Calico Review: Purrrfectly Charming and Addictively Engaging


Calico Review

In the realm of board games, where dragons, wars, and galactic quests often dominate, a game like Calico stands out like a patch of colorful fabric in a grayscale quilt. Ever imagined the world of quilt-making could serve as an engrossing battleground of wits and strategy? If not, buckle up, because this Calico review is about to unravel a delightful surprise.

From my first encounter, Calico enchanted me with its charm, drawing me into its cozy world where strategic quilt-making was the order of the day. With vibrant hexagonal patches, adorable cat tokens, and the puzzle that lay at its core, it felt like diving into a warm cup of cocoa on a cold winter night. However, as serene as it may seem, the battle beneath this tranquility is as intense as any.

Why review Calico now, you ask? The game’s recent expansion, Opposites Attract, has been stirring up waves in the board game community, and it seemed high time to revisit this charming world of quilt-making.

Calico promises a tranquil and immersive experience, coupled with an undercurrent of meticulous strategy. However, does it manage to strike a balance between accessibility and depth? And is its novelty more than just a decorative façade? Stick with me, fellow game enthusiast, as we explore the world of Calico in depth, and determine if it’s indeed the soothing yet challenging delight it promises to be.

Just The Facts

Game TitleCalico
DesignerKevin Russ
PublisherFlatout Games, AEG
ThemeQuilting, Cats
GenreTile Placement, Puzzle
Target AudienceCasual and Strategy Gamers
Age Range13+
Number of Players1-4
Game Duration30-45 minutes
Complexity LevelMedium
Game ObjectiveCreate the most appealing quilt with color and pattern combinations
Difficulty LevelMedium
Similar GamesAzul, Patchwork
Awards2020 Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Nominee
Release Date2020

Game Overview

Stepping into the snug and comfortable universe of Calico, players assume the roles of talented quilt makers. Each player works diligently to create an enchanting quilt. But it’s not all as serene as it seems. With a unique blend of puzzle and tile placement mechanics, the game offers a surprising strategic depth that defies its apparent simplicity.

At its heart, Calico is a crafty contest of quilt creation. Players strategically lay hexagonal patches of fabric onto their boards with the objective of attracting adorable cats to nestle upon their finished quilts. The challenge is in achieving a harmonious balance of colors and patterns, that not only lures these feline companions but also contributes towards the final scores. Every tile placement has a far-reaching impact, sculpting both the immediate and long-term strategies.

While Calico may appear straightforward at first glance, the game’s complexity unfolds gradually, revealing a compelling depth that invites players back for more. Every session presents a fresh puzzle, urging players to rethink their strategies, thus rendering Calico a game of captivating replayability.

Components and Artwork

The allure of Calico begins with its components. The game’s vibrant colors and endearing artwork instantly draw players in. The hexagonal tiles, the game’s main component, are durable and perfectly sized for easy handling. Each of the 108 uniquely patterned tiles is color-coded, serving both an aesthetic and functional purpose, and the tactile satisfaction of placing these sturdy tiles enhances the immersive experience.

A particular component worth praising are the adorable, uniquely designed cat tokens. A fitting tribute to the game’s theme, these cat tokens add a delightful touch of personality and charm. The thoughtful execution of the theme is undoubtedly a testament to Calico’s overall aesthetic appeal.

Complementing the tiles are the individual player boards, which are both sturdy and spacious, allowing players ample room to strategize and plan. This meticulous attention to component quality underlines the publisher’s commitment to providing a high-quality gaming experience.

However, Calico isn’t without its flaws. The scoring mechanism can feel fiddly at times, with players often needing to revisit the rulebook to understand the scoring system. While this does not significantly impact the overall enjoyment of the game, it does create a minor hiccup in the otherwise smooth gaming experience.

Gameplay Experience

Calico’s gameplay is a delightful blend of simplicity and complexity. On each turn, players pick a tile from the market and place it onto their board, aiming to create clusters of colors or patterns. On the surface, this may seem straightforward, but beneath this simplicity lies a strategic puzzle that demands thoughtful decision-making. The challenge lies in maximizing the utility of each tile placed while maintaining an eye on long-term goals.

Each placement feels crucial in Calico, as the decision to place a tile isn’t isolated but has repercussions that ripple through the entire game. A misplaced tile can disrupt an intended pattern or color cluster, adding a dash of tension to the game. This strategic depth makes the gameplay an engaging and stimulating experience.

