Solo Gaming: PARKS

A recent game that is my current art obsession is PARKS, a set collection and worker placement game where you are attempting to visit a variety of National Parks. As usual with my solo overviews, I’m going to assume you know the basic game-play — there are loads of reviews and play-throughs on YouTube you can check out if you need a primer!

Game play

The game set-up is identical to the 2-3 player game with a couple of additions:

  • After you pick your color and grab your hikers and campfire, pick another color for the rangers — the hikers who will keep you moving in this game. The rangers don’t take a campfire, you just need their hikers.
  • After shuffling the gear deck, don’t deal any out. Instead place it face-down on its spot on the board.
  • Finally, take the stack of event cards and the ranger tracker. Shuffle the events and place the first one face-up next to the ranger tracker.
  • You start the game with the first-player marker and the camera.

Set up the first season’s trail as usual, reveal a season card, and place out the weather tokens on the trail. You’ll play as normal, with the rangers moving between each of your turns.

To move the rangers, first determine which one will move. There’s a summary in the rules, but essentially if you are in front of any of the rangers, the front ranger moves, otherwise, the rear one moves. Then turn over the top of the gear deck — the number of stars in the cost of that piece of gear determines how many spaces the ranger will move. Place that gear card on the first, second, or third space if it is a one-star, two-star, or three-star card, respectively. The ranger will never stop on your space, though, instead they’ll move to the next empty space (or the next space occupied by the other ranger, if that’s closer). Any of the pieces of gear on top of their deck is available for you to buy if you land on the “Buy Gear” action.

Even though the rangers won’t camp on your space, you can still use your campfire as usual to camp with one of them.

If a ranger is the first hiker on a space with a weather token, place that token on the appropriate spot on the Ranger Tracker. As soon as one of those is full (sun or water), you’ll resolve the event that lies next to it, then replace the event card and discard any of the weather tokens from the event that was triggered (the other type of tokens stays on the tracker). These events include things like loosing specific tokens or moving your hikers forward on the trail.

When the rangers reach the end of the trail, they’ll occupy a space depending on how many stars were on the card that determined their movement. With a one-star move, the left-most park card is removed (and not replaced until the next season) and the start-player marker taken by the rangers (unless you’ve already claimed it that round). With a two-star move, the middle park card is removed and the camera is returned to the supply. And with a three-star move, the right park card is removed and all the three-star gear cards are shuffled back into the gear deck.

If both of the rangers reach the end spot while you still have hikers on the board (one or two), you have just one remaining turn for the season.

Then, set up the next season as usual (and feel free to take a picture, if you still have the camera). Play through four seasons, and tally up the points on the parks you’ve visited, pictures you’ve taken, your year card, and the start player token (if you have it).

The game has a ranking of scores — see where your score falls.

How did it work?

The solo mechanism worked pretty well — I did have to reference the manual throughout the first season to make sure I was moving the correct ranger, but after that, I had it down.

During my first game, I was just sure the rangers were moving me way too fast down the trail. There’s some nice tension trying to decide how far down the trail to go, and some decision-making to figure out how to slow down the rangers (or at least keep their movements balanced).

However, I’ve been able to manage a top score fairly easily. Which brings me to the scoring … for me, this is, perhaps, the second least interesting way to do a solo game (just behind “try to get the highest score you can”). Since I’ve managed the highest score on the track, I’m less likely to pull this one out again as a solo game.

Despite the uninteresting scoring/win condition, I have pulled it out a couple of times, mostly because I love the art. Not a bad solo game, just not the most interesting “win” scenario for a solo mode.

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