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Trails Board Game Review

Trails Box Art
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When I first came across Trails by Keymaster games I knew it needed to be in our collection. The artwork that was used to create Trails is beautiful. My family has been planning a vacation through several National Parks, and I thought this might be a wonderful way to get everyone excited about it. I was also excited because I’ve always wanted to play Parks, but felt it might be too complicated for us. Would Trails give us that “Parks feeling” in a lighter package? Let’s find out!

What’s in the box

There’s little to complain about with Trails. The box is small, and covered with the beautiful artwork that both Trails and Parks are known for. The cardboard trail pieces are thick. The cards have a linen finish, but are on the thin side. The hiker meeples are cute, and I love the colors that were chosen for them. The wood die feels oddly hollow, but it’s nice and works well enough. The acorn, rock, and wood resources are represented by wooden cubes.

Let’s talk about the wooden cubes

The wooden resource cubes are my one real complaint with this board game. They’re totally boring. It’s hard to get into the thematic nature of a game when you’re collecting cubes instead of something more representative of the resource you’re after. My daughter happened to find an advertisement in the box for upgraded components. They’re perfect. Little wooden resources that actually look like acorns, stones, and wood. Unfortunately they aren’t available yet. The Keymaster website initially said they’d be available in September 2021, but now it simply says Q4 2021. So we will wait for them. But honestly, I think these should have been included in the box to begin with.

What’s it all about?

In a game of Trails, you’ll play as a hiker gathering resources in oder to earn badges that are worth victory points. Hikers can also earn victory points by collecting photographs along the trail. The board is simple to setup. The 5 trail site pieces are shuffled and placed daylight-side up in random order. There is a trailhead and a trail end that are placed at opposite ends of the trail sites. Each trail site offers a specific action that a hiker will take. Actions include collecting a resource, trading a resource for a different one, and taking a photograph. Hikers may only earn badges at the trailhead and trail end.

Lookout for the bear Meeple that resides along the trail. When hikers find themselves at the same trail site as the bear, they’ll have the opportunity to roll the wildlife die for extra bonuses.

Each time a hiker reaches the trail end, the sunlight token that resides above the trail tiles will move one space closer to the trailhead. As the sun passes over tiles, players will flip them to their nighttime sides. Actions on the nighttime sides are more lucrative than their daylight counterparts. The game end is triggered when a hiker reaches the trail end and the sun is on its final spot of the sun tracker at the trailhead. Finish up the round (everyone ends up with the same number of turns) and count your victory points.

Trails: setup and ready to play!

The complexity of Trails

So one of the reasons why we purchased trails was because we believed it would be easier to play than Parks. We’ve yet to play Parks so I can’t exactly compare the two, but I wonder if Parks is easier to play than I initially thought. I looked Trails up on BGG and it’s weight is listed as a 2.0. Higher than I expected it to be after a few playthoughs. I then looked up Parks and was surprised that it was only 2.16. I find it odd that the two games are so closely weighted when I believed Parks to be a much more complicated game.

Who might enjoy a game of Trails?

Anytime we open a new game, I always setup a 2 player game and play it through a few times to get the hang of the rules. I’m always the teacher, so this is a good way to ensure that I fully understand a game before I have to teach it. After I had done this, I actually wasn’t sure if I liked Trails very much. It was rather light, and I found it boring.

My opinion of Trails changed the day my daughter asked me to play it with her. I was able to teach her the rules in a few minutes, and she eagerly helped me setup the trail tiles and sort out the resources. The process of collecting the resources (even if they are wooden cubes) was particularly appealing to her, and she loved racing back and forth buying badges and taking pictures. She absolutely loved it.

It turns out Trails really is a perfect game to play with our kids. Again, this is exactly why we purchased it over Parks. With that being said, I do feel like this board game will only make it to the table when our kids want to play. I’m not sure the adults would ever choose it. Time will tell though. I do find myself still desperately wanting to play Parks. In fact, Trails only makes me want to buy Parks more than I already did. I guess I didn’t exactly solve our Parks problem, but at least we still ended up with a winner!

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