Come with us on a hike through America’s amazing National Parks…
We have a family Secret Santa each Christmas, and each year everyone can make requests if they want anything in particular (saves people buying the wrong stuff right?) and in 2019 we requested Parks as it looked incredible and right up our street. Alas we did not get it and after that it was sold out, so when the Kickstarter for the expansion was announced we got super excited and backed it straight away! Then we waited and waited all year for the Kickstarter to finish and then eventually last week it finally arrived! What an absolute joy it was to open that box… There are games with nice artwork, and then there’s Parks.
In Parks, players take on the role of two hikers trekking across various trails throughout the year. There are four seasons (rounds) to tackle, and each season the trail changes up and gets longer. Hikers will gather resources, take photos, equip gear to help them and visit the stunning National Parks along the way. You score points for each National Park you visit, for every photo you take, and everyone has their own secret objective to complete for bonus points! Most points after four rounds wins!
There are 48 National Parks included in the base game, each stunningly detailed on large cards. They have a points value in the bottom left and a resource cost required to visit them. They also have a little fact on them so you can learn about the National Parks you are visiting, which I love! Here is a cute selection of the Parks below…
First of all you find out the weather type for the season, which alters the rules very slightly for that round (e.g. extra bonus resources on certain spaces), then starting at the Trailhead, you take turns to pick one of your hikers to move to an empty space somewhere along the trail (once per season you can use the same space as an opponent).
You can’t go backwards so you often have a choice between risking missing out on the really good spots by only moving one or two spaces, or taking the best spots but missing out on everything in between. Most of the spaces give you resources, others allow you to visit (buy) Parks, trade resources, equip gear etc.
When your hiker reaches the end of the trail, they can visit (or reserve, sneaky!) a park or buy some gear. Buying gear will enhance your abilities, such as making parks cheaper to visit, giving you bonus resources etc. so are well worth it if you can get them early, but mainly you’ll want to visit as many parks as you can in the four seasons. The first time we played I spent too long getting gear and ended up not visiting enough Parks!
The other sneaky thing you can do here is force your opponent to finish their hike, because once there is only one hiker remaining on the trail they are forced to come to the end of the trail, missing out on any spaces in between their current spot and the end. This is particularly cut throat at 2 players because there are only four hikers in total, so watch what your opponent is up to and make sure you don’t get caught short (like a bear in the woods).
After the first season you pick up the trail pieces, randomly add one more and then shuffle them to make a new trail for the next season. Draw a new season card and follow its instructions. Play continues until the end of the fourth season, where final scoring takes place.
This is where your sneaky opponents will reveal they’ve actually got an extra 3 VP having completed their secret goal and snatch victory away from you! These bonus cards can be things like requiring a certain number of parks that have trees in their resource cost, or having taken a number of photos over the course of the game. From the games we’ve played, they’re quite difficult to achieve and give you a maximum of 3 points, so aren’t the be all and end all if you can’t complete them.
Wow I love this game. I always knew I would love it because it looks so great and I’d watched a few playthroughs prior to receiving it. It’s a simple game so is easy to teach and play with inexperienced gamers. It takes no time at all to learn but there is quite a lot of strategy around where to place your hikers along the trail, whether you get that extra resource that’ll help you or whether you annoy your opponents by reserving the Park they had their eye on (reminds me of Splendor!). The production value is extremely high, the resource tokens all stored in a cute little log tray, and quite frankly I could just look at the artwork all day and not get bored.
If you’re into deeper more complex games then perhaps Parks might not be for you, and even though I do enjoy Brass Birmingham and Terraforming Mars, I also have a lot of time for these kinds of games, especially those that convert non-gamers as I know this inevitably will.
We also got the Nightlife expansion for Parks, which we haven’t played yet, but we’ve read through it and it sounds awesome – so keep an eye out for that review soon!