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Cody K. Carlson
Players must spend their buttons to place shapes on their quilt board, but must also use them for victory points in Patchwork, from Mayfair Games.

In Murano, a board game from Mayfair Games, two to four players attempt to become the greatest merchants in Venice. The board depicts a series of islands in the city, each with empty spaces for future construction, and is ringed by canals, separated by spaces, that each feature a unique action. A number of gondolas are then placed in the canal spaces around the board.

On a player's turn, he may move a gondola counterclockwise around the board as far as he wants until it runs into another gondola. In this way, players select the action of the space they land in. Players also have the option of paying gold to move gondolas that are in the way. This can be an expensive tactic, but sometimes a necessary one.

The actions that players can select from include things like taking shops, palaces, special buildings and glass factories from their respective tile stacks; building up to three buildings and roads on the islands (buildings must be connected to road tiles); gaining gold; selling goods from shops; selling glass from factories; and more.

Two very important actions deal with placing gondoliers on islands around the board and buying character cards. At the end of the game, players score victory points by assigning character cards to placed gondoliers that meet certain conditions on their island. Once two tile stacks have been depleted, the end game is triggered and players finish the round. Whoever has the most victory points wins.

Murano is a Eurogame that looks a bit intimidating at first, but is actually very easy to learn and to play. Players must carefully maneuver their gondolas to the action spaces they need, and must wisely construct buildings on the islands. The key to victory here is the use of character cards and gondoliers, but players will have a field day creating a strategy to make their actions pay off.

A fun and engaging game, Murano will undoubtedly be a big hit with families, as well as with players who love Eurogames but don't care for the overly complicated mechanics that accompany so many of them.

Murano is recommended for ages 10 and up and plays in about 60 to 90 minutes.

Patchwork

Also from Mayfair Games, Patchwork is a light two-player game in which players attempt to construct the best quilt. Players each take their own quilt board, a board with 9-by-9 squares. A time tracker board is placed in the center of the table, and around it, placed in a circle, are various shapes that will be used to build the quilts. A marker is also placed in the ring. Each player is also given a number of starting buttons.

On a player's turn, he or she may choose one of the quilt shapes from the ring, but only up to three shapes in front of the marker. Then, the player must pay the cost in buttons and time that is indicated on the shape. Returning the buttons to the button pool, the player must then move his or her time marker forward along the time track.

Players may land on spaces that let them take a number of buttons from the pool equal to the number of big buttons appearing on the quilt, and special square markers that allow players to take small one-square quilt shapes in order to plug holes in their quilt. Play does not alternate back and forth. Instead, the player farthest back always gets to take an action.

If a player does not have the necessary space on the quilt board or buttons to pay for shapes, he or she may pass and move up a number of spaces to just in front of the leader and take a number of buttons equal to the spaces moved. The first player to construct a 7-by-7 quilt gets a bonus marker worth seven buttons.

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Once both players reach the center of the time track, the game is over. Players count up their buttons, subtracting two for every empty space on their quilt, and whoever has the most is the winner.

Patchwork is a surprisingly fun and creative little game that requires players to make the best decisions they can with limited resources. Fitting the shapes onto the quilt boards is very reminiscent of the video game "Tetris" and can lead to some frustrating, and fun, situations. Families and fans of light two-player games will really get a kick out of Patchwork.

Patchwork is recommended for ages 8 and up and plays in 15 to 20 minutes.

Cody K. Carlson holds a master's in history from the University of Utah and teaches at Salt Lake Community College. An avid player of board games, he blogs at thediscriminatinggamer.com. Email: ckcarlson76@gmail.com