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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!