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Trekking the National Parks (Second Edition Review)

Updated: Mar 24, 2023


The first time I heard about Trekking the National Parks was when I watched the Gamemaster documentary in 2020. I remember thinking that this was a cool concept for a game, and really appreciated that this was a passion project of a family that enjoyed visiting National Parks, instead of an established game publishing company. The fact that this game has had recent commercial success is awesome, as is the fact that the parents of the game designer were able to accomplish a life goal of visiting all 59 National Parks. When I was finally able to play the game, I had already bought into the idea of this game. I love the national parks, and my visits to the Great Smokey Mountains and the Grand Canyon are treasured memories. It is with great anticipation that I brought this game to the table with my kids.


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Short Explanation of How to Play

The goal of Trekking the National Parks is to get the most victory points by (1) Setting up camp at major national parks, (2) collecting (non-major) National Park cards (whoever gets 5 National Park cards first triggers the end of the game), (3) being the first to visit each National Park, and by being the first to visit a park you get one of 5 color stones, and (4) having the most of any color stones and getting extra points as a result. Movement happens with numbered cards that have different pictures in the background. The pictures in the background of those numbered cards are used to acquire the National Park cards. There is a little more to the game than this paragraph explained, but not much. The game is not too complex and is easy to pick up and play.

 

Why it Works/Doesn't Work For Our Family


What Worked: I loved that I was able to pull out this game for the first time, set it up, figure out the rules and explain them to our kids, play the game, finish, and put it away in an hour. My son who is 6 often gets bored with more intensive games, but was into this game from start to finish and was clearly enjoying himself. I appreciated the nuanced strategy from a game that was mechanically very simple to me. I was able to plot out in my mind what I believed would be the most efficient strategy. Having a map that showed all of the National Parks was really cool, and the photos in the pictures are beautiful, and we really wanted to get those cards for ourselves.


What Was Challenging: There wasn’t anything that was challenging with playing this game for my family. The biggest challenge long term would be maintaining excitement after a few plays. The simplicity and beauty of the game are great, but since the variety in this game comes in the form of which cards show up and where different colored stones begin the game, the intrigue could wear off quickly.

 

Why it Works/Doesn't Work With Friends


I won’t even try to pull this game out with my gaming friends unless we want an extremely relaxed, casual environment to chat. While it is an enjoyable game, it does not present a challenge in play for someone who plays games with high levels of depth and complexity regularly.

 

Teacher's Corner


This game has a couple of things that would be great teaching tools. First of all, the theme and pictures on the National Park cards are conducive to learning about the wide variety of National Parks in the United States. There is not a high level of depth about these national parks on the cards themselves, but the creators of the game made an excellent website that explores each of the National Parks in depth and detail. Additionally, there are multiple National Park resources available online and in print for further study of the parks. If the goal is to learn about the National Parks, the game can be used as a springboard to start discussion about the National Parks and the website can be used to learn more with a family discussion, research project, or independent study.


The game can also be used to practice basic addition. When the player moves, they can use combinations of numbered cards to get to their destination. For example: if the park the player wants to go to is 6 spaces away, they can use a 2 card and a 4 card to get there. For younger kids learning basic addition, the game could be further simplified to remove the stones to make sure they aren’t lost or lunch. Kids in this age range can also practice recognizing which cards they need to collect to acquire the national park cards, so it can be practice for simple planning as well.



 

Overall opinion, rating, and recommendation


6 year old son - Loved this game. Wanted to play it again. He was very excited to collect the cards he needed to acquire the National Parks and finished tied for the highest score.


9 year old daughter - Enjoyed it, but found this game too simple for her. She commented that she would rather play Axis and Allies (Note: I’ve played the simplified version Axis and Allies 1941 with her, so I am not sure she understood the full implications of her request).


Mine - I will rate this game Casual Family. Aspects of the game were similar to the popular game Ticket to Ride, with your goal to move across the United States and acquire locations, but I found this game to be even quicker to set up and put away than Ticket to Ride. The National Park cards were my favorite aspect of the game, as most of them were photos taken by the family that created the game. There are many beautiful National Parks, and this game lets you see their beauty. I also appreciated how the game was simple to learn and play, and while my daughter got bored with the playthrough, I enjoyed strategizing to be as efficient as I could knowing that I had a limited amount of time to move around the board, collect stones, and collect National Park cards.


 

Games with similarities with this one at each rating level:

  1. Casual Family: Tsuro

  2. Heavy Family: Parks

  3. Casual Adult: Ticket to Ride

  4. Heavy Adult: Power Grid


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