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Calico

Calico is a 1-4 player tile-laying game that asks players to solve spatial puzzles to craft quilts fit for feline inhabitants.

Gameplay

Calico begins with players each selecting a board and two starting tiles from the bag. Players will also take their six objective tiles, shuffle them upside down, and then pick 4 of them while discarding the rest. Players will then turn the tiles over and choose 3 to place as they wish on the designated areas on their individual boards. Players will then take their turns, choosing one of the tiles in their hand to play on their boards, and then choosing one of the 3 tiles from the marketplace (formed from the tiles in the bag) to take into their hand. The player will refill the market from one of the tiles drawn from the bag and then the next player will do the same.

Each tile a player has contains two traits: color and pattern. These colors and patterns will help fulfill multiple objectives. First and foremost are those picked by each player at the start of the game and placed on their boards. These tile objectives are fulfilled during the course of the game by meeting the outlined goals. A tile will indicate two different point values: a lower total for completing the goal with either colors or patterns, and a higher total for completing it with color and pattern. For example, a tile may read AAAA-BB meaning to complete that goal, players must surround that objective tile with 4 tiles of the same color or pattern, as well as 2 tiles of a different matching color or pattern. If you can meet this goal with both color and pattern, you’ll receive the high total at the game’s end.

Another set of objectives is also determined at the beginning of the game by three cats, each represented by unique cat tokens. These objectives are pattern-based and vary each game. Meeting the criteria of each cat tile with 1 of the 2 associated patterns (for example, four tiles of the same pattern in a straight line) will gain players a cat token to place on one of the corresponding tiles for points at the end of the game. 

As players build their quilts, they can also gain bonus button tokens by having three tiles of the same color together in a cluster. If players gain the corresponding button token of each color, they will earn a bonus button in the form of a rainbow token. Each token is worth 3 points at game’s end.

Play ends when every player has filled in the 22 open slots on their player board. Players will count up points earned from button and cat tokens as well as completed goals from the objective tiles on their player boards. The player with the highest point total is declared the Master Quilter!

Calico components

Review

Calico’s spatial puzzle offers a lot of variety and surprise in such a simple rule set. Meeting the various objectives and their placements on the board from game to game provides different gaming experiences each time. Coupled with the rule book, which offers up scenarios to escalate the experience for seasoned players and ways to track progress, Calico’s unique form of educational and statistical gamification pairs nicely with gamers who will be drawn to the game’s tile-laying puzzle. 

The game’s theme, while largely a veneer, does work well into its patchwork. The idea of creating quilts with patches that certain cats prefer, sectors of colors punctuated by equally colorful buttons, and the general feeling of being a quilter while making crazy patterns is a treat. While the theme may seem disclusive due to its reliance on colors, Calico’s quilt tiles also have symbols corresponding with the button tokens awarded for those groups. This small move makes the game accessible but also serves as a reminder to which buttons go with which color. 

Calico does suffer from two small negatives: luck of the draw and its solitary game play. There is not much mitigation of the luck of the draw when it comes to drawing from the marketplace, but that’s also part of Calico’s puzzle, which we appreciate. However, this will be a turn-off to those players who dislike luck of any kind in any game. Second, Calico lacks meaty player interaction. Someone may end up taking a tile from the marketplace that was needed by others to complete an objective or to gain a cat or button token, but crucial to Calico’s puzzle is having the ability to pivot and still meeting objectives in different manners. And for its solitary nature, Calico offers a rewarding solo experience as if it knows its purr-fect for introverts.

All in all, Calico is a delightful puzzle game that brings a lot of depth on its own, and only adds to it by providing a rule book that offers further challenges for hardcore gamers. Likewise, objective tiles can be turned over and ignored for more family-friendly and beginning gamers and yet still provide some challenges for veteran players to seek. 

Pros: Variety in game play, cute and unique theme, scenarios to keep players coming back

Cons: Luck of the draw with quilt tiles, little player interaction