Tapestry Strategy – The Three Laws of Tapestry
Released at the end of 2019, Tapestry kind of took the gaming world by storm. Designed by Jamey Stegmaier, the mind behind games such as Scythe and Viticulture, Tapestry is a civ builder in which you control a civilisation from the dawn of time, through four different eras, and hopefully to victory. It is a strategy game, with a decent weighing on luck, proving to be a popular mix of the two and an enjoyable game.
Tapestry, as a game, was built with asymmetry in mind. From the very first round players receive a semi-random civilisation, one of six capital city mats, and (by the end of their first income phase) a random Tapestry card. What this makes for is a game that plays different each and every time it hits the table.
That being said, no matter what civilisation you are, and no matter what Tapestry cards you get, there are a few general principles that are universal to playing Tapestry in order to maximise your points at the end of the game. Over the course of the next few weeks we will be looking at various different Tapestry strategies and how they can fit into the game more wholly; however, for today we are going to look at some of the universal concepts to keep in mind when playing the game.
For this article we aren’t going to stray too far into the world of Tapestry and what each individual track can do. Instead, we’re going to look at three basic concepts that can help elevate your game to the next level.
Tapestry Strategy: The Three “Laws” of Tapestry
Yes, dear reader, just like with Newton and the three Laws of Motion, we’re going to create our own three “laws” of Tapestry. Of course, unlike with Newton, where his laws are a verifiable fact of nature, our “laws” of Tapestry are more just suggestions and things to remember no matter what Tapestry strategy you choose to employ.
Tapestry “Law” #1: For every benefit there is an equally beneficial, complementing benefit.
Wow, that was a wordy way of saying “two tracks are better than one”. At time of writing, we’ve played Tapestry a fair few times. Each time we’ve played differently, as the asymmetry of the game dictates; however, in all cases there has been a benefit to specialising in more than one track around the board. Whether you want to play a game with Exploration, Science, Technology, or Military, there are tracks that naturally help each other out.
What this means is that Tapestry is not a game where you can simply specialise in one track and one thing, expecting to win. Now, don’t get me wrong. Specialising in one thing can get you a lot of points, especially if you specialise in Technology, max out, and use the AI Singularity at the end of the Technology track to start the Technology track all over again. That being said, you stand a far better chance of victory if you specialise in more than one track within the game.
There are a few synergies that naturally present themselves as options, and this is where the larger strategy articles will come in later on down the line when writing about specific Tapestry strategies. Those synergies include:
- Military and Exploration
- Science and Technology
- Military and Technology
Always explore more than one track. Not only does it diversify you portfolio of point generation, but it also gives the opportunity for bonuses to bounce off one another. This can reward even more points in the long run.
Tapestry “Law” #2: The Law of Probability can work in your favour (and if you don’t like the randomness, mitigate it).
Dice. There are three dice in the game, used on two of the different tracks. The first are the two Military dice, one black and one red. Whenever you place an Outpost in the game, you get to roll the dice and get the benefits of one of them. That is unless the Outpost is placed with the Tanks or Mechs bonuses, in which case you get both the benefits. Both the Military dice are D6.
The second dice is the Science, a D12, that has the symbol for each of the tracks on it 3x over. This means there are 3x Science symbols, 3x Military symbols, 3x Exploration symbols, and 3x Technology symbols.
The Military dice are great, all throughout the game, especially since you get to choose your benefit. Most of the times, Victory Points can seem pretty tasty. They are straight up points, and when you roll that little wreath with a 7 in it, you have to take the victory points. They are straight up gold.
That is unless there is one of two conditions present on the board.
- You need a single resource of a specific type. If you want to progress to the second Age of any track, you need to have specific resources. Trading in a resource to build an outpost (during Age 1 of the Military Track) may just be worth it to try to get the resource to push you further up another track.
- Secondly, if you are placing on a territory tile with something you need, you may want to use the dice result that allows you to use the benefit of the tile. This is especially helpful when the tile contains a building, tapestry card, or technology card.
The Science dice is a little bit different. Later on, the Science dice is seriously awesome. When it gets to Chemistry and Biology in Age 2, it is a great way of progressing on other tracks whilst gaining all the benefits. Later on down the Science track you get to choose how you want to progress with Physics, Neuroscience (or regress in that case), and Quantum Physics. That being said, before you do that you have to survive Astronomy and Herbalism.
Now, my advice would actually be to build the hut on Herbalism, rather than roll the dice, but the first one (Astronomy) is best used on one of two conditions. The first is where you don’t mind progressing on any track. The very start of the game is one such time. It’s not ideal if you land on Technology or Military as you will miss out on the Benefit of each (a Technology card or a Military outpost) but it matters less with Exploration since you start the game with a territory tile.
Secondly, it’s a great way to jump spaces when you don’t have the resources. This is especially the case in the mid to late ages of each track.
Finally, there are other random aspects in the game, like with the Tapestry cards. The simple solution to this is to try to gain as many as possible. If you aren’t happy with the first Tapestry card you get dealt, then maybe look at progressing to the second step of each of the Science, Technology, or Military tracks. That will give you a lot more to play with.
Tapestry “Law” #3: Unlocking the income mat is essential, especially when score multipliers are an option.
