Oh Sew Satisfying: A Patchwork Review

by Corey Whelen
12 June 2019
2 Players, 30 Minute Play Time, Medium Complexity, High Strategy, Ages 8+
While many board games work fine with just two players, few are designed with small player counts in mind. Sometimes, with just two players, those 4-hour games of Monopoly™ and Risk™ seem a lot less friendly and a lot more competitive.
Boardgames can be more personal though! They can be intimate and engaging while catering to fewer people. It can be a great way to get to know someone one-on-one. With the ever-expanding market for hobby boardgames, there are some amazing new choices for 2-player games, but I'd like to talk about one of my personal favourites.

My well-worn and well-loved copy of Patchwork.

Patchwork may only seat two players, but it was crafted by legendary game designer Uwe Rosenberg (Bohnanza, Agricola, A Feast for Odin) to be the most compelling 2-player game possible, which is extremely impressive considering the game is about... quilting. Not the most exciting theme for a game, but this quick and quirky game is sure to win over even the most curmudgeonly of gamers.
You'll spend most of your time in Patchwork working on your quilt, which starts as an empty 9x9 grid that you'll slowly fill with a variety of oddly shaped quilt-patches. It plays almost like Tetris as you attempt to fit the awkward pieces together with as much cohesion as they'll allow. These patches don’t just fall from the sky, however, each one has two distinct prices you’ll have to pay. These expenses turn Patchwork from an extremely clever spatial-management puzzle into an extremely-clever resource management game (with extremely clever spatial management aspects).

Perfectly Placed Patchwork Patches!
Besides filling up your board with quilt-patches, your other objective in Patchwork is collecting buttons, which is just as thematic and adorable as it sounds. You spend buttons to purchase patches, and certain patches produce yet more buttons when you reach certain points in the game. Buttons are the main way you score at the end of the game, so building a strong button-conomy is essential to victory. 
The other resource you balance is a touch more abstract. Besides the button cost, every patch you take will have a “time cost”, which moves you forward on the “time board”, a traditional-looking gameboard, with pieces moving forward on a simple track. Your game ends when you reach the end of this track, but your opponent continues playing until they reach the end as well. This is where the two-player design of this game comes through. You don’t simply alternate turns- the player who is farther behind on the time board goes next. This means you can chain together several turns by choosing patches with a small “time cost”- if you can afford the button cost. You can use this mechanic to manipulate which pieces your opponent has available to choose from, which means clever players don’t just play their board, but their opponent’s resources as well.
Overall, Patchwork does one thing, and it does it extremely well. With a small box and a 30-minute playtime, it’s a fantastic addition to any game shelf. 2-player games are a very specific niche, but if you’ve ever entertained a new friend, struggled for activities to do with your child, or wished for the perfect date-night at the boardgame café, you know how important games like this can be. It can be sew satisfying to craft a quality quilt, and Patchwork is an absolute blast to play once you get past the unsuspecting theme!

Patchwork: Express is faster, fun-er, and a whole bunch cuter!

Additionally, Lookout Games has recently published Patchwork: Doodle, where you actually draw the pieces in, and Patchwork: Express, which is a faster, simplified version for younger players! Keep an eye out for them at your friendly local game store!

Disclaimer: Not sold by Outset Media