Tapestry: Arts & Architecture
It's two years since we first featured Tapestry (Stonemaier) on Board's Eye View. It was a game that arrived with much hype and it aroused high expectations but it proved initially quite controversial because it looked and sounded like a Civilization game but it played and felt quite different from a 'conventional' 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) Civ game.
Tho' Tapestry has quite a high luck quotient, it has stood the test of time. Some minor rule tweaks have helped to sort some issues initially raised over the balance between the civilisations. A Plans & Ploys expansion introduced some additional rules, including the introduction of landmark cards, drafted at the start of the game and partially directing a player's gameplay by making a specific landmark uniquely available to their civilisation subject to them meeting the criteria on the card. This new Arts & Architecture expansion adds more landmark cards and yet more of the eye-catching pre-painted landmark buildings (sculpts by Rom Brown) that give Tapestry much of its huge table appeal.
This new expansion, designed by Jamey Stegmaier and Mike Young, with art by Andrew Bosley, shakes the game up quite a bit more than the previous one. It's not just more of the same (tho', yes, it does include more civilisation, tapestry and tech cards), it goes as far as adding a new (arts) track to be used in addition to the four on the game board. To reflect this fifth track, a new custom 20-sided die replaces the d12 from the core game. Players can now collect Masterpiece cards that give them extra benefits when they take the Income action. Players can also earn Inspiration Tiles that upgrade the corresponding income tracks on their individual boards.
This is a meaty expansion but not one that overly complicates the game. It does mean tho' that players are offered quite a few more options, which could slow play if any of the players are prone to AP (analysis paralysis). The expansion introduces the option at the start of the game of replacing the capital city mat with one of A&A's 'advanced' city mats. Several of the new tapestry cards incorporate 'building plots' which offer the in-game option of housing a landmark building instead of putting it on the capital city mat. You'll need to weigh up the pros and cons of taking that option - just don't take too long agonising over your choice, and no take backs!
There's a new automata for solo players to compete with and the Arts & Architecture rules sheet also incorporates some further tinkering with the starting set up for several civilisations, again to address balance issues, so these are recommended even if you're not playing with all the new stuff from this expansion.
If you like Tapestry, the Arts & Architecture expansion must surely be an automatic buy. It adds an extra dimension to Tapestry that feels properly incremental and entirely avoids the expansionitis that so often bloats games. And if you didn't think the original game offered you quite enough, this expansion could prompt you to take another look.
We have just one gripe. We surely cannot be the only ones frustrated at finding that the expansion boxes are each of different shapes and sizes, to each other as well as to the original game box. And you can't fit the expansion content into the original box without discarding the inserts - which we're reluctant to do because they are moulded specifically to protectively accommodate the various pre-painted landmark buildings. Stonemaier Games did exactly the same with Scythe and Wingspan and their expansions. We can only assume that Jamey Stegmaier has embarked on a campaign to cure gamers of their OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder)! It won't work. Please give us boxes that line up together on our shelves! :-)
(Review by Selwyn Ward)
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