I’ve been playing Tapestry a lot lately! It’s a very interesting game and I’ve been thinking a lot about it’s strategy. I thought it might be interesting to lay my thoughts out here, and if you are a beginner or intermediate player, you might learn something that helps you out – or if your thoughts are different to mine please let me know! When I say ‘playing a lot’, I mean I’ve played the game 10 or so times now, which is a lot to me. I don’t claim to be a master of the game (there are strategy articles on BGG written by those who’ve played tens to hundreds of times), but these are my observations on the game so far.
Why not write a review? Well, I’m in a few minds about this game. First off, it’s a very popular game, and has already had a lot of coverage. While my thoughts are probably a little different to others out there, I felt like at this stage I’m more interested in writing something about the gameplay itself and how I’m approaching it. Secondly, I think this game is a bit of an unusual case in that it’s fairly expensive. I think this makes it a bit of a difficult thing to lend a recommendation to, as it’s a big investment. I thought it would be fun to give a go at writing up a ‘strategy guide’. Please let me know if you found it a useful thing, I may consider writing more like this in the future.
On to the Game and Strategy
I’m not going to go through a rule summary in this article. I’m going to assume you know how to play the game already, but hopefully if you are reading this before your first game the things I’m talking about won’t be totally useless to read, as they are going to be fairly broad generalised tips and ideas.
General Strategy Tips and Things to Keep in Mind
Resource are always good to get. Something that is not explicitly obvious during the first play of Tapestry is how important resources really are. Every action you take will cost resources, and every action you take moves you closer to more powerful actions that yield lots of points. Taking lots of actions is critical to maximising your score in this game. Whenever you are granted the opportunity to take resources, take them! In the early to mid game, never take points when conquering if you can get a resource. When exploring, always place tiles that give you resources. And be careful spending resources on bonuses that might not be particularly useful in the long run. The only time this doesn’t hold true is in the very late game when getting some points is possibly worth more than one resource.
If you can build a resource building, do it! Build as many of these houses as you can before your first few income stages, since the earlier you build them the more they will pay off later in the game. I often try to get a few bonus resources in the first era so that I can build 2-3 resource buildings before my first income turn. This has a cascading effect of boosting your resource count and number of turns across the rest of the game, keep in mind entering an era with extra resources means you will be able to do more in that era before your next income turn and thus that future income turn will yield more resources.
Tapestry cards are often quite powerful but also very situational. I’m not 100% sure on whether it’s worth gaining Tapestry cards by spending bonus resources. The problem with the cards is that if you get a good one, it can seriously boost your strategy, but if you spend extra resources to draw them and end up with a hand full of duds, you’ve taken a gamble and lost out on doing a few more other turns before your early income turn. I think my current leaning is towards picking up Tapestry cards that come your way, but not spending extra to get them.
Technology cards are useful but not critical. Not much to say about technology cards really. If you are going up on the tech track you will obviously get some. If you don’t get one by your first income phase you will ‘waste’ an upgrade and miss out on a point, but if the opportunity cost is building a resource building I would leave the tech card and do that instead. Of course, going all in on a tech card strategy can pay off well so depending on what you plan on doing (e.g. if you decide to pursue tech instead of exploration) getting started early is imperative for that.
The Capital City mat. There are a few ways you can decide to fill this. You can either aim to get quick returns (getting resources to do more turns) or playing for the endgame where your capital city can net you a lot of points. In my experience, while you can get a A LOT of points from the capital city mat (potentially 50 – 100+ in fact), it’s a really big gamble as to whether that happens and requires basically everything to go right. I prefer to focus on using the capital city to gain bonus resources as often as I can and take the scoring as a bonus at the end. Don’t forget your capital city mat resource bonuses!!
You are racing with the other players. There are actually a few races going on at once. The most obvious one in the game is the race up the tracks to get bonus buildings. While the buildings are not critical to success, they are very useful as they help fill up your capital city (and thus provide resources and points). There is also a race on the map to get to the middle and win two combats for some bonus points.
The Income Turn. Maximising your income as early as possible is critical to ‘going far’ in Tapestry. Don’t be tempted by the bonus resource for taking income early if you have more turns left that can be used to place resource buildings. Remember that every resource building you place before your first income is worth 3 resources over the course of the game, which is 1-2 more turns you can use to get points! During the income turn you will pick what Tapestry card to use and hopefully you will have picked up something that you can use to your advantage now or over the next era.
Your Civilisation. I generally like to think about the civilisation as a ‘nice to have’ bonus that I won’t necessarily go out of my way to utilise unless there are obvious advantages in doing so. When you pick your civilisation at the start of the game there are a few things to think about. Some civilisations really impose on your freedom of play and I prefer not to pick those since I don’t want to end up ‘fighting against’ them to try and do what I want to do in the game. There are generally two types of civilisations, ones that have income turn actions or bonuses and ones that have passive abilities, and I find that (at least for beginners) the income turn abilities are much more straight-forward, and more often ‘bonuses’ that sort of just happen rather than requiring you to specifically focus on doing something different throughout the game to benefit from it.
