Framework – Do You Have the Right Frame of Mind?
The new Uwe Rosenberg game Framework, published by Edition Spielwiese and distributed by Pegasus Spiele, plays 1-4 players and only takes about 30 minutes, possibly as low as 20 minutes if playing solo.
So what frames are we working on, exactly?
Players will be gradually building out a growing network of square tiles which must always be placed orthogonally, never diagonally. The tiles have different color frames (square outlines), hence the name of the game.
To start, give each player a set of 22 colored tokens, then pull the first offer of tiles from the bag.
An offer consists of one more tile than the number of players. Each player chooses one tile from the offer and places it into their tile network. Then the first player will also take and place the final tile from the offer. Pass the draw bag clockwise and another round begins.
Tiles depict zero to three frames and a range of different “task field” icons (also from zero to three). Both the frames and task icons will be from among four different varieties (green vines, brown wood, red bricks, gray stone).
There are also different types of task icons reflecting styles or modes of completion: normal, combined, either/or, and sequential.
Completing Tasks / Game End
Your goal: connect task icons to matching frames, either directly adjacent to that tile, or in a chain branching off from tiles with the same color frame(s).
When the tile with a task icon is connected to enough matching frames, the task is completed. Cover the completed task icon immediately with a token.
The game ends when one player wins by placing all 22 of their tokens onto completed tasks.
At its core, Framework is a race game of efficiency. Who can arrange the best spatial utilization and connectivity of their frames and task fields?
Tiles with multiple frames of different colors create key locations for branching off or merging. You’ll definitely need to make tough decisions about when to abandon some task fields as no longer worth attempting and when to press on with investments to complete others. You sometimes have to make the best of unlucky situations.
For example, you might create several task fields near each other requiring the same color frames, hoping to fulfill them all together with a big cluster of frames of that color. But unfortunately, very few frames of that color ever come to you – then you have to find another way to get your 22 tokens down on your tiles.
Where to place the tiles with task fields but with zero frames is a very interesting conundrum. These frame-less tiles allow the possibility for easy token placement(s), but they also stop all frame expansion/connections.
A lot of the strategy in Framework resides in architectural envisioning about where you want to construct color extensions and in which directions. You’ll be thinking thoughts like, “I want brown to shoot off to the left here while leaving room for green to extend down here” or “I don’t mind blocking this here because that frameless tile’s task is already completed anyway.”
Sometimes you just need to get the quick hits where you can complete a task immediately. You’re going to always want at least one large (possibly octopus-tentacled) group of one color which can fulfill several tasks.
Sometimes it’s good to invest in a large group of one color even before you have the tasks for it. Add the tasks of that color later at various points around the same-color cluster’s perimeter.
Framework is actually a simplified reimplementation of Uwe’s 2019 game Nova Luna. Framework drops the tile-value bidding dial in favor of simply picking a tile from the offer and placing it, keeping the game moving.
Through this simplification, Framework can stay focused on what is most fun, choosing tiles and strategically building out your tile network.
Combining multiple color frames on the tiles creates interesting tile layout possibilities. And having tiles without any frames forces challenging “dead end” placement decisions. The variety of task completion modes seems to create more variety and interesting goals as well.
What else is Framework like? It reminds me a little bit of Reef, where cards do two things at once – place colored reef pieces (frames) and score reef patterns (tasks). Framework is simpler to execute and score than Reef and is more about quantitative connections instead of generating specific patterns.
Framework also reminds me a little bit of playing Take It Easy or Karuba, where you’re hoping to get the right tile to build connections.
Framework is a simple game but there is still a lot going on in your head while playing.
Sometimes you need to leave future expansion options open, while at other times you need to build up task completion possibilities, growing bigger regions of a few colors. All of this creates neat tension and variety.
Making distant connections to fulfill several similar tasks and plunk down multiple tokens in one move is very satisfying.
In theory you are doing the same thing every game, but constantly changing options mean decisions remain interesting over many plays. I really like the racing and optimization puzzle of this game.
Kids who enjoy planning and building or efficiency puzzles will probably like Framework; while it might not keep the interest of kids who need a vibrant theme or crave player interaction.
Playing Together or Simply Observing Each Other?
Players sometimes choose the tile you wanted from the offer; but this is really the only significant player interaction of the game. It’s possible someone could make a defensive choice, to take a tile they know an opponent wants. But that is rare.
The other interactive angle is more subtle: avoiding certain colors that will become scarce because your opponents are already scouting for those.
Such meager interaction means the solo mode doesn’t feel all that much different than playing with others. Even playing with a full four players only slightly increases tile choices; a tradeoff that may not be worth it for the longer playtime.
Race to Optimize
The bottom line is this: if you like a racing optimization puzzle, as I do, then any negatives mentioned above won’t really matter much to you.
And almost zero setup time is a very nice bonus.
Framework seems to have a good blend of accessibility: simple rules, a short playtime, but medium analysis. If you have this frame of mind then you can find Framework on Amazon, direct from Pegaus Spiele, or ask for it at your local game store.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Framework from Pegasus Spiele for this review.
This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
Age Range: 8+
Number of Players: 1-4 (best at 1-2)
Playtime: 20-30 minutes