Are you interested in a board game that is easy enough for less experienced gamers to learn, play, and enjoy yet hefty enough for more experienced gamers? If so, then I highly recommend you take a close look at Trekking the National Parks second edition. Of course if you and the other players enjoy a national parks theme so much the better. In this guide I will attempt to give you an idea of what it takes to set up the game, what the gameplay is like, and a comparison of the second edition to the first edition.
I’ll start with the basic information. Trekking the National Parks second edition is for 2-5 players. The first edition accommodated up to six players. The age estimate for the second edition is 10 years and up. The first edition box says 8 years and up. This is interesting because the second edition gameplay has been streamlined from the first edition. So, you’d think this would make it easier to learn for younger kiddos. Of course, parents will have a better understanding of their children’s abilities. My experience from playing this game and being a teacher tells me that I can certainly see children younger than 10 years old being able to play. Both the second and first edition says game time is 30-60 minutes. My experience, so far, says definitely less than 60 minutes for two experienced players. So those two players could take 30-45 minutes to play not including a snack or potty break.
Object of the Game
Trekking the National Parks is a most victory points wins game. How exactly do you score points? There are four ways. Claiming Park cards is the main way to get points. Claiming a Park is also one of the two ways the end game is triggered. Be the first to visit the park showing on one of the three face-up Park cards then pay its cost and you get to claim that Park card. On your journey to that park if you stop on one of the spots with a stone you collect that stone and put it front of you for all players to see. Collected stones are worth one point each. There are also Stone Bonus cards which are awarded for having the most of a color of stone. There is also a Stone Bonus card for having the second most of that color stone. The second most Stone Bonus cards are only used for games with player counts of more than two. Finally, the fourth way to earn victory points is to occupy a Major Park. Major Park cards will earn you the points shown on the arrowhead on the bottom right of the card. A Major Park card also gives you a unique ability to use during the game.
Setting up Trekking the National Parks is as easy as 1,2,3,…4,5,6,7,8,. Step one says place the game board in the center of the table. This is a very good idea as the board measures 31 inches wide by 20.5 inches top to bottom. So, yeah, make sure to have a decent size table available. You’ll need places by the sides of the game board for the Major Park cards and Park cards on one side. You will randomly draw out three of the six Major Park cards for the game. Next to that will be the top three Park cards from the nearby Park card deck. Once the Trek cards have been shuffled deal each player two face down. Then place the next five from the deck face up along one side of the board. Each player will get a “Trekker” and three campsites of their color. While the rule book calls the big wooden pieces “Trekkers” we usually find ourselves referring to them as our “hiker.” Put your Trekker on the Start space. The Stone Bonus cards can be laid out along another side. There are 45 stones in the game. For step two in setup you will use the bag that comes
with the game to randomly draw out and place the 45 stones around the map of the U.S. Gameboard. Step 8 is the last step and that is simply giving the first player the first player token. Which is an easy to see a brown wooden Grizzly bear.
Time to Take Action
When it is your turn you can do two actions. You can do two different actions one time or one action twice. There are four actions you can choose from:
- Draw a Trek card- You can draw one of the five face up cards or the top face down card from the draw deck. There is a hand size limit of twelve cards.
- Move-To move your Trekker you use Trek cards from your hand. The numbers on the Trek cards show how many spots you can move. You can use any number of Trek cards from your hand to move. If you put down Trek cards that total three then your Trekker moves exactly three. If there is a stone on the spot you stop on then you collect that stone and put in front of you for all to see.
- Claim a Park card-To claim a Park card your Trekker must be on that park location. You claim the card by putting down Trek cards that match the symbols on the Park card. To be clear, the Trek cards have symbols and numbers on them. The numbers on the cards are for the Move action and the symbols are for the Claim a Park Card action or Occupy a Major Park action.
- Occupy a Major Park-Like the Claim a Park Card action your Trekker must be on that park location and you lay down Trek cards matching the required symbols on the Major Park card. You place one of your campsite (tents) on the Major Park card. You get a special ability when you Occupy a Major Park. You also get the point value shown on the arrowhead located on the lower right of the Major Park card.
End of the Trail
The end game is triggered in two different ways. One is when all stones on the map are collected. The second is when a player claims their fifth Park card. The rules mention that Major Parks do not count towards the five Park cards. When either one happens finish the round before doing final scoring. Before adding up your points the Stone Bonus cards need to awarded. The player who the most stones of a color will get the Stone Bonus card for that color. When playing with more than two players the 2nd Most Stone Bonus cards are awarded. If there happens to be a tie for the most stones of a color then no one gets that Stone Bonus card. Once that’s done you will add up your points from Stone Bonus cards, Stones collected (They’re worth one point each), Major Parks occupied (Those are worth five points each), and Claimed Park cards. There are two breakers should there be a tie. Otherwise, it’s whoever has the most points.
Comparing Trekking the National Parks Second Edition With the First
What are the differences between the first and second edition? The second edition is a streamlined version of the first edition. That’s the broad brush statement. Here are some of the ways in which the new publisher, Underdog Games and the designer Charlie Bink, streamlined the second edition. Let’s start with the map board. There are no milestone markers between locations in the second edition. Therefore movement from location to location is simpler. There are no airports in the second edition. There are three more places to visit in the new edition. Those places are located on the lower left and lower right of the map board.
- The Park cards are bigger than the first edition cards.
- There are Major Park cards in the second edition.
- There are no Postcards to claim in the second edition.
- There is no printed park guide in the second edition.
- The stones have a slightly different look and feel. The bag for the stones is nicer, in my opinion, in the second edition.
There are a few other minor differences. If you played the first edition the differences in gameplay may mean you might have to tweak a strategy or two. Overall, though, Trekking the National Parks is even more fun to play. For me the streamlined movement and the special abilities you get from the Occupy a Major Park action are the two biggest things that make the second edition even better.