A walk in PARKS

Posted on 2022-03-27

Today I played PARKS by Keymaster Games for the first time.

PARKS Official Website

PARKS BoardGameGeek page

PARKS is a game about hiking across trails and visiting National Parks. In practice, it's a worker placement game where you collect resources to pay for points-earning National Parks, while also ensuring you don't fall too far behind the other hikers on the trail.

It has a solo Automa built-in: the Park Rangers. They don't directly compete with you, but they will take resources, cards, and spots on the board. Once they earn enough resources, they will pay for a negative special effect to happen. The specific effect is drawn from a deck of cards and depends on the type of resource spent as well. If they get to the end of the trail before you do on any given round, a minor negative effect will occur.

Overall, I enjoyed this game. I found it to be fairly light and relaxing. The components are gorgeous, and I'm happy it includes a solo mode right out of the box.

Having said that, the solo AI was not particularly interesting. It seems like there aren't a lot of interaction points between players in this game to begin with, even more so in the solo mode. The Park Rangers don't score any points of their own, so you aren't really competing with them. Sure, they got in my way from time to time, but otherwise they felt more like a minor nuisance than a real opposing force. Ultimately, this game is a high-score style game, so the Park Rangers simply become a small obstacle in your way of earning more points. Your "real" opponent is your past self... which makes the solo game feel more prone to luck-of-the-draw than anything.

I love the theme of this game, and it's extremely well represented in the card art and other components. However, the gameplay itself is quite abstract, and I don't think the mechanics and theme play off each other at all. For the level of depth you get with PARKS, I wish it had a smaller footprint. It could be a perfect, chill, small-box game, but instead it's a big-box medium/large footprint game with great art and decent gameplay. The solo mode is kinda boring, unfortunately. I don't think this will hit my table very often, but it'll be a relaxing time when it does.

I'm curious to eventually try the Nightfall expansion, which appears to mostly add new cards, and a camping mechanic. 🎊