Calico from AEG and Flat-Out Games was just named Best Casual Game of the Year by Casual Game Insider Magazine, so congrats to the publishers, designer Kevin Russ, and artist Beth Sobel. With it’s recent win, there’s no better time than now to review this lovely, easy to learn game. Calico can be played with 1-4 players. It says ages 14+ but it includes rules to make it more family friendly, bringing the age range down to ~7+. So grab a cozy drink, find a furry friend to sit near you, and let’s start making some Calico quilts!
How to Play The Family Version
In Calico, players are competing to create the coziest, prettiest quilt that will attract the most cats. You’ll earn points for cats and buttons at the end of the game. At the start of the game 3 cats will be selected and each cat is attracted to 2 patterns of quilt. The patterns will come in any color but to get a cat to climb onto your quilt you’ll have to place tiles that match one of the two patterns preferred by the cat into the particular shape that the cat likes. (These are some seriously picky cats!) So you might need to get 3 striped tiles touching each other to attract Millie, or five dot tiles in a straight line to attract Leo. Buttons are similar in that you have to get at least 3 of the same color touching each other to collect a button.
Everyone starts with 2 tiles in their hand and a board in front of them. Each board has a border of colored tiles. You can use these border tiles to help you earn cats and buttons, so you’ve already got your quilt kind of started on turn one. Tiles come in six colors and six patterns so there’s quite the variety. On your turn you’ll place one of the two tiles in your hand onto your board. If you’ve managed to earn a button or cat, grab it and place it on your board. Then you’ll choose one of the three face up tiles in the center of the table before drawing a new one so the next player will have three tiles to choose from. That’s it! The game play itself is so easy! And then you play until everyone’s board is full and then you’ll score to find out the winner.
How to Play the Regular Version
The regular version of Calico is the same as above only at the start of the game you’ll place three goal tiles in designated spots on your board. In the family version these tiles are face-down and can’t be used to score cats or buttons. Completing these goals will add points to your score, although I must say they make tile placement and cat/button collection a bit harder. What strategy will you use? Each time you play, you can play with different design goals and different cats so it really makes it feel like you’re doing a different puzzle. Figuring out what’s the best way to maximize your score is fun and frustrating (in a good way of course).
I really enjoy Calico, and I’m not the only one (obviously). It’s colorful, it’s easy to learn and difficult to “master,” and there’s some variation in play so you don’t feel like it’s the same challenge over and over again. A couple things to keep in mind when you decide if Calico is for you. There’s only a small amount of player interaction. You can screw up what your opponent wants if you pay attention to what they’re doing and select the tile they’re hoping for, but taking that might not help you so it might not be in your best interest. Personally, I like these more independent games sometimes as I don’t want to be starting WWIII in my home by playing something terribly revenge-y when we’re all stuck at home. I thought the family version of the game was nice as we were able to play it with my 6 year old, but I would caution that it’s still kind of a long game. I think the next time we ask her to join us we’re going to randomly grab ~3 tiles out of the bag right at the start of the game and have everyone place them to kind of jump start the game. She really enjoyed it, and was able to play and understand the rules, but it does get a little long. Still, it’s so nice that it can be scaled up and down in difficulty and it plays well with 2 players as well as 4 players. (I haven’t tried the 1 player version yet.). The other thing to consider is cost, at $40 it’s not a low price game. You can see where the cost comes from with the amazingly sturdy and lovely pieces. Do I think Calico is worth it? Absolutely! If you like tile placement games like this, where it’s not super interactive and that you can add extra levels of challenge I definitely recommend it.
~$40 at Amazon or local game retailers (better call first as it’s sold out in some places)
Ages 14+ (I’d say 7+ with the family version, look for these rules after the main rules)
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