Designer: Kevin Russ
Publisher: Flatout Games, AEG
1-4 players 30-45 minutes ages 13+
Time to teach & learn: 5-8 minutes
Your calico quilt starts as a pile of simple fabric in colorful floral patterns. Patiently you cut, fold, and sew each piece into precise shapes and designs. Your goal? Create a cozy refuge, an irresistible napping platform for every cat in the house.
Calico is a charming tile laying game filled with beautiful strategy and art.
Players compete to create the best quilt. Will you focus on an overall design? Embellish different areas with buttons? Or attract a variety of fuzzy feline friends to help you score?
Calico is a beautiful game. Beth Sobel’s illustrations do a masterful job of drawing in even the most casual player for a closer look. The adorable orange tabby cat curled up on the cover of the box sets the tone for the game. The world of Calico is a peaceful warm place on a cold night.
From the 108 colorful hexagonal patch tiles you’ll use to create your quilt, to the whimsical button tokens, and the five double sided cat scoring tiles (with matching cat tokens), Calico employs cuteness to a degree that should almost be illegal.
Each player has a thick-ridged quilt board on which you will place your patch tiles. There are three spaces marked on the quilt board for your design goals. Each player has six design tiles, so three will be chosen and “sewn” onto your board before the game begins.
Likewise, three cat scoring tiles will be selected at random for all players.
Mix up the patch tiles and place three face up on the table. Then allow each player to draw a hand of two patch tiles and we’re ready to play!
The goal in Calico is to place patch tiles in your quilt to score the highest number of points. Designs, buttons, and cats each grant points in a variety of ways.
A turn in Calico is deceptively simple. There are two parts.
Part 1: Place one patch tile into your quilt. This tile can go into any open space on the board.
Part 2: Draw a tile from the three face up patch tiles available to refill your hand.
Once your turn is complete, a new patch tile is drawn from the bag to replace the face up one you removed.
The game ends when every open space on each player’s quilt board is filled with a tile. Each scoring category will be judged and the player with the highest point total will be awarded the title Master Quilter and win the game.
Calico is a game of layered strategy – of color and pattern. There are six colors of patch tile and six different patterns
The challenge and delight in Calico comes from trying to weave different scoring combinations together with the placement of each colored and patterned tile.
In order to appreciate this aspect of the game, let’s look at the three ways to score: buttons, cats, and designs.
Buttons score by color. For each grouping of at least three like colored patch tiles, you place a button on your quilt. If you manage to place six different colored buttons on your quilt, you get a bonus rainbow button.
Cats score by pattern. Two pattern tiles are drawn to indicate each cat’s favorite type of pattern at the beginning of the game. Each cat tile also shows a specific configuration of tiles or a specific number of tiles. If you can create that configuration or the right size group of tiles in one of the cat’s favorite patterns, you get to place a cat token on your quilt. And every time you fulfill a cat’s pattern preference, you get to place a new cat on your quilt. Some cats preferences are easy to meet; others are considerably more difficult. Easy cats score less; picky cats score more.
Design tiles can score by color AND pattern. Each design tile maps out a recipe describing a specific combination of tiles needed to surround it.
For example, a design tile might want to be surrounded by three pairs of like tiles. You could fulfill this recipe by placing a pair of green tiles, a pair of blue tiles, and a pair of yellow tiles around it. You could also fulfill the recipe by placing two striped tiles and two polka dot tiles, and two floral pattern tiles around it. With some careful consideration and tile placement, you could score this design tile both ways!
Buttons, cats, and designs are independent ways for you to score but their needs will overlap and conflict from the moment you place your very first patch tile on the board.
To gain points in one area, you most often have to be willing to forgo points in others. The delicious fun and agony of Calico comes from these decisions. Want a quilt covered in cats? You’ll most likely give up making elaborate designs. Decide to focus on buttons? Cats may look elsewhere to nap.
Calico is not a game about perfection. Your final quilt won’t be perfect. It’s a game about creating something of beauty with what you have on hand. Your decisions create the beauty in the game. And this makes it truly satisfying when you are able to mesh several scoring opportunities together by placing a single tile.
Calico will entice you to grab your thimble, put on some music, and pour yourself a nice cuppa tea. This peaceful game harbors simple beauty and hidden depth. That makes Calico a wellspring of Major Fun and a worthy recipient of our Spiel of Approval.
Written by: Stephen Conway