Tapestry – Board Game Review
Civilization building games have always been a huge favourite for me, whether it is the Age of Empires franchise or Civilization. When it comes to transferring these types of games to the table, it’s not always so clean and nice. While there are numerous civilization building board games available, few really grab you and immerse you in the experience. Then Tapestry was released.
In Tapestry, “you start from nothing and advance on any of the 4 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.”
Let’s briefly go over a few basic concepts around Tapestry before providing our early impressions of the game!
Getting Tapestry to the table is actually a fair amount of work, as you unload all the buildings, civilization mats, exploration tiles, and more. After getting everything out of the box and unpacked, I dreaded reaching back into the box for the rule book. There is nothing worse, in my opinion, than having to learn a new, huge, complicated game. I just want to play.
Shock and awe. That was my initial reaction when I pulled out one of the thinnest rule books I’ve ever seen for a board game of that size. It’s tiny, just a few large, full colour glossy sheets. It wasn’t until I finished my first game that I realized: Tapestry is an easy game to understand and play, but incredibly difficult to master.
Each player will be assigned (however you choose, although the rule book provides ways to do this) a civilization, a player mat, and a capital city, all of which will be placed in-front of them. Each player will then collect the game pieces of a specific colour, as well as the 4 different building types that are common across all players.
Finally, players will place their various game pieces as indicated by the rule book, onto the game board (for scoring, on each advancement track, and on the central exploration board shared by all players). Once all the other universal pieces have been placed – Tapestry cards, shuffled face down; Technology cards, shuffled, face down, with three drawn; and unique buildings – you are ready to get going!
Understanding Your Civilization
Before making your first decision in Tapestry, understanding your own civilization is incredibly important as each of the 16 different options provide different benefits. These benefits can help with one of the specific advancement tracks – science, exploration, military, and technology – or can be universal in it’s benefits. In my first game I played as the Entertainers, which gave me some flexibility in how I worked to move along each advancement track; my opponent was given the Inventors, which meant he wanted to focus more of his attention on moving along the Technology track. Knowing who you have, and what you need to aim for, is really step #1.
Progression through the Eras
Every player is required to enter Era 1 with their first turn of the game, which will earn them some income (based on their player board), a single tapestry card, and an exploration tile. After this first forced move, players can then begin to either advance to the next era, or move along and advancement track, based on their available resources.
Early on, things can look bleak. You will begin your first turn with only one of the each of the four available resources (money, food, culture, and workers). Using these 4 resources, you will need to decide how to best advance your civilization.
Knowing How to Earn More Resources
- Exploration – when advancing on the Explore advancement track, you will get the opportunity to place the exploration tiles you’ve earned through income phases (or from other sources). If these titles have a resource on them, you receive that resource when it is played to the central, shared board.
- Build your Player Board Buildings – along the top of your player board will be a number of buildings that can be built by advancing on specific tracks. The more of these buildings you place, the more resources will be revealed that can be earned during income phases in future rounds!
- Conquer – along the Military advancement track, players will have the opportunity to conquer tiles on the central shared board. When you conquer – regardless if you end up controlling an area – you will roll the military dice and choose one of the two – either scoring victory points from the red dice, or earning a resource from the black dice.
- Completing a Capital City district – your capital city board is divided into 9, 3×3 districts. Whenever a district is completely filled – either by buildings or ‘impassable’ dots – a player receives a resource of their choice!
So How Does It Play? Is it Worth It?
Tapestry is a premium board game experience, and it comes with a premium board game price. The initial cost of Tapestry might turn many away just by looking at the box, but if nothing else, I hope this review will indicate how brilliant the game mechanics are, and how amazing the build quality is.
If I’m ranking my current board game collection in terms of quality, Tapestry is easily at the top of the pile, and right now, the competition isn’t even close. While many of the game pieces are a shiny solid plastic colour – your markers, etc. – the games buildings are all hard rubber, which not only makes them feel solid, but that they will last a long time as well. While the standard buildings on your player card are just solid colours – yellow, brown, grey, and red – the other unique buildings are all beautifully painted, making them stand out, enhancing the experience.
Both the technology and tapestry cards you can obtain during the game are linen finish, and the player boards themselves have a solid vinyl feel – although I didn’t test this, I feel like I could have spilled a drink on my board, and they could easily be wiped clean and dried, no worse for wear.
A game can look great, but if it doesn’t deliver with an entertaining and competitive experience, how good is it really? Thankfully, Tapestry is also at the top of my pile of games I currently want to play, and games I want to teach others to play. With sixteen different civilizations to play as, no two games will ever feel the same. Even if you do get to play a civilization twice, it’s still likely that your gameplay will differ, as the actions of other plyers around the table might force you down a different path.
I’ve always liked the idea of building a civilization, and Tapestry really gives you that feeling as you grow and expand your capital city, as well as your influence on the central ‘world map.’ Thinking about each move and attempting to maximize your victory points is so much fun, and I even found myself helping out those around me, pointing out better uses of their resources, etc. It’s not great if you want to win, but lots of fun if you want to see how other civilizations might succeed.
It’s the simplicity of the turns that is really appealing to me. While below the surface there is tons of strategy involved, learning the actual rules is so straight forward. And while mistakes will be made during your first few play through, it is definitely a game that can be played again and again, with new players not necessarily feeling behind.
We will have a lot more on Tapestry coming up soon, but want to get this initial review out to you, so you don’t miss this fantastic experience. Tapestry is a must buy, and a must own for board game fans!