PARKS by Henry Audubon
Blog by Benny
PARKS has arrived! “PARKS celebrate national parks around the U.S. with art from the Fifty-Nine Parks Print Series”. Our Kickstarter edition arrived in pristine condition, complete with beautiful packaging and finished with creative box artwork. As with all board game hunting, I try to evaluate whether or not my wife will enjoy playing the game with me. I was sold that she would enjoy this as soon I unboxed the contents and recognized that the cover art was from a very recent vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains. I was right – which is great because my wife has very particular taste about which games she enjoys playing.
The actual game box is quite compact and easy to store. The game pieces are in themed tree trunk storage containers and the card holding tray references how to efficient store all items and cards the compact box (not even 1 square foot!). This game does have quite a few tokens including for the size of the box, but they have appropriate symbols and unique card backings to make them easily identifiable.
I like to read through the rulebook a day or two in advance before diving into a game. It’s been a while since I have unboxed a game in which I have no experience. I found my favorite section, the “FAQ’s or Common Questions”, and was pleased to find that this one did not have too many. Several of these were subtly redundant after reading through gameplay, which is ALWAYS a positive. I find that if this is the case, then gameplay is relatively simple. Relatively simply games mean we can share with our intermediate gaming friends and always play a quick game during morning coffees with our fellow Nerdz. Everything is very relatable to trekking across the country, and so it was easy to make sense of how the hiking actually works.
You and up to four other hikers embark on a journey to National Parks over the course of 4 seasons (rounds). Your goal is to Visit (pay to visit) National Parks, Photograph (earn the single camera to capture photos), and to complete your Personal Bonus (objective of your hike). Each of these three categories awards points which vary based on difficulty of obtaining.
To make it easier for you to gain points, it is pivotal you collect Gear (equipment that grants you long term benefits), Tokens (resources earned to trade in for park visitations), Canteens (a once a season bonus to gain more resources), Camera (a bonus that gives an advantage to producing photos), and a Campfire (an ability to occupy the trail the same time as another hiker).
As your two hikers trek across the trail that has been designed for your season, you will always finish the hike with an opportunity to Visit, purchase Gear, or Reserve (control a park until you are able to visit, keeping the park unavailable to fellow hikers). These actions take place at the Trail End. As this concludes, a new Season begins. The trail becomes one portion longer for the next hike and the opportunities to visit more parks becomes greater.
As you move your two hikers, there is no limit to how many spaces you may move at once, however, you may never back track, and there is a cost to occupying the same space as another player.
After setting up the playing area with ease, we took two different approaches to tackling the trail. Mariah attempted to finish the trail with her first hiker as soon as possible, while I tried to collect as many resources as possible to save up for a spending spree. I should point out that there are two rules that actually prevent “stacking up” with the strategy I used. One is that you can never have more than 12 resources, and another is that when only one hiker is left on the trail, the season ends immediately to prevent that hiker from bonus multiple turns.
As Mariah immediately conquered the Reserve space to claim her most desired Park available, I gradually paced myself about the board. While Mariah had much more freedom to collect the resources her Reserved Park required to visit, I allowed the game to open a little more freely. I suppose this happens when the Great Smokey Mountains National Park shows up right ‘on the flop’. I observed I would often create problems with myself if I tried to linger too often, mostly because Sunshine or Rain resources were collected quickly by my opposing hikers.
At the conclusion of the first season neither of us really completed any points. It wasn’t until the third season where we started playing more to our Bonus Cards, which should be observed immediately upon discovery! (Whoops!). AND ALSO, we should have attempted to gain more gear MUCH quicker. Gear drastically can reduce the cost of a Visit. By this point (Third Season) I seem to finally acknowledge that I had the Camera, which was essential for me to keep on track with Mariah’s dominance over completing park Visits due to the Gear she collected. I was anticipating a strong Mariah ‘W’- but we actually nearly tied. I Count one for Benny (finally!); endgame score: 33-32.
What a beautiful game! We were so distracted by the artwork, that this initial playthrough took approximately 90 minutes. However, it’s so easy to get back on track that this game is designed to observe the beauty. This is an appropriate game for any amateur gamer. Every experienced gamer will appreciate the beauty AND simplicity. This would be an especially great game to bring along for a rainy day in the Mountains, or for those longing for hike when they are not able to get away. Great game for two or more, and especially new gamers. Every journey you take with PARKS will be worthwhile. I cannot wait to Visit the Great Smoky Mountains again during morning coffee this weekend.
If For Some Reason You Still Haven’t Convinced Yourself to Purchase Yet:
With every game purchased, a donation is made to the National Park Service. Buy PARKS, Save the Parks.
Join the Game!
1% of every purchase donated to The National Park Service
Designer: Henry Audubon
Artists: Fifty-Nine Parks Print Series
Publishers: Keymaster Games
Release Date: 2019
Player Count: 1 – 5
Time: 40 – 60 minutes
Mechanism(s): Point to Point Movement, Set Collection, Worker Placement