#991 – Parks: Nightfall [Expansion]

Base price: $25.
1 – 5 players.
Play time: 40 – 70 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 4

Full disclosure: A review copy of Parks: Nightfall was provided by Keymaster Games.

Been meaning to get to this one for a bit, but haven’t been feeling very outdoorsy. Unfortunately, due to a COVID scare, today is an indoor day, so the perfect time to get a bunch of writing done. Sort of a Thoreau model of writing, except I do my own laundry and have to make my own food. No disrespect to Walden fans, I guess (maybe a little bit of disrespect). Either way, I’ve not had many opportunities to play PARKS since I did the initial preview, but I always find Keymaster Games to be pretty compelling experiences; between this and Caper: Europe, I’ve been pretty engaged, lately. I think that’s a nice combination of rich theme, entertaining gameplay, and probably a fairly-limited release calendar, so all those things meet in the middle to make for a company whose releases I watch closely. Let’s see how Nightfall shapes up to the base game!

In PARKS: Nightfall, night has … well, fallen, and you’re not going to let that stop you from having a good time walking through various National Parks. That said, the Parks look a little different by night, and you’re pretty sure you may not be able to make it through all of them in one day. Maybe setting up camp would be a good decision? See how that changes your perspective, especially over the years of travel that it would take to see them all. New destinations and ways to explore await you!

Contents

Setup

So Nightfall changes a few things from the base game of PARKS. Naturally, I’m going to just note the changes. To start, there are new Nightfall Parks that should get shuffled in with your base ones:

Then, you’ll need to place the Campside Board nearby:

There’s a 4+ player side, if you’re playing with that many people. There are Campsite Tiles that need shuffled (on their 1 side, since you’re starting with Season 1). With five players, place the 5+ tile on the bottom right by the Campsite board.

Finally, set the game up as normal, with one major change: instead of the base game’s Year Cards, you’re going to use the ones included in the box for Nightfall:

After doing that, add Tents above the Weather Tokens on certain spaces on the Trail.

These will generally be every other space (so that the third one goes on the space to the left of the Trail End). For 4+ players, add an extra Tent between the leftmost two Tents. You should be ready to start!

Gameplay

There are a few new features in this one! I’ll try to go over them all in turn, but otherwise, PARKS: Nightfall plays about the same as the regular game.

Campsites

So Campsites are the big new feature of PARKS: Nightfall. At the start of each season, certain trail spots will have Tents. When your Hiker lands on those spots, instead of performing the trail spot’s action (and taking its Weather token, if present), you can take the Tent and place it on any unoccupied Campsite to perform that action. Different Campsites have different abilities, letting you swap resources, trade out Year Cards, or gain other benefits. Sometimes, you can even use the same site more than once!

At the start of a new Season, make sure that the number on the Campsites corresponds to the current Season, flipping them over if need be.

New Year Cards

So, there are new Year Cards, and these offer incremental goals that you get more points for doing more of over the course of the game! That’s nice. The one challenge is that if you draw multiple of the same card, you can only score one of them; so try not to hold on to useless Year Cards.

New Parks

New Parks! Most of them feature some Instant Effects which activate as soon as you Visit a Park. Usually, these grant bonuses of some kind, ranging from giving you extra resources to allowing you to get Photos to even letting you Visit another Park on your turn. Those are generally nice.

Some Parks also have a brown square with a number on the cost — this is a generic cost symbol, meaning that you can spend any resources you want to pay for it. There is a variant (Wildlove) that allows you to use a Wildlife symbol to count for two tokens for these generic costs, but unless you’re using that, it’s 1:1 for everything. Note that Gear that provides discounts to Visit costs only affects specific costs, not generic ones.

Player Count Differences

This has a few major differences, mostly due to how the game works mechanically. The first thing you’ll notice is just that the size of the PARKS market doesn’t really change with more players, so turnover is going to increase with more players, making it harder to get the exact Park Card that you want. This matters a bit more, given how the Year Cards work, but this isn’t significantly changed from the base game. The same tension applies to the new Campsites: even with more players (and the extra Campsite in play with four), you do have an increased risk that any of them could take the Campsite that you want. Not much to be done about that than to act decisively if you want a Park Card or a Campsite. At the core of it, though, if you’re looking for a more low-chaos game, try three players. High-chaos is fine? Try more players. There will be more things in play and more folks going after specific stuff, but in the shuffle of it all you might be able to get more of what you’d like.

