I first learned about PARKS back in January of 2019 when I journeyed out to Keymaster Games’ studios in Athens, Georgia. From the quick look video we recorded and the demo game I got to play, I knew this was a solid, easily approachable game with beautiful artwork.
However, I didn’t expect it to become the megahit as we know it now. It received over $400,000 on Kickstarter. It’s now available at Target stores nationwide. It has almost cracked the Top 100 on BoardGameGeek, ranked #116 at the time of this writing. It seems that I underestimated how well the simple yet elegant rules and gorgeous table presence would resonate with thousands of gamers. And after playing the game several times, I certainly fell for its charm, too.
So I was excited to finally get my hands on the Nightfall expansion to the game a few months ago. Boasting new features and even more of the fantastic artwork from Fifty-Nine Parks, I was sure that it would be a nice little compliment to the game that I liked so much.
But it seems that I have once again underestimated this title, as Nightfall has now become an essential part of my games of PARKS. It manages to fix a few of the problems that I had with the original game, while also adding in new and intriguing elements that add more depth to the game without overcomplicating things. Now that I’ve played Nightfall, I’m not sure that I’ll play another game of PARKS without it.
Same Parks, New Tricks
For those unfamiliar with the original PARKS, it’s a pretty simple premise. Over four seasons (rounds), players venture to different location spaces, obtaining resources like forest, sunshine, and water. You then spend these resources to visit different national parks, earning you points. A few other actions, like snapping pictures or meeting personal goals with Year cards, can get you some extra points, and the person with the most points at the end of the year wins.
PARKS Nightfall isn’t a major overhaul in any way, but makes little changes and additions to several different aspects of the game to enhance the gameplay experience. One major change comes in the form of a new mechanic – camping.
At the beginning of each round, tent tokens will be placed on some of the Trail Sites along the path. Whenever you visit these locations, you have the option of visiting one of three campsites which provide more powerful, alternate actions. The campsites change every game, and allow you to do things like trade one token for several of another type at a much higher rate than usual, like one mountain for 5 sunlight. You might also get the chance to take all the water from your Canteens and add it back to your supply, or swap one Gear card for another one.
Fix #1: Year Cards
Camping also might give you the opportunity to get a new Year card, which provides players with a goal during gameplay that will rewards them points if met. In the base game, these goals felt a little incomplete to me. Often you would be tasked with getting a certain number of parks with a particular resource on them, but there were only two levels of success. Plus, if you met the goals, they didn’t feel like they gave you all that many points.
In Nightfall, though, the Year cards have been totally revamped. Now, instead of just having two options for points that are obtained by meeting certain requirements, players can earn an unlimited number of points with the goals. For instance, one of the new challenges gives you 1 point for every 2 Mountains across your visited parks. Another gives you 2 points for every 3 tokens in your supply at the end of the game.
While the challenges in the base game aren’t terrible, they can be somewhat unfair depending on which parks come up during the game. In Nightfall, you still get some points for your goals even if you don’t do all that well. Not only that, but you have the option of obtaining more goals during the game. This gives you another way to earn points throughout the game, providing yet another path to victory for players.
Fix #2: Park Benefits
Nightfall also adds in several new park cards, many of which feature national parks that didn’t make it into the base game. You still obtain the park cards by paying in resources, but many have a new addition. Now, instead of every card having exactly the resources you should pay, some have a small brown box with a number inside. This represents “wild” costs, meaning that you can pay any resource to meet that price.
This is another small addition that helps to battle some of the challenges that arise in the base game when you’re just not able to get that one resource, or when someone swings in and buys the card you’ve had your eye on for several turns. By changing up the costs, players have a few more options when it comes time to visit the parks.
Another addition to the park cards is instant actions. Now, whenever a card is purchased, players have the option to take an additional action. These are similar to what you might find at Trail or Camping Sites, like gaining resources or reserving other park cards. While it’s not a huge change, I feel like the instant actions provide another incentive for trying to get as many of the park cards as you can.
Fix #3: Some Little Things
A few other adjustments are so small that you might not even notice them. Players now start the game with a Wildlife token instead of nothing. When paying the “wild” costs, you can use a Wild token to cover 2 required tokens. Little adjustments like this might not make a huge difference, but they show that the game designers paid attention to feedback that they received from the thousands and thousands of players over the past few years. These adjustments are a little extra polish on an already great game.
It’s Beautiful at Nightfall
All in all, I think that the adjustments provided by PARKS Nightfall help to eliminate some of the minor issues that would arise in the base game around randomness and resource acquisition, especially at the higher player counts. After playing with PARKS, I didn’t feel the sense of being “cheated” out of points that I sometimes get in the base game. Instead, there were many more times where I still had good options for a turn, even if my first choice of an action wasn’t possible.
All in all, I highly recommend this expansion to anyone who has the base game, especially if you’ve played it so much that you’ve grown a little tired of it. This will refresh and revitalize your love for the game, forcing you to bring it to the table time and time again.
The PARKS Nightfall expansion is available through the Keymaster Games web store, at your local game shop or online through Amazon today.
- Good adjustments to the base game without overdoing it
- Beautiful new artwork
- Camping mechanic is a great addition
- Maybe you hate the outdoors?
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