PARKS Brings the National Parks to Tabletops

An innovative new tabletop game gives players a chance to explore the US National Parks. PARKS, designed by Henry Audubon and published by Keymaster Games, is an innovative new tabletop game centered on artwork from the Fifty-Nine Parks Print Series. Players take on the role of hikers traveling through the US National Parks over the course of four "seasons," with the parks represented with park cards containing stunning illustrations by over 35 different artists. Players move their hikers down the trail each turn, taking photos and collecting resource tokens that can be traded in at the end of each season. Players have their own personal "year" goals that they're trying to complete by the end of the game, and the person with the most victory points wins.

PARKS came about after the Fifty-Nine Parks Print Series reached out to Keymaster Games about collaborating on a game that used the illustrations from the park series. Keymaster brought on Henry Audubon to design the game, which came with some unique challenges. "Normally, I can focus on designing the gameplay rules and trust that the art will be tailored to the game," Audubon told via email. "But with PARKS I had to keep the art in mind from the beginning. That was challenging in some ways, but it also made it easy for me to imagine how beautiful the game would look in the end."

Audubon initially wondered what to make PARKS about. The national parks offer a ton of different recreational options, and there were endless possibilities about what role the players would take in the game. "Once I realized that the game should be about hiking, everything became a lot easier," Audubon said. "Hiking is a good theme because it suggests a lot of gameplay hooks, such as trails, canteens, and campfires, but also because hiking is how most people experience the national parks, so players can easily relate to it."

parks layout
(Photo: Keymaster Games)

PARKS has received early praise from tabletop fans, both for its stunning artwork and the strategic gameplay. While not necessarily as deep as a Euro-style worker placement game, PARKS players need to be strategic as they hike down the trails, balancing visiting as many parks as they can with trying to beat their opponent to different parks and getting off the trail. "I wanted to make a game that would be enjoyable to people who love the national parks, but who also might be new to board gaming, while also making something that would be interesting for seasoned board gamers," Audubon said. "It’s difficult to strike that balance." Early reviews have widely praised the game's balance between strategy and accessibility, so it seems that Audubon found the perfect mix. The game currently sits fourth on BoardGameGeek's "GeekBuzz" list, which tracks the most anticipated games from this year's Gen Con.

Another reason to support PARKS is that Keymaster Games makes a donation to the National Parks Service with each sale of the game. "It’s easy to take for granted the natural beauty we have in the United States, especially our national parks. Like fresh air, we might not appreciate it until it’s gone," Audubon said. "Hopefully that never happens, but it’s important to take steps to protect the national parks and ensure that they can be enjoyed by generations to come."


PARKS seems perfect for anyone who loves the outdoors or spent their childhood summers traveling to places like Yellowstone or Yosemite. "PARKS has a nostalgic feel that can conjure up precious memories for people who have spent time in the national parks," Audubon said. "I hope players share their national parks stories at the table while they are enjoying the game. And if a player hasn’t spent time in the national parks, I hope PARKS will inspire a visit!"

PARKS will be released at game stores and other retail locations in October for $49. You can also pre-order a copy from Keymaster from their website.