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Board Game Review: Stay on Track with the Arts & Architecture Tapestry Expansion

Stonemaier Games is at it again with another Tapestry expansion: Arts & Architecture! I’ve already written a full review of Tapestry when it first released, as well as a review of the Plans and Ploys expansion. Just like its predecessor, the Arts & Architecture Tapestry expansion is deserving of a full entry, and provides more options for players as they push their civilizations towards victory!

Tapestry: Arts & Architecture board game
Tapestry Arts & Architecture

Let’s take a look at this civilization expansion published by Stonemaier Games that will make a patron of the arts out of you!

Tapestry Arts & Architecture Gameplay

The main purpose of the Tapestry: Arts & Architecture expansion is to add a fifth advancement track to the game: Arts. Anytime you can move up on any track, you can now choose to move up on Arts instead of the original four tracks. You would think since everything else in the base game runs in sets of four (resource types, tracks, income buildings) that this would be problematic, but it’s not! A fifth track opens up the game in new ways.

One of my constant talking points about games that I enjoy playing is that they always involve me wanting to do EVERYTHING but being unable to. The base game of Tapestry does this; there’s no way that you’re going to get to the end of three different tracks, let alone four. You can usually get one track completed and occasionally you’ll reach the end of a second. The point is that all of the tracks are worthwhile, and your decision point is that you need to narrow down your choices based on the world around you.

Arts & Architecture gives you another avenue that craves your attention, and you need to choose whether it’s worth your while to pursue it in earnest. The track offers new Masterpiece cards, which give you benefits at the beginning of your income turns. So, there’s a lot of benefit to working towards those Masterpieces early to get the most bang for your proverbial buck.

The Arts track can also grant you Inspiration tiles, which enhance your income tracks and replace the squares that give a single resource to additionally give you more points. It’s intuitive that these are awarded further down the Arts track because by the time you get there you should have enough buildings removed to give you immediate benefit.

Lastly, we get some fresh new additions on components that we’re already familiar with:

  • 5 Civilizations
  • 6 Capital City Mats
  • 5 Landmark cards
  • 20 Tapestry cards
  • 11 Tech cards
  • 1 new Science die with the Arts track added (upgraded to a d20)
  • 8 Painted Landmark miniatures
  • 25 additional player cubes

There are plenty of fun Easter eggs in the game as well, like a Tapestry card literally called Tapestry, and the miniatures that are molded to showcase various games in the Stonemaier Universe. Like you have a bird-watching tower that’s a nod to Wingspan, and the mill from Scythe. It’s reminiscent of the same meta-humor from Rolling Realms and it’s just good fun all around!

Staking Our C.L.A.I.M. on Tapestry Arts & Architecture!

AA Dice Mask Logo Icon Components

As usual, the resin miniatures in the Tapestry: Arts & Architecture expansion are excellent. I’ve decided that I want to try my hand at adding some washes and highlighting to help them standout a bit more, but they’re certainly good as is.

Everything else meshes seamlessly with the base game. The civilization mats and capital city maps have the same gritty finish, which will help your landmarks grip them more easily. The Tech, Tapestry, Landmark, and Masterpiece cards are also of the same finish, and they’re appropriately marked with the AA expansion symbol.

The Inspiration tiles are a thick cardboard, which allows them to support the bevvy of income buildings that will be lined up on top of them. I actually like that the entire track is replaced, even though the upgrades are only to a couple of slots. It makes it more of a pain to remove all the buildings, place the track, and then replace the buildings, but it’s better than ensuring you’re placing single tiles on the correct space.

Stonemaier Games keeps maintaining their poster-child status as the pinnacle of board game component quality. Something else that might get overlooked by others is that there are no plastic bags in the expansion. Instead, the civilization mats and capital city mats come in a white envelope instead.

And yes, I understand that the box has a big plastic tray, cover, and miniatures. Either way, it’s important that we are more conscious about our plastic usage in games, and every little step matters.

AA Dice Mask Logo Icon Luck

Strategy in the Tapestry: Arts & Architecture expansion is interesting. We now have a fifth track to worry about or completely ignore. But, since this is a discussion about the expansion, I’m going to focus on some of the strategy choices that come with the Arts track.

Tapestry: Arts & Architecture board game tapestry cards
Some Tapestry cards have spots for buildings and continuous effects.

Because of the Masterpiece cards, it’s key that you try to get them early and often to get the most benefit. The first place you can earn one is on the third space, followed by space 5 as an optional benefit, and then space 7. After that, you don’t earn any more Masterpieces until space 11(!) as an optional benefit.

There are a couple spaces (6 and 12) that allow you get the benefit of a Masterpiece card outside of the income phase. If you want to focus on this track, you’re going to have to think about what you’re giving up. There’s some good synergy if you focus on the Arts, Tech, and Explore tracks to earn some of those extra points on the Inspiration tiles. Either way, you can’t have it all. I have been trying to be sure to at least get the first Masterpiece card before the second Income phase.

The nice thing is that the resource requirements to go up the tracks are very open, so the track is quite accessible at all points in the game. Also, the additional track means that there will be less competition on the other tracks.

There’s also new strategy when it comes to the advanced capital city mats. Instead of having your traditional districts, these shake things up and offer some interesting changes. For example, the Cloud City mat has you building your civilization up in the clouds, which are abstractly shaped for a fun spatial puzzle.

