Cascadia

Designer: Randy Flynn

Artist: Beth Sobel

Publisher: Flatout Games

It’s true what they say: the artwork is simply gorgeous (Photo credits: Eric Martin@BGG)

Pattern completion with drafting is probably the most low-conflict type of games out there. These are the games where you pick up something and then complete a puzzle or pattern on your individual board or play area to score points. There is a fan base for these games but there is also a group that find it boring and repetitive. Safe to say the latter group are mainly seasoned gamers who have more choices for board gaming.

As you expect, Cascadia falls into this category of pattern completion games where each player draft a pair of randomly assigned terrain tiles and animal tokens to their play area to form patterns for scoring. Terrain scoring is based on arranging tiles of similar type, with the largest terrain of each type scoring 1 point per tile for every player and then bonus points doled out to the player with the largest terrain type when compared with all others. No surprise there. Probably most of the fun, and also variety, comes from scoring the animal tokens. Animal tokens are placed on tiles with matching animal symbols. The job for each player is to form specific patterns based on the scoring cards. There are 5 animal types and hence, 5 scoring patterns to take into consideration. Scoring patterns are typical of what you would expect in a Euro: groups of token in 2s, 3s, 4s, in a straight line, on every other tile, flanked by other types of animal tokens, etc. Basically, scoring combination for tokens is in whatever type of pattern completion you can possibly imagine. There are several scoring cards for each of the 5 animal types and for each game you choose only one card per animal. So, scoring in each game is unique and the number of combinations are staggering. Together with terrain scoring and animal scoring, there are enough variables for scoring to keep everyone busy.

Most of the time, you play Cascadia to maximize scoring for your own board. I suppose you could play defensively in the game, but I am not sure if you ever want to. I suppose if you really are fighting for the biggest terrain, you may want to choose a tile that prevents your opponent from beating you to it. But honestly, the scoring matrix is such that it is unclear the points you earn from the majority scoring will offset the loss of not picking the tile you really want and scoring points in other ways. To me at least, I don’t think we ever play Cascadia defensively. There just isn’t much incentive to do so.

If the rules sound simple and the game even simpler, that’s because it is. Perhaps that is the selling point for the game. You pick up the game, you play and pack it up in 30 minutes. There is not much rules explanation and once you get it, you get it. This is the type of game you play with family and kids to burn time and to keep yourself occupied. It is fun, but in a quiet way. There is no interaction between players and everyone is just pondering their own piece of the puzzle. I was reminded of how quiet our family sessions have been when playing Cascadia. It is neither good nor bad, just an observation. This is not a game you pull out to have a raucous, and loud evening. This is more a game that comes out after homework and before bed time.

The components for the game are superb. This was a Kickstarter game which I purchased in the after market and I am impressed by both the art and quality of the product. The game is very tactile and the wooden tokens and thick cardboard is a joy to handle. It does remind me of the tiles in Kingdomino and in fact, the game play of Kingdomino is also quite similar to Cascadia. So if you like Kingdomino, this will be up your alley.

The question of course is, do you need so many games that are of this genre and play style? Of course, this really depends on the individual. I would say there is extra value for purchasing these games if you have kids of perhaps older adults, like parents or grandparents, that you game frequently with. I think because these games come out at such high frequency, I am more inclined to play them and then rotate them out of my collection in favor of newer ones to try. This is probably what I will end up doing for my family. This is not necessarily a negative review for the game. In fact, I quite like Cascadia for what it is and do feel engaged when I am playing it. As a puzzle, it is an interesting challenge to maximize scoring but there is little else you can do each turn tactically or even strategically. So, my engagement with the game lasts as soon as I open the box and ends when I stuff everything back. There is very little after thought or any emotion provoked after each session. I mean honestly, Old Maid gets us into a tizzy more often than Cascadia.

Initial impression: Average; Not for us (family)

03/2022: The variety of scoring methods in Cascadia does make the game more fun for adult gamers. However, I don’t think they change my views of the game much.

Kids Corner

7 years 3 months: OK, the greatest value for us is that my kid picked it up really quickly and could play the intermediate scoring variant very well after a single session. I haven’t mentioned, but Cascadia has two family-friendly scoring variants which I highly recommend for the first few games. I have to admit though, her reception toward the game was far from enthusiastic. We played several sessions and her reaction has been muted. I picked this up precisely because I thought she would enjoy the animal theme and also the game play scales pretty well between players. But thus far, her response is a far cry from what I saw from Zombie Kidz and also MicroMacro Crime City. She has been exposed to drafting games before and she has played many Euro point scoring type games. Not sure why this one wasn’t received as enthusiastically. I wonder if its because each action is quite repetitive and solitary and Cascadia is definitely one of the longest of this type she has played. Still, it’s early days and as a gamer, I thought this game would strike a good middle ground for me and my spouse with my kid. We shall see whether she picks this one out from the pile or gets consistently sidelined.

Note: After at least half a dozen more plays, the enthusiasm hasn’t picked up much. I think I know why. The game is just really dry and the lack of interaction between turns has turned her off. I am beginning to see that dry, solitary Euros will not work for her. She is really searching for interaction when she games. That said, Cascadia is headed to the trade/sale pile as the game also hasn’t captured the attention for the adults that much either.

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