggest positive to me was the ease of understanding each of the symbols. During the first game, we relied heavily on the included player aids to get a feel for what each symbol meant. After a few games though, the symbols are easy to remember and make sense for the action they are depicting.  I really valued the player aid that was included too. I wish there were additional player aids included though, because two can be difficult to pass around during game play for larger games where players are trying to plan ahead to make the game move quickly. 

Additionally, I love the buildings included. I won’t lie, when I first saw the images of the landmarks I was somewhat nervous that I would not like the style of the game. However, once I had the landmarks in hand, I really liked their aesthetic. While it was not as realistic as I might prefer, they do fit in with the game and look nice on the capital city. The Income Buildings are some of my favorite components. They have plenty of detail and feel great in hand. 

The artwork in the game is also phenomenal. The Tapestry Cards and the Civilization Mats are gorgeous, and they create a beautiful illustration of your civilization. They provide a whimsical feeling while still being grounded in reality. These two things help make your player board the focus of the game. I think this is important because those two things are what really tell the story of your unique civilization. 

While there were a lot of great things about the components, there are some things I noticed that could have been changed to improve my game play experience. One thing that really stands out to me is the contrast between the player mat areas, and the main board. The artwork featured on the cards, player boards and capital cities is all very soft colored and whimsical feeling. The main player board however features a lot of bold colors, and more highly contrasted scenes on the map. This makes sense while playing the game as it  allows players to be able to clearly see the main board, however it can make the game feel somewhat disjointed. 

One of my biggest complaints about the game though is the insert that is included. The insert only has specific spaces for the Landmark Buildings, and a general space for all income buildings and other tokens. The game does include bags for some of the other components such as cards, tiles and civilization mats but it does not include a bag large enough for the capital city mats. While I normally would not complain about an insert not having space for player mats or the capital cities, in this case the storage method (in bags or loose) has caused my game to already be damaged after around 10 plays.  

The player boards, civilization mats and capital cities are all finished with a sandpaper like film over the top. It feels and looks great during game play. However, when storing them either loose or in bags I have found that the film tends to rub off some. If the mats scrape along the bag or the other cards, this is more likely to happen. I would have loved to see a plastic insert that would have helped keep them stable and give fewer opportunities for the damage to occur. While my cards are currently only damaged on the edges, I worry that prolonged time loose in the box could damage cards further. I understand the choice to opt for bags rather than a full insert probably had a lot to do with keeping the cost lower, but it is always sad to see damage like this in just a few plays because of transportation.

Overview:

Positives:

  • Simple Concepts, Strategic Game Play
  • Asymmetry
  • Great Way to get into Civilization Games
  • Unique Combination of Mechanics
  • Many Paths to Victory
  • Beautiful Artwork
  • Replayability
  • Plays Well (But Differently) at All Player Counts
  • Tracks are Well Balanced
  • Humor in Final Stories

Negatives:

  • One Player may Finish a Half Hour Before Others
  • Design of Insert
  • Landmarks Underwhelming
  • Too Few Player Aids

Tapestry is the perfect gateway into civilization games. It provides players with streamlined but strategic game play. I was able to learn and teach the game in under a half hour with the help of the player aids and simple, well laid out rule book. This is perfect for someone who may be interested in the theme of civilization building but may be intimidated by the length or complexity of most civ games. 

That being said, I would not suggest Tapestry for someone entirely new to the hobby. Tapestry has enough going on that it could easily be confusing to someone who is not familiar with modern gaming. There are plenty of symbols to memorize and with the two types of turns being taken at different points by different players, I have found newer players tend to get somewhat lost and can be easily frustrated, especially if they don’t have easy constant access to the player aid. 

I have now played Tapestry over ten times, at every player count except solo. One of the things I love the most about Tapestry is that it truly plays well at every player count. I have not been able to find a preferred player count because the game provides different strategic challenges at each player count. During lower player count games, there is less interaction on the main board I find, but players have easier access to landmarks. On the other hand, during higher player count games, I find that there is more interaction on the main board, but players may not have access to the landmarks and thus capital city scoring tends to be less. Scores tend to be higher at lower player count games for that reason. 

One thing I noticed throughout those plays though is that the Landmark Buildings felt very underwhelming to me. Once I played a couple rounds, I quickly realized that there was not a huge incentive to get those landmarks, because players would be hard-pressed to fit very many on the board. There are plenty of spaces on each capital that cannot be built on, and because of how they are laid out it can be difficult to fit those large buildings in your capital. Without careful planning, players will only be able to fit on one or two landmarks anyways. I do like though that the rules do allow for buildings to hang off the side some, making them slightly more useful. I wish that the landmarks had an additional benefit rather than just taking up more space. 