On the flip side, Calico’s reliance on tile draw from a shared market can introduce an element of luck that may not sit well with all players. This randomness can, at times, disrupt carefully crafted strategies and lead to frustrating moments. While some may view this as a necessary challenge, others may find it a downside to an otherwise strategically heavy game.

Theme and Immersion

Calico shines when it comes to immersion. The quaint theme of quilt-making and cat luring wraps players in a comforting atmosphere of tranquility. The game’s theme is more than just a decorative element, as it integrates seamlessly with the mechanics, thereby reinforcing the immersive experience.

The act of crafting a quilt while attracting cats to snuggle on it adds a whimsical touch to the otherwise competitive nature of the game. The theme also stands out as a refreshing departure from the more common fantasy or historical themes found in board games, thereby adding to the charm of Calico.

However, it’s worth noting that the theme might not resonate with everyone. While the novelty of the theme sets Calico apart, it might seem too niche or quirky for some players. This, however, is a minor quibble and does not significantly detract from the overall appeal of the game.


Calico excels in the replayability department. The modular setup and randomized goal cards ensure that each playthrough is unique, offering a different strategic puzzle to solve. This feature not only extends the game’s longevity but also enhances its appeal to strategic-minded players who thrive on constantly shifting challenges.

However, a potential drawback lies in the game’s strategic core. While the setup varies, the core strategies can become predictable over time. The pursuit of perfect color and pattern combinations could feel repetitive after several plays, and some players might yearn for more variability in terms of strategic options.

Player Interaction and Engagement

While Calico primarily revolves around individual player boards, subtle player interactions keep the competitive spirit alive. The shared tile market introduces a subtle layer of competition, as players vie for the same resources. Clever tile selection and timing can make a significant difference, and players must keep an eye on their competitors’ boards to prevent them from gaining an edge.

Despite the competitive undertones, the game maintains a high level of player engagement. The individual puzzles that players must solve on their boards demand constant attention. Each tile placement decision feels crucial, keeping players engrossed from start to finish.

Learning Curve and Accessibility

Calico strikes a balance between approachability for beginners and depth for seasoned gamers. The rulebook is well-structured and easy to understand, allowing players to dive into the game quickly. The basic mechanics are simple, and the game’s complexity stems from strategic decision-making rather than complicated rules.

However, Calico could be overwhelming for some, particularly those new to tile-placement games. The intertwining color and pattern objectives require players to think several steps ahead, which can be daunting for beginners. Despite this, once players overcome the initial learning curve, the game reveals its charm, offering an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Strategies, Tactics, and Tips

  • The value of flexibility cannot be overstated. While having a plan is good, the ability to adapt based on the available tiles is crucial.
  • Balancing personal goals and the common goals can lead to significant point gains.
  • Don’t overlook the importance of the center tile. It sets the tone for your entire strategy.
  • Attracting cats is not just thematically fun but can also be a practical strategy to rack up points.


  • Calico: Opposites Attract: This expansion, originally available through the Tantrum House Season 8 Kickstarter campaign in 2022, introduces a new design goal where the opposite sides of the quilt need to exhibit the same pattern and/or color, providing an added strategic consideration for players.

Comparison to Similar Games

When compared to similar tile placement games like Azul and Patchwork, Calico carves out its own identity with its unique blend of aesthetic charm and strategic depth. While the core mechanics of tile placement are shared, Calico adds its spin with the dual objectives of pattern and color matching. The added layer of attracting cats enhances the game’s strategic element and sets it apart in the genre.

Pros and Cons


  • High-quality components and endearing artwork heighten the gaming experience.
  • A perfect balance of simplicity and strategic depth.
  • High replayability due to randomized goals and modular setup.
  • An innovative theme that enhances the game’s immersive appeal.


  • The luck element in tile draw might frustrate some players.
  • The game might feel repetitive over time due to its core strategic nature.
  • The strategic depth could be overwhelming for beginners.

Calico Review: Final Thoughts and Verdict

Calico is an enchanting blend of simplicity and depth. Its delightful theme, beautiful components, and engaging gameplay make it a standout title. However, the luck element and potential for decision paralysis might not appeal to everyone. Despite these minor quibbles, Calico is a worthwhile addition to your game collection. It earns a well-deserved score of 7.5/10. Consider this a strong recommendation for those seeking a medium-weight game that offers an intriguing puzzle wrapped in a tranquil theme.

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