Cascadia board game review

Cascadia board game
Build nice habitats for the wildlife in Cascadia.

We really enjoy tile-laying board games.

Whether we’re building out our own areas like in Barenpark or adding to a central area like in Carcassonne, we love creating a unique arrangement every time. No matter whether we win or not, we feel accomplished seeing what we’ve made.

That’s one reason we were drawn to Cascadia when it was first published in 2021 by Flatout Games.

We were also drawn to the gameplay and the wonderful theme of habitats and wildlife of the Pacific Northwest.

And after having played it numerous times, we’re happy to report that Cascadia knocks it out of the park on all accounts!

Cascadia board game
Lots of habitat to build and animals to place.


How to play Cascadia

The objective in Cascadia is to gain the most points by building beautiful habitat for various wildlife that each score in their own, unique ways.

Each player starts with a random 3-hex habitat tile that shows all 5 habitat types (Mountains, Forests, Prairies, Wetlands, Rivers) and all 5 wildlife types (Bear, Salmon, Elk, Hawk, Fox). Each starting tile has a different layout of those elements.

Cascadia board game
Each player randomly gets a starting tile.

Randomly select 1 Wildlife Scoring Card for each of the 5 wildlife and place them face up. These cards indicate how each of the different animals will score for this game.

Cascadia board game
This is how each animal will score this time.

Reveal 4 Habitat Tiles and place them in a central row. Then draw 4 Wildlife Tokens from the bag and place them one at a time next to a habitat tile.

Cascadia board game
On your turn, you must take a pair – a habitat tile and the adjacent wildlife token.


Player Turns

On a player’s turn, they select a Habitat Tile and Wildlife Token pair and play them in their own growing environment.

The player first places their new tile adjacent to any tile already in their environment. When doing so, the player does not need to match up the habitat types. It may be beneficial to do so for scoring, but it is not required.

Cascadia board game
I’ve added the Mountain/Forest tile and now get to place the Salmon.

Then the player places their Wildlife Token on an available tile in their environment. The type of animal placed must match the symbol on the tile. Some tiles show multiple animal types. Any of the pictured animals may be placed there. However, once placed, it may not be moved nor can any other animal be placed on that tile.

If the player places the animal on a tile that shows only a single animal type, they receive a Nature Token.

Cascadia board game
I’ve got a Nature Token (pinecone) for future use.

On future turns, players may use their Nature Tokens to do one of the following:

  1. Take any of the available Habitat Tiles and any of the available Wildlife Tokens. They do not need to be paired.
  2. Wipe any number of Wildlife Tokens and replace them.

Players may use as many Nature Tokens as they would like on their turn.

At the end of a player’s turn, they draw a new Wildlife Token and reveal a new Habitat Tile to create a new pairing.

Players continue taking turns until there are no more Habitat Tiles to replace the one taken that turn. Each player will have had 20 turns.

Cascadia board game
It’s fun to see how the environments turn out.



Once the game ends, players total up their points.

  1. Wildlife: Review each Wildlife Scoring Card and total points based on that particular configuration in your environment. For example, Salmon score for continuous lines while Elk score for grouping patterns.
  2. Habitat: For each habitat type, players score 1 point per tile for their largest contiguous corridor of that habitat.
  3. Habitat Bonus: The largest contiguous corridor of each habitat also awards bonus points for the players with the largest of that habitat.
  4. Nature Tokens: Receive 1 point for each unused Nature Token.

The player with the most points wins!

Cascadia board game
The score pad is very helpful for tallying all the points.


There are also a few variants listed in the rule book. One is a Solo mode where you can play the game alone and see how your rank in the end. Another is a Family Variant where instead of using the various wildlife scoring cards, you use a single scoring card where every animal will score based on the size of their grouping.


Can the whole family enjoy Cascadia?

Cascadia is a fantastic family board game.

The basic rules are easy to learn and there’s a great balance of strategy and luck. The tricky part is keeping track of the various ways your wildlife with score and choosing the right pair of habitat and wildlife to take to add to your growing environment each turn. Plus, with each turn, you’ll have even more options of where to build out your environment.

Cascadia board game
So many things to balance when choosing and placing.

And because of this puzzly nature of the game, we agree with the recommended age of 10+ for players.

There are many reasons why we love playing Cascadia.

For starters, we love the theme and how well it ties to the gameplay. We really enjoy building out a unique environment every single time. It’s beautiful to look at and see what we’ve created by the end of the game. And it’s fun to see how differently everyone else builds out theirs too.

And no matter how much you want to, you won’t be able to score high for every wildlife and every habitat. You’ll have to make sacrifices and tradeoffs throughout the game.

Cascadia board game
The bag of wildlife.

Which brings us to another thing we love – the choices.

While taking a habitat and wildlife pair and placing them each turn isn’t much to do on your turn, it can cause quite the consternation when you’re balancing the various things you want to do to score points.

To do well, you’ll have to keep in mind 5 different ways of scoring the wildlife. Then you’ll have to choose the right pair from the central area and place them in a valuable location. On every turn, you’ll have 3 open habitat where you can place an animal. However, if you don’t plan ahead, you may get stuck with those 3 spaces only showing 1 or 2 types of wildlife – thus seriously curtailing your options.

Cascadia board game
If I place on the Fox or Elk, I’ll get a Nature Token.

That’s where it’s great to make sure you have Nature Tokens on hand. With those, you can break the need to pick a matched pair of habitat and wildlife on your turn and can choose any of the 4 available.

We also love when a game includes variety.

With Cascadia, that comes in the form of scoring the various wildlife. There are 4 ways to score each of the 5 types of wildlife. And in each game, you randomly select one of those ways for each animal.

Which means that every time you play, you’ll be trying to arrange your wildlife in different patterns. It’s fun puzzle to figure out.

Cascadia board game
This is an odd shaped environment.

We also find that in most of our games, the final scores are pretty close. We may have to sacrifice points for one animal in order to do well with another. While our opponents may be doing just the opposite. But in the end, we all come out pretty close.

There’s also a tile in the game that we get a kick out of every time. The various habitat tiles are pretty balanced on which wildlife are depicted on them. This includes the tiles showing a single animal. And the one that makes us laugh each time it comes up is the prairie habitat with a single salmon on it. (We think that salmon might be dead.) We call that the “Desert Salmon”.

Cascadia board game
Remember how each animal scores in the game. Each animal may score in 4 different ways depending on which card is in play for that game. The examples are very helpful.

In fact, because we’ve joked about it so much, we’ve come to even call the game “Desert Salmon”. Instead of asking mom if she wants to play Cascadia, we ask if she wants to play “Desert Salmon”. Inevitably, she’ll laugh and say, “okay”.

And if you need any more convincing that Cascadia is a great board game to play with your family, it won the 2022 Spiel des Jahres for board game of the year!

Cascadia board game
We love that each type of wildlife has various ways to score.


How does Cascadia score on our “Let’s Play Again” game meter?

Cascadia board gameCascadia scores very high on our “let’s play again” game meter!

We’ve played games back-to-back many times because of how much we enjoy playing. Plus, the game is very easy to reset to play again. Just flip over all the tiles, shuffle them around, places all the wildlife tokens back in the bag, randomly select a scoring card for each animal and we’re ready to play again.

The only catch in playing games back-to-back is making sure to reset your brain on how each animal will score in the new game. Yes, we’ve been caught putting animals in patterns that would have scored well in the previous game because we’ve forgotten they’re now scoring different in the current game. So just make sure you’re on top of that!

Go ahead and grab a copy of Cascadia for your family!

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