What is Cascadia?
Cascadia is a puzzly tile-laying game about nature and animals. In this game you take turns building wildlife areas and populating those with different kinds of animals. Everyone starts with a starting tile consisting of all the five habitats and throughout the game you will add tiles and animals to this tile, building your own wildlife area. The goal is to build large areas of each type of habitat and to satisfy the scoring card for each animal as best you can.
How to play
You start the game by selecting one of the four scoring cards for each animal. Giving you five cards with scoring conditions/possibilities. Then you grab a starting tile which consists of three tiles joined together and all five of the terrain types available in the game. You grab the appropriate amount of tiles (depending on the number of players) and stack those of to the side. You will then draw four of them, these are the tiles on display. Below each tile you will place a random animal token drawn from the bag. You now have the four pairs you can pick from to add to your tableau.
After the setup each round will consist of you picking and adding a pair to you tableau. You can add the tile anywhere (terrain types don’t have to match) but matching terrain types will benefit you in the end because you can score points for bigger terrains. You can also add the animal token anywhere, as long as the animal is represented on the tile that you pick. If you pick a tile which is meant for a single animal you will receive a nature token (pinecone). This token can be traded in for the opportunity to pick a random tile and animal from the display without them having to be a pair.
How do you play Cascadia solo?
Solo Cascadia plays very similar to multiplayer Cascadia. You start the game with 43 tiles (like in a two player game), a four tile display and the five scoring cards. The difference is that whenever you grab a pair from the display the rightmost pair will be removed from the game. The leftover two pairs of tiles and tokens will move to the right. You will add two new pairs to the display from the left. Removing the pair simulates a second player but you know exactly which pair will be removed. This is something you can take into account when choosing the pair you want.
When you are no longer able to add tiles to the display to make a complete set of four pairs the game will end and you will calculate your score. Scoring cards work the same way as in the multiplayer game. Having the largest area of a type of terrain works a little bit different though. In the multiplayer you get a bonus if you have the largest area. In the solo game you get two bonus points for each area that is bigger than seven. Every area smaller than seven only scores the area but doesn’t get the bonus points.
Besides the beat your own score solo variant there is also a sort of campaign or achievement track to spice up your gameplay. When you decide to undertake this you will start on a track and try to fulfil increasingly difficult challenges. Every scenario will add a new layer to the game.
How much time does it take?
A solo game of Cascadia will run you somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes on average. Depending on how much time you take for each decision. The layout of the box makes it easy to setup the game in a few minutes. So setup and teardown hardly take any time.
What I think of the game
When I first heard about Cascadia I questioned if it would be a game for me. I usually like bigger and longer games so this cute and short nature game didn’t immediately grab my attention. But I kept hearing about it everywhere, especially in all the solo gaming communities I’m in. so I got curious and decided to hunt down a copy. And I’m glad I did! The game might not look complex but the choices you have can really melt you brain sometimes. “Do I add this salmon here so I can make a longer row? But then I deny myself the opportunity to have a pair of bears here. And if I add this tile here it stops me from expending this area any further this way.” It’s simultaneously satisfying to see your nature reserve grow with every turn and frustrating to know you can never have it all.
I’ve now played this game over a dozen times and I’ve really grown to love it. It’s easy to grab and setup but will also challenge me. And if you’re less in the mood for a challenge you can always take it less seriously and just enjoy laying the tiles and building a beautiful tableau.
So to answer the question from the title, yes for me this game deserves the reward it has been given. This game has something for everyone. It can be played multiplayer and solitaire. You can go all-in and melt your brain or you can enjoy a relaxing half hour of laying tiles and tokens. The solo game plays very similarly to the multiplayer and it doesn’t feel like you are missing out on anything. And the achievements/scenarios add a nice layer of longevity to the game.