Board GamesReviews

PARKS Review

Set Collection, Worker Placement
Keymaster Games
Henry Audubon
Fifty-Nine Parks Print Series

PARKS is just about as beautiful a game as we've seen, but the stunning presentation only serves to enhance your experience as you guide your hikers through a year of natural wonders and excellently balanced gameplay.

PARKS from Keymaster Games does something few games do – it makes me nostalgic for non-board game activities; in this case, hiking through the great outdoors.  As you and your fellow players move through your year of trekking across a plethora of gorgeous national parks, gathering memories and photographs along the way.

Jess: Keymaster Games has done it again! PARKS is a work of art, plain and simple, and fits right in with the likes of the fantastic Space Park and Campy Creatures.

Andrew: 100% agreed.  There are few games that sit so beautifully on the table as PARKS does, but while we could easily spend the rest of our review singing the praises of its top-notch aesthetic presentation, that would be a disservice to a game that is as fun to play as it is to look at.

Each park card rewards you with points and a tidbit of information about the park.

Mechanically, PARKS is a set collection game.  Players will move their hikers across a row of terrain features, gathering resources which they will ultimately spend to claim park cards, thereby securing piles of points.

Hikers can block each other, but you have a once per season action that lets you share a space.

Each player will control 2 hiker tokens, moving whichever they choose as far along the trail as they desire.  Where they stop will determine what sort of action they can take.  In the first season, only the basic tiles will be out, which provide players will resource tokens.  However, in later seasons, additional tiles will be added, each of which has a unique function.

As the seasons pass, new tiles will get added to the trail

Andrew: So, PARKS is pretty mechanically straightforward.  But I absolutely love the 2 hiker system, since you can never move backward along the trail.  You need to decide if you will zip ahead to get a specific tile you need, or if you will hang back and try to hit more tiles along your journey.

Jess: Yeah, it reminds me a lot of Tokaido that way (which is a great thing).  But everyone is always moving towards the end of the trail, and if you’re the last player still on the trail, you get forced to skip all your tiles on the way to the end!  So there is this great tension of wanting to hold back to hit more tiles, but not wanting to finish your hike last.

Reserve a park, buy gear, and meet a friendly bear… I mean visit a park!

Once at the end of the trail, players will be able to reserve park cards (so that only they can complete them), buy gear to assist subsequent seasons, or turn in resource tokens to score park cards.  This process is repeated over the course of 4 seasons, with the trail getting one tile longer with each that passes.  At the end, it will be the hiker who scored the most points who wins!

Each season gives a different bonus and there are a bunch in the deck, so it keeps the game feeling fresh.

Jess: But really, everyone who plays will be a winner. PARKS is just so dang charming!

Andrew: Not only that, but there is strategy and tension in its mechanisms and minimal player interactions – just enough to keep it thinky without ever falling victim to truly paralyzing levels of analysis.

The wooden components compliment the game so well.

Jess: All that for sure, but at the end of the day, I have to say I just plain love this game.  It feels so satisfying to gather up the resources you need to grab that perfect park card, and by snagging just the right gear, you can build some really clever combos.

Just bask in the glory of this organizer. It’s shaped like a log!

Andrew: And it’s damn gorgeous.

Jess: Naturally!

Bottom line – PARKS is simply great.  It’s not a complicated game, but there is more bite here than you might assume, given how pretty the dang thing is.  But between the presentation, the great box inserts, and the gameplay itself, we highly recommend checking it out!

Image Credits: Diana Teeter

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