Both as a player and a designer, I truly believe that playing a board game physically is an irreplaceable experience. Sitting with friends, laughing a lot and just having fun with some paper and well-crafted rules is one of the best things that you can have being alive. But it's so hard to find time to get everyone together nowadays that digital versions of board games became an essential part of my experience in the hobby. I can count how many days I could play a physical game in a month, but I lost count how many times I was on Board Game Arena to beat my friends on Ark Nova, for example.

Translating a tabletop game to the digital medium isn't just a matter of coding some buttons and call it a day. It needs to create an atmosphere that represents well the original title and it's also an opportunity of expanding what is possible with the design and find new ways to play it. Quilts and Cats of Calico, made by Monster Couch (that already worked on the digital version of Wingspan), does those two things really, really well and probably created the best Calico could be in digital form.

Cats know what they want

Launched in 2020 after a successful Kickstarter campaign, designed by Kevin Russ and illustrated by Beth Sobel, Calico is one of the cutest board games I ever seen. Your goal is to place hexagonal tiles with different colors and patterns to sew a beautiful quilt that will please all the cats in the world. You get points following tile combinations around special hexagons, sewing buttons in color groups or creating pattern clusters that attracts specific kittens. All you do in your turn, although, is placing one tile from your hand and getting a new one from the market.


Instead of having a lot of restrictions on where and how you can place the tiles, you can just put them on any empty space in the board and that's fine. Calico seems easy to play (and it is), but this game is really hard to master (or just being good). Every hexagon, every color, every pattern has to be really well placed so you can optimize all of the 3 scoring methods. It's a really satisfying puzzle, but I think you need to be a veteran player to learn how to filter the huge amount of options you have at your disposal already in the first round.

If your friends don't know that much about the game too, everyone will have some trouble to manage all the scores and it's fine. But you can expect some long turns if someone at the table likes to act in analysis paralysis — a simultaneous action system may have solved the problem, specially because the interaction between the players is minimum. All that said, doing just one combo is enough to get that satisfying feeling of being the master of quilts.

Quilts and Cats of Calico

Although it can be hard to get a high score, I like how Calico is accessible, even if you didn't understood all the rules from the beginning. The visuals are so amazing and colorful that I can see the game getting in the table really easily because of cats and quilts alone. All that said, I love how the game allows a "family mode" that removes the special hexagons, that can be really hard to understand from the beginning, and creates the perfect atmosphere to enjoy the visuals.

A story for my own cats

Remember, in the start of this review, when I said that a digital version of a board game is the perfect moment to expand the experience? Quilts and Cats of Calico could have been only the tabletop game with a cool UX and online multiplayer, but I love they aimed to create a more complete video game package. The presentation is perfect: every tile feels like fluffy fabric, you can pet all the cats that walks through the board and Paweł Górniak's soundtrack feels cozy and relaxing.

Quilts and Cats of Calico

The most surprising feature for me is the cat maker. In the original game, you choose some cats (and their pattern groups) that can give you points. But, here, you can create your own cats inside the game and play with them! I have three cats in my house: recreate them was easy and playing with their avatars was marvelous. You can even put them in cute clothes or fantasy colors and make your dream kittens. They know exactly their demographic and I'm always down for feline fan service.

But the greatest new feature of Quilts and Cats of Calico is the story mode. You are a quilter going back to your hometown Tomkitty, a place where cats are venerated as lucky charms. Your goals in the city are many: you want to establish yourself in the society as a couturier, find your missing dad and face a strange and advanced sewing machine. The portraits are beautiful, but there's not a lot of depth in the story — that said, I'm impressed of how many elements they created in a little plot for a board game adaptation.

Quilts and Cats of Calico

Mechanically, Quilts and Cats of Calico's story mode is full of... puzzles! Most of the "quests" from Tomkitty villagers aren't full games of Calico. Instead, you have a small group of tiles and a specific task to do — like getting 5 buttons/color groups using only 9 specific pieces, for example. Those little puzzles are really fun, and you probably could create a game only with them. I think that, because of the reduced choice, they are less tiring than a full game of Calico sometimes too, and it's a great way to experience the mechanics in a single-player form.

That said, you also have full games inside the story mode (the first one that appeared to me was already in the middle of the story, however). Remember when I said that the game is hard if you want to get big and win? Well, trying to win against the AI was really hard. I played every encounter at least twice to get a nice score, specially because they also have special conditions you have to do in addition to get more points. The puzzles are cool, but I don't know how much they prepare you for a full game, so those moments can really be a peak in the game's learning curve.

Playing a board game digitally isn't the same thing as the real deal, but a good adaptation can create an unique experience too. Quilts and Cats of Calico not only adapts perfectly a tabletop game that is easy to learn (and really hard to master) perfectly, but goes way beyond the basics to make it interesting not only for cat lovers and new players, but also for veterans that want to see those colors and patterns in a new way. Whether visiting Tomkitty or putting your own kittens in the board, you'll probably have a good time here. May the Calico kitties love your quilts!

The team behind this game sent me a press key so I could play it and write my review. Thanks for the trust!