Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Saturday 5 October 2019

The Game Shelf Previews:- Calico

Game: Calico

Publisher: Flatout Games

Designer: Kevin Russ

Year: 2020

Cats sell board games. Just ask the makers of Exploding Kittens. On a rather more sedate level, Calico benefits from adorable cat art from Beth Sobel, as well as a quilting theme. In the world of abstract games, quilts are pretty sure fire bet too, with Patchwork paving the way.

Calico is an abstract, tile-laying game for 1-4 players in which you assemble the hexagonal pieces of a patchwork quilt. If you group together colours you can adorn your quilt with buttons, but more importantly you want to attract the attention of the different cats who all have different requirements for the quilt they want to snuggle up on.

Calico is coming to Kickstarter on October 8th 2019 and we got a chance to play the remarkably high quality, handmade prototype.


In Calico you will take turns placing one of the 2 tiles in your hand, before taking a new tile from one of the three available. Each tile is a combination of a colour and a design. However, there are essentially no tile placement rules, you can place them wherever you like on your board. What you have to bear in mind that placing tiles willy-nilly won't get you points. In order to gain points you must create sets of 3 tiles in a single colour. Alternatively, you can attract cats by creating certain shapes with specific designs of tiles, each game you'll pick a different selection of cats to befriend.

Finally, you can try and complete your main objectives. Each player starts with 3 tiles on their board that want to be surrounded in a certain way. For example, the tile AAA-BBB would want to be surrounded by 3 tiles in colour A and 3 tiles in colour B. Alternatively you can score it by surrounding it with 3 tiles in design A and 3 tiles in design B. Should you manage to surround it with both designs and colours then you get to score a greater number of points. The game will continue until all players have completely covered their boards, at which point the player with the most points wins.
Amy's Final Thoughts

Calico is a simple game with a huge amount of charm that belies the fiendish decision making you'll have to make. managing to complete the colour objectives, the main objectives and try to attract cats results in you starting with perfect intentions, while slowly degenerating to making the best of a bad deal. There is simply too much to achieve during one game of Calico, which makes you come back for more next game, hungry to try out a different strategy.

At times I struggled a little visualising which tiles I would need to complete my objectives, particularly when you are trying to complete them both for colour and design, the important thing to remember is that you can mix up the tiles. For example if you had a yellow and green tile with leaves and a yellow and green tile with dots you have currently achieved AA-BB for both design and colour, despite having 4 different tiles! This means you have comparative freedom early on, but true to form, when you are looking for that last tile you will be looking for a specific design-colour combination.

There isn't that much more to say about Calico, it's one of the purest tile laying games around, with a simple tile market to add depth to tile selection and a great amount of replay-ability. It's hard not to be drawn into the world of bright colours and cute cats and... I mean... they named all the cats that you can score points from. What kind of heartless monster wouldn't want to appease Mittens or Zig-Zag? Overall this is a great game which kept drawing me back with its gloriously simple gameplay.

Fi’s Final Thoughts

Calico is one of few recent examples I've found of perfect abstract games. By perfect, I mean perfect for me. Spatial, puzzly tile-laying appears to be my jam and I can see myself playing Calico and similar games for the rest of my life.

I love the layers to the puzzle in Calico. There's primarily three reasons to place a tile: I want a button, I want to make that cat happy and I need to try and fulfil the conditions of my scoring tiles on my player board. The need to try and do all three is agonising, and what seems simple early in the game becomes more and more difficult to accomplish throughout. "It's time to make my first sacrifice" is a phrase we both say every game and it's really tough to make that choice. Once you start customising your board setup, it's kind of up to you how hard you want to make the game for yourself. Choosing which of your personal objectives to score at the single or double level early on can save you a whole lot of heartache.

It's hard to talk about Calico without talking about the delightfully agonising decisions, and for those who play in a game group with someone prone to analysis paralysis, alarm bells might be ringing. It's definitely a fact of the game that some decisions are just really tough and will take more time for some players.

Calico takes very simple rules and simple components to deliver a game that is just super elegant. With just patterns and colours on the tiles, there's a huge number of ways the game might play out. The different cats, your own scoring objectives and asymmetry in the player boards all make for an extremely replayable game, and my eagerness to beat my score is a huge driver in wanting to play Calico again and again. Calico is a must have for me and if you're looking for a family weight game with huge mass appeal that will also exercise your brain like crazy, then Calico's a fantastic choice!

You Might Like...
  • Calico is incredibly colourful and adorable.
  • Simple rules underpin a really thinky game, making it accessible but challenging.
  • Every games feels different because of the different cats in play and the different scoring hexes on your player board.
You Might Not Like...
  • There's a lot of ways to optimise your points, so players prone to analysis paralysis might slow things down.
  • When you're willing a specific tile to come out of the supply, there's no denying that luck of the draw can play a part.

The Verdict
Calico is a fantastic tile laying game. Whilst it is an abstract game, it's full of theme and fun with bright colourful artwork and cute cats. It falls into a similar category as Azul and it definitely rivals it as a thinky family weight tile laying game. Every turn and every game is full of interesting optimisation decisions that make trying to obtain higher scores and better patterns an absolute treat!

Calico was a prototype kindly provided to us by Flatout Games. It is on Kickstarter from 8th October 2019.

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