Work and life and an appalling lack of balance between the two led me to miss the last few Tuesday game nights. And to be honest, a little bit of a break probably wasn’t a bad thing. Sometimes you do too much of a thing too regularly and it becomes an obligation rather than a hobby. And considering the fact that board games are supposed to be fun, they’re not something you want to be an obligation. So, batteries recharged and work somewhat normal, I got out on time and made it to the store in time to play a game I’ve owned for a good while now but have managed not to play in all that time.
Patchistory is a civilization building game with a unique twist. You start off with an unassuming 3 x 2 grid that represents the entirety of your culture. Each square has a variety of symbols in it, representing something that square produces, sometimes all by itself, sometimes only when there’s a worker present. Now some of these are simply a level you have for each turn — Transportation, for example, is the number of spaces you can move each turn — and some are actual commodities you collect (coin,food and resources). Okay, this seems simple. You just build these up, collect your stuff, and win. Got it.
The twist comes at the start of each round, where a number of tiles are auctioned off. You have to buy one of these. And add it to your civilization. But you have to do so by covering up one or more of the existing squares with the new tile. Or by sliding the new tile under some of your existing squares. Which is pretty simple early on, when you’ve got plenty of space. But as the game progresses, you start having to make really hard decisions, especially since you’re limited in how big your civilization can be depending on what era of the game you’re in. It starts off at 5 x 5, and you’re eventually going to have to cover up a really useful space in order to make room for something new. Complicating things even further is the fact that the new tiles often have spaces that are two or three squares in size, and these can’t be partially covered. It’s all or nothing, and that’s a lot of real estate.
So you go through five rounds in an era, taking actions, moving your workers around to maximize production, or sending them off on trade routes between players to establish alliances or declare war. And while you’re doing all this, each player has three hidden objectives they’re working towards. At the end of each era, they select one to play, and then these are voted on to see not only which ones get scored, but how much they’re worth when they are. The bad news is that not only is the objective with the lowest number of votes discarded, possibly tossing your carefully laid plans out the window, but if you fare poorly in meeting the objectives that are selected, you end up losing points. So the voting becomes a delicate balancing act between making sure your objective gets picked, but not being really obvious about it.
Make no mistake, Patchistory is a deep game, even if the rules themselves are less complicated than I’ve made it seem here. The complexity comes from the decision-making. Where do I patch in my new tile? Where do I move my workers this turn? What actions do I take? If your players are prone to analysis paralysis, this game could take quite a while. Personally, I like having meaty decisions to mull over, and while a game like this probably isn’t the best choice for our Tuesday nights where we’re limited for time, I’m definitely busting this out on one of our longer game days in the near future. I mean, you’re building a civilization. That’s not something you really rush.