Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Board Game Top 100 (2024) Part 46 (6-5)

#6 Cascadia

In Cascadia players are placing hex tiles that show different terrains to create a personal wilderness hex map. You don't have to match the types of terrain as you place each tile, in fact you can't … not every time, but you do score points for your largest contiguous mass of connecting matched terrains of each type. So, match up terrain borders when you can. In addition to terrain, each hex tile also has one, two, or three animals depicted on it. For each tile this shows the kinds of animals that can live there. 


Cascadia is a drafting game. Each turn four hex tiles are randomly presented in a row. In addition, four animal tokens are also randomly placed, one next to each hex. The animal shown on an animal token will not necessarily match the animal shown on the hex that it is paired with. It often won't. But, you start with three hexes and no tokens. So, you have a bit of breathing room. Each turn, you try to select the best set of the four.

Animals score based on their locations relative to other animals. Perhaps bears want to be in groups of three, or hawks don't want to be next to other hawks. These scoring objectives are shown on cards and they can change from game to game, making every game of Cascadia feel just a little different. There are bears, elk, foxes, hawks, and salmon and each animal has four different scoring cards that you mix and match before each game.


You also score for terrain placement as mentioned previously. These combinations of scoring objectives create a challenging puzzle. Some special hexes show only one terrain type and one animal type on them. Placing these into your puzzle can be a more difficult challenge, but when you place an animal on one of these tiles you gain a special pinecone token. You can later spend a pinecone token to break the rules, and take an animal and hex from the offer that are not matched.

Cascadia is a fun puzzle game. It's an abstract game that I still manage to become immersed in as I watch this little wilderness environment grow before my eyes. The hexes are bright and beautiful and the animal tokens are nice wooden disks with the animal's image screen printed on them. It's a gorgeous production and a fantastic game. That's why Cascadia is my #6 favorite game of all time.


#5 Obsession

In Obsession, players are families competing to gain the favor of the Fairchilds. The Fairchilds are a well to do family of the highest reputation and the most eligible son and most eligible daughter in all of high society. Obsession is basically, "Pride and Prejudice" the board game. Think of Downton Abbey or Bridgerton and you get the idea. 


Your family are social climbers. You have an estate and some reputation. But, you are going to need to do much better, if you want to attract the attention of the Fairchilds. You do this by improving your estate and at the same time, enabling yourself to host activities that will create social contacts for you. The more and better social contacts that you have, the better your reputation. 

The better your reputation, the more likely one of the Fairchilds will take notice of you. The game is played over a number of rounds. Some of these end with a social event that can see one of the Fairchilds showing an interest in your family. This adds a Fairchild card to your personal deck of contacts, and that can be very powerful. In the final social event, winning a Fairchild will add the card to your deck for final scoring and these cards are worth a lot of points.


Obsession is a heavier, meatier experience. The game play centers around your ability to host events and to do this you must manage your staff, your maids, butlers and other servants. This is very much like Downton Abbey. The servants are meeples, the family and their guests are cards. These components combine together seamlessly to create an amazingly thematic experience.

Obsession is kind of a masterpiece. It has the best integration of theme and game play of any game that I have played. Everything works, and everything makes sense. The game's components are not the prettiest. The designer/publisher is not an artist. The cards make use of public domain images of all the different peoples of the period, and that's fine, but these are then enhanced by amusing factoids about each person that elevates every card. Every component in this game is somehow better than it should be.

I love Obsession. The game play is intuitive and engaging and fully supported by the game's theme. This is a fully immersive experience that I somehow manage to play well, while also losing myself in the story of the game. That's how good this game is. The story of the game makes me want to compete. It makes me want to gain the favor of the Fairchilds. While I'm losing myself in its story, I'm also playing the game well. That's the best kind of game, and my #5 favorite game of all time.


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