Moving stinks. After more moves than I care to admit, I know this: I never want to have to do it again.
Anyone that’s ever had to pack up their life in preparation for settling down somewhere else knows exactly what I’m talking about. First, there’s the never-ending boxing up of belongings (do I REALLY have this many board games!?). And then comes the day of the actual move: bribing friends and family members with promises of pizza, boxes being hauled out and placed into a truck, one after the other, like a suspect in an FBI investigation. And figuring out how to fit everything into the truck without it getting destroyed in the process is a frustrating test of willful endurance.
Thus the stage is set for Stack’n Stuff, Lookout Games’s 2022 retheme of Patchwork. More precisely, it’s a reimagining of Patchwork Express, an earlier redesign of its namesake. So, how does it play? What’s changed in this retheme of a redesign? Are those changes necessary? And, if you already own Patchwork (or Express), do you need Stack’n Stuff in your life?
Glad you asked.
In Stack’n Stuff, players take turns drafting the polyomino-shaped Furniture tiles from a central display and then trying to place those tiles onto their player board. The tiles cost the player time and money: the two forms of currency in the game. Expending time moves you closer to the end of the game. Expending money costs you points because every coin is worth a victory point. Thankfully, there are ways to replenish your supply. When the dust settles, the person with the most money and most tightly packed moving truck wins.
If you’ve ever played Patchwork, then you’ve already played Stack’n Stuff. If you’ve never played Patchwork, then you can check out my review (linked above) for a more in-depth description of the gameplay.
Patchwork Express changed things up by enlarging the tiles, paring down the overall number of them, and making the player boards smaller (reduced from 9×9 to 7×7). The goal, presumably, was to create a Patchwork experience that could be enjoyed in a fraction of the time it would normally take. And it was pretty successful at accomplishing what it set out to accomplish.
In Patchwork Express, you and your competitor are in direct competition to create the highest scoring quilts. In Stack’n Stuff, you’re competing to see who can cram the most stuff into their respective moving trucks. Aside from the vastly different themes, nothing has changed. Stack’n Stuff is a tile-for-tile remake of Patchwork Express.
Aside from the theme, 2021’s Patchwork: Halloween Edition is, at the time of this writing, the only Patchwork spinoff in which anything has changed. In Halloween, several tiles had a few of their values adjusted. You’ll find none of that here.
Let’s just say, I’m glad I didn’t beg Justin to grab this one for me at Essen last year. I’d had my suspicions about just how similar Stack’n Stuff and Express were, and I was having a hard time convincing myself that the purchase was justified. Not to mention, poor Justin was already pack-muling for a zillion people already!
That was the question I asked myself the first time I read about Stack’n Stuff. Why is this even a thing? Was the world really clamoring for a Patchwork Express retheme?
In preparation for this review, I put the question forward to the Uwe Rosenberg fan group on Facebook. 94% of the respondents said that they liked Patchwork’s theme better than Stack’n Stuff’s. Out of the group’s almost 4,000 members, only 19 took the time to reply (and only one of those was in favor of Stack’n Stuff), so take that response for what it’s worth.
Even though the sample set was very small, I must admit that I was surprised by the results, and not just because there were so few responses. I’d expected there to be a more even split. Personally, I find Stack’n Stuff’s theme the more approachable of the two. I’ve never crafted a patchwork quilt, but I’ve definitely played furniture Tetris. I’d expected more people to feel the same way.
So, who is Stack’n Stuff for?
For starters, if the idea of playing a game about min-maxing the placement of household items in a moving van appeals to you more than the idea of sewing buttons and patches into a quilt, then Stack’n Stuff is the game for you. That is, unless you already own the original Patchwork (or one of its various editions).
If that’s the case, you’re not going to find anything in Stack’n Stuff that you haven’t seen before. The only reason you’d want it is if you just wanted a faster Patchwork experience or you regularly play Patchwork with a younger audience or perhaps a friend or relative who has visibility issues. Even then, the theme will most likely be the determining factor for you.
If you’re like me, though, a Rosenberg fanatic, the answer is clear. You definitely need this in your collection. But Stack’n Stuff doesn’t top the list when I think of Rosenberg games I’d hunt down first.
That, dear reader, is a topic for another day.