Parks is without a doubt one of the most well-presented games in my collection. From the moment I opened the box, I was impressed at the level of detail and care that went into the production of this fantastic little game.
The box is small for a 5- player game yet inside its tiny footprint lies a truly masterful game that will have you wanting to play again and again.
I had not read anything about Parks before I ordered it from Zatu Games. In fact, it was an impulse purchase to save 3% off the price of the items I bought which actually cost me £30 more than the basket had originally totalled.
Nonetheless, the game arrived and I wasn’t sure what to expect so perhaps it was the artwork on the cards or the wooden counters which arrived in their own tree-like dispenser that made me instantly fall in love with Parks.
If you have read any of my previous reviews you will know that I love a good organiser. I would say that organising and sorting the contents of my games gives me as much pleasure as playing them, which, whilst odd, is not unheard of in this wonderful hobby of ours.
Inside the box, you will find beautifully crafted wooden tokens, in the table friendly plastic branch trays which have their own lids, 5 sets of wooden, pastel-coloured, hikers as well as yellow suns, green trees, red rocks, blue water, brown animal tokens, large park cards which are adorned with glorious art and represent the various parks.
There are also gear cards, season cards, secret goal cards, canteen cards, cards for solo play and some cardboard components that are very high quality and a metal first player marker.
You use these to form the trail that you will take. There is a start and end trail chevron and between these, you shuffle and place your various trail markers. Essentially places to put your hikers to gain resources, buy gear or visit parks. At the end of the season, you clean up, add another location and deal the tiles into the trail again.
Finishing the trail first will give you dibs on which end of season bonus you grab but could mean you miss out on some of the bonuses or resources on the trail.
At the start of each season, you turn over the season card to discover any bonuses or events for that season and place the weather pattern displayed onto the trail starting with the 2nd marker. These bonuses are on top of the trail and the first person to arrive at that marker will get an additional resource as well as those designated on the marker.
Initially, you will have quite simple actions to complete, normally buy gear, visit a park or collect a resource. However, as each season passes you add a new location marker and with it some extended abilities. Now for example you may be able to swap two tokens to take a picture or if you already have the camera, just one.
There are other bonuses such as being able to swap two of your tokens for an animal-shaped one. These act as wild tokens and mean that grabbing every necessary resource for a specific park is not necessary. This becomes very useful later in the game as you often end up with a glut of a certain type depending on the particular season card or gear bonuses.
Moving is straightforward provided you don’t go backwards and do not land on an occupied space you can move to any location you like. If there is someone already on a space you just have to visit, a place you need to go to, you cannot belay or hold out somewhere else, then you could, extinguish your campfire by turning your campfire token over. You cannot relight it until the end of the season unless you use a turn to do so and missing a turn could mean missing out on an important bonus.
At the end of the final season, you count up the value of the parks you visited, denoted by the number in the bottom left corner add any completed bonuses from their secret year card and the number of pictures you have taken and a winner is declared.
It’s a very easy game to understand and even easier to set up and play thanks to the aforementioned tiny footprint, exceptionally well thought out storage solution and components that allow for a super-fast set-up time.
There is also a surprising amount of strategy involved in playing Parks. For example, if you see a player eyeing a park you could if you so wished and were evil to your core, land on the resource space they needed first, stay there until they either have to use their campfire just to land on the space and then purchase the specific park they wanted just before they do.
No normal human would do that but evil players will do that on a regular basis and then claim to have won but at what cost Nicole? What is the cost of your moral bankruptcy and soul?
Feelings aside Parks is our new family favourite and may have even ousted Wingspan as our go-to game.
Parks does suffer from a couple of issues but one of which can be addressed with a house rule. Gear cards do not refresh until one is purchased. Sometimes, particularly in two-player games, no one wants the gear cards on offer so adding a house rule to refresh the gear cards at the end of each season solves this nicely.
The second, main, and hardest issue to solve is that at 2, 3 and 4 players the game runs pretty well but with 5 players the trail can become quite congested and as you can only re-light your campfire twice it can make for some pretty frustrating turns.
We (my wife, son and daughter) feel that 3 players is the sweet spot for Parks but 4 players really does work just fine.
The strategies you can employ are limitless, gear and canteen cards can add innumerable bonus combinations which means that each play requires a slightly different approach, at higher player counts so much is changing between turns that planning ahead becomes difficult.
Planning on the fly is fun and makes each match feel fresh and exciting.
Everything about this little box of joy is pure, unadulterated, indulgent joy. In the last week, it felt like Parks was being played constantly and finding something that all four of us rave over is unusual.
Parks In Summary
Parks is pure joy in a box. Sure at 5 players, it can be a little frustrating and without adding a rule to refresh the gear cards on offer, 2 and every once in a while, even 3 player games, can lead to taking gear you don’t want, just to see something new. I cannot recommend you buy Parks enough. If you like board games Parks has to be in your collection. It is without hesitation one of my all-time favourite games and I am so glad I am impulsive.
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