Trekking the National Parks

Last year at Origins, +Jamie Stefko and I were intrigued by a little booth at the back of the exhibit hall. The sign said "Trekking the National Parks." My wife has a dream of seeing as many of the National Parks as possible, so I nudged her toward the table.

Turns out, Trekking the National Parks is a board game designed by Charlie Bink based on his parents' love of the National Parks and their desire to educate people and particularly families about our nation's wonderful parks system. They were taking pre-orders at Origins in anticipation of a future Kickstarter.

That Kickstarter went off successfully, and the resulting game is beautiful. In addition to a wonderful board featuring all of the National Parks, Trekking also has several sets of cards, attractive glass stones, and the cutest custom meeples I've seen yet — hikers complete with backpacks in six colors.

We got the game before the holidays last year, but we hadn't gotten the chance to pull it out until this past weekend. I can say that the game is strategic without too much complexity and a heck of a lot of fun. It is easy to compare Trekking to something like Ticket to Ride, and it compares favorably.

In Trekking, you visit the various parks by playing cards whose values exactly equal the total value of a unique trail between your starting location and your destination. If there's a stone where you stop, you pick up the stone. You can claim cards for a subset of the parks by playing the right combination of suited cards.

Park cards are worth victory points, as is having the most of each color of stone, the greatest number of stones, and the most park cards at the end of the game. It's easy to pile up a surprising number of points just by jaunting around the map collecting stones. Really, if you just decide on a strategy at the beginning and stick to it, you'll do pretty well.

There's an advanced set of postcard cards that add another way to score points, but we only played with the base game. The optional postcards are worth points if you can score them with the right suited cards, but they cost you points if you've taken them but couldn't score them (like the tickets in Ticket to Ride).

Finally, the game comes with a booklet that gives a little information about each of the National Parks. Kickstarter backers could pledge to get their family or company in this book, so each Park is sponsored by one of the many generous contributors. It's a great way to learn about our National Parks System.

If you enjoy simple strategy games, if you are looking for a fun and educational game to play with your family, or if you are just a fan of nature and parks and want to learn more about them, I heartily recommend Trekking the National Parks. You can find it at http://www.trektheparks.com/ for $59, with free shipping in the US.

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