Tapestry Review

Tapestry is a civilization game made by the famous board game designer, Jamey Stegmaier. A new game by the man behind Euphoria, Scythe, and Viticulture naturally caused a lot of hype, but the release in 2019 was met with a mixed reception. 

Enough time has passed for us to pick up Tapestry once again and appreciate it for what it is — a solid Euro game with light civilization elements.

Tapestry
  • Create the civilization with the most storied history, starting...
  • Start from nothing and advance your science, technology,...
  • Features 18 unique, painted landmark miniatures

Brief Overview of Tapestry

Tapestry Board Game Box and Board Setup

Tapestry has been marketed as a civilization game but it’s more akin to a high-point Euro game with solitaire mechanics. When you visualize the game, think of other Stegmaier titles, or any good Euro game you’ve played, rather than Sid Meier’s Civilization or Twilight Imperium

This 15 player game is best played with three or four people and sessions last for two hours. You’ll need a lot of table space to play it, which is why don’t recommend playing with five people. On a difficulty scale, it’s on the lighter end for a game in its genre, allowing new players to pick it up quickly.

Versions & Expansions

Tapestry Board Game Expansion Plans and Ploys Box and Components

Plans and Ploys

Currently the only Tapestry expansion, Plans and Ploys expands the gameplay possibilities without increasing the difficulty of the game. New civilizations, landmarks, and interactions will refresh the gameplay after you’ve had your fill of the base game. 

Tapestry: Plans & Ploys Expansion
  • First expansion to the hit game Tapestry
  • Choose from a variety of new civilizations, pursue individual...
  • Designed by Jamey Stegmaier

Unboxing Tapestry

Tapestry Board Game Components

The box contains:

  • 1 Game Board
  • 1 Landmark Board
  • 1 Rulebook and 2 Reference Guides
  • 6 Reference Cards
  • 1 Automa Mat and 1 Rulebook
  • 28 Automa Cards
  • 18 Landmark Minis
  • 100 Income Building Minis
  • 16 Civilization Mats
  • 6 Unique City Mats
  • 5 Income Mats
  • 83 Cards
  • 63 Tiles
  • 135 Tokens
  • 3 Custom Dice
  • 1 Custom Insert

If you’ve played any of the Stonemaier games then the Tapestry will feel familiar. The overall quality of the components is very satisfying, with major pieces wrapped for an additional layer of protection. The game comes with some spare plastic bags for storing components after unwrapping them.

A minor issue I’ve had is that a deck of cards managed to slip on one of the rules, creasing it through transportation. I managed to straighten it out, but maybe the box could have been better optimized. 

The most prominent part of the package is the building minis. They’re placed in a plastic container at the bottom of the box, with individual slots and a see-through cover to make sure that they don’t get damaged.

When I first heard that the minis come pre-painted, I had some concerns, but Tapestry exceeded all of my expectations. The detail-rich design is complemented by the precise coloring on a level rarely seen in the industry. I can certainly see where the higher price tag comes from, but Tapestry definitely earns it. 

Despite their size, some of the smaller resource buildings also feature a high level of detail, although they’re unicolor. The player tokens and trackers are more on the basic side, but that doesn’t take away from the overall quality. 

How to Play Tapestry

Tapestry Board Game Box Front and Back

With only four pages to the rulebook and a few reference pages, Tapestry doesn’t burden its players with a novel-sized list of rules, making it very digestible and easy to learn. Let us take a look at how it’s played.

Game Setup

Pick the game board side based on the number of players and follow the instructions for a step-by-step setup. The game mixes things up by giving players one random capital city mat, and a choice between two random civilization mats.

Once you select the first player, the game can proceed in a clockwise fashion. During their turn, a player can either collect income or advance their player token once.  

Income Action

The income action is used to propel your civilization into a new era. Every player starts the game with the income action, but can later decide to advance at their own pace, and complete a total of 5 income actions. Its phases are: 

  1. Activate civilization abilities if possible.
  2. Play the tapestry card from your hand on your income mat. If a tapestry has a ‘when played’ keyword, it will provide benefits immediately. ‘This era’ applies from the moment the tapestry is played until you advance to the next era.
  3. Optionally upgrade 1 tech card and gain points for every exposed victory point icon on your income mat. 
  4. Gain resources based on the number of exposed icons on your income mat.

Advance Action

During the game, you’ll take the advance action more often than collecting income. The advancement tracks are divided into Exploration, Science, Technology, and Military.

Every track is then divided into four tiers, and whoever advances to the next tier first gets a specific landmark. The advance action is divided into three phases: 

  1. Pay the cost of advancement. 
  2. Move your token on the advancement track and gain benefits.
  3. If applicable, gain a bonus benefit for a price. 

Buildings 

Your capital city is a 9×9 grid with some of the spots already filled in. Throughout the game, you’ll gain income and landmark buildings, which you’ll use to fill up the map to gain points and resources.

To use income buildings, you’ll have to increase your farm, house, market, or armory production and remove the building token from your income mat. The building can then be placed on the capital city map, filling in a single spot. 

