Tapestry is a two-hour civilization game for 1-5 players designed by Jamey Stegmaier.
Create the civilization with the most storied history, starting at the beginning of humankind and reaching into the future. The paths you choose will vary greatly from real-world events or people — your civilization is unique!
In Tapestry, you start from nothing and advance on any of the four advancement tracks (science, technology, exploration, and military) to earn progressively better benefits. You can focus on a specific track or take a more balanced approach. You will also improve your income, build your capital city, leverage your asymmetric abilities, earn victory points, and gain tapestry cards that will tell the story of your civilization.
—description from the publisher
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I typically judge a game's solo potential based on accessibility, puzzly fun, and thematic ties/immersion. The more thematic the game, the more I'm willing to sacrifice a bit of the accessibility, while for a puzzly kind of experience, I'd prefer a game with quicker setup and minimal upkeep that allows me to get in and get out after a solid brain teasing session.
So where does #Tapestry fall in this spectrum? Here are my first impressions after playing through ~50% of my first game (I had to wrap it up quickly before my son woke up from his nap).
- The "4 page rulebook" is great - I've previously read through criticisms regarding the short rulebook, that it doesn't give enough room for clarifications. Based on my solo play, I was pretty amazed how simple the rules are to pick up. It'll take time to learn the icons though and you'll find yourself referring to the reference sheet quite often in the beginning.
- The Automa in this game has a slight learning curve but runs smoothly - Oddly enough, the solo mode rules are longer and take more time to digest. I can see why though, because compared to a game like #Viticulture: Essential Edition, the Automa in this one needs a more complex decision tree to be able to offer good competition. But the Automa still runs very smoothly and involves little upkeep.
- Setup time is just "okay" for me but likely great for veteran solo gamers - Depending on the person, setup clocks around 5-10 minutes. In the beginning, taking out the minis and placing them down on their respective areas (on the board where players will be taking the minis from) will take you more time than you'd imagine! Also, if you're primarily a solo gamer, you'll want to store the Tapestry deck separated in two different baggies or something. Of the 50 cards, 13 of them need to be taken out when playing against the Automa. Teardown time goes super quickly because there aren't that many different pieces involved considering that it's a civ-like game.
- There's randomness, and quite a bit of it. Presents a great challenge for solo gamers but it could be problematic for multiplayer sessions - Luck factor is received very differently among gamers, and some will be optimistic about it and focus on making the best out of the situation (similar to what you'd experience in #Viticulture: Essential Edition pre-Tuscany expansion), and others will not enjoy this. The synergy of your civ's power and the right card draws can absolutely kick off your engine, while a series of bad draws will slow you down quite a bit. There are ways to mitigate this by taking actions to draw more cards, but it does mean that you'd potentially use up your resources and turns to advance along a track that's not the best for you. And while luck can leave room for less experienced gamers to catch up while presenting a serious challenge for experienced players, the opposite could also mean a bad experience where you're completely behind and feel like you won't ever catch up.
- $65 is great but $80? Hmmm... - I see that this game is now at $65 from Amazon, which is a lot cheaper than where Tapestry started out at upon release. I think that's a great value but knowing what Tapestry encompasses, I wouldn't have gone for it at an $80 price tag. Big part of this is that the minis (and the potion of the insert that houses them) comprise about 30-50% of the box's volume, and that's a whole lot of space and money for something that's mostly for visuals. I'll get more into the minis in the section for "Thematic Immersion".
Summary: Like most games from Stonemaier Games, there's a strong focus on accessibility. As I'll get into below, there's a whole lot of abstraction that keeps things simple and straightforward. So in return for a loss in thematic immersion, Tapestry offers a "civ-like" game that you can introduce to your friends and family without hesitation because it's light on rules, looks fantastic, offers satisfying gameplay, and doesn't have you beating up on one another like in #Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization.
- Tapestry is a satisfying engine builder - More than a civ game, Tapestry comes across as an engine builder with several civ-like elements thrown into the mix. Similar to how #Wingspan offers a fun brain teaser with its 3 separate engines, Tapestry gives you four of them: Military, Technology, Science, and Exploration. The competition with the Automa and the Shadow Empire leads to making a lot of tactical decisions while your civilization's unique power sets the course for more strategic, long-term decisions. It's satisfying to push along your cubes across these tracks and have your moves grow ever more powerful.
- Offers a spatial puzzle - Whenever you build a structure or score one of those landmark minis, you place them on your civilization board that has a grid pattern that notates habitable spaces. You score points in your income turn based on the completed rows and columns and certain sections on the board.
