Earlier in June, Keymaster Games announced a new game called TRAILS, which is a spiritual successor to PARKS, a game that is easily a favorite of ours. Henry Audubon (PARKS, Space Park, Kingswood) is the designer of both games, as you can witness by the art direction and style. Let’s check out TRAILS and see what sets it apart from its older sibling.
Lace Up the Hiking Boots
In TRAILS, players hike from the Trailhead to the Trail End, collecting resources and taking photos. Players are able to move 1 to 2 spaces on their turn and can occupy the same space as another hiker. At either end of the trail, players can turn in resources to earn badges which contain victory points and/or award bonuses. 2 to 4 players earn additional victory points from photos they collect during their journey.
Similar to the setup of PARKS, the trail will be laid out randomly every time you play the game. The Trailhead and Trail End cards will be flipped to the side that contains the number of players that are at the table. This slightly adjusts how many rounds the game will last.
Resources in the game are represented by colored cubes (brown = acorns, green = leaves, grey = rocks). Each badge you earn will require you to turn in between 2 to 5 of these resources to meet the requirements. Two badges are available near the trail board and players will always have one in their hand. I really enjoy the variety of badges that come out during the course of the game.
On the trail, players can land on the same location as a bear token. This allows you to roll a wooden die and receive the bonus that is rolled. The bear token then moves to that new location for other players to enjoy. This bonus can be a big help when you’ve already passed a needed resource but are not ready to reach the end of the trail.
Badge cards and photo cards might contain a bird icon sitting over the victory points on the card. The player who collects the most bird icons will be awarded a 4 point token at the end of the game. It’s important not to overshoot collecting these birds since these cards are normally slightly lower in actual victory points.
Night is Coming
I really love how TRAILS handles the timing of the game. Each time a player reaches the Trail End, the sun token across the top of the board moves one space to the left. This simulates the setting of the sun and it works really well. As the sun passes the different trail cards, they are flipped over and become more valuable when triggered. The card that allows players to take a photo for a single resource now becomes totally free. The trail location that gives a rock now gives players two rock resources.
As nightfall comes, the resources are more plentiful but it also means you have to get points before time runs out. The end of the game is triggered when the sun token moves off the board. At that point all players get a single turn before calculating their score.
PARKS vs TRAILS
My initial concern was that TRAILS would be a watered down version of PARKS. I worried that this game was just something to whet the appetite of people that didn’t want to commit to buying a game that is $50 (and worth every penny). I must admit that I was completely wrong.
TRAILS has plenty of similarity to its predecessor. The art is gorgeous, the gameplay is engaging, and it’s a joy to have on the table. I think that TRAILS is a more straight-forward and easier game to teach, and because players can occupy the same location as another player, TRAILS is a more forgiving game in my opinion. There are times where PARKS feels restrictive and forces players to get what they can. PARKS is more of a slow burn as you collect gear to build an engine to claim parks that you need.
I rarely felt restricted by TRAILS. The most frustration I had was when the wild life die continued to give me the same results over and over. That doesn’t mean the game lacks tension though. Each player is equipped with a canteen that allows them to move as many spaces forward on the trail as they want. Sometimes drinking the canteen to reach the end of the trail and purchase a badge is necessary when your opponents are collecting the same resources as you are.
TRAILS feels like a lighter experience without ever feeling “dumbed down.” Each time we’ve played, the game has been around 30 minutes, which is nice when you don’t have a lot of extra time to play. PARKS is the game we bust out on a Saturday morning with a cup of coffee. TRAILS is a game that can easily hit the table during the work week.
You can feel Henry Audubon’s design methodology in the game. It has the finger prints of his previous games that our family already loves. I wasn’t sure if we needed TRAILS in our game collection but I can say that it has been a welcomed addition. Both games scratch a different itch without much overlap. So grab some friends and enjoy the scenery.
You can purchase TRAILS at your local Target store or order it online through Keymaster Games.
- Beautiful artwork and production throughout
- Excellent price at under $20
- Good variety of badge cards
- Sun setting mechanic is thematically on point
- Gameplay can feel repetitive