Last week Carcassonne, this week Parks. It's a great month for greenery. Parks is amazing. Go buy a copy now. Seriously. I'll wait.
Ok great, now that you did that, let's talk about it. I got Parks because of the stellar reviews; then I read the rulebook and put it down for a month out of a lack of interest. I finally played it this past weekend more to get it out of the way and put it on the trade pile, but it blew me away. I proceeded to play it 3 more times with each play getting better than the last.
The problem is that Parks is simple. Deceptively simple. Move your guy along the trail, collect resources, trade those resources in for cards, rinse and repeat. It completely baffled me that this was a well received game....and then I played it. You see, when you move your guys, you can't stop anywhere someone else is, unless you flip your campfire, which only relights when one of your hikers hits the end of the trail. Which on paper doesn't sound like much, but in practice it leads to this deliciously tight puzzle of how to get as much as you can out of that trail while screwing with your opponents along the way.
There are reasons to jump ahead...extra resources, end of trail discounts, the ability to block others and define their strategy. But if you don't jump ahead you can instead milk the trail for every last spot of it, using your hikers to the fullest. So what do you do? How do you establish your sequence each season?
Along with the above the game gives you upgrades such as gear and canteens, that will help establish unique advantages you have that others don't, mixes things up with season cards each round, and adds a random piece to the trail each season until the end of the game.
So far I've played Parks with 3 and 4 players, and both were excellent. It's an incredibly pleasing experience, both due to the gameplay and the beyond amazing artwork. It blew me away.