The Technology Track – I would say that the Tech track is the one that doesn’t really interact with the other ones, and you can have tech as a part of your strategy regardless of what else you do because it’s independent (so long as you are willing to allocate resources to it). The actions in the tech track basically consist of collecting and later upgrading technology cards, with a smattering of general actions thrown in (gain Tapestry cards, resource buildings). Whether or not you decide to leap into technology in the early game can depend on what cards are available in the market. Some cards are better than others and can seriously boost you if you manage to use them at opportune moments. Getting to the end of the tech track gives you the quite powerful ability to gain 4 resources and start again on any track, which could mean a fair amount of extra stuff you could do (unlocking final resource buildings for points, etc).
The Exploration Track and the The Military Track – These two tracks are combined into one entry here because they really work hand in hand and can’t be totally pursued without at least a bit of progress on the other. In my opinion, exploration is very important in the early game because it is a highly reliable way to get additional resources before your first income turn (by placing tiles with resources on them) which can help you build more resource buildings before your first income. Military allows you conquer areas of the map (useful for points and scoring bonuses) but I think the most important part of conquering is also getting resources from the dice roll. I will always wait till I have placed a resource tile before conquering, and then conquer that space so I don’t risk rolling the ‘gain the bonus on the tile conquered’ side of the dice and get no resource from the conquer. These two tracks also allow for you to build some resource buildings early on and so I stress that you take advantage of these (always pick the resource building option in space 3 unless you have a good reason not to!).
The Exploration track on it’s own has some good opportunities for scoring points especially in the late game. If you are aiming for space exploration, make sure you will able to fully complete it as laying down all three tiles is generally worth a lot of points (often 15-30 or more!). As with each track, don’t forget that making it to the end usually means you’ve placed all of the houses associated with that track which adds a lot of bonus points to your score too.
The Military track on it’s own has a bit of a dud ending. You can gain a random civilisation and continue to play with two. As this action will virtually never be taken until the very late game, and the civilisation gained is random, in almost all cases this results in a gain of 0. If you are a very lucky you may get some small bonus (and some civs have ‘If you gained this during the game abilities’) but this action is extremely luck dependent and I’ve never seen it help the player who has used it more than a couple of points.
The Science Track – The Science track is interesting in that it’s not particularly useful on it’s own, it helps you out on the other tracks. I often see people leaping at going in on science early with the idea that it will generate some benefit but I think this is a mistake. The way I look at it is the Science track lets you initially skip things you don’t want to do or pay for, and then later on, convert your knowledge resources into movement on the other tracks (and generally at a reduced cost). Early game I generally wait until I’m facing options on the Tech, Exploration and Military track that I don’t like, and then I will start to move up Science to attempt to skip those actions with the Science Die. Then I will leave Science again until I get to the point where I can see that moving up on Science will allow me to progress on tracks I currently can’t afford to. The end-game of the Science track is extremely powerful, allowing you to select tracks to move up on (potentially multiple times). The final space is a bit of a gamble but is at least usually worth 5-10 points, and if you used your previous Science advances to focus on one other track your odds of getting more points from the last space of Science are significantly increased.
There’s a lot of absorb in the above points but really the central theme that should stand out is resources. Get them early and often, and use them to have more turns and thus get more points. The way you combine the use of the four tracks is a little less easy to give advice about. It can be quite situational and after a play or two you will start to see the best time to pivot between them and make opportune plays that can net a lot of points. My suggestions for a good starting strategy would be to try and combine Exploration and Military (evenly at first and then focusing more on exploration) with a bit of Science to boost you. Of course, if other players decide to do the same thing you might need to be flexible and pursue whatever avenue looks like it might leave you with the most room to grow and gain points.
At the end of the game your points will come predominantly from your final income – hopefully you will double your score up to now in your last income phase. Some civilisations get big points in their end of game income scoring, but otherwise points will come from your income tracks – having lots of tech cards and lots of rows and columns completed on your Capital City mat will be worth a lot of points if you’ve built most of the respective resource buildings, plus there are the 10 points on each of the income rows final spaces to get. Don’t worry too much if you first game doesn’t go great, I think Tapestry is game that you can’t really be sure what’s good and what’s not until your second play through.
Thanks for reading! I’m keen to hear your thoughts if you are an experienced player, and also if you found this useful. It’s not my usual thing but it was fun to write so I’d be happy to do it for other games. If you want to find out when we put up new articles, you can subscribe via email, or follow on Twitter!