Cascadia – Pacific Northwest Perfection

Cascadia is a tile laying game set in the Pacific Northwest, published by AEG. It’s easy to learn, lightning fast to play and still has depth, thanks to the 5 scoring cards used in every game. These scoring cards require you to have different combinations of 5 different animals represented on wilderness tokens, to have a diverse and thriving ecosystem. Each turn you will typically pick one combination of a habitat tile and wildlife token. You then have to place each tile and token into your tile group (ecosystem). There are special nature tokens you can acquire by placing a token on a keystone tile. These nature tokens allow you to cycle through the tokens in the display, or grab a tile and token from different sets. That is the crux of the game, but your brain will be sure to hurt during the game thanks to trying to satisfy all 5 conditions for token placement on the scoring cards at once.

Gameplay

You begin the game with a starting tile that has three locations on it and expand your ecosystem each turn. Tiles have different environments on them (mountains, prairies, forests, wetlands and rivers. The environments do not limit you during the game, but they provide your bonus points at the end of the game, if you are able to link multiple environments together, further expanding the Cascadia jigsaw puzzle. Every tile has 1-3 animals that can be placed on it, limiting which tiles you are able to place tokens. Each turn begins with you browsing the 4 tile/token pairs in the display and choosing which would be the most beneficial. There are only 20 turns, so each tile/token combination you place matters.

The flow of the game ebbs and flows, at the beginning of the game the possibilities are endless, especially if your tile/token market is diverse. As the game continues, your token placements become more constrained and you only have yourself to blame. During the 2nd act of the game (lets call it turn 10 for reference sake,) your turns become longer as you number crunch optimal points and play some internal push your luck hypotheticals, as you set yourself up for a situation that may never present itself in the market. Towards the climax, at the end of the game your options are quite limited. You can either complete the final highest threshold of a card you brilliantly set yourself up for, or do nothing just placing your tokens/tiles wherever you can.

Art, Components and Graphic Design

The art is by Beth Sobel, I know art is subjective, but her art fits nature themed games so well. I pull this game out when I want to relax after a long day of work and evenings being a dad. Her art has a soothing element to it, just like this game. The images on the scoring cards are beautiful, true works of art for each animal. I don’t have any complaints about the components, the tile draw bag is thick and well made, the animal tokens are all wooden and the tiles are relatively thick cardboard. The tiles and tokens are all clean and minimal in design but still have all the information needed. The rulebook was easy to read and I did not need to watch a learn to play video.

Solo Gaming Goodness

Few rules are changed while playing solo, other than the tile/token drafting. After you take your turn as normal, you must discard the rightmost tile/token to help move the market along. This adds another layer of strategy, always knowing what is about to be discarded and deciding if you need to grab that combination this turn, it can wait, or it can go. There is also a robust achievement system featuring 25 unique setups, end game goals and gameplay changes. I appreciate this system so much, it helps me to want to come back to this game. With so many games vying for my attention, it’s nice to have an added reason to pull it from my shelf.

Resources

Rulebook https://www.alderac.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Cascadia-Rules.pdf

Sword and Board Games Playthrough https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rparSm7H2dk&ab_channel=SwordandBoardGames

Search my hashtag on IG for a Cascadia challenge – #SoloSundayChallenge

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