Patchwork – What We Think:
Patchwork by Uwe Rosenberg is the latest game to be ported by German indie developer Digidiced to digital mobile platforms. They previously cut their teeth with Rosenberg’s Le Havre: The Inland Port.
Medium weight Euro board games and digital tablet applications, when done correctly, are a match made in heaven. Like peanut butter and chocolate. Like bacon and eggs. Like buttons and stray bits of textile left around your grandmother’s house – they can be seamlessly woven together to create an altogether new delight.
Mittens Casts Minor Earthquake
The reason is that often, though lovely to behold, the paper and dice versions have a lot of moving parts, math and tabulation, the requirement that someone is not only knowledgeable but stays on top of all the rules, or else some get ignored or bypassed. Then there is the possibility of a cat jumping across the table…
Uwe Rosenberg makes just such games – including the shockingly addictive farming simulation board game Agricola, which retails for about $70 and dethroned Puerto Rico to become the most highly rated game at BoardGameGeek.com.
This successful transition from the tabletop to the tablet doesn’t always happen, however, as evidenced by the poorly rated and reviewed Dominion, whose iOS port is plagued with omissions, crashes and other dodgy elements.
Thankfully, Agricola (converted by Playdek, Inc.) was a successful port, and I have spent dozens of hours using it for pass-and-play around real campfires, long car or plane rides, or on lazy afternoons. Another that comes to mind is Ticket to Ride, which still hosts a massive online community, and, like Patchwork, is cross-platform.
When the port is successful, set-up (and cleanup) is handled by the computer, as are game states – should you desire to take a break for a an hour, day or week – as are rulesets.
On The Patch
So when Rosenberg’s Patchwork came across my desk, I decided to take it on myself, rather than assign it to one of my other reviewers. This was personal. I love his games, and I hoped that this lighter subject, faster-to-complete offering would scratch both my boardgaming itch, my social pass-and-play cravings, and my love of Tetris and textiles.
I recommend that anyone new to this kind of game author go through the tutorial. Although these games have elegant, clean and simple rules, they are hardly intuitive or straightforward at a glance. That is part of their appeal. And if you don’t know the rules, jumping into this game app will be confusing at best, as there is no language text on the screen – everything is strictly symbolic, numeric and graphical.
The Fabric of Reality
The tutorial takes three to five minutes, and then you can jump into spending buttons to purchase a variety of textile scraps to weave into your new blanket. You make your way around the board and collect the equivalent number of buttons stitched into your existing quilt when you cross a button on the board, or useful single-square bits of fabric to help you plug in any holes created by uncooperative textiles pieces you have purchased.
Whichever player is behind on the board always takes the next turn. Once a player reaches the center, scores are tabulated (buttons equal points and holes penalize) and you are done!
There are a few things the tutorial doesn’t mention, like the fact that you can not only rotate the piece you purchase to weave into your quilt, but also flip it over horizontally. This small nugget may change your outcomes substantially.
The game offers local solo play (vs AI) or pass-and-play modes as well as online asynchronous player-ranked matches. I was able to to find several online games within minutes. Some of the UI for this is not ideal. I found starting a new set of matches – you can initiate several at once – versus locating my ongoing matches to be confusing. In the end, I could find the latter via a “hamburger”-style menu icon.
The port itself is colorful, though the animated transitions between the steps of a turn are a bit slow and snorey. Most visual components do their job just fine, though I would enjoy seeing the textiles be more animated – the tabletop game uses rigid cardboard pieces for the fabric too, but I always kind of wished they were real cloth – I felt it was a missed opportunity here.
The music is charming – a sort of light and airy hopeful sound filled with xylophones and sometimes muted piano that I eventually turned off because it didn’t add much the to experience once I heard it loop.
Patchwork is a charming little game, of a type so different than the old Milton Bradley stuff. This one is great for a carefree distraction, meditation or way to have some fun with a friend. The game – lovingly crafted by the four boardgame enthusiasts that comprise Digidiced – works, and, like the Agricola and Le Havre apps, helped me to better understand how the game itself should play out. More importantly perhaps – it expands the Rosenberg catalog in the digital domain. You can’t really lose here.
Like a Comfy Quilt
Though the game lacks the overall richness of Agricola or Le Havre, this is no fault of the developers, and it is obviously intended for a different level of time commitment, and perhaps also to include a younger audience. The conversion/port is good, doesn’t crash, gets the job done and helps to showcase and promote one of the best game designers alive today.
Patchwork is available via the iTunes App Store, Google Play and the Windows Store.
Watch the trailer for Patchwork below: