It's a year since we featured Cascadia (AEG/Flatout Games) on Board's Eye View. It was the game that won the 2022 Spiel des Jahres award so an expansion was almost inevitable, and here it is. And designers Randy Flynn, Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin and Shawn Stankewich haven't just thrown together more of the same - Cascadia: Landscapes adds quite a bit to the base game.
As you might expect, there are more cards for each animal and more achievements that players can go for. You'll especially value these if you enjoy playing Cascadia in solitaire mode. The various extra cards, tiles and tokens don't just add variety (and, to be honest, a degree more complexity) but they also contribute to the facility this expansion offers to take the player count up to six from Cascadia's four players. The Landmarks of the expansion title are standout features of the physical landscape that offer additional ways of scoring and which add to players' decision space. That's because when you place out a wooden landmark in your tableau, you take up a space on which you could otherwise have placed out an animal. Hopefully, in your games it won't cause too much AP (analysis paralysis) for players as they work out whether and when landmarks replace animals as their optimal placement. Of course, players who go early in placing a landmark benefit from greater choice from that landmark's scoring cards.
We were excited at the prospect of raising Cascadia's player count to six but we were worried that this might overly extend the playing time. We needn't have mithered over this: clearly, the design team were way ahead of us. A key feature of Cascadia: Landscapes is the option to reduce the number of turns from 20 down to 15 but to give each player their own private pool of tiles from which they can draft in addition to their turn. This is a very well conceived tweak to the core game because it adds to a player's scope for forward planning yet effectively reduces downtime. Another plus point is that you aren't just limited to using the private tile pool at higher player counts: we've introduced it to our plays with two, three and four players and, for us, it's improved and sped up an already very strong game.
If you have Cascadia, you're sure to want to add this expansion. It expands your options and adds further to the game's continued replayability. Curiously, we prized it even more for its other tweaks than for the landscapes themselves.