It’s hard to believe that it was only 2 years ago that we were dazzled at Gen Con 2019 with the release of PARKS from Keymaster Games. This game not only looked beautiful, but made its way to our tables often with its smooth and streamlined gameplay. In fact, it went on to win our 2019 Board Game Quest Award for the Best Game from a Small Publisher.
Fast forward to this year and PARKS is finally getting its first expansion release. Dubbed Nightfall, this expansion gives players more options, and also more of the good stuff they already enjoy about PARKS.
Nightfall is a modular expansion, so you can pick and choose which parts of it you want to use. For us though, we just tossed it all in the blender as nothing seemed too intimidating. The first thing Nightfall adds is 24 more parks cards. How these differentiate from the original is they add a small, instant bonus. In exchange for fewer VPs, you get an instant action such as trading a resource to take a photo or taking the park action again.
Also included is a stack of new year cards to replace the ones from the base game. These have a little better variety and overall seem a bit easier to achieve.
Finally, the major change here is the campsite action. During a season setup, some trail sites will have tents placed on them. When a hiker lands on these spaces, they can either take the trail action as usual or instead, take the tent and place it on a campsite location below the main trail. These will do a variety of things such as drawing more year cards, exchanging resources, taking photos, gaining canteens, or other special actions. The campsite boards change each season with new actions, and they are limited to first come first serve.
Game Experience with the Expansion:
PARKS: Nightfall was a hard expansion for me to put my finger on. In some cases, it’s great. I love the new park cards and the instant actions brought in some nice variety and strategic options. And the year cards were also a much-appreciated upgrade over the ones in the original. This all serves as a nice improvement over the bits in the base game with minimal rules overhead.
However, the main attraction of the expansion, the campsite, was just OK for us. The tiles the tents landed on were random, and sometimes they’d get placed on a really valuable tile (such as the Lookout) resulting in no one wanting to take the tent. And drawing more year cards felt a tad costly at 3 suns to draw 2 cards and keep one. Our players rarely used it. Overall, using the tents didn’t really feel like a good trade-off for the overhead of learning all the new rules and spaces associated with it. PARKS has always been a streamlined game that’s easy to get to the table and the tents feel like a step back on that front.
But the biggest miss in my opinion for this expansions harkens back to one of my original complaints from the base game. There is still no way to clear a stagnant gear market. We’ve played a lot of PARKS and in many of our games, there have been 3 gear cards that have just languished in the market over several seasons. We’ve longed for a way to sweep that market for new items that might better fit players’ strategies. As a commenter pointed out, you can clear the gear market now, but it is tied to a campsite action. So you need to not only have that specific tile in play for the game (they change from game to game?), but must also use the camp action to do it. I would have preferred it if was a base action whenever you buy gear.
Despite not being perfect, PARKS: Nightfall is still a good expansion. What it does right, it does really well—the new parks cards and year cards were a welcome addition. However, the campsite action was more miss than hit for our games and I’m not sure we’d rush to use that mechanic again. So where does that leave PARKS: Nightfall? I think it falls short of being a required expansion but has enough meat on the bone for fans of the base game to still consider picking it up.
Whether you need to pick this one up really depends on just how much you play PARKS. Want a bit more variety in your games? Then go for it. If not, you can probably safely continue on with the core game, it’s pretty fantastic on its own already.
• Campsite mechanics was hit or miss on if it even got used.