Hey, all! It’s me, Eddy, the new contributor for Meeple Eksyen. I will mostly write the review segment. Nice to meet you!
Calico is a board game project developed by the Flatout Games. They initially released this project through Kickstarter to get this game exposed widely to board gamers and retailers all around the world. Anyway, do you know Point Salad? Surprise, surprise, Flatout Games took part in its development, too! This publisher also helped to develop, produce, and distribute this popular game back in 2019 thanks to cooperation with Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG). By doing so, they penetrated wider in the market. This also happens with Calico.
How to play Calico
Players will compete to sew beautiful quilts with pretty patterns and colours. While doing so, they also score as many points as possible. They must make sure that the quilts are not only lovely. Its patches must be able to attract cats and kittens because they will bring additional points for you.
Anyway, Calico is pretty straightforward to play. First of all, during each player’s turn, he/she will place one Patch tile on the Player Quilt board. Second, he/she will take a new tile out of three available Patches in the middle. Pretty easy, right?
The goal of this game is to solve the puzzles by arranging the Tiles in a way so players can score as high as possible. In Calico, players need to concentrate and take a closer look at colours and/or patches’ patterns during the Tile arrangement on their board.
There are three ways to score points in Calico:
- Design Goal Tiles: all players may score point based on their ability to arrange the Patch tiles. Thus, each player tries to fulfil the three Goal Tiles on each Player board. That means each player will try his/her best to place the required tiles adjacent to the Goal Tiles.
- Button Scoring Tile and Button Tokens: this requirement is scored based on the number of Button tokens on each Player board. Each tile group of the same colour (a minimum of 3 tiles) will be rewarded with one Button Token to place as a marker on one of these tiles.
- Cat Scoring Tiles and Cat Tokens: the points scored this way is based on the Cat Tokens’ points on each Player board. During the setup, each player will get three Cat Scoring Tiles randomly. Each of these tiles will get two Patch Tiles with black and white pattern.
Fun fact, do you know that cats are actually colour-blind? So, they only can see the Patch’s pattern. If that player can successfully ‘sew’ a group of tiles with the same patches that attracts one of the cats, the cat will be happy. Hence, it will come to that player’s board. Then, he/she places the Cat Token on one of those tiles. This marks that the cat comes and loves the quilts.
The game ends after the last player placed the 22nd tile on his/her Player Board. Thus, each player has played all of his/her 22 turns. At the end of the game, players count the total scores they collected through Goal Tiles, Cat Tokens, and Button Tokens as well. Whoever gains the most points is the winner.
What do I think about Calico?
Calico definitely has high-quality components. The tokens are thick and neatly cut. They are printed in vibrant colours, and you can feel the linen-finish texture. Moreover, we also get that supreme dual-layered Player Board. When I placed the Tiles on the board, there was this satisfaction because the Tiles were well-ordered. The colour combinations are in my favourite colour palette. Also, Calico radiates a strong table presence. All components are designed uniformly. I can assure you, you will never face any difficulty when you pitch this game to non-gamers.
The fact that this game is super simple (tile-taking and placement), it does not mean you can easily win the game. Players need to be able to adapt on the Tile’s availability (it’s a short-term, tactical game). There will be some considerations before placing Tiles on the Player board.
“Should I place this tile there to create a group of patches? But, if I put it there now, I cannot maximise the points I may gain through Goal Tile. Or, should I just wait for now? Who knows, later on, I will get the perfect Tiles to fill my Player board.”
The downtime in Calico is relatively short. There were only a few turns out of 22, which took us a while to think. We could swiftly decide how to place the tile on the board during the rest of the turns. Our group consist of deep thinkers, and the game went on for approximately 60 minutes.
I feel that the player interaction in Calico is kept minimum. All players were focusing on their own Player board, and they only took the tiles that benefited them. There were no direct ‘take that’ aspect while taking the tiles which bothered other players. However, each competitor was often taking a peek on others’ Player boards and their backup tiles. This was done to check the number of available tiles. They checked it because there are only three for each tile. For example, there are only three polka dot patches in yellow colour. Whenever we need the yellow polka dot patch, we can take a peek at the others’ Player board and their reserve tiles. If those tiles are out of the pouch and on your opponents’ Player Board, then it’s time to look for a complete change of direction.
Alternative solo-mode and scenario
Calico offers the solo variant and scenario, which also adds the replay value. Besides, it brings six Goal Tiles and five Cat Scoring Tiles (there will be six if you purchased the Kickstarter version). They are two-sided with different ways to collect points. So, each time you decide to play, you can choose whether you want to either play with or without the scenario. The Score Tiles will be randomly picked in each game. I’d say, Calico has good replay values.
Calico can be an attention-magnet for non-gamers. This may be their gateway to the board game world. People find it easy to teach, and the visual appearance on the table is eye-catching. It will be a no-brainer for cat lovers, too. However, although it’s easy to play, it still brings challenges, especially for gamers who like puzzles. Calico will exercise your brain when you try to figure out how to optimise the scores through tile-placement.
Although the game relies majorly upon luck, Calico still brings excitement to the table. Before the tile placement, we should consider the right time to place the Patches adjacent to the Goal Tiles. While doing so, we will hope that the required Tiles will once again be available and still there until our turn comes up. This one is important: You will need to set a poker face when your tile goes up in the middle to prevent other players from taking your desired Tiles. Actually, even if that Patch is taken, it shouldn’t be really bothering you. Because you can save two tiles as your reserve, in case the tiles you are longing for are not coming out of the pouch, or worse, taken captive by other players.
My only complaint about Calico is directed to the lack of tile-manipulation aspect. For example, players could have been able to reposition the placed Tiles, redraw once, or to save up to three Patches in their reserve. These things can be found in games like Sagrada (with its Tool Card and Favour Token). I hope it would appear in the expansion.
Calico is really suitable to be a filler in-between, with its simple mechanic that still grinds your brain. It’s really recommended!
Recommended Spotify playlist during Calico’s gameplay:
Cafe Music ~ Studio Ghibli Jazz & Bossa ~
Article & Pictures: Eddy S. Tandya
Editor & Translator: Stephan C. Sonny