I don’t need to tell you that the income mat is one of the core parts to Tapestry as it is how you get your resources each and every era. To start the game you only get one of each type of resource – coins, workers, food, and culture. Whenever you build a building (whether that is a house, a market, a farm or an armoury) you unlock more resources; however, you also unlock score multipliers. Both are incredibly valuable.
This is definitely an analysis article for later on down the line, but points you get through the income mat are added on each round. What this means is that there are certain spaces worth pushing for at the start of the game to make the most out of your board.
The first space worth looking at and pushing for is Banking. Banking means that each Technology card is worth two points, and since Technology cards are easy to get they can be a relatively strong source of points throughout the whole game. To make the most of Baking you also want to look for territory tiles that provide technology cards as well. Finally, the technology of Eyeglasses helps by giving you even more technology cards as well.
Naturally enough, later on, you would also want E-commerce to turn every Technology card into 3 points.
The other space worth pushing for, especially if you want to play a building game, is Writing followed by Email. For those you gain points based on every row or column you have filled in on your capital mat. If you want to do this, look at maximising the number of special buildings you get, and look out for the Stock Market, Treasury, Barn, Bakery, Com Tower, and Library Technology cards, as well as Paper. Paper will give you more points and allow you to build an additional house.
Points multipliers are valuable since you score points every income phase, so make sure you build buildings to open up resources and multipliers. They’re good for any Tapestry strategy you want to employ.
Keeping Tapestry Strategy in Mind
No matter what game you want to play, no matter how you want to specialise, these are core concepts to keep in mind. Tapestry allows for you to, as a player, choose how you want to progress and build your own little world. For that purpose there are so many different routes to victory, and that is one of the core strengths Tapestry has as a game.
That being said, I think this is a huge bonus to all Stonemaier Games games. They are simple to get to grips with, but they are complex machines underneath the surface. Tapestry is no exception, being a simple game to play, with complex strategies at its heart. An all round great game.
I hope that you have found this article useful. As mentioned before, we’ll be covering more specific strategies in future, but for now I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this one.
Have you played Tapestry? If so, what do you think? What are your favourite strategy hints and tops for the game? Let me know in the comments below.
Nice intro post on the game. Very good set of principles. I agree with all of them. I have a fourth thought for you, however there’s a few comments to make.
First Law – It’s also true that being prepared to take an action on _any_ track when it benefits you can enhance your game. That’s not to take away from what you’ve said at all. I agree with the overall synergizing nature of the game and the correlations you’ve identified. Exploration can also work as a source with Science, supplying resources to help you keep gaining the bonuses on that track.
Second Law – That low low no benefit no bonus die on Science is also great if you’re in an early income turn, you’ve moved on a couple tracks, and there’s a chance to take a landmark with a good roll, or put yourself in a good position on a track for something you really want on your next Action Turn and you want to jump closer to it.
Third Law – Income buildings are income buildings are more resources to do more things and oh whoops victory points later. In early Income Turns you have very low resources. Unless you’re working on a big combo of cards and abilities and track position, I really recommend getting income buildings out as early as possible.
So the Fourth Law? My thoughts? Plan For The End Of the Track By Midgame. You’ll know by then what one you’re likely to go up on. Be prepared to pivot anyway, just in case of an opening. That said, you’re going to want to try to hit the end if there’s no opening. And resources are killer. Those last three spaces require 2 each of the same resource. Have you noticed that when you clear a row of income buildings from your player mat onto your Capitol city that there’s only 4 resources of any one type gained? That’s a genius little piece of the design. You need to have a way to get that last bit of resources to finish the track before you’re final turn. So if you’re able to get to one of the last spaces in your third Action Turn, that’s good. You’re saving a lot of effort. If you don’t have at least one space on that track after the fourth Income Turn? You’re not going to complete it to reap those juicy rewards. Interestingly, the one track where you *might* hit it with a lucky combo even though you don’t have resources is Exploration. You might get a Science die roll that’s lucky or resources from a Space Tile. But that’s a low probability. The last Conquer space, is the last space on its track, so don’t count on Military dice luck either if you’re pushing on that track.
LikeLiked by 1 person
This comment is beyond awesome. You raise a lot of very good points, and I also really like your fourth law. Do I sense that exploration is your favourite strategy?
If it’s applicable! (Exploration is a favorite theme, genre and even pastime In games and in life so I am biased.) That said I’m not convinced that favoring any one strategy in this game is a good idea. I’ve managed to push to the end on Exploration and thought “Wow, that’s cool when do we get the space exploration game this hints at?” But still lose. And that’s because the random nature of the Space tiles may just not provide any resources to let you continue past that point effectively. I actually think the “strongest” tracks absent specific combos are either Military or Technology because they reward you for the action you take a lot. Science is decent but it can be random in a non-helpful way.
LikeLiked by 1 person
My wife and I have just a few plays of Tapestry (2 of just the base game and 2 with the expansion). I haven’t got a good feel for an overall strategy for Tapestry yet, hence my using Google for strategy hints and finding your goldmine of information. This *really* helps me formulate a base plan to start out with and allows some flexibility to adapt as the game progresses.