I don’t colour enough. I know this is a bit of a bold claim, but it’s something I genuinely believe. Colouring is calming, reduces stress and improves your fine motor skills. Some people will sit for hours on end, keeping inside the lines, carefully adding texture, detail and other sorts of visual witchcraft to make an image look stunning. When I do it, it looks like an animal that’s high on sugar has vomited a Crayola on a page. Descriptive I know! Apparently practice makes perfect, but I didn’t used to be that bothered by colouring… until I played Patchwork Doodle by Lookout Games. Now I’m not saying this tasty little roll and write fixed me up some magic pencils, but it did make me put a bit more effort into making something look less toddleresque.
To kick off, everyone gets a unique patch of 7 squares which they draw onto their own 9×9 square grid. Then the game is played over three rounds; a dice is rolled to dictate which patch everyone will draw next onto their sheet and this repeats until there are only two patches left available. Then players score; you find the largest rectangle you’ve coloured with no gaps and score for the largest square in that rectangle plus one for every row/column not inside the square. In example: in a 6×4 rectangle, you’d score 16 for the 4×4 square plus 2 for the rows not in the square, so 18 in total. Once the first round is scored, you move onto round two and repeat, then round three. The only difference in round three is that for the final patch you can choose any of the final three available. Finally, you count up your totals and produce a final score, minus all blanks on your sheet.
Like in most roll and writes, there are certain abilities players can utilise to best help them score and win. Unlike others though, Patchwork Doodle doesn’t require you to earn them, you can just use each one once as you need to. You can slice a patch and use one half, choose a patch to the left or right of the currently chosen one, add a single square patch, or use any ability a second time. These are tremendously handy in a pinch, particularly when looking for the biggest rectangle and needing a specific shape to plug a gap.
It’s a therapeutic game. There’s no denying how easy going and relaxed a game this is. I’ve played other roll and writes and I can’t deny there’s more of a relaxed feel to them over other games, but this game is truly chilled. It doesn’t require you to be around a table and is very mobile so long as you have coloured pencils and somewhere to place the cards, and even then it doesn’t require masses of space. I’d even argue it is compact enough to be an ideal travel game!
We found the game incredibly easy to pick up and play and found it very accessible to non gamers. This is probably because it has more of a puzzle feel for those less experienced; the challenge is making best use of the space available over solving a problem you’re posed with. What’s more is that the scoring doesn’t need to be understood straight away; usually you need to know everything before getting into the game, but we found it more beneficial to learn to score after a round as we then had working examples to use. Interestingly, there’s no limit of players so long as you have sheets, meaning it’s accessible to a large group. Plus all of the sheets are double sided meaning the massive notepad of playing sheets lasts twice as long.
Normally with roll and writes there are complicated or longwinded ways of unlocking abilities to aid you. Because Patchwork Doodle gives them to you to use as you need, it seems a lot more simple to understand, allowing variation between player’s use of them. Speaking of planning ahead! The unique scoring relies on you creating a large enough rectangle to score from within, meaning you have some direction from the outset and aren’t going to be aimlessly slapping patches onto your sheet!
In terms of play time, it lasts until it’s done. If you’re like me and you colour like you’re late for a meeting the game could be over in minutes. However, that’s not the way you’re supposed to play! It lasts as long as you put effort in, and you can put in as much effort as your opponents have time for. Two of us haphazardly coloured and ended up with a sheet that would make a 4 year old wince. The other two took care and attention and produced some very attractive quilts! Regardless of scores, those who took their time definitely made better use of the game.
When the game’s all done and you’ve all put your needles away, there’s a moment of appreciation for what you’ve all created. The sheets look beautiful when finished! One of our group said the real winner was the one who had the most beautiful patterns and most perfect colouring, and in some ways I can’t argue as the sheets do look gorgeous when done… But I did argue because I’m shocking at colouring.
The game is as beautiful as you make it, you can be like me and scribble quickly or a little more delicate and make patterns and add detail. Patchwork Doodle is a quick, calm and relaxing game that would appeal to both experienced and new gamers, with a simple, easy to learn concept and rules. It’s perfect for on the go, hosting for company or just to unwind. It’s the best way to relax and chill out whilst still fixing the boardgame craving!