By Henri Whitehead
Calico’s entire vibe is cozy. The cats are too cute, and the quilt pieces look so comfy that you almost want to take a nap right on top of your player board. However, don’t get too comfortable because underneath the cozy facade is a brutal brain-burner of a puzzle that will have your knuckles clenched and brow-furrowed right down to the last quilt pattern in place.
My wife and I love Flatout Games as a publisher, and we’ve enjoyed their entire catalogue. For us, Calico is the best of the bunch. We love cats, and the Calico cat objectives are about as cute as they come. We usually talk about a game’s scoring objectives in almost business-like terms, but in Calico, we constantly say things like “I really want Shop Cat or Almond to come to my quilt”. The theme is abstract and silly, but the cat objectives are just so damn cute that you will forget the points or the requirements and just obsess about getting your favorite cat on your quilt.
The cuteness is one thing, but the difficulty of Calico is where it really rises to the top of other tile-laying games. My wife and I love a challenging puzzle, and Calico is definitely that. If you enjoy a good puzzle struggle, then Calico is a dream. If you want to play a relaxing game while your mind wanders through your to-do list, then Calico is a nightmare.
At the start of the game, Calico presents you with simple scoring requirements, such as have three different pairs of colors and patterns around a tile or have the same pattern in a group of five. Simple, right? Each objective by itself is very doable, but when you stack the different scoring objectives, achieving them all takes an almost genius-level of abstract thinking and probability math. Most games of Calico’s amount to giving up on perfection and knowing the right time to settle for a lower score.
For some people, the challenge of Calico might seem like a steep price for admission to a cozy world of cats sleeping on quilts. The difficulty is often what makes us loath the game at times, but it is also why my wife and I have played Calico more than any other tile-laying game. The challenge keeps us coming back. Not once have we felt like we solved this game or figured out anything remotely to a winning strategy. Every session feels like there is a different pull in a different direction. Our score sheets read like a seismograph where one sessions high scores quickly give way to the next sessions low scores, and we honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.
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