As far as the additional Civilizations, I really like the Urban Planners. Essentially, they allow you to stockpile your landmarks and place them later. This is such a powerful ability, because there are a lot of times when I’ll place a landmark and then realize later in the game that it would have been in a better place somewhere else. Or that a different landmark would fit in its place better. The downside is that you’re forgoing the extra resources that you might earn when completing districts in order to be more optimal. It’s a fun trade-off.

We also get the most up-to-date Civilization Adjustments on the back page of the rulebook. In a game with so many asymmetric civilizations, it’s difficult to keep everything balanced. This is Stonemaier Games’ attempt at keeping things fair at the beginning of the game, and the adjustments that I’ve played with have been well-received.

AA Dice Mask Logo Icon Aesthetics

There isn’t much to say on the topic of aesthetics for Tapestry: Arts & Architecture; it all perfectly aligns with the base game and the Plans & Ploys expansion. You can mix, match, add, and remove whatever you want when playing the game without anything seeming out of place. The sock and buskin mask icon for the Arts track is immediately recognizable as the symbol for artistic endeavors.

I quite like the design of the Masterpiece cards, and the fact that they have a smaller footprint than a standard card size. It allows you to stack them on top of each other, descending, while still seeing all of the relevant icons for the purposes of the income phase. The only downside to this is that you’ll be covering up the wonderful artwork, but you can always place them off your player mat if needed.

AA Dice Mask Logo Icon Interest

If you’re already a fan of Tapestry, I’d argue to pick up this expansion before you get the Plans & Ploys expansion. Both are incredibly worthwhile, but you actually get some of the mechanics from the both in Arts & Architecture. I just think that the fifth track is a dynamic addition to the gameplay, that drastically changes the strategy. The main mechanical addition of Plans & Ploys is the Landmark card, of which you get five in A&A.

It also feels like Tapestry: Arts & Architecture is stretching the boundaries of the game while Plays & Ploys feels like it’s sticking to the mold. The advanced capital city mats add a new layer of gameplay for those that want it, and having Tapestry cards that can have buildings placed on them is exploring another design space.

In a nutshell: Plays & Ploys gets you more of the same and feels like it almost should have been a part of the base game. Tapestry: Arts & Architecture, in contrast, feels worthy of its own box because it impacts every single turn. I did see that my games with the expansion tended to last a little bit longer, since you have more resources to work with before you need to pass and take income. So if you’re not interested in a longer game, then this expansion might not be for you.

Overall, Tapestry: Arts & Architecture is an expansion that I’ll be including in most games of Tapestry going forwards. It might be a little too much when introducing the game to new players, but for seasoned players who want to evolve the game, this will make Tapestry feel like a brand new experience.

AA Dice Mask Logo Icon Mood

I think the definitive feeling when playing with Tapestry: Arts & Architecture is this feeling that you can use the Arts track as a crutch or a propellant. What do I mean by that? Well, the Arts track can be a fallback when you want to shift gears. Maybe someone jumped you on another track and started snagging all of the Landmarks. Or maybe you see that the Arts track is wide open. Without a true resource type requirement, the Arts track lets you spend those leftover resources for some really great return.

The Masterpiece cards also make you feel like you’re making out like a bandit. It adds ammunition to the pile and fuel to the fire for you to accomplish your plans. Where the base game of Tapestry might have felt like you’re always running out of resources right as you’re on the precipice of greatness, the Arts track can take you over the edge.

Tapestry: Arts & Architecture also removes some of the frenzy and tension that you get with the base game. With more options to be had, it just means that more options are open early. You never feel ‘locked in’ to a particular strategy anymore. And an early rush on the Arts track doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s all you’re going to see; there ain’t enough room on that track for the both of us, partner.

Furthermore, the expansion has a decent impact on the world-map portion of the game. The Arts track doesn’t really do anything to add to the world-map board-state, and therefore you can have games where the map feels under-developed. It’s probably more fodder for the people screaming that Tapestry “isn’t a true civilization game”, which is ridiculous in and of itself.

At the end of the day, I like having more options, and Tapestry: Arts & Architecture gives me that…option.

Tapestry: Arts & Architecture board game tapestry cards
Check out the new Tapestry Cards!

Tapestry Arts & Architecture: Become a Patron of the Arts!

My favorite part of the expansions for Tapestry is that it makes every game feel more unique than the last. There are now so many tech cards, tapestry cards, and civilizations that you can experience wildly different strategies from game to game. You’re still working with what you’re given, but with Tapestry: Arts & Architecture you’re just given more.

It is only fitting that I bestow the Tapestry: Arts & Architecture expansion with the Nerds on Earth Seal of Awesomeness. Where the Plans & Ploys expansion enhances the base game, Arts & Architecture expands it. People love getting more resources to stockpile, and then figuring out a winning strategy out of a bunch of options, and you certainly get that in this game. Plus, the Automa continues to be a worthwhile challenge that keeps me coming back for more!

You can pick up a copy of Tapestry: Arts & Architecture through Stonemaier Games directly as of December 1, or look for it on the shelves of your Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS)!

Disclaimer: Nerds on Earth was provided a copy of Tapestry: Arts & Architecture from Stonemaier Games in exchange for an honest review.

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