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Game Review: Cascadia

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

We are War Games, and we make games worth fighting over.

However, we recognize that there are plenty of other great games out there not made by us. So in an effort to spread the love, we decided to start reviewing other games worth fighting over.

As you wait for your own copy of Proliferation: The Game of Nuclear Strategy you just purchased to reach your doorstep, here is another game we think you will enjoy.

Game: Cascadia

Game Night: September 6, 2023

Play Time: 30-45 minutes

Rating: 8.2/10

Description: Create the most harmonious ecosystem as you puzzle together habitats and wildlife.

Publisher: Flatout Games

Date Published: 2021

For this game night, we chose to play Cascadia, the puzzle tile-laying, token-drafting game by Flatout Games. Cascadia routinely comes up on top tabletop games lists, and is a highly recommended game in board game circles and blogs alike. While we weren’t sure about playing another game with themes of nature and wildlife, after having played a bunch of Trekking, Photosynthesis, and Wingspan, we were pleasantly surprised to find a game we enjoyed, and that was simple to teach and play.

First Impressions/Unboxing:

The first thing we noticed when unboxing Cascadia was the amount of stuff there was to punch out, totaling almost a dozen sheets of cardboard tiles. If you’re a fan of punching these things out, you’ll absolutely love unboxing this game.

The game had an overall high-quality feel to it, complete with a beautiful cloth bag to store and randomize the wildlife tokens. When we realized that the game was mainly an assortment of wildlife tokens and habitat tiles, we were puzzled as to how the gameplay might unfold, there being no player boards, cards, dice, or other usual suspects in the box.

The themes of wildlife and naturalism are consistent throughout the game’s box, tiles, and tokens, which do a great job of attracting the eye. The pink salmon tokens were especially cute!


Cascadia has something especially excellent going for it. The rules are very simple to teach and learn, earning a Weight score of 1.84/5.00 on, and once you get it the gameplay feels very natural. This also means that the rulebook does not have to clear a high bar to be functional, especially when much of the rules are best explained visually: by physically manipulating the hexagonal habitat tiles. The rulebook, however, did a fantastic job at leaving nothing open to interpretation.

Our only complaint, which really isn’t a complaint since the precise language led to a better understanding of the gameplay, was the use of the world “contiguous” in the rulebook. Our team definitely hadn’t been forced to use that word in several years, or even any of the years we were enrolled in college (though none of us studied ecology, to be fair!).


The list of materials contained inside Cascadia includes 100 wooden Wildlife Tokens, 85 Habitat Tiles, 25 Nature Tokens, Wildlife Scoring Cards, 5 Starter Habitat Tiles, a scorepad, and a cloth bag to store and randomize the Wildlife tokens in. The wooden tokens and cardboard tiles were high-quality, and the game itself seemed very well-produced. The Wildlife Tokens were an especially fun tactile experience.

Much like Wingspan, Cascadia has an assortment of materials that definitely add to the overall experience, practically begging players to manipulate them. They also, like Wingspan, are so emblematic of the theme that they take on a life of their own. Seeing an uncollected pink salmon token on the floor of your game room will instantly scream the word Cascadia in your head.


The gameplay comprising Cascadia was pretty straightforward, yet extremely enjoyable. This also made the gameplay easily teachable, which is a huge barrier to overcome during typical game nights.

One of the best facts about the gameplay is that each player gets exactly 20 turns to form their continent of habitats once they choose their starting habitat tile. At first, 20 turns seems like more than enough; by the time you’ve placed your 10th time, you become all too aware of the limitations 20 turns entails. Each turn becomes increasingly more important as the game comes to a close, and the pressure is definitely intense.

These 20 turns unfold in two parts: Players take a Wildlife Token and Habitat Tile pairing from the center area, where there will always be 4 options, placing the Habitat Tile next to other Habitat Tiles they possess and the Wildlife Token in an open Habitat Tile. Next, players draw a new token and tile to replace the pair they just selected for the next player. Wildlife Tokens can only be placed in Habitat Tiles with corresponding pictures –and players are competing for the largest land masses of each habitat – so choosing and placing your token and tile is strategically critical. The Wildlife Scoring Cards display placement patterns for Wildlife Tokens, which will determine how points are scored at the end of each game.

The Nature Tokens, which you can use to refresh the center area’s Wildlife Tokens, give players a bit of flexibility if they don’t like their options. The same is true if 3 or more identical Wildlife Tokens are in the center area. This prevents the game from getting stale, or from completely shutting out potential strategies for victory points.

Victory points are tallied up at the end of the game, and come from 4 sources: that game’s distinct Wildlife Scoring Cards, the size of your contiguous habitats, extra points for the largest contiguous habitats, and, finally, points for Nature Tokens you have left over at the end. Because of the extra points for largest contiguous habitats, it’s pretty difficult to predict who is outright winning the game before points are actually tallied. There were several games played where I thought I was about to become the clear victor, only for our COO, Cory, to absolutely stomp on my score by a dozen points.

Overall, the gameplay was highly enjoyable, culminating in a crescendo of pressured choices and dwindling options. My response to wrapping up our first game was to immediately play again. The ideas of contiguous land masses, token drafting, and tile placement work together extremely well to form a cohesive, unique experience

Key Strengths:

  • Theme. A good nature theme is usually appreciated, but Cascadia knocks this one out of the park. All materials in the game match the theme perfectly, and the idea of building your land mass and populating it with specific wildlife will have you feeling like a semi-major deity. Cascadia takes a theme and runs with it, and ends up with better gameplay than many tabletop titles with similar themes.

  • Simplicity. The simplicity of the ruleset, including the turn limit of 20, clearly defined phases of play, and brevity of the rules in general, made for gameplay that was intuitive and easy to teach. The simplicity unfolds, however, into countless amounts of strategies and outcomes, especially when it comes to building contiguous habitats and scoring victory points at the end.

  • The tokens and tiles. They are highly manipulable, quality game pieces that come in vivid colors. There is something oddly satisfying about placing a Wildlife Token onto a Habitat Tile you just placed.

  • Rulebook achievements. There are lists of achievements in the rulebook corresponding to different milestones, which gives players a decent framework for measuring how good a Cascadia player objectively is. This was a really fun idea, and added another dimension to gameplay.

  • Quick setup and gameplay, but not too quick. The gameplay is estimated at 30-45 minutes. Most of our games lasted just under an hour, making Cascadia much less of a commitment than, say, Twilight Imperium or Dune, but still incredibly satisfying and worth playing. The pace at which the game unfolds is also enjoyable, starting off slow, but increasing in intensity until the victory points are rounded up at the end. Every night of the week can’t be a Dune night, but it can easily be a Cascadia night!

One Drawback:

One complaint from a few of our team members is that the game was slow to start. At first, especially if it is your first time playing Cascadia, the moves made toward the beginning of the game can seem kind of arbitrary. However, with enough playthroughs, I personally started to see that the Starter Habitat Tiles drove a lot of the strategy behind the earliest game moves, especially in regards to getting the largest contiguous habitats. This perceived slow start, however, is one barrier to get through, where first time players may only see the relevance behind certain strategies after having played one game. But, then again, this is the case with many tabletop games.

Game Night Winner: Cory Corral (COO)


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