Review – Cascadia

CASCADIA-cover-tease

 

Designer Randy Flynn

Artist Beth Sobel

Publisher AEG

Category Tile Drafting, Tableau Building

Length 30-45 minutes

Release Date 2021

Player Count 1-4

Cascadia is a new release from AEG and Flatout Games, makers of excellent games like Point Salad and Calico. A puzzly, nature-themed game with a vibrant aesthetic and a 30-minute playtime? Color me interested!

Review

In Cascadia, 1-4 players work to build the most harmonious ecosystem by drafting land tiles and animal tokens. The goal of the game is to earn the most points, and points come from positioning tiles and animals strategically.

Every player starts with a 3-hex tile in their tableau. Each hex is made up of 1 or 2 land types and shows 1, 2, or 3 animal icons. In the central area are 4 single-hex tiles, each paired with a randomly drawn animal token.

[Credit: Flatout Games]

On a player’s turn, they draft 1 tile/token pair and add these pieces to their tableau. Tiles can be placed adjacent to any other tiles—land types need not match—and animal tokens can be placed on any empty tile that shows that animal’s icon.

[Credit: Flatout Games]

If a player places an animal on a “keystone tile” (a tile that shows only 1 animal icon), they collect a pinecone token. Pinecones can be used to take from the market a tile and token that are not paired together, or to sweep the animal tokens and draw new ones. At the end of the game, leftover pinecones are worth 1 point each.

As players fill out their tableaus, they try to make large swaths of land and to fulfill the different animal objectives shown on cards in the middle.

[Credit: Flatout Games]

Each species has its own scoring criteria, which can vary from game to game. An animal might want, for instance, to be next to exactly 1 other animal of its species; another might want to be in a continuous line of like animals, and so on. These objectives, combined with the need to connect matching land types, is the 2-tiered puzzle that drives this game.

A game of Cascadia lasts 20 turns. At the end, players earn points according to the animal card objectives. They also score for the largest swath of each land type in their tableau, and they compare tableaus to see who has the largest of each type overall. Once scores are calculated, the player with the most points wins!


Cascadia is yet another excellent release from AEG and Flatout Games. This game feels like a cousin of Calico, though where that game starts out very open and the decisions get increasingly restrictive, Cascadia does the opposite. It starts out open and gets even more open as time goes on. This makes it a much less brain-burning experience than Calico; it is pretty laid back and relaxing to play, both thematically and strategically.

Trying to balance animal objectives with high-scoring terrain areas makes for an interesting challenge. With only 20 turns, players do not have time to do everything, so they must decide what to focus on, and do so within the constraints of the tiles/tokens that are available. This puzzle is a nice mix of tactics and strategy; players can make long-term plans, but they may have to adapt them based on the market.

[Credit: Flatout Games]

The production of Cascadia is quite nice, with lovely cover and card art and colorful pieces. The wooden animal tokens are tactile and feature attractive screen-printing, though I wish they had been printed on both sides. Since players draw these tokens from a bag, half the time they come out of the bag printed-side-down and must be turned face-up. Certainly not a huge issue, but a minor nitpick. Functionally, everything else works well, and the game has a vibrant look to it.

I really enjoy Cascadia. There is absolutely room in a collection to own this game and Calico. Though they have some similarities, they take different approaches in their execution and provide different experiences. Cascadia is much more forgiving, which makes it, I believe, the better choice for newer gamers. (Its ruleset is also a bit simpler than Calico’s.)

Cascadia is among the standout games of 2021. I highly recommend giving it a try.

The Bottom Line

Cascadia is among the standout games of 2021. I highly recommend giving it a try.

 

8.5

Stephen Hall

My geek roots run deep. I have been a gamer and comic book reader since I was a kid, but tabletop games are my #1 hobby.