Calico is an abstract strategy game for one to four players where you’re independently sewing a patchwork quilt of tiles in an attempt to form point-scoring patterns. Place tiles correctly, and you’ll be able to meet end-game objectives, sew on some bonus point buttons, and even entice some cats to come lay down on your quilt.
To start, three cats are selected and then randomly assigned two pattern tiles to let players know which patterns they prefer. Cats with a higher point value require more connected tiles on a player’s tableau of a particular pattern. Then, players select a board with a recessed area for placing tiles.
The board consists of an outer ring of colored and patterned hexes that can be used to start sets of tiles. Additionally, players select three board objective tiles that will score them bonus points if they are able to surround those tiles with the appropriate quilt tiles during the game. Players take two quilt tiles from the community bag to make up their hand. Finally, players form a community draw pile of three tiles.
Players take turns placing a tile from their hand onto their tableau, pulling a replacement tile from the community draw pile, and then pulling a tile from the community bag to bring the draw pile back up to three. If, upon tile placement, players complete a continuous section of three or more tiles of the same color, they receive a button of that color to place onto their tableau. If a player has completed all six of the color objectives, they receive a bonus rainbow button. If, upon placement, the player’s quilt satisfies a cat’s requirement for continuous pattern of certain number, they then place a cat token onto that section of their quilt.
Once all players have completed their quilt, all points from buttons and cat tokens are added up and combined with points granted by completing their board objective tiles. Most points wins.
Virtually every component in the game—from the tableaus, to the tokens, to the cats—are of extremely sturdy chipboard. The tiles fit extremely well into player tableaus, and everything just feels like a significant amount of thought and care went into the game’s crafting. Additionally, all components have been illustrated by the extremely skilled Beth Sobel (whose work includes the beautifully illustrated Wingspan). Calico’s graphic design is clear and easily understood for new players. It’s really a lovely game to have on the table.
Calico is deceptively rewarding for a game about quilts and cats. While simple enough to dive into, mid- and late-game requires a large amount of planning to ensure that remaining sections of tableaus are filled out in the most advantageous ways. The choices are not enough to cause analysis paralysis (since there are really only a handful of options to any given decision), but are enough to make players have to decide if the risk of getting just the right piece out of the bag is worth forgoing immediate and guaranteed points. Grab it if you can find a copy.
Designed by: Kevin Russ (and I’d be remiss here if I didn’t mention that TAG’s own David Iezzi was part of the design team that brought this game to life).
Player Count: 1–4
Playtime: 30–45 minutes
Time to Learn: 10 minutes
Am I happy I bought it?: Yes. We backed the Kickstarter and were delighted when it showed up. It’s been a great game to set up and play quickly (and Bebo has a great explainer video).
Written by Brendan Quinn; President of Tri-City Area Gaming. We’re playing games on Discord while COVID’s keeping us home. Come play with us!