I really enjoyed the game PARKS by Keymaster Games and because of that I had to snag a copy of their newer, smaller game TRAILS. Like PARKS, the artwork in TRAILS is from the Fifty-Nine Parks Print Series which is what makes them both so beautiful! But TRAILS takes less time, has a smaller box, and doesn’t have the solo mode. I really enjoy the quicker 20-40 minute play time as I don’t always have 40-70 minutes to play a game. (In fact, if I wasn’t so enamored with the artwork and game in PARKS it never would have been reviewed on this site because it vastly exceeds my max game time.) TRAILS makes it much easier to take a bit of a break and play, and I found the gameplay enjoyable too!
How to Play TRAILS
Similar to PARKS, TRAILS has you move your hiker along chipboard tiles and you determine how far you want to go on your turn. At each end of the path are badges and badges are going to earn you points (you also have one hidden one you can select too). As you move your character along the path you’ll be collecting resources (wooden cubes): acorns, leaves, and rocks. When you reach either the trailhead or the trail end on the path, you’ll turn resources in to essentially buy badges. Badges are not only be the main way to earn points during the game, but they all have special actions on them. You may be allowed to swap resources or take new resources, or maybe you’ll earn more points for that type of patch at the end of the game. The other main way to earn points is to spot birds. Some badges have birds to spot on them, but more likely you’ll see birds when you visit the tile that allows you to take a photo. You’ll draw 2 cards and select one to keep; the photos will award you points, birds, and sometimes both. At the end of the game whoever spotted the most birds wins the bird trophy and gains 4 points.
Now that you have a general idea how to earn points in TRAILS, let’s talk about what a turn looks like. Very similar to PARKS, TRAILS has you moving along the randomly laid out path of tiles, but instead of going to one end and resolving the season, you’ll just be heading back the direction you came and the game doesn’t stop. So once you reach the “trail end” you turn around and head back toward the “trailhead.” But this is where something interesting occurs — the sun moves one space closer to setting. There is a sun token in TRAILS that starts at the trail end and will work its way toward the trailhead and when it “sets” there, the game is over. Every time someone flips directions at the trail end the sun moves one space. Once the sun moves past a tile onto a new one, the tile is flipped so you see the nighttime scene. The nighttime tiles have different, actions — often easier. Like the take a picture tile goes from costing one resource to being free! This adds a really nice twist to the movement back and forth along the trail of tiles. You might want to wait for a player to hit the trail end before moving any more spaces because the sun may flip a tile to night before your next turn. But you might also want to speed up going back and forth between the trailhead and trail end to get the sun timer on the game to move a little quicker. All depends on if you think you’ve collected enough points from your pictures, badges, and possible bird bonus!
My Thoughts on TRAILS
At the end of TRAILS it’s still whoever has collected the most points that wins. There are a lot of similarities between TRAILS and PARKS, but I enjoy both games. As expected, the artwork and pieces are AMAZING. I really can’t say enough wonderful things about how beautiful these games are, but thankfully they’re fun too! You’re playing against other players, but aren’t many “screw your opponent” moments — maybe if you took the badge(s) they really wanted or ended the game a little too soon for them, so it really does feel like a relaxing enjoyable time. It’s also much smaller box with fewer components, so set up and take down are easier.
I’ve played TRAILS mostly with only 2 players, once 3, but never 4 players. I’ve heard that it’s more enjoyable with 2 or 3 players, so keep that in mind when you’re thinking about purchasing. I snagged my copy at Target, they’ve been doing some “buy 2 get a 3rd free” or “$10 off $50” so maybe you grab extra copy or two and share the love with some family or friends this holiday season! At $20/game it’s much more palatable than the $50 you have to shell out for PARKS. (Btw also enjoyed the PARKS nightfall expansion if you’re curious!)
TRAILS: A PARKS Game Stats: