8/3/21 Tree of Life Mama’s Game of the Week: Trekking the National Parks

So I heard about this game from a girlfriend and also from this documentary, Game Master. (You see the game’s inventor, Charlie Binks, and his parents in it. It’s fun to hear the story of how it came to be. The documentary also shows the path of three other game inventors from idea to publication.) The game board is a map of the United States with all of the U.S. national parks marked. The goal is to get as many points as you can, as the winner is the one with the most points. You move your pawn/Meeple and land on the park and collect a stone, or possibly, eventually claim the park (buy it) or occupy it. Each stone is worth one point. You get more points if you have the most or second most stones of any of the colors. You also get points for claiming and occupying parks.

The map is definitely not to scale. The western U.S. is strecthed out and the eastern side is squeezed together. The western U.S. just has more parks.

Not all of the parks have cards representing them. Or stones to go with them. Each card has a beautiful photo of a national park along with a cool educational fact about it. The game reminds me of a cross between Ticket to Ride and Splendor. Ticket to Ride because you have to use cards to move across a map and Splendor because you win by claiming stones and parks/cards. Some of the cards each give you one superpower which can have a cascading effect to increase your chance of winning. It’s kind of like Splendor where the longer you play, the more you get capital or traction to make better moves and get more points.

It’s a great game for practicing logic, strategic thinking, and achieving goals. Players also get to learn some U.S. geography and a lot about national parks if they make it a point to read the facts on the cards. My girlfriend and I agree that it’s a great U.S patriotic game as it encourages a wonder and appreciation of the beautiful U.S. national parks. Kids who have a hard time waiting for their turn will probably find it boring unless you focus on making sure the turns are quick.

It’s definitely for ages 10 and up. It’s probably more fun to play with adults because they usually have more experience with visiting the parks so you can all talk about that. The children I’ve played it with (my three kiddos ages 11-16 and then another 11 year old, for the second time I played) were all rather bored with it. I’m hoping that changes as we learn to play it faster and as they get more travel under their belts to properly appreciate the parks. (To spice up game playing when you have to wait for turns, we like to play songs on an iPad or iPhone and take turns picking the songs. It helps pass the time waiting. We also get more exposed to what music each of us likes and can talk about that.)

I love that the pawns are Meeples in the shape of hikers with backpacks. So cute! And then the little tent pieces used to occupy, or camp at the park, are like icing on the cake. Double cute! The pieces are solid wood, the board is thick and the cards are sturdy.

I love that the game came from a family, inspired by Charlies’ parents, a husband and wife team. They had a goal to visit every national park in the U.S., which they accomplished in 2017, and then later, as more parks were named, they visited those too. You can read the story here. Despite my children’s less-than-enthusiastic reception of it, I give it 5 out of 5 stars! I count on them to grow an appreciation for it as we play it more. I’m excited to see that Underdog Games has Trekking the World and is working on Trekking through History to come out in 2022.

Charlie Binks with his mother, Terry Binkele. Photo Credit: Underdog Games

It’s a winner for gameschooling for sure because of the geography, strategy and logic it teaches. Just go over the rules yourself and get super familiar with it if you are going to play it with children to help the turns go faster at the beginning. Children are less patient with the learning curve of a new game. The game does have a card for each player to remind what a turn involves.

Want more gameschooling ideas? Go here to see the different games we’ve played. Go here to see my how and why of gameschooling with my free slides and a PDF.

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