Why we're excited for... Tapestry

Tapestry, releasing in just a few weeks, tasks you and up to four opponents with using your wit and resources to build the best possible civilisation you can muster. This week, I got a chance to play it early, and I'm here to tell you why you should be excited to give it a shot!

Like Civilization, but a board game (but not those ones)!

See? Hexes! Just like Civ!

Since its initial release in 1991, Sid Meier's Civilization has been the juggernaut franchise of turn-based 4X strategy video games. With this in mind, it's no surprise that there's been a desire to convert that style of game from digital to physical. After all, strategy and turn-based are easy to replicate with a board and figures... right?

Based on the number of different adaptations of this one franchise, that conversion may not have been as easy as you'd think. Eagle-Gryphon Games took the first crack at it with 2002's Sid Meier's Civilization: The Boardgame, while Fantasy Flight Games tried their hand in 2010 with Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game (an eight-year gap, and the designers decided that there couldn't possibly be a better name to choose). The 2010 adaptation is comparable to the classic board game Diplomacy - in essence, very complicated and long-winded. Finally, in 2017, Fantasy Flight learnt from their mistakes, and released Sid Meier's Civilization: A New Dawn, which was much less Diplomacy-esque.

Tapestry borrows many elements from Civilization to provide you with a familiar environment to learn its systems. If you've ever played the famous 4X, chances are you'll have an easier time getting into Tapestry. While it feels similar, it's also far from a rip-off - Civilization is not like a core game that's taken wholesale and repurposed, but instead a point of inspiration.

Easy to learn

You'll get familiar with these little buildings quickly

Tapestry's most intimidating element comes right when you open the box for your first game - the initial setup. The myriad of cards, figures, and markers might leave you feeling a bit overwhelmed on first sight. However, the game's detailed setup guide should help soothe your gut reaction of fear and confusion (if you're anything like me and had that reaction, that is). While that setup does take some time due to the amount of pieces involved, once everything's in place, it's relatively easy to pick up how to play.

In Tapestry, you and your opponents take turns building up your side of the world. The game has two types of turns - income turns, and advancement turns. Income turns are used to gain resources, upgrade technologies, use any abilities specific to your faction, score points, and both play and draw tapestry cards (not in that order). In advancement turns, you spend resources to move your way up the four different tracks (exploration, technology, military, and science), earning you points, resources, technology cards, tapestry cards, and buildings to place within your city card. Technology and tapestry cards each have their own unique set of benefits, giving you powerful advantages whenever you utilise them. However, you can only play tapestry cards during your income turns, and you may only play one per income turn, so you'll have to figure out which card helps the most at that moment.

This may sound daunting to you, but once you start playing Tapestry, the game's intricate weaving of systems should click for you, allowing you to understand (and enjoy) the game within your first few turns.

Hard to master

Like many classic titles, the people who designed Tapestry employed the almost cliché mantra of "easy to learn, hard to master". While you'll be able to parse the mechanics after one play session, it'll take time and practice to truly understand the systems at play before you.

Each of the game's advancement tracks has its own purposes. Exploration is based around uncovering more tiles in the game's map, combat is focused on expanding your control of those tiles, technology is for obtaining technology, and the science track provides alternate options for advancing across the other three tracks.

However, each of these fields interlace with each other. You need combat to explore, because you can only explore if the spot you're picking is adjacent to a tile you control. Meanwhile, you need to explore to gain more space to occupy, as you can't just fight over the same few spots with your opponents. The technology you obtain can be used to increase your resources, which are necessary to advance down the tracks. If you don't care about skipping some of the less useful benefits, or need to negate the high resource costs of later turns, you can use the science track to advance your place in other areas, accelerating you further. Being the first to each section of a track also allows you to claim special buildings as your own, which take up more space on your city card, netting you more points in the late-game.

Beyond this, effective utilisation of your technology and tapestry cards is also key. You're only allowed to have four proper income turns (the fifth is your last turn in the game), and you can only use your tapestry cards or upgrade your technology cards during the second, third, and fourth turns. Being the first to play a tapestry card also gives you bonus resources, but allows your opponents the opportunity to react once they take their income turns.

There's more to the game than this, but I've decided that neither you nor I need to be here all day obsessing over every single detail. What's important to know is that Tapestry is a complicated weave of systems and decisions that keep every match mentally stimulating.

There's no "one size fits all" answer

For those who are worried that Tapestry's got a game winning combo lurking beneath its poker card-textured surface, fear not! While there may be some optimal strategies (I played a game where my opponent had a card that gave them any benefits I earned from advancing up the military track, which soft-locked me out of being able to conquer any territory), Tapestry isn't "solvable".

There are too many systems at play that make the game far too intricate to have a definitive answer. On top of that, many of the game's key resources, like the tapestry cards, are dealt out randomly, so you won't be able to hunt through the deck for the exact pieces you need. This means neither you nor your opponents will be able to easily sneak a win through with an unbeatable strategy that you'll repeat in every game.

Interested in picking up your very own copy of Tapestry? You can preorder it here!