Players: 1-4 Ages: 10+ Game Time: 30-45 mins
Who doesn't love cats? ... Ok maybe some people don't like them, they can be evil (especially if you are a mouse)! Personally, I love cats (almost as much as I like owls) and that's why when I saw a video playthrough of Calico, I had to get my paws on a copy! So much so I purchased a German copy as an English version currently seems hard to come by. I understand that a 4th printing is coming if you like the sound of the game.
Designed by Kevin Russ, illustrated by Beth Sobel, and brought to you by Flatout Games in collaboration with AEG, Calico is a tile-laying game of cats, quilts and buttons and was originally funded on Kickstarter in 2019.
Players compete to sew the cosiest cat-enticing quilts, fabricated with hexagonal tiles that each feature a combination of one of six different colours and patterns.
Points are scored firstly by adhering to the three design goal tiles you select at the start of the game, which are based on combinations of patterns and colours represented by letters. Additional, points are awarded per button sewn onto your quilt and each cat you have enticed.
A button is added each time you create a grouping of three or more of a colour (including partial outer tiles of your individual board). You can also get a rainbow button if you cunningly manage to get at least one button of every colour.
As for luring point-scoring cats onto your cosy quilt, a bit like real life furry feline friends being fussy, the cats of Calico will only curl up onto just the right combinations of the tile patterns. These combinations are selected in the setup phase by randomly assigning two black and white patch tiles to each of the three Cat Scoring Tiles.
At the start of the game, each player draws two patch tiles from the tile bag into their hand, and three face-up tiles are revealed to represent the tile market.
On your turn you must perform steps one and two in order:
1. Place one of the tiles in your hand onto your Quilt Board into any open space.
Then, check your Quilt Board to see if you have gained a Cat Token and/or Button Token. If so, take the appropriate token(s) and place onto the relevant group of tiles that scored.
2. Select one of the three faceup Patch Tiles from the tile market and take it into your hand, and then refill the market back up to three tiles.
Once every player has fully fabricated their individual quilt, the player who gains the most points from their design goals, cats, and buttons wins.
I found it quite therapeutic and relaxing to play, whilst still feeling challenging as you fathom how to best place your tiles to score the most points. It involves some luck and some forward thinking. There is some competitiveness as you can deliberately select a tile that may or may not be good for you but you know would provide a boost to one of the other players (aka hate drafting). However, a bit like Wingspan, it can feel a bit solitaire-esque as there is not much player interaction aside from the restricted tile market, but I don't feel this takes away from its challenging nature and enjoyability.
I love that there is a solo version based on completing different scenarios (which can equally be incorporated into multi-player games), and feel that it is quite family friendly. The recommended aged 10+ feels about right, but I feel younger players could pick it up with guidance as they play their turns.
The game is absolutely beautiful, even down to the box and the components are of decent quality. Although, I was a little disappointed that the canvas bag in our version is plain rather than the purple Calico branded version in other printings.
At least in our Ravensburger version, other than the industry standard cello box wrapping and bags to place the components in, it is relatively plastic-free.
I am a little confused, however, why they didn't select a Calico cat to match the namesake.
I love the artwork, the cats especially, and its colourful design. The little ginger kitty on the front of the box and rulebook is so adorable even if it is not a Calico (I'm told it is not a Flerken, so don't worry!) and I love the touch of the quilt design on the inside of the bottom section of the box.
Overall, I feel that Calico is a purrfectly beautiful and brilliant game, and I am delighted to finally have a copy after missing out on the Kickstarter back in 2019. It is family friendly with approachable yet challenging gameplay, and is a great mid-length game if you don't have time for a long gaming session. A solid 6 out of 6.
The resident Word-Nerd