Two player games can sometimes be a difficult breed. It isn’t often that you only have one other friend over to game but several and unless everyone is content breaking into pairs you’ll more than likely find yourself in a 3+ player game that can take the better part of the night or a quick social party game that you’ll play multiple times in an evening.
Because of this I try to find two player games that my significant other and I can enjoy. My girlfriend is not necessarily a gamer, but she will certainly entertain a game or two with me if she isn’t busy working (she has a full time job and a side business, so free time is often scarce). With that in mind, if she is able to sit down and play a game or two it has to be nice and quick. Thankfully, in recent months I have found a game that caters to both our interests in one way or another and it can be played in about fifteen to thirty minutes. That game is Patchwork.
Patchwork is a two player abstract game designed by Uwe Rosenburg in 2014. A bit of a diversion from his usual fare, see Caverna and Agricola, Patchwork is a tile placement game in which both players are trying to fill their board with patches as best they can in a tetris like fashion. Each piece is shaped radically different and if one chooses poorly they may find themselves with empty spaces they are unable to fill. At the end of the game each blank space is worth -2 points. At the end of the game the player with the most points (or least negative as is often the case) wins!
Pretty simple right? Definitely. At the heart of it all the players are just picking up tiles and placing them on a 9×9 game board in front of them. But this is Uwe Rosenburg and though we aren’t raising cattle or feeding farmers every turn we certainly have some choices to make. The game is laid out as such:
The central board acts as a clock and a way to gain resources. Around the board are the various patches players can purchase. Each turn players have two choices: purchase a patch or pass. To purchase a patch a player takes the spool and places it in front of any of the next three patches. After you place the spool in front of a patch you take it and if there are any buttons on it (the currency of the game/victory points) you return that amount back to a central pile and add it anywhere in your game board. There is also a time cost on each patch (an hourglass symbol followed by a number). After you purchase a patch you must move your piece (in the central board) that many spaces. If you pass a space with buttons you look at your player board, see how many buttons are present throughout all your patches, and gain that many buttons. If you pass you do not move the spool but instead simply move your piece to the space in front of your opponent on the central board (if possible). After you pass and move your piece you take a number of buttons equal to spaces moved.
And that is how you play. Very simple set up and very simple rules. Once both players have reached the center of the track they tally up their buttons (subtracting two points/buttons per empty space) and the player with the highest score wins.
Despite the relatively simple mechanics, simple theme, and simple lay out there is a surprising amount of depth to the game. Often I found myself forced with tough decisions, or at least complicated ones. Do I pass, and gain some buttons so I can purchase an upcoming patch? But what happens if I pass and my girlfriend chooses to move the spool past the patch I want? Maybe I don’t pass and choose to purchase a patch instead, locking my girlfriend potentially out of her preferred next move but leaving me short buttons and therefore victory points. Then there’s passing. If you pass too much and start moving your piece along the central track you find time speedily winding down and before you know it the game will be over in just a few short turns. The same dilemma occurs if you purchase patches with high time costs. If you’re not careful you’ll find yourself near the end of the central board with many spaces on your own board left to fill.
It’s a very fun game that’s got a wide amount of appeal but just enough crunch to cater to “gamers.” Also, and this has been important to me recently, it takes up very little space on the shelf. It’s a small square of a box and a very short/thin box as well.
Last but not least, its tiny presence mean it is relatively cheap, costing only about $15-20 depending on where you look.
If you’ve been looking for a light but somewhat deep 2 player game or a change in theme that may cater to those who aren’t into fantasy or zombies then give this game a quick look. It won’t take too much of your time and space but it will still give you a lot of game, and potentially a fun evening with a close friend or significant other.
-The Secondhand Took
Where to find Patchwork: