Tapestry: Plans and Ploys review

Plans and Ploys, the new expansion for Stonemaier Games’ Tapestry, brought back fond memories of opening packs of brand new sets of Magic: The Gathering cards back in the mid-90s.  I remember the buildup and anticipation for the release of Legends and Ice Age, two gigantic sets with tons of new cards.  My friends and I bought tons of booster packs, whole boxes even, and since this was the days before the internet Told Us Everything We Needed To Know, we had the wonderful experience of tearing open each pack in front of each other, comparing cards, and just generally salivating over all the newest abilities and tweaks to the game.

But Plans & Ploys is just a small box expansion, you say.  How does memories of a long forgotten 1994 CCG expansion have anything to do with a modern day board game?

Of course, you are right, discombobulated voice in my head. What I am suggesting is that opening up this new expansion for Tapestry provided a similar experience to those pack-poppin’ days.

I’ll explain in just a second…

Tapestry: Plans and Ploys is a 2020 release for Stonemaier Games, an expansion for its hit civilization game for one to five players. Tapestry was one of our top games, just missing the top ten (probably because Wingspan was one of our absolute favorite games, and also maybe because there was a little bit of controversy in our mind over the necessity of the building minis and the balancing of the civs.) The base game came with 16 different civilizations and tons of upgrades and tapestry cards and buildings and more.

PRODUCTION:

Are we still doing this?  This is a Stonemaier Games’ release, so you already know that it is going to be produced to the nines.  But since you ask, dear reader, Tapestry: Plans and Ploys ups the ante with even more civilizations (10 more), tapestry cards (15 of those), and more landmark miniatures (seven more to be exact and pictured below). It also comes with some new space tiles, a bag to help you randomize the territory tiles, and some assorted solo game bits and rules.

One fun addition, something we did not know we needed but could not play without now, are the twelve new landmark tiles. These are just twelve small cardboard circles representing the twelve landmarks players can earn on the board as they move up the different tracks.  We used to always wonder which landmarks have already been taken, but the addition of the new tiles makes it a breeze to see. If a player grabs a landmark on the track, they also take the token so that other players can easily see at a glance which landmarks are still available. A simple solution to an irritating problem we did not realize we had.

The production is stellar, as is typical for a Stonemaier Games release, with everything fitting neatly in a small sized box.

GAMEPLAY:

We wrote a full review of Tapestry back at the end of 2019, which covered everything in the base box including how the game plays out, so we won’t geaux over the complete gameplay here. Plus, we had a full discussion of the game with our buddies Patrick & Eric in the morning, that also covered the game play.

But, here’s a quick discussion of what changes are in store with the expansion:

The most fundamental change is in the new civilization mats. There are ten in all, and they are seem to be amped up in terms of complexity and difficulty, giving players fresh takes on how the game is played. You like uniqueness, dear reader? Of course, you do. You are a discriminating reader, with a taste for the unusual and the bizarre.  Be happy then, because Tapestry: Plans and Ploys brings the uniqueness, for sure. Each new civ brings a unique styles of play — the Riverfolk are all about utilizing the capital city in new ways, for instance, and the Infiltrators bring in a little more player v player communication and interaction, which is a good development, in my opinion.

Next up in importance are those new starting cards. The game now comes with five unique landmark cards that correspond to some of the new building minis. Think of these as a way to give a little focus to the early parts of the game, especially for new players, as they have a goal to work toward during the first ¼ of the game.

I am actually a big fan of designers who include these, even though I know there are some that cough and scrabble.  When I teach Lisboa, for instance, I love including the early goal cards that walk players through the first steps of the game. These cards are not so transparent, but they do give players a nice target to focus on.

Finally, there are some additional Space tiles that have unique interactions and even give landmarks, and some new Tapestry cards that are a tweak on the way that the trap cards are played. Most of our games of Tapestry have had very little interaction in terms of the trap cards, (although famously one of our games came down to a bunch of trap cards being sprung on a number of players!) but these new cards give the players considering both the attack or defense of conquest a little more to think about.

The rest of the bits and bobs are really about the solo play, which we have not explored yet. We’ll leave you to discover those on your own.

BUT IS IT ANY FUN?

Earlier I told you how much fun it was to open up those booster packs back in 1994 and 1995, how our friends gathered around as we split open the boxes, oohing and ahhing over the new cards and their abilities.

The new Tapestry expansion does exactly that. Let’s face it, the distinctive part of this game is the way the civs interact with one another and with the board state.  There was no doubt when I first opened up the base game that we were going to make sure that we played with or against every single faction as quickly as possible, so that we could see how they all worked.

We got the same experience here in our plays of Plans and Ploys. Each time, we made sure we added new factions in (we used a tip from the designer saying to give people free reign to pick their civs, but focused on the new mats). I was quickly able to see how all ten of the factions played, and as expected, watching players figure out in a few turns exactly what their civ is good at doing and how best to utilize those plusses really made for a fun few weeks of game play.

But I’m not pointing out anything new if I remind readers that Tapestry was a divisive game in some ways. Some people felt that its focus on the four tracks almost made the center of the board an afterthought, that a real civ game should have a focus on exploration, technology and interaction. (I disagree.)  So the question for the day is simple, how does this expansion affect players who had a negative view of Tapestry, the base game?

I’ll give you my opinion for free.  What comes in this new expansion is designed to please fans of the original game: more civs, more cards, more minis, more stuff. At least in my mind, this expansion won’t change anybody’s feelings toward the base game. If you loved your plays of Tapestry, you’re going to want to get and will probably love the new expansion content because it is more, more, more. If you didn’t like Tapestry, I do not see anything in this release that will give you any reason to change your mind.

For me, Tapestry with the Plans & Ploys expansion is a must have, and is exactly what I’m looking for in a civ game: a well designed euro dressed up with factions and exploration and a teensy bit of combat. And the thrill of opening up that little box, and pouring over every civ card with my friends, and marveling at what experiences we will have exploring the best way to exploit the new special powers.

Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!

— BJ @boardgamegumbo

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