Landmark buildings are harder to get as they require you to plan ahead and be the first to advance the track to the next tier. There’s only one of each landmark, and they fill more spaces on the capital city map. 

The goal is to fill up the capital city map with 3×3 districts, complete rows, and columns. It works like an engine, where you’ll get progressively more points as you develop it. 

Game End

The game enters the end phase once the last player has taken their fifth income action. Gain civilization bonuses, 1 upgrade, and VP, but this time you’re not allowed to take income or play tapestry cards. The player with the most victory points is declared the winner, with ties going to the player with the most remaining resources. 

Your First Game of Tapestry

Tapestry Board Game View and Logo

In the first couple of games, focus less on making the right moves, and more on following your gut feeling and the flow of the game. You won’t have a realistic chance of winning without a strategy, so I’ll give you a few useful tips to make the most out of your games. 

Gaining income buildings is a straightforward strategy. They provide a residual income that will grow over time and earn you a lot of points. Once you’ve made significant progress on the capital city map, focus on the science track to gain even more points.

Tapestry cards are very strong, but sometimes you might not have the best selection to pick from. The easiest way to gain more is to advance the military track, followed by the science track. 

If you advance up the science track and pass the die roll, you can go up another track for free, placing you one spot away from a new tapestry card on two different tracks. 

Because landmark buildings are awarded for being the first to advance the track tier, competition is going to be fierce. Setting your sights on a particular track is fine, but if you’re racing with a player that is always a step ahead of you, consider taking a less popular track and get your landmarks there.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Great learning curve
  • Lots of replayability
  • High-quality components

One of the biggest challenges in creating a board game is making it accessible to newcomers while retaining the depth for a more serious crowd. A Feast for Odin is a great example of a game that’s very entertaining once you learn how to play, but to get there, you’ll have to spend a few hours memorizing rules and mechanics.

In Tapestry, all newcomers have to do is grasp the basic concepts, get guided through a few rounds, and they’re ready to play the game. As they play more, they’ll find new strategies and ways towards a high score, and there’s plenty of room to grow.

Between 16 civilizations, dozens of tapestry cards, and a solo mode, Tapestry can be played a lot of times without getting repetitive. Civilizations have the most to do with it, as they naturally steer the player towards a certain playstyle. Combine it with four tracks to race for, and the game can stay fresh for a long time. 

Stonemaier games consistently deliver durable and great-looking components. With the addition of colored buildings, Tapestry takes it to another level. They might not look like much from an outsider’s perspective, but in the industry where cubes can pass for just about anything, it’s really nice to see some variety.

Cons:

  • Misleading marketing 
  • Unbalanced games

Tapestry is followed by a cloud of controversy revolving around unmet expectations and overblown hype for the game prior to release. It’s not that Tapestry is not a good game, it’s more that it’s not what it claims to be. 

Civ games have to follow a natural course of development in which rounds represent the passing of years, decades, or even centuries. Tapestries technology and ages don’t follow any form of logic, and the game is nearly devoid of a theme.

When you think of this game, think of your standard Euro game. Eventually, they all boil down to strategies and numbers, and the theme gets pushed to the side. Looking at Tapestry from that perspective, it actually makes for a solid solitaire, ‘point salad’ Euro game. 

The second issue with the game is balancing. Some civilizations are objectively better than others and provide a considerable advantage or disadvantage to the player. To address this, Stonemaier Games has addendums on their website for handicaps or buffs you can use to balance these civilizations out. 

Tapestry Review (TL;DR)

Tapestry is a great Euro game placed inside the civ category. High-quality components, accessibility combined with depth, and solid mechanics are some of its strong suits. If you’re a fan of Stegmaier’s games or the genre in general, Tapestry will certainly appeal to you.

Conclusion: Verdict?

I think my overall positive experience with Tapestry came as a result of thinking of it as just another Jamey Stegmaier game. I didn’t know about the controversy and I completely overlooked the “A Civilization Game” written right below the name.

Instead, I was just waiting for that Stegmaier game design to appear and I wasn’t disappointed. Tapestry felt like a Euro game with some Cartography sprinkled in. The capital city map is so simple, yet works so well when combined with other mechanics.

Having played Scythe, Euphoria, and Viticulture, I knew that balancing issues were bound to appear. This is a point of contention in the fanbase, but from my experience, Stegmeier’s games just aren’t playtested properly.

Tapestry’s unbalance is right on the nose – once you’ve played enough games, seeing the civ distribution can already tell you who’s getting ahead. Stonemaier games did put in the effort to mend things post-release, but that can only go so far.

In closing, I would say that Tapestry certainly has the potential to be a loved game by many even in its current state, as long as it’s approached with an open mind. It’s not what it claims to be and it’s not the best Euro game either, but it’s got a few distinct mechanics that make it a lot of fun.

Tapestry
  • Create the civilization with the most storied history, starting...
  • Start from nothing and advance your science, technology,...
  • Features 18 unique, painted landmark miniatures

We hope you enjoyed our Tapestry review. Have you tried Tapestry? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this Euro game. Drop a comment below!

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Stats at a glance

Players: 1-5

Ages: 12 +

Medium

90-120 Mins

Publisher: Stonemaier Games

Published: 2019