Calico

How can such a cute and simple game hurt your brain so much!?

*Jinx is not included

1-4 Players
30-45
AEG/ Flatout Games

Calico combines two of our favourite things in life- board games and cats! You’re trying to produce the best quilt in order to attract cats to sleep on it, and whilst that sounds adorable – and it is – do not be deceived, there is a hidden depth to this game that will have you scratching your head!

At its heart Calico is a simple tile-laying game, on your turn you pick one of your two tiles to place somewhere on your beautiful patchwork quilt, then you pick up a new tile to add to your hand. You score points in three ways; by surrounding objective tiles dotted around your quilt, from joining tiles of the same pattern (this attracts point-scoring cats!), and from joining tiles of the same colour!

There are A LOT of tiles in the bag, with six colours and six patterns in total, but with only three tiles on display at one time, your choices will be limited when drawing a new tile to your hand.

The production quality on the tiles is great!

How the game works

The main point scoring method is the set of three objectives that are dotted around your board. Each one scores you points depending on the six tiles surrounding it. The objectives will change each time you play, and range from pretty tricky to pretty impossible. One example is AAA-BBB which means you’ll score you 7 points if you manage to get three of one colour and three of another colour surrounding it (e.g. 3 light blue and 3 green), 7 points if you manage to get three of one pattern and three of another pattern (e.g. three dotted and three striped), and 11 points if you manage to achieve both! Every objective tile will show two numbers – the lower number for achieving it just on colour or pattern, the higher number if you manage both.

The toughest (in my opinion) tile to use is the one that requires all six different colours and all six different patterns! I like the challenge of this though but it requires very specific tiles to come your way 🙂

Each game there are three cats, each of which have preferred pattern types to sleep on. If you manage to get the required number of adjacent tiles somewhere on your quilt, you get to put the matching cat on one of those tiles, scoring you points (more points for the fussier cats!). Some just require 5+ tiles of the same pattern, some require them to be in a specific shape on your quilt. These are really tricky to achieve! I struggle to focus on the objectives AND the cats at the same time as I tend to focus on the objectives, but there are some big points to be had by attracting those cute little cats!

A selection of cats. Some require specific patterns, others just a number of adjacent tiles with the same pattern

The final – and simplest way – of scoring points is by connecting three tiles of the same colour, irrespective of the patterns on them. You only get 3 points for each set of three, but if you manage a set of every colour you get a bonus rainbow tile, also worth 3 points! This has been pretty elusive so far, Jess has managed it once and I never have… 3 points doesn’t sound like a lot but these colour combos can easily be the difference between winning and losing.

The end result is hopefully a colourful blanket full of cats, colour tokens, and three fully achieved objectives, alas what is more common (with me at least!) is a mish mash of half-finished attempts, failing miserably!

It is very difficult – I’d go so far as to say almost impossible – to succeed on all three point-scoring fronts. This is why it’s such a fine balancing act trying to put the right tiles into the right spaces, giving yourself the best chance of completing your objectives, whilst keeping an eye on which cats require which patterns, and joining up as many colour combos as possible.

A finished quilt. If you’re wondering, the AAA-BB-C scores the full 11 points due to meeting the criteria for both pattern and colour, but neither of the other two objectives score anything!

Review

It’s a delightful game from start to finish, I love thinky tile-laying games where there are lots of options and strategies to go for and this is right up there with the best ones. It looks amazing on the table, despite there only being six colours and six patterns it feels like every tile is unique. The production value is very high, the player boards are nice and thick, as well as being slightly asymmetrical as they have different tiles around the edge. The finished quilts look amazing, and if you’re like me you’d probably take one look at it and think “how is this a game?!”. But its incredibly rewarding, especially if you complete the harder objectives and attract some of the higher point-scoring cats.

I like how easy it is to teach, I think you’d be able to teach this to inexperienced gamers in ten minutes or less as the concept is so simple – you put down a tile, you pick up a tile. Sure, it’ll take a game or two for players to master the strategy and plan ahead (as much as you can do!), but there’s a lot to be said for a game as deep as this also being so easy to teach.

Gwen, the toughest cat to satisfy- wants 7 or more adjacent tiles in one of the two floral patterns

Only having two tiles in your hand at any one time, and three to select from after your turn keeps things very tight as well. It limits how much you can plan ahead, but it doesn’t effect how many decisions you have to make as you can place either of those two tiles in any available space, shall I place it there and try and get three adjacent reds? Or perhaps over here where I can work towards getting 5 stripey tiles in a row to get the 7-point cat? Hmmm I could put it here so that it satisfies my AA-BB-C-D objective, then I’d only need one more purple tile…but what if I can’t get another purple tile for the rest of the game?! Decisions, decisions!

The obvious downside of this game is the amount of luck involved. It is possible that somebody snatches victory on the last turn of the game because the one specific tile they were after comes out just in the nick of time, but the good players will always try and allow for multiple tiles to be useful at any one point. You might be working on an objective, a few colour combos and pattern combos all at the same time so the number of tiles that would be useful to you will be much greater than if you are only looking for a yellow striped tile! But yeah sometimes you don’t get the luck you need and your quilt never really comes together so you’re putting the last few tiles down knowing they aren’t scoring you any points.

I’d like to see some negative scoring involved too – for example you could lose a point for every tile which isn’t being used for at least one thing, but that really would take the game to the next level 🙂

Overall we highly recommend Calico- simple, beautiful, tactile but a hidden depth of strategy to it! Jinx approves!

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