- Automa presents a serious challenge - As a solo gamer, you will be playing against the Automa that's also assisted by the Shadow Empire. The Automa is the primary threat while the Shadow Empire keeps the race along the tracks (and the competition for the landmarks) even tighter. The game presents a tough mind puzzle of trying to figure out how to squeeze out the most amount of efficiency from your limited resources to make some serious progress along the tracks before needing to head into the income phase.
- Tactile goodness! - Some might call it overproduced, but it sure adds to the experience. The big player "boards" and many other cards have a grainy, rough finish. The income generating buildings and the minis are rubbery and fun to hold. You have the smooth player cubes that you push along the track. You have the tiles that you place on the board as you explore beyond the territories you control. And lastly, the game comes with some cool dice that you can chuck.
Summary: If you're a fan of Stonemaier Games, you'll likely at least enjoy the solo mode. Tapestry is a different game but there's a familiarity about it in its engine-building puzzles, while also offering civ-like elements such as exploration and conquering (conquering part is admittedly not that exciting though, at least not on the level of YESSS like in #Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization). Plus, Tapestry comes with a rich tactile fun that I always seek in a great solo game (otherwise, zero tactile fun makes me think "why play this instead of an app?"
Thematic Immersion (in other words, is Tapestry a civ game?)
- This question is loaded with subjectivity - For me, a civ game should ultimately deliver on a feeling of progression and story, where you can look back after finishing the game and easily reflect on its moments of triumph and downfall. Doesn't really matter how complex it is or how it achieves it, but I'd expect every move I make to feel like I've advanced a part of my civilization and hopefully made it for the better. And my answer to this is that Tapestry comes close, but not quite there for me.
- There's a lot of abstraction that makes Tapestry accessible, but at the expense of thematic ties - Advancing along a track requires an increasing amount of resources in the form of coin, food, worker, or culture. It feels odd when you're making leaps in history and just paying two workers and a coin. It's also a bit anti-climatic that many of the benefits in advancement is in the form of taking an income generating building (see the yellow, gray, brown, and red buildings in the picture) and placing it on your civilization board, where during your income turn, you will generate income based on all icons revealed. So there's a bit of that engine-building feeling of progression, but you never quite get that satisfaction of taking a super inefficient building and upgrading it beyond recognition by the end of the era. Then there are the great looking minis, which only serve to act as points. As mentioned above, placing the buildings and landmarks on your civilization board is for scoring points based on a spatial puzzle, and all these minis are good for is for covering up more footprint. And while there are many other points I can get into, your civilization will also produce anachronistic technology, where the typical pacing of real-world history will not match yours and you will find yourself developing dynamite way before discovering currency.
- There's a lack of player agency in directing your civ's history - In a game like Viticulture, there's justification for luck of the draw because it's a game in which players are relying on nature to produce their goods. I feel like this doesn't quite work for Tapestry where players should be given more control over directing the course of their civilization.
Summary: With so much abstraction in place, Tapestry leaves a lot of room for interpretation and imagination. At the same time, it never quite takes players away from thinking in terms of VP's and resources. One thing's for sure, and it's that the narrative of your civilization will look drastically different across all of your plays.
Final Thoughts: So with that said, how do I feel about Tapestry? I definitely need to give it more plays to decide, but it's a great game with lots of wonderful ideas that comes across as more of a puzzly experience than a thematic one. I'm looking forward to getting into this more in the future and it sits in a good spot where the setup time is just within what I could tolerate for a puzzly (plus more) kind of gameplay with highly competitive Automa.
This is basically 10 games whose art I really like. I didn't spend a ton of time coming up with it, so there are probably some I missed. By "art", I generally mean the cards, box, board, and sometimes tiles, though I guess some other small components could be included as well. Without further ado:
10. #Roam - no list about art without Ryan Laukat! I have not played this game, but I love the art.
9. #Wingspan - lovely birds, lovely boards, lovely box. What more do you want?
8. #Century: Golem Edition - awesome cartoony golem art
7. #Bruxelles 1897 - really cool Art Deco theme
6. #Tapestry - hard to argue with the aesthetics of Tapestry. I especially love the board, but the buildings are a really neat touch, price inflation aside.
4. #Nemo's War (Second Edition) - I love the look of old maps, and this game looks great all around. Ian O'Toole, yet again.
