review by Alapai
TRAILS is a set collection-based track movement game for 2-4 players from Keymaster Games. In it, you hike through trails in National Parks, collecting resources you can use to exchange for Badges or Photos, trying to be the person at the end with the most victory points.
To start, you place the five Trail sites randomly in between the Trailhead and Trail End day side up, creating the Trail for the game. Each tile has cards or resources associated with it placed under the tile, as well as Badges on either end of the trail. On your turn, you can move one or two spaces ahead of you, taking the action of the tile you land on which on a regular tiles is either gaining resources, exchanging resources or taking a Photo. Reaching the Trailhead or Trail End has you turn around to head back the other way and earn Badges, as well as either refilling your Canteen at the Trailhead or gaining the Sun bonus and moving the Sun at the Trail End. Your Canteen can be used to move you any number of spaces instead of just one or two on a turn. Taking a Photo has you either draw two face down Photo cards, keeping one and putting the other in the discard pile or taking the top Photo of the discard pile. There is also a bear token, starting in the middle of the Trail, that lets you roll the Wildlife die when you land on the tile with the token, taking the action of the matching tile and moving the bear to the matching tile. Every time you reach either the Trailhead or Trail End, you can earn one or both of the Badges at that end of the Trail and/or earn the Badge in your hand by paying the resources listed on the Badge. Badges and Photos will give you victory points at the end of the game. Once the Sun has reached the end of the Trail, everybody gets one more turn and then you add up the points from your Badges and Photos to determine who wins the game.
TRAILS is made by the same company and deisgner behind PARKS and Space Park and shares some similarities with those games. In each, you are traveling along a board made of tiles where you take an action, mostly collecting resources, at the tile you stop at. You then trade those resources for victory point cards at a designated point. While there are differences in complexity between the three (PARKS being the most complex and Space Park being the least), I'd say another major difference is how you travel around the board. In PARKS, you take two hikers from the Trailhead to the Trail End each round over 4 round. In TRAILS, you go from the Trailhead to the Trail End and back multiple times over the course of the game, moving the game closer to the end each time someone gets to the Trail End. In Space Park, you are not personally traveling around the board, but instead taking the action from a space where one of three markers are, then moving that marker clockwise around the board one space. Because of how different PARKS's movement is to Space Park's, I couldn't tell much similarity between the two when first comparing them, but after playing TRAILS, I could see the similarities fom PARKS to TRAILS and from TRAILS to Space Park. Relatedly, this is also why I like TRAILS as much as I do. I enjoy both PARKS and Space Park, and would play either in different situations, but in most situations, TRAILS would be my game of choice between the three. All three are relatively simple games in comparison to the larger board game ecosystem, but TRAILS fits most comfortably into its level of complexity. PARKS is slightly more complex than I want from a simple game and Space Park is slightly simpler than I want most of the time. TRAILS, on the other hand, has just enough complexity to be more interesting while avoiding too many different rules.
Also, while not related to the gameplay, TRAILS (as well as PARKS) has gorgeous art of US Parks on each tile that make the game nice to look at. Aesthetic isn't the most important to me when considering a game, but if the game is good enough, a gorgeous aesthetic is definitely a plus!
All in all, if you're looking for a relatively simple game with a gorgeous aesthetic that should be done in about half an hour, I highly recommend TRAILS.
TRAILS is available now from our webstore.