Published by AEG and Flatout Games, Cascadia was the winner in 2022 of the prestigious Spiel des Jahres award. It's a title that was originally a Kickstarter release, which was when it first caught my attention. Cascadia focuses on set collection as its main way of scoring points but there are two parallel ways to score points. More on this later...
First of all, each of the 2-4 players receives a starting tile which is a triple hex. Each hex displays a terrain type (one of five different types that always seem to make their presence felt in boardgames). Each of these terrains favours one or more animal types. On your turn you select from four sets of paired animals and single-hex terrains that are randomly joined together. The new tile is added to the existing hex tiles to extend the size of your personal board as well as allocating the animal to its preferred type of land. In this way, a pattern of land and animal tiles grows until the tiles cannot be replenished, which ends the game.
Then scoring takes place. There are five scoring cards matching the animals. These require each type of animal to be placed in a specific pattern. For example, it could be that eagles like to be a set distance from other eagles. For each eagle matching this criteria, you score points according to the card in play. Usually there’s a non-linear scoring path for multiples of a criteria.
In addition you score for creating large areas of the same territory type. This often conflicts with the other scoring options and so you always face placement puzzles to solve. There are other bonuses too, so scores are often tight. There are five scoring cards of each type that can be mixed and matched to provide significant replay value. And the game appeals to a wide audience, with a simplified family version included to broaden this further. Players are each building their own individual tableaus so interaction is limited to the competition in drafting: canny players won't just be optimising their own picks, they'll also be looking to deny other players an advantageous selection.
With an attractive table presence, thanks in no small part to the art of Beth Sobel, and a playing time of a 30-40 minutes, Randy Flynn's Cascadia is a great end-of-evening game with more thinking involved than appears at first sight. And the game also incorporates a solitaire game option designed by Shawn Stankewich. The Spiel des Jahres jury picked a winner!
(Review by Alan How)