Updated: Jul 31
I Kickstarted Parks in the beginning of 2019 and thought they had an ambitious roll out that would see the game delivered before winter of the same year. However, Keymaster Games was damn near spot on when we would get it. I know this review is nine months after we received it but, we have a pretty large wall of shame (unopened/unplayed games) and we are trying to get through it as quick as possible now that we have some down time due to the human malware out there. Keymaster Games worked with the group who did the artwork for fifty-nine parks to make the park cards. They are all beautiful, representative of each park and at the bottom of each card it gives you a little nugget of history about the park. There were a number of parks that we pulled from the deck that I had never heard of and now want to visit as soon as possible.
I backed it because the art was beautiful, I love national parks, I really enjoy board games, and I am a history nut. This ticked all of those boxes and then some. When I received the box, I was so excited but we were in the middle of redoing some house stuff and it just got buried in the to do list. Well last weekend when we went camping, we brought it along because it was the perfect game to play in the wilderness. It’s a weird thing to be excited about but, the packaging and storage of Parks is the best I have in my collection. Everything has a slot and it easily fits there and stays in place when being moved around. Like I said, I know it’s a dorky thing to be excited about but I was.
Each park you visit gives you a specific number of victory points based on how difficult they are to complete. Some may require you to pick up 3 water (the ocean trail or rainy weather) or others may require up to 6 different tokens to visit. Obviously the lower the cost the lower the victory points you receive. I focused more on the number of parks rather then getting the highest point value ones. The ones that I could complete in that season were typically the ones that I shot for. I hadn’t thought about it until my wife caught me saving up for a big one and she reserved the park. Yes, you can reserve the parks, which I forgot/wasn’t paying attention to. To reserve a park, you must get to the end of the trail or certain trail tiles allow you to when you move onto it. This is another good way to block an opponent from scoring big. I ended up not being able to use some of the resources that I had gathered for the rest of the game because not one of the park cards required it. She got me good on that one and it almost sunk me.
There are other additions to the game that help make the hike a little easier. You can pick up canteens or gear cards when moving to a tile that allows for it. Gear cards must be purchased and offer benefits like, getting one victory point per picture or getting a resource whenever another resource is collected. Canteens are different and need to be filled before they are used. Filling them is as easy as getting a water resource. Canteens offer you a discount on park costs, allow you to use other memories to be used to visit parks, or allowing you to reserve parks. I barely used these because I was more focused on visiting parks but my wife had a few that really started to gather steam by the end of the game when she was getting to visit parks using other resources than what was required. Her canteens were giving her the ability to get extra memories (pictures and wildlife). These aren’t required, depending on your strategy, but they sure do help get you into more parks.
Parks is easy to grasp, you are literally just moving you hikers and trading resources in to visit parks but there is a strategy to it. You can sit on a campsite and block other players from reaping the rewards unless they use their token to douse their “campfire.” You can only douse your campfire once every season. I successfully used this tactic in the first game we played where I held her from getting onto the “visit a park” campsite and forced her hikers to the end of the trail. If you are the last hiker on the board the game forces you to move to the end of the trail. This strategy got me the win by the skin of my teeth.
If you are so inclined, there is a solo mode that removes some of the trail cards and adds events and there are trek goals. This keeps the game interesting and difficult but it is best enjoyed when playing with others. Otherwise, the game plays nearly identical except in the end game because you have to fulfil end of year goals.
Once the game was set up and running it was quick, easy, fun, and beautiful to look at. I think that this is a good introductory game for anyone and could even be played with the kids. They could not only have fun but learn about the parks. This could end up saving you a bundle of money, instead of wanting to go to Disneyland they may now want to go on a road trip to Yellowstone or the Badlands. It was a lot of fun and informative. The artwork alone is worth the purchase price, you could easily put each card in a collage frame and it would look amazing on the wall. Plus, it is the gold standard for storage solutions in board games. I suggest that anyone interested in the outdoors or just a good game should pick it up.
It is a little harder to find than most games but it can be purchased at Miniature Market. However, it was cheapest and in stock here.