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Tapestry; The Story of A Game About the Story of a Civilization

Sadly Tapestry isn't staying my collection. 

I really feel like a party pooper here. Or that guy who insists he never likes the blockbuster movies that everyone loves. Or refuses to read Harry Potter. You get the idea but really, I'm not trying to be that guy. I wanted to love this one.

I played Tapestry and walked away after game one feeling like it had potential, but I wasn't yet in love. At its core, Tapestry has two basic actions, either take an income turn, or advance on one of the 4 tracks paying all costs and taking all benefits. The goal of the game is to set up your income turns well to ricochet you through the rest of the game until your next income turn. Along the way you're playing with map exploration, some variation of a tech tree, and a little tetris mini game. While my first game had me cautiously optimistic, subsequent plays assured me this wouldn't be staying in my collection.

I'll start with two things that a lot of people complained about, that don't bother me. The lack of balance and the abstraction . Now don't get me wrong, we definitely saw this lack of balance in both Tapestry Cards and Civilizations, and they certainly affected our enjoyment of individual games. But the reason it didn't bother me, is things like balance can either be easily houseruled by banning factions or modifying them, or waiting for the eventual essential edition with modified adjustments. Meaning I recognize the issue here, while it not being a factor in my enjoyment of the game. As far as the abstraction, I can understand that stopping it from being someone's cup of tea, but I'm fine with it. I enjoy heavily thematic civ games, but I'm equally fine with it being abstracted. As long as you're ok with hearing that, you're probably fine with playing it.

So what did bother me?

1) Even in game 1, I wasn't a fan of the tetris mini game. I love polynomial games, they're highly enjoyable and I tend to try nearly all, and keep a decent amount. But I didn't enjoy it in A Feast for Odin, nor in Tapestry. Don't take a heavy game, and throw in tetris, to me it completely takes me out of the genre and what I'm trying to do. Given the popularity of both these games I'm likely in the minority, but for me it completely takes me out of the game.

2) The general abstraction didn't bother me, and the fact that I can discover a nuke before a toaster didn't bother me, but the tech wasn't fun. Tech is supposed to give you advantages that improve your gameplay, not one time minor bonuses. I'm not saying it wasn't effective as a strategy in the game, but it just felt completely unsatisfying compared to what I want out of tech.

3) The Civilizations felt complicated. Reading how to play a new civ, felt like more rules and adjustments to the gameplay then was worth it. Either make it simple, or make it complicated but worth the complication. Most of the civs felt like they had a lot of rules around what was essentially not a hugely satisfying difference to the gameplay. Doing your taxes and building a Kallax shelf both can be complicated and take some time, but one feels satisfying and the other feels like work.

4) I'd rather just play That's Pretty Clever.  While I enjoyed the interplay between tracks in Tapestry, the game is just way too long for what it is. I enjoy pulling up one track to ping another, and get a bonus that helps me and cascade a bunch of options....but I get that exact same feeling when I play That's Pretty Clever, and in 30 minutes instead of 3 hours. I was hoping that multiple plays would uncover more depth and improve the speed of the game, but sadly the depth didn't seem to improve and the speed actually slowed down the more players knew the game and the various tracks. 

I did love the Tapestry Cards. It's the one part of the game I'll miss. They were very cool, and drawing them really felt like you wanted to revise your gameplay around those cards...granted, some were more powerful than others, but there were a lot of cool ones even if they were more cool than powerful. I will miss playing those bad boys. 

There's a lot to like in Tapestry, it's a solid game and I can very much understand why anyone would keep it. But like Wingspan, Scythe and more before it...I thoroughly understand why people would like it, while being baffled that they receive the recognition they do. 

I look forward to the next Stonemaier game. I'm like Charlie and the football, I don't care how many times Lucy pulls it away, I'll keep trying.


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