While I was not wowed by the landmarks, I absolutely loved the different civilizations.The asymmetry in Tapestry encourages players to branch out and try different strategies, while still providing balanced game play throughout. I have now had the opportunity to try or see each of the civilizations in game play, and have found that they each provide their own challenges that help keep the game interesting. The civilization you use will likely shape your game throughout, as their benefits can be significant. As far as balance goes, some combinations definitely have better synergy together than others. When certain civilizations are played together, they challenge other players to adapt their play style to meet their goals. That being said, overall I felt that the civilizations were balanced individually and none stand out immediately as being overpowered. I really like the steps Stonemaier Games is taking though to make sure all mats are balanced by having people record winning civilization and their scores on their website. This data driven information would be interesting to see as time goes on. 

Throughout those plays I have also been impressed that the tracks seem to be very well balanced. There is not a single track that stands out as the winning strategy. Players’ decisions throughout, and when they strategically choose to use each track will really determine who wins the game. The Tapestry Cards played and the Civilization Mat that you have will really affect what tracks you choose to focus on and what you choose to do throughout. Despite the lack of catch up mechanics in the game, players will be surprised to find that scores can change very quickly in the game. Each time I have played, I have left the table feeling that the person who played the most strategically won. This is important to me, because very little feels like it is left up to luck in the game. 

Part of the beauty in Tapestry is the undercurrent of storytelling throughout. While a narrative is not directly laid out for you, when you take a moment to really look at the elements of your civilization, there can be a lot of humor behind the game. Once our final scores are calculated at our house, we always take a moment to share a little about our civilization. We discuss some funny things we noticed about our civilizations, and some things that really stand out about our civilizations. For instance, I have played a game where I was the Merrymakers. My Tapestry cards included Revolution, Dictatorship, and Wartime Economy. The contrast between my ideals and my history really amused me. Other times, we compare our Tech Cards and what we have unlocked on the Income Track. Another example from our games being that someone had a radio, but no language. There are so many opportunities for humor throughout, and chances to make a great narrative for your civilization.

While the storytelling can be great, it can be difficult to get everyone to engage with it. This is partially because we have had players finish the game a half hour earlier than everyone else by rushing through their income turns. Players who are not great at pacing or do not focus on unlocking resources on their Income Track tend to finish the game much quicker than other players. While the player is eliminating themselves, it can be frustrating for them to watch other players continue to play for a prolonged time. They tend to disengage with the outcome of the game, despite having played the game for over an hour and in some cases almost two hours. As players become more experienced, I see this being less of a problem. However, if this happens to someone the first time they play, I could see them being hesitant to return to the game.

After putting over twenty hours into this game since the beginning of August, I can easily say that we have truly enjoyed the game. Being someone who never seems to have enough time to throw 3-4 hours into a civilization style game, Tapestry was a nice compromise. It is simple enough that I can easily pick it up, but still has a meaty feel where I am satisfied and enjoy looking back on the civilization after being completed. Some players who enjoy heavier civ games may be disappointed by the more streamlined mechanics, but what it does it does well. 

I would most likely suggest Tapestry to people who enjoy the concept of civilization building, but may not have the time to frequently play the longer games. It will also appeal to people who have enjoyed Jamey Stegmaier’s other designs such as Scythe, Euphoria, or Viticulture. I find Tapestry to feel the most similar thematically to Euphoria, as there is some of that underlying humor. Game play is completely its own, but if I had to compare, I would say it is closer to Scythe because of the asymmetry and Encounter Cards having a similar feel to the Tapestry Cards. 

Tapestry will be open for pre-order through Stonemaier Games’ website starting on September 4th until September 7th. Pre-orders will be available worldwide, and will ship earlier than the retail release date. The first print run has 25,000 copies that are individually numbered. With the exception of the individual numbering, the retail copies will be the exact same as the pre-order copies. If you have any other questions about Tapestry or want my opinion on a specific aspect of game play, feel free to comment below and I will make sure I get back to you before the end of the pre-order period.

6 thoughts on “Review of Tapestry

  1. Great review as always, haven’t been able to keep up lately due to work keeping me busy but I’ve been catching it on your instagram and had to peek in ha. I am somewhat disappointed in the inserts given that most of the Stonemaier games I’ve seen have had excellent inserts but maybe I’ll have to take everything out and line the box with some pearl foam or something.

    How big is the game board? It looks like you’re dealing with somewhat of a sprawl of boards at any given time. Do you need a particularly big table to play this one?

    Like

  2. Great review! Really interesting to hear about your reactions, especially to the landmarks and the different civilizations! How did you like the tech card mechanics?

    Like

    1. Brian,
      I really like the balance that Tech Cards add to the game. They provide nice variety and replayability. They are also adaptable and can lend themselves well to any strategy. I wish there were more opportunities to upgrade those cards though, because if you get them later in the game they can be difficult to upgrade fully.

      Like

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