Strategy

  • You may want to update your scoring expectations; there are a lot of ways to gain more points than in vanilla PARKS. At least, that’s what I’ve found; you can buy Park Cards that let you buy more Park Cards, you can get better Year Cards, do better resource conversion with Campsites, get more Year Cards more quickly; there are a lot of new scoring routes for this one. Just make sure you know how to capitalize on them!
  • If you’re using the “action-packed” variant, going after the Voyager (1 point / Instant Action on Parks) Year Card is very useful. With more parks with Instant Actions, a Year Card that rewards you for Instant Action Cards is probably a good choice. Just keep in mind that you can only have one, so you can’t double-down on those.
  • In general, tilting towards your Year Cards is a good idea; you may even find yourself reserving Parks at lower player counts. If you need certain combinations of Park Cards for your Year Cards and you also have the right Trail Tiles in play, you can make a pretty good killing by just reserving Park Cards you need before you have the resources to pick them up. It’s even better if they’re the Park Cards that let you visit another Park afterwards.
  • While you can’t have two of the same Year Card, you can have multiple Year Cards with somewhat-overlapping scoring criteria. There are a variety of Year Cards that reward you for points on specific Year Cards, certain resources or sets of resources, and a variety of other things. If you can figure out ways to get Year Cards with somewhat-overlapping criteria, you can score all of them without having to buy distinct Parks Cards, which can be helpful. It probably would be nicer if you could just get duplicates of the Year Card you want, but, them’s the breaks. I tend to look for ones that reward Instant Actions and types of resources, so that I can use the Instant Actions to get more resources to buy more Parks Cards.
  • One advantage of Campsites is that you can place a tent on any of them, so you can ward off players who are looking for a specific site as long as you can get to a tent before they do. The challenge, of course, is getting there before they do, which can be easier said than done. This increases the importance of going first in a given round, since each Campsite can only be used once per Season.
  • Beyond that, however, focusing on Campsites can be a great way to get a lot of extra resources (or quickly gain Wildlife Tokens). I particularly like the Campsites that let you exchange one resource for five of another type (a huge boon, especially when buying Gear or filling Canteens), but there are a variety of highly-useful ones. They can let you quickly pivot to a new thing if someone takes the Parks Card you want, for instance, so treat them with some respect.
  • One drawback of Campsites is that you don’t get any of the resources on that Trail Tile (even from the Weather), so make sure you plan around that. If you’re not paying attention you can end up missing out on resources you need because you just … assumed you got them from the Trail Tile. When you go to a Campsite, you ignore the Trail Tile you landed on entirely. Keep that in mind.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • I know it’s kind of obvious if you’ve played PARKS, but the art in this is really quite good. They’ve filled in the other National Parks that weren’t represented in the original PARKS game and added a bunch of nighttime variants of some parks. As a whole, the set looks impeccable; I’m very impressed. That said, the graphic design on the cards themselves is crisp and clean, as well, even where art is reused between things (like Campsites, Park Cards, and the Year Cards). Keymaster tends towards excellent looking games, granted, but the pinnacle of their set is the PARKS series.
  • The new Year Cards are very good; they’re a marked improvement over the old ones, to the point that I am unlikely to use the old ones again. I just feel more engaged with them; rather than hustling to meet an arbitrary standard, the “Score X per” criteria lets me incrementally deliver on my Year Cards. I found that the old ones were fine, but these new ones are a significant improvement.
  • There’s a slight increase in complexity, but not much; I’m pretty confident I could teach Nightfall by itself. I think the major change is the Campsites, but even those aren’t hard to learn; they’re just an alternative to some spaces that changes every round. I generally don’t recommend bundling the expansion and the base game together for someone’s first play, but I think it wouldn’t go too poorly, here. I’m interested in how Wildlife changes things as well.
  • I like the Campsites as a way to offer players flexibility beyond just collecting resources. They mostly deal in resource trades (or gaining additional Year Cards), but I like that you have a choice between what you do on a variety of spaces. Now you’re not just managing your progression, you’re also deciding when you want to utilize Campsites to your advantage. It’s a nice mix of player choice beyond just “what space do I move to next”, since there’s no explicit order to the Campsites.
  • I tend to play with the “action-packed” variant (24 of the Nightfall Parks and 24 base Parks), just because the Instant Actions feel a bit punchier as a result (and you can get more of them). I really like the Instant Actions! They shake up the game a bit and allow players to choose their Parks both because of their Year Cards and because of the subsequent bonuses. Plus, the limits on tokens ensure that players can’t just hoard resources until they can chain-buy a bunch of Park Cards.
  • The new Wildlife tokens are pleasant. It’s just always nice to have more, and they continue to be fun shapes.
  • I always appreciate an expansion that makes it clear which pieces are from the expansion and which are from the base game. The symbol isn’t huge, but it’s large enough.

