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Cascadia Two Player Review

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All board game reviews and ratings from “A Pair of Meeples” are entirely based on the game at two players. You can learn more about our rating system by clicking below.


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Cascadia will have you feeling all powerful as you place mountains here, rivers there, and various animals all over.  This simple but satisfying tile laying puzzle game might be the new king of gateway games.

Cascadia Game Review

7.5 out of 10
Cascadia Review Block A Pair of Meeples

Is it Good For Two Players? : The Best Player Count

Cascadia isn’t without its weaknesses but overall it is a top contender for one of the best gateway games to date.  So as long as you know what to expect, this one might be the next staple of your board game collection.  

Whether it’s the game you bring out to introduce new players to modern board games, or the one you pull out when you want to relax and you know, just construct entire regions of the Pacific Northwest like you’re some sort of god, Cascadia in our opinion is pretty deserving of a place on most people’s shelves.

Theme: 7/10
Replayability: 6/10
Components: 7/10
Conflict: 1/10
Fun: 5/10

His Rating
7 out of 10
Her Rating
8 out of 10

Pros

A great puzzle every time

Just enough variety and replayability for this type of game

Broadly appealing theme that almost everyone can get into

Easy to learn and play

Great for new and experienced players, due to various scoring methods

Good components and artwork

Cons

Very low to almost non-existent player interaction

Some luck of the draw can occasionally have players feeling stuck

Lots of decision space that may lead to long turns

Tight scoring makes it seem like your actions don’t matter

Gameplay Experience:

Cascadia Two Player Board Game Review A Pair of Meeples

Cascadia took a while to make its way into our collection because we felt as if we already had enough gateway games to fulfill every need.  But as usual, there was a pretty good deal and we decided to give it a chance.

With so many nature themed games coming out lately, it’s hard to determine which ones are truly good games and which are just trying to cash in on this particular theme’s bandwagon, but Cascadia has held some pretty impressive ratings for quite some time now. 

It’s a pretty simple and straightforward game, one where punching out the 85 habitat tiles almost took as long as learning how to play it.  One short video and we were ready to start our first game.

We played with the recommended starting Wildlife cards which keep scoring for the five different species as simple as possible.

It took just a matter of turns until both of us were deep in concentration, collecting tiles and constructing our own personal “Cascadia” littered with various animals throughout.  We kept expanding mountain ranges, rivers, and forests until we ran out of tiles.

After looking at our completed works, I couldn’t help but realize that both our regions were very organized and blocky.  All tiles were connected and everything looked just a little too rigid.  This block of tiles was supposed to represent the wild and rugged Cascadia, but all I saw were too big blocks of tiles.

Cascadia simple game beginner

The gameplay was great and well thought out and shall we say almost relaxing to play, but after the first round we were starting to question how much staying power this abstract game would truly have.

We set up for a second game right away using the same simple scoring cards, and after a few turns things already felt different, in a good way.  Our little personal “cascadias” were sprawling across the table in more unique and intricate ways, as we were starting to learn to be less confined in terms of habitat placement.

Such a drastic difference between the first and second rounds was a very strong sign that this game can grow with its players as they get more experience with each and every play.  At the end of this second game, the difference between our landscapes of this game and the previous was night and day.

In the next game, we decided to use random scoring cards.  Some of them were definitely a step up in terms of complexity and required a little rule referencing, but once you learn them they actually are pretty straightforward.

Switching up the scoring led to some even crazier looking terrains than our second game.  We had to adapt to the more complicated animal cards, and we also were getting some pretty bad habitat tile markets mid game.

Cascadia Complex Ecosystem

So while this third round was a bit tricker, and harder to optimize, it was the round that made us realize Cascadia is pretty deserving of all the praise it has gotten.  This is a game that is extremely easy and simple to play and just works for all types of players.  

Whether it’s your first play and you are strict with your habitat placement or your 20th and your rivers are twisting from table end to table end, Cascadia offers a pretty laid back and very satisfying game.

How to Play Cascadia:

In Cascadia, players will be constructing their own unique habitats and ecosystems by drafting tiles and animal tokens and placing them in various ways to score points.  Each player starts with a starter habitat tile that will be the foundation of their ecosystem.

The number of Habitat Tiles used per game is dependent on the number of players, in a two player game of Cascadia 43 of the 85 tiles are used.  These are shuffled and arranged into four piles.  Four tiles are drawn and placed in the middle of both players.

Next four animal tokens are drawn and placed next to each of the four previously placed habitat tiles.  After this players are ready to start the game.

Cascadia Habitat Tile and Animal Token Market

They will take turns selecting a tile from one of the four in the middle, while also taking the animal token with it.  They must place the habitat tile and then may place the animal token if they can.  This animal token doesn’t have to go on the tile they just placed.

Tile types don’t need to match but the larger sections of a certain terrain you have the higher scoring they will be.  Animal tokens must be placed on a habitat tile that has that animal symbol on it.

Cascadia Bag and Animal Tokens

Players also can gain nature tokens that they can spend to mix and match the tiles and animal tokens they draft or replenish the market.  These nature tokens are acquired when a player places the matching animal token on a keystone tile, a tile that only has one animal symbol on it.

The scoring for each animal type varies depending on which of that animal’s cards you use but below are examples of the simple scoring for each type.

  • Grizzly Bear: Scores for each pair
  • Elk: Score for straight lines, with a line of 4 scoring the most
  • Salmon: Score for any run of salmon, shape doesn’t matter but there can’t be any adjacent.
  • Hawks: Score for each one that is not touching another hawk
  • Foxes: Scores more for each unique animal type surrounding it

These are the simplest scoring methods for the animals but give you an idea of how much of an impact they have on how you place your animal tokens.

Cascadia Bear Scoring Card

Once the tiles in the middle of the table can’t be replenished the game is over and players will need to calculate their scores for each animal type.  Players will also score for their largest section of each terrain type with the player who has the biggest section of that terrain scoring a small bonus.  The player with the most points wins.

Conclusion:

Cascadia isn’t just another nature themed game, it checks all the boxes that make a great gateway game.  It’s easy to learn and play, almost relaxing, and satisfying in terms of gameplay.  

While the nature theme is a bit overdone, it is great for this abstract style of game making it more appealing for the broad and general audience it deserves.  The accessibility is upped even more by including a family friendly scoring variant that makes it easier for new and younger players to get started with the game.  

Now everyone does have to play in the same mode for the game to work and the scoring to be fair but it’s still impressive the range of complexity this very simple game has managed to include within its rules and design.

The unique scoring cards, while upping the complexity, also add that little bit of variety that allows this pretty simple game to have some pretty decent replayability.  Even though there are only different scores for each animal, the various combinations will have a pretty big impact on each game and the actions you take.

Animal Scoring Cards in Cascadia

The game is a little less elegant than some other abstract games, but we think Cascadia makes up for it in terms of its variety, replayability, and broadly appealing but appropriate theme.  While it is a great gateway game in almost every way, this of course always comes with a few negatives.

First, this game is very much a multiplayer solitaire experience.  Players mostly focus on their own ecosystems and draft in a way to benefit themselves, as opposed to weakening their opponents.  There aren’t any actions you can take against your fellow tablemates.

This is great for a gateway game as the low conflict allows players to enjoy their puzzle at hand while still feeling like they are participating in a group game.  More experienced players might just be wishing there was just a little bit more player interaction in Cascadia though.

This game is also one of those games where eventually the difference between many actions feels like a toss-up.  The scores and their respective mechanisms are always so close that it almost ends up feeling like what you do doesn’t matter.  

This is great and most likely by design to make the game more friendly to beginner gamers as it’s very unlikely for someone to have an extremely poor game, but for those who like to have the decisions they make have a very noticeable difference might also find Cascadia lacking in this regard.

Although many moves do feel like a toss-up, in these more puzzly games you can’t help but consider almost all 1,929 of your available options, even if the difference in score is minimal. So some who are overanalytical may also find themselves spending too much time taking their turns.  

There are a lot of options in your turns in Cascadia, especially once you start getting creative in your Habitat tile layout, so those who are prone to what we call analysis paralysis, might make this game run a little long for what it is. Still, if you can avoid this we think this game actually plays in the perfect amount of time.

Cascadia isn’t without its weaknesses but overall it is a top contender for one of the best gateway games to date.  So as long as you know what to expect, this one might be the next staple of your board game collection.  

Whether it’s the game you bring out to introduce new players to modern board games, or the one you pull out when you want to relax and you know, just construct entire regions of the Pacific Northwest like you’re some sort of god, Cascadia in our opinion is pretty deserving of a place on most people’s shelves.

Is Cascadia Good For 2 Players?

Cascadia plays pretty much the same at all player counts due to its low to non-existent player interaction and difference in setup.  Since the tiles and bonus scoring are adjusted for player count, the game experience should theoretically be pretty similar no matter how many are playing, but playing with two players does have some advantages.

As we said earlier you have a lot of options on any one turn in Cascadia, leading to some potential overanalyzing and overthinking.  In a two player game, it’s not as big of a deal since the downtime between players isn’t as much but in a four player game, players could be waiting quite a while between turns.

This probably isn’t a deal breaker for most, especially if you and your gaming partners don’t suffer from analysis paralysis, but it’s something to consider.  

Two player games of Cascadia provide a little more opportunity for strategic planning too.  The habitat tile market will change less between your turns so you’ll be able to think ahead a little better.  Having only one opponent also allows you to possibly take actions against them.

Pros:

  • A great puzzle every time
  • Just enough variety and replayability for this type of game
  • Broadly appealing theme that almost everyone can get into
  • Easy to learn and play
  • Great for new and experienced players, due to various scoring methods
  • Good components and artwork

Cons:

  • Very low to almost non-existent player interaction
  • Some luck of the draw can occasionally have players feeling stuck
  • Lots of decision space that may lead to long turns
  • Tight scoring makes it seem like your actions don’t matter

Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) Cascadia, Award-Winning Board Game Set in Pacific Northwest, Build Nature Corridors, Attract Wildlife, Ages 10+, 1-4 Players, 30-45 Min, FlatOut Games
Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) Cascadia, Award-Winning Board Game Set in Pacific Northwest, Build Nature Corridors, Attract Wildlife, Ages 10+, 1-4 Players, 30-45 Min, FlatOut Games
Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) Cascadia, Award-Winning Board Game Set in Pacific Northwest, Build Nature Corridors, Attract Wildlife, Ages 10+, 1-4 Players, 30-45 Min, FlatOut Games

We hope this Cascadia two player review has helped you.

Our reviews are not paid reviews, but some games are given to us, we do not let this affect our opinions in any way. This post may contain affiliate links so we might receive compensation if you sign up for or purchase products linked to. As an Amazon Associate, we can earn from qualifying purchases. This helps cover our site's costs and allows us to continue reviewing games.


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