WBG Score: 9/10
Player Count: 1-5
Published by: Stonemaier Games
Designed by: Jamey Stegmaier
If you would like to read the review for the main game, then head here.
If you would like to read the review for the first expansion Plans & Ploys, then head here.
If you would like to read the review for this second expansion, Arts & Architecture, then read on!
I enjoy Tapestry a lot. The game is so smooth, looks incredible, and is incredibly easy to teach and play, despite its complex looking set up. I think it is a great Gateway game for this reason. I enjoyed the first expansion a lot, but this second one has really excited me as it promised a new fifth track. That's 20% more fun guarantied!
On my first few plays with this expansion I was instantly smitten by it, but also, unsure how best to progress on five tracks compared to four. You don't get any more turns, but I had so much more I needed to try and achieve. After a few plays, I calmed down in my attempts to reach the end of all five tracks, which as far as I can tell, simply can't be done, and just focused on the game, which I will go into now.
Arts & Architecture brings in four new elements to the game. The fifth Arts Track, six advanced Capital City mats, 20 Masterpiece cards, and the new inspiration tiles. Plus there are more landmark, tech, tapestry and civilization cards and eight beautifully painted miniatures. Let's take a look at all the new components added first.
This is by far the headline change to the game with this new expansion. It is always nice to get more "stuff," but I also want something new. Something that changes and enhances the game. A fifth track certainly does that. The track offers a new focus, a juggling act. Trying to advance on four tracks was always a challenge, now with an extra one thrown in, you really need to focus on what is right for your strategy each game. But this new Arts track doesn't just bring a new place to try and advance, it also has new benefits. Masterpiece cards and Inspiration tiles can be gained from this new track which I will cover more below, and there is a new symbol showing each colour of the four buildings. Players can now gain new buildings, but chose which one to take.
I have found that the Arts track compliments the other tracks very well. Particularly the Science track which I always favour. I like how the Science track allows you to move up other tracks, and now with five tracks to move up, this seems even more crucial.
Advanced Capital City Mats
The new capital city mats offer more than just variety in terms of the layout. New rules around gaining benefits and placements are introduced as well. I like the Cavern which has interesting placement rules, and extra points for each completed row. I enjoyed the flexibility of Cloud City which lets you move your buildings after placing them, something I often longed to do in previous games! My new favorite though is the Swamp. It has giant lily pads that do count as a completed area, but they can be built over when required offering flexibility with larger landmark buildings. They will lose you pints if still visible at the final income turn, but help you complete more rows and columns in the earlier rounds.
The Art tracks brings in new Masterpiece cards. These cards can be placed anywhere in your player area, but the game suggests you use the space on your player board where the Maker of Fire image is. This is so you don’t forget to use them each income round. The cards offer new ways to gain resources and various different benefits that are triggered each income round, and at certain stages on the Arts track. The final space on the arts track allows you to trigger three different cards if you have that many by then. I found this to be a very useful way to gain more resources, have more turns, and build stronger scores.
The Arts track also introduces the Inspiration tiles. When gained, these can be placed onto your payer board in the spaces where you store your buildings before you acquire then. They offer upgrades to your income phase, with additional points and resources now available for every exposed space. As such, it makes sense to get these early in the game so you can utilise them for more income rounds, and then focus on acquiring the buildings on that track. It adds a focus to your game, and works well when combined with the other new flexible ways to acquire buildings.
Other new elements.
This expansion also brings in new landmark, technology, and tapestry cards. They are mainly more of the same, but some do require landmark buildings to be placed on them for additional benefits. The new technology cards need a landmark building placed on them in order for it to qualify for the final upgrade spot. Whilst the tapestry cards offer additional benefits when the spaces on it are covered by buildings or landmarks. It's interesting to have the choice of where to place your buildings now, and with the landmark cards, it is nice to be able to get more landmark buildings in order to satisfy the different options. The landmark cards were first introduced in Plans & Ploys and allow players to get landmarks pieces irrespective of who reaches certain spots on the tracks first. I like this, as 'first' in Tapestry shouldn’t always mean 'best'.
The new Civilization cards.
The new Civilization cards offer more variety for people who have played the base game, and Plans & Ploys a lot, and are dealt out with one of the original Civilization cards for players to choose from. You can always have the choice to use one of these new Civilization cards if you wish.
I like the new Gamblers card a lot. It offers a nice chance to use more tapestry cards, in a completely chance encounter. I lot of Tapestry avoids luck, and rightly so. There is some elements with the cards and dice of course, but this game seems to be more about strategy than random factors. That is a good thing, but I like the choice to add some pure luck with this card.
I enjoyed using the Urban Planners card too, although on one occasion, I realised the error of my ways when I foolishly combined it with the new Archipelago Capital City mat, which is a series of small islands, only large enough for one landmark building each. The Urban Planers rewards you for Landmarks that touch each other in your capital city. The Archipelago makes this impossible! This is nothing against the game, just my own lack of focus!
Relentless is my new favorite Civilization though. It adds a real focus to gain a new Landmark building each turn, and offers big rewards for doing so. In a game where you can deploy multiple different strategies, I do like my Civilization card to add some clarity to where my attention should be focused, and reward me in turn for doing so if I do well with it.
The new miniatures are wonderful. They are probably some of my favorite buildings in the game, apart from the Shuttle of course. Like the previous games, they are not really necessary, and don't add anything to the game mechanically, but thematically and visually, they are stunning. This expansion is fairly priced though, and offers a lot more than just these painted miniatures, so I don't think any criticism can be placed on their inclusion or the affect they had on the price in the way the base game suffers from.
Set-up and Game length.
I will play Tapestry without this expansion on occasions. Particularly when I'm teaching the game to new players. But when I am playing with people familiar with the game, it will always be my choice to add this to the game, and my preference over Plans & Ploys. I have played with both expansions and it worked fine. The landmark cards were the main change in Plans & Ploys, and they are present in Arts & Architecture anyway. There is no real additional time or complexity added to the game when including this expansion or indeed both, and only a few more minutes added to set-up and rules, detailing the new track and what it brings with the Inspiration and Masterpiece cards. The extra track does add a little more thinking time initially as players become familiar with it, but it also opens up more spaces to go to which reduces competition for getting to the landmark spaces first. Well, just a little!
Overall, I think this is by far the better of the two expansions, and elevates the game into new heights. Tapestry is a polarizing game due to its price, the popularity of the publisher, and the civilization theme not satisfying everyone. If you don't like the base game this will not change your mind. But if you are a fan of the base game, I would heartily recommend this expansion, both for added variety and longevity to the game, as well as creating a new experience to have with Tapestry.
I would still like to see more done withe the theme and story of this game. It would be nice to make the names of each space mean something. I never feel like I am inventing, discovering or exploring anything. It feels to me that an expansion could ingrain the theme into this game a little more. Perhaps cards that rewarded you for doing certain things shown on the track spaces. For example, a reward for building Ships, found on the Exploration track, could be to actually gain Ship tokens to add to the board which would then allow you to reach a new island to explore for new bonuses.
What Arts & Architecture does bring is new options, more choices, increased strategy, and a better overall game experience. Tapestry is my third favorite Stonemaier game behind Scythe and Viticulture, but it is quickly closing in on Scythe for second spot and with this expansion added, is getting very close indeed.