Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday 14 November 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Parks

Game: Parks

Publisher: Keymaster Games

Designer: Henry Audubon

Year: 2019

Parks is a game that is brought together by the wonderful artwork of the Fifty-Nine Parks print series, featuring poster artwork for the national parks of the US. Artwork and production value – with wooden animal meeples and Gametrayz inserts are certainly something that first attracted me to Parks, but the game seems to be getting a good amount of buzz in its own right – making it well worth checking out.

Parks is a game for 1-5 players in which your two hiker meeples will trek through different trails over the course of the four seasons of the year. Along the way you’ll collect memories and take a few photographs, as well as collecting canteens for water and gear that may make your travels easier. Those memories can be assembly into visits to National Parks at the end of each hike.

Each player has two hiker meeples and on each turn, one meeple will be moved to a new spot on the linear hiking trail. The trail is made up on basic tiles, plus a special tile that's added to the mix in each round. The four main resources: sun, mountains, forest and water are available at certain spots on the trail, as well as some more unique actions, such as taking a photo or grabbing a new canteen. Each round, the hiking trail locations are shuffled, and the special locations that are added give you abilities to swap resources, obtain a wildcard resource or copy another occupied location. You can move your hiker as far as you want, but primarily to unoccupied locations and when you get to the end of the trail you can either reserve a park, trade in resources to visit a park card or buy gear that makes your future turns easier.

Over the course of four rounds, there will be weather, representing the four seasons that adds new rules for each season and some bonus resources to incentivise being the first to a trail location. Each season you'll be getting more and more powerful as you obtain canteens to convert resources or gear to give you special actions or to make visiting parks cheaper. Additionally you're incentivised by year cards that give you end of game scoring objectives.

Taking action and gathering resources in Parks is a really simple activity, but, it definitely ramps up into something more interesting as you play through the rounds. Initially, when picking our year cards we were confused. How could I ever achieve 10 parks cards, especially ones that need water? I have two hikers and four rounds - that's 8 parks cards total if everything goes really smoothly! However once you add in the additional parks action tile and the copy a space tile, the intricacy and planning in the game really shows. Depending on where other players place their hikers and when you are able to use your campfire, or some gear to occupy an already occupied space, it's technically possible to get 6, or more park cards in a single turn. Of course, that's only if you have the resources! This is the golden moment in Parks for me, when you can be really cunning and efficient.

Parks is definitely a game that's driven by skill. With two players, there's some blocking and player interaction, but with more, I can only imagine that the hiking trail gets crazy crowded and results in lower scoring games. That would certainly add some non-skill driven factors to your game. We also found that if you drew a year card needing parks with a certain resource and they just didn't get pulled from the deck, that was a bit of bad luck too, although the year cards aren't a huge point swing. Of course, in a higher player count game you'll likely cycle more of the deck, mitigating some of that luck of the draw.

It's always satisfying to me when a game is skill based and also when I feel like there's more than one way to win. Amy has often played a game where she goes for gear and canteens in the first round, making her have lots of special abilities and discounts later in the game. Whereas, I'm more likely to spam parks cards, getting as many as possible and being opportunistic in taking the right resources or parks cards at the right moment. We've both won over the course of a few plays.

Parks is an interesting gateway game. It's easy to learn, simple to play, but it does have some depth in the way that hikers are moved on the track - it's a really fun puzzle to optimise. As a result, Parks is a game you can play to demonstrate slightly deeper concepts in an otherwise simple game. For us, playing at home with two players, Parks is a little to simple and we're already seeing some of the same cards. It's still a game that I find really enjoyable to play and look at, so for the Yellow Meeple, Parks is a 7/10.

Parks was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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