Mehs

  • I kind of wish the rulebook had a more clear “Variants” section; I keep forgetting where the rules about the action-packed variant are. The Wildlove Variant is pretty clearly marked, but the “action-packed” variant is … less so. Having them both in one place would help me, someone writing about them for review reasons. I keep losing the action-packeed one in the rulebook, so having a specific spot marked “Variants” would potentially even expose more players to them, if they’re anything like me (bad at reading).

Cons

  • It would be nice if the Year Cards had some sort of visual indicator that they don’t score duplicates; I’m not even sure if the BGA version (when I played it) had implemented that correctly. It’s just one of those things players are likely to forget. It’s me; I’m players. But more seriously, it’s fairly clear that being able to score the same Year Card more than once is probably going to tilt the game towards the luck of which Parks Cards come up, but a visual indicator to that effect on the Year Cards themselves would help a lot, especially given how many a player can collect over the course of the game.

Overall: 8.5 / 10

Overall, I think PARKS: Nightfall is quite the worthy successor in the PARKS franchise! After playing TRAILS for a bit, this reminded me what I liked about PARKS, which is just a nice level of complexity that makes for a strategic game and a pleasant experience at the same time. Granted, I play a lot at two players, which is probably the nastiest player count, but the game looks good and we have a nice time anyways. Nightfall does a nice job near-seamlessly integrating with the game; I find that Campsites provide a nice bit of flexibility for players so that the game doesn’t just feel like collecting resources in a line. That said, I didn’t have much of an issue with that with the original PARKS, so, I’m not particularly bothered here, either. I like having the option, even if I don’t necessarily always exercise it. For newer players, I find that Nightfall can be introduced after a couple plays of PARKS, but that’s mostly to check two things: first, do players understand the basic rules of PARKS? Second, do players want to expand the game? Worth checking, though I feel like Nightfall’s improvements to PARKS are worth including, especially around the Year Cards. These more dynamic Year Cards do a lot to help players feel like they’re actively working toward a goal, which I like, and the Instant Effect actions on Parks can lead to some exciting combinations with the right number and type of resources. I’ve gone this entire paragraph without commenting on the art, which feels like a disservice. PARKS is one of the best-looking games on the market, currently, and Nightfall’s decision to complete the set and add in some nighttime views of classic National Parks just improves an already-impressive offering. It really is a lovely game, especially for fans of the National Parks or hiking. I’m not a big hiker, but I do like board games and appreciate art, so it still works out. If you’re looking for a bit more out of your PARKS experience, you’re an art completionist, or you want to add some camping to your hiking, I’d recommend checking out PARKS: Nightfall! It’s a very solid expansion.


If you enjoyed this review and would like to support What’s Eric Playing? in the future, please check out my Patreon. Thanks for reading!

2 thoughts on “#991 – Parks: Nightfall [Expansion]

  1. Dear Eric,

    I enjoyed reading your opinion on PARKS: Nightfall. One particular aspect, however, left me a bit puzzled. You mention that “the other major difference is that at two players, you use two Hikers each, of the same color (…)” and continue to highlight differences between the game at different player counts. Looking in the rules for PARKS and PARKS: Nightfall I found no mention that players should NOT get two hikers of their chosen color regardless of player count.

    Are you playing the game using a variant of some kind and how has that worked for you compared to the base game?

    Liked by 1 person

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