Designed By: Randy Flynn
Art by: Beth Sobel
Published By: AEG and Flatout Games
Player Count: 1-4
Time to Play: 30-45 Minutes
Cascadia is easily one of my favorite games from 2021. As a fan of its predecessor Calico, I was super excited to try out Cascadia and it very much lived up to my hopes and dreams. Cascadia is a puzzley tile-laying game where you work to build habitats for creatures native to the Pacific Northwest.
Using multiple puzzles for scoring within a single game creates a lovely thinky challenge to solve. We tested it with both the solo mode and multi-player mode and found that both are fun and quite similar. For this review, we will focus on the multi-player version but know that the solo mode follows similar rules.
How to Play:
The object of Cascadia is to score the most points by the end of the game, which you will do by creating large regions of different habitats, and completing the scoring goals for different types of wildlife. There are five types of wildlife featured in the game and each scores points in a unique way. For added variability, there are also multiple scoring cards you can use for each animal so you can have a different set of scoring conditions each time you play.
To get started, select which wildlife scoring cards you will use for that game. Pull out 20 habitat tiles per player, plus three extra. Put these face-down off to the side. Then put the wildlife tokens in the bag. Set up the tableau by laying out tiles equal to the number of players plus one. Add one wildlife token to each wilderness tile.
Give each player a starting 3 -piece tile. Put the pinecones in the center of all players and you are ready to go.
During their turns, players will draft one set of pieces, meaning they take a wilderness tile and the wildlife token that it is matched with. Players then add the wilderness tile to any space that is orthogonally adjacent to one of their other tiles. It is helpful to put tiles of the same habitat so they connect as this will score you points at the end of the game.
However, sometimes you would rather focus on the wildlife that lives on each tile, rather than the wilderness terrain type. After you have placed your tile, the next step is to place your wildlife token. Wildlife tokens can only be placed on unoccupied habitat tiles that allow that kind of animal to live there. This is indicated by the image of wildlife printed on the wilderness tile. Each tile can hold between 1-3 types of animals. You will need to place your wildlife tokens carefully so that you can work toward the end game scoring goals for each type of animal.
This is the puzzle within the puzzle.
If you place a wildlife token on a wilderness tile that can only hold a single type of animal, you get a pinecone token. Pinecones are super helpful as they allow you to either refresh the animals in the tableau or pick an unpaired set of wilderness tiles and wildlife tokens. This can be extremely advantageous when it comes to later in the game.
One last thing to note is that if at any point the tableau has all of the same animal tokens, it gets immediately refreshed. If it ever has 3/4 of the same tokens, the player may choose whether or not to refresh it.
The game ends once each player has drafted and placed their 20th set of tiles and tokens. At that point, scores are tallied, and whoever has the highest score wins!
What's purr-ty cool:
So as we mentioned above, Cascadia is a contender for my game of the year. I really love everything about it. The puzzle feels super well balanced and there is just the right amount of things to think about when planning. Knowing that you have exactly 20 turns to get everything set up the way you want is interesting because you know you will never have more than 20 wildlife tokens available to use for scoring. You really need to plan which animals to prioritize and use your resources to help get those ones.
We love all the different end-game scoring options. There are so many combinations of cards that can be played together to really give players a unique game many times over. The foxes are definitely our favorite creatures to try and score points with. We like how you can work them into the other animals end game goals to double-dip for points.
We love the pinecones! This small extra layer of strategy comes in super handy. Having to pick a more challenging and potentially less useful wilderness tile in order to get one means weighing the odds on if you will be able to successfully use that space to get the bonus pinecone or not. But plan carefully and these spaces will be your new favorites.
While we didn't discuss solo mode too much, we would be remiss if we did not mention that we also love the solo challenges that are included. As someone who loves solo games, this campaign-style set-up for solo mode is really cool.
We also need to mention how pretty Cascadia is. The color scheme for the game is bright and cheerful and the art style is just lovely. We like that all of the score cards have different art. The components are also fantastic The wildlife tokens are wood and fit the theme of the game so nicely.
Lastly, while Cascadia is a challenging puzzle, it is easy to teach. Cascadia is a great came choice for those who enjoy abstract strategy games like Azul or Sagrada. If you are looking for your next thinky but relaxing game Cascadia will be perfect for you!
The cat's meow:
"This game has it all. A box, a bag with strings, tokens to whack off the table and to chew on. What more could you need?" - Pudgy Cat
Disclosure: Pudgy Cat Games was provided a copy of this game in exchange for a review, however, this review reflects the honest thoughts of the author.