Growing up, I was an avid camper. I loved cooking dinner over an open fire, hiking trails in the wilderness, and generally just spending time outdoors. As an adult, I spend more time walking around forest preserves than I do camping because, you know, life gets in the way. However, I still love being in the outdoors. It’s a shame that I live in the Midwest and we are not really blessed with much in the way of national parks around here.
But that’s where Trekking the National Parks: Second Edition comes in. Published by Underdog Games, Trekking will have players trying to visit as many national parks as possible to earn those sweet, sweet victory points. So, let’s dive into this Mensa Select award-winning board game and see if it’s right for you.
Trekking is a family weight game (which you probably could have guessed based on the theme), so its ruleset is highly accessible. On a player’s turn they can take two actions from a list of four options:
• Draw a card from the face-up display or the top of the draw deck.
• Discard a card to move that many spaces: If you land on a space with a colored stone, you collect it. If you land on a space with another player, you bop them back to the start space.
• Claim a park card: The other way you can use cards is to claim park cards. Discard cards with icons matching the ones on a park card and you can claim it, which earns you victory points.
• Occupy a major park: You occupy these like normal park cards, by discarding matching icons, however, instead of taking the card, you put a tent on there. This earns you VPs and a special power to use for the rest of the game. Other players may also occupy the same park card.
The game ends either after a player has claimed their 6th park card or all the stones on the board are gone. Players earn 1 vp for each stone they’ve collected, with bonus points being awarded to the player with collected the most (and second-most of each color). Players add that to the VPs from claimed park cards, and the player with the most points is the winner.
For gamers looking for a new title to play with their family, I think Trekking makes a good choice. The theme perfect for a family weight game, and the cards even include photos of the national parks and interesting facts about them. So, the game is not only fun, but educational too! For example, did you know that the Everglades national park is the only place in the wild where alligators and crocodiles co-exist.
For the gameplay itself, it’s fairly light with players getting only two actions per turn. Much like the king of gateway games Ticket to Ride, you’ll need to alternate turns with drawing cards and moving/claiming parks. I did like the dual use of the cards, which forces players to decide between using cards to move and saving them for claiming parks that they want to get. Overall, it felt like there were never enough actions on your turn to do everything you want, which is a good thing. It requires players to come up with strategies and prioritize goals.
Overall, I liked Trekking, but the biggest miss for me must be the bounce mechanic. If you land on a spot with another player, they get sent back to the start. This bit of “take that” felt really out of place in the game, and to be honest, I’d probably house rule that one and leave it out. It felt unnecessary and annoyed some of the players we played with.
The other thing I didn’t like was the tie-breaker mechanic for stone scoring at the end of the game. If two players tie for the most stones of one color, no one gets the points. Yet the second-place player still earns their points. This one didn’t make a lot of sense with the top two players earning nothing, and the 3rd place player still getting something. Usually, in cases like this, the two tied players will split some amount, with 3rd place getting nothing.
But other than these two issues, I enjoyed my time with Trekking. I liked how there were a few different ways to earn points, so players didn’t have to be forced down one path if they want to win. You could focus on claiming parks as quickly as you can, or you could just zip around the board trying to collect as many stones as possible. That combined with the random placement of the stones (and their uneven spread) gives the game a lot of replay value.
While Trekking the National Parks: Second Edition isn’t breaking much in the way of new ground with its mechanics, it still makes for a solid family weight board game. I did find a couple of the rules/mechanics to be questionable, but both of those could be easily house ruled out if you also don’t like them. To be honest, what’s going to sell you on this game is the theme. If you are a fan of the outdoors, hiking, and national parks, Trekking the National Parks: Second Edition an easy get for a game you can play with your family.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – A solid family game with a great theme and accessible mechanics.
• “Take that” mechanic felt out of place
• Tie breaker rule doesn’t feel right