PARKS: Wildlife [Micro]

Base price: $20.
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: Wildlife was provided by Keymaster Games.

I’m trying my hand at an even-more compact review format, more as a curiosity than anything else. I think there’s going to be mixed feedback, just because we’re saying goodbye to the Pros, Mehs, and Cons and the Strategy sections (which I do already kind of miss), but I’m intrigued to see if there are games that I can cover with this format that I couldn’t have previously. Plus, I’m looking at the smallest PARKS game today so it makes sense that I provide it my smallest review. I’m … mostly joking, but please bear with me during this interesting transition time. Besides, I’ve written at length about PARKS and PARKS: Nightfall, so if you’re already reading this, you’re hopefully a bit familiar with the series as a whole. The Micro Reviews are new, and they’ll be popping up at their own cadence as I take care of other tasks around the house. 2023 is going to be a big year for me in more ways than one, and we must adapt, as well. In the meantime, let’s take a relaxing stroll through the various American National Parks, and see what PARKS: Wildlife has to offer!

In PARKS: Wildlife, you once again return to hiking the trails of our National Parks to see what you can find. And while you’ve survived the full day / night cycle and the changing seasons, this time, you’re on the lookout for some wild animals! These sightings are represented by a new Bison token that moves between various in-play PARKS Cards over the course of the game to try and make visiting that specific Park easier. Additionally, there are new Gear Cards, new Canteen Cards, new Season Cards, and even new Trail tiles in play to help you figure out how to forge your own path! This means that there will be plenty to try every time you try a new game, and, of course, there are even more new PARKS Cards to try and claim so that you can outscore your opponents. Some of these will use some new techniques you might have seen in PARKS: Nightfall, like Instant Effects, but others add a new Wildlife Token cost that will force you to make sure you keep a couple in reserve so that you can pick them up. With even more to do, will you be able to see it all?

Overall: 8.25 / 10

Overall, PARKS: Wildlife is another great expansion for PARKS! It’s really specifically targeted for the person who just keeps saying, “more PARKS”. More special Trail tiles? Wildlife has them. More PARKS Cards? Yep. Some improvements to the base game? Yes, now, instead of drawing and keeping one Canteen Card, you always draw two and keep one of the two, improving your control. Additionally, Wildlife adds a Bison token that moves around between the three in-play PARKS Cards, allowing you to swap one resource for a wild resource before buying that PARKS Card. It also refreshes the Gear Cards in play, finally alleviating one of my incredibly minor gripes in PARKS, which is that the Gear Cards, if useless, stay useless the entire game. Now, you can even use a variant that refreshes all of them when the Bison token has made a full circuit through the PARKS Cards. I like that a lot! Gives players a lot more choice of how to use Gear to affect their games.

The challenge with this expansion is largely that it doesn’t necessarily reach for anything in the way that Nightfall did; it adds things that are largely incremental to an already-solid core game, and so it may be the exact expansion that you, reader, are liable to skip. After all, in my opinion, the best two things it adds are a change to how Canteens are drawn that you could be using anyways and a single token that, again, you could just use if you wanted to. Sure, there are additional cards and tiles, but they’re largely going to be shuffled into the mix and rarely seen for their own distinct entities. That all said, the new special Trail tiles are pretty interesting; they open up some new ways to play and some riskier behaviors that are actually pretty fun. If you’re anything like me, though, I don’t think Wildlife is going to be the thing that causes you to dust off PARKS and take it off the shelf, largely because if you’re thinking about the expansion you’re probably still actively playing PARKS. The new expansions caused me to pick the game back up (having not really played it since the preview) and I’ve been very pleased to get it back to the table, especially at two. I know there’s always the tension around “is more more”, but I think that Keymaster has traditionally tried to make sure that whatever they produce is high-quality, and Wildlife is no exception to that rule. The only reason I ding it relative to Nightfall is really just that lack of a specific focal point for the expansion; it’s just a “more” expansion. But, sometimes, more really is more, and if you’re looking for more for your PARKS or you just really want a few West Virginia-specific PARKS Cards (this is what particularly excited me about Wildlife), then I’d recommend checking out PARKS: Wildlife! I’ve enjoyed incorporating it into my recent games of PARKS.


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