3. #Inis - this game has some insane Celtic looking art on its cards and I can't get enough of it
2. #Everdell - the most adorable anthropomorphized animals with an awesomely overproduced board and extra components make for one of the most eye-catching games you'll find.
1. #Oceans - is anyone surprised? This game is gorgeous. The watercolor art is super colorful and eye-catching, and the almost 90 cards in the Deep deck all have unique pieces of art on them. Amazing.
And that's it! What are your favorites?
I've been browsing hollandspiele's online catolog the last several days. They have so many games that look so so good. I'm especially interested in Agricola: Master of Britain, The Wars of Marcus Aurelius, and Infamous Traffic. But I keep on seeing what I consider to be poor art assets, and poor component quality. For instance, most of their games have paper maps. I know paper maps are common in wargames. But I'm not a war gamer as such.
Hollandspiele is not the only company like this. I want to try some of the Splotter games, but I can't bring myself to pay that kind of money for something that looks like Roads and Boats.
So how important do you think board game components are? Do you think I would have liked Castles of Burgandy if it had been produced by Stonemaier or FFG? How often do shiny components mask a poor game?
There is also the truth that chrome in a game sells. Scythe is my favorite game. But, I don't think that it would have been the raging success on Kickstarter that it was if it weren't for the stunning art. Many people were dissatisfied with the seeming disconnect between the art and the game play, though I think it works pretty well. How often does the game community buy *stuff* rather than gameplay?
The components are the way we interact with the world that the designer /artist created. Are there times that they interfere?
Some would argue that the beautiful prepainted buildings in Tapestry actually are unclear and interfere in gameplay. I've also heard that the beautiful evocative tree in Everdell actually is in the way for some of the people at the table, and takes them out of the game to a certain extent.
So what is the middle ground for the gamer? There is nothing wrong with buying the components, but at a certain point it becomes a seperate hobby. What are games that emphasize component quality, and helpful design, without falling into the "more is always better" trap? Should I be more willing to drop a little money on Hollandspiele or a lot of money on Splotter?
First, let me preface by saying that 2 of the 3 games I'd keep from the post that asked are Viticulture & Clans of Caledonia. So this post isn't to say that I'm all about combat driven games. Since you know, combat in Viticulture (unless you came up with some kind of Mafia Variant) would be really weird.
However, one thing that I really enjoy is maximizing (within reason) player interaction. One of the reasons I've totally steered clear of Wingspan is that all the reviews I've read and seen has said that the player interaction is 0. I really dislike games that are basically multiplayer solitaire. One of the reasons I love Western Legends so much is that even if you aren't playing you can jump in on a poker game, or take on the roll of the NPC, so you are always involved and always interacting with people at the table.
This all lead me to a post on another website about increasing the incentive to combat in Scythe. First, let me say I love Scythe. But it takes place in worn torn Eastern Europa. While I love the Cold War aspect I also realize that combat is limited and this leads to fewer player interactions as a group plays more together. (No one will attack before I do because they know I'm just waiting to swoop in and steal the work they've done). So I was excited to see a way to incentivize combat and make it more frequent. (Again this is rooted in a desire for player interaction). It makes sense to me that Combat would be more frequent in a game that has a "war like" theme.
It got me thinking about Tapestry. A game that I've watched quite a few reviews and play throughs (I love SM games!) . However, I've noticed infrequent player interaction in most of the play throughs, which bums me out. One thing I love about Video Game Civ games. The ability to fight. Plus, they have a whole track for Military, which to me seems very unmilitaristic. Not having had a chance to play yet I've already been trying to formulate some house rules to make Conquering/Military more significant. Make it something that isn't just another action, but something with consequences depending on the results. Some things that have crossed my mind involve the winner of the combat (thinking of Trap cards) have a choice in which of the military die the initiator gets to take. (IE, if you lose because of a trap, the trapper picks which of the die results you get.) . I'm trying to think of more, again keeping in mind it's all about encouraging player interaction
Who has played? What do you think? Has anyone considered some Military house rules? Has anyone tried them?
[Roam, Wingspan, Everdell, Nemo's War (Second Edition), Century: Golem Edition, Bruxelles 1897, Tapestry, Irish Gauge, Inis, Oceans]
[Everdell, An Infamous Traffic, Agricola, Master of Britain, The Castles of Burgundy, Wars of Marcus Aurelius: Rome 170-180CE, Tapestry, Roads & Boats,...]
[Wingspan, Viticulture: Essential Edition, Clans of Caledonia, Western Legends, Tapestry, Scythe]