Tabletop hiking: 6 Games to bring nature home

Yearning for nature, but stuck inside due to inclement weather and/or a global pandemic? Want to upgrade your board game collection with something leafier than urban cutthroat Monopoly and power-mad Risk? We played a stack of recent tabletop offerings that focus on the great outdoors to come up with a half-dozen green games worth your greenbacks. 

All are available through online retails or from your friendly local game store. 

1. Trekking the National Park

First edition published by Bink Ink LLC. Second edition published by Underdog Games. $50 suggested retail

I never thought of hiking as competitive, but here we are. In this fun, easy-to-learn family game, each hiker sets out from the Midwest to explore America’s National Parks. As you move around the map, you can focus on quantity and spend time at many parks as possible. By doing that, you score tokens that add up to end-game points. Alternatively, you can target higher-scoring locations but scoring there requires specific combinations of cards (three campfires and a paw print for Yellowstone, for instance). Minor caution: The first and second editions of Trekking the National Parks have slightly different rules. Don’t be confused if you watch an online tutorial and wonder where your tents are or what happened to the bonus postcards. 

FYI: The same company has also released the knowledge-testing game Trekking the National Parks Trivia. 

2. Parks

Keymaster Games https://keymastergames.com/parks $49 suggested retail

If you find Trekking Through the National Parks a bit too simple, try this more strategic-minded game. Here, each player takes two hikers on four seasonal strolls, competing for resources (water, sunshine, etc.) and photo ops along the way. Rush through a hike and you score your choice of completion bonuses but, by taking your time, you can accumulate beneficial gear and more along the way. That game mechanic — plus the fact that the path gets longer with each subsequent hike — make for challenging decisions. 

FYI: The attractive artwork comes from the Fifty-Nine Parks art series https://59parks.net/

3. Bosk

Floodgate Games  www.floodgate.games/bosk  $30.95 suggested retail

In the Spring stage of this colorful game, players take turns growing numbered trees in a park, strategically plotting their locations to maximize points in each square on the gridded board. But that’s only the half of it. In Autumn, the leaves fall and where they land depend on which direction a wind chart shows they are blowing. Your task in this phase is to get your trees’ leaves covering the most ground in different regions of the board. The change in the seasons can also bring a stage in the fortunes of players, making this one surprisingly heady.

FYI: Let’s save you a trip to an online dictionary. A bosk is a thicket of bushes or a small wood. 

4. Photosynthesis

Blue Orange Games https://www.blueorangegames.com/ $44.99 suggested retail

Tree planting is also the key component in this strategy intensive game and, in spite of the name, a Chemistry major not required. Here, your small trees grow into big trees and score points depending on where they are in relation to the rays of the sun, which rotates around the board. If your seedling is in the shadow of a full-bloomer, you’re out of luck. 

FYI: Appropriately, the board and components are made from recycled paper. 

5. Everdell

Starling Games  https://www.starling.games/ $73.99 suggested retail

Don’t be deceived by the charming creatures who populate the valley of Everdell. The bucolic setting — which includes a tall tree rising from one side of the board — masks a competitive critter-placement game that cycles with the seasons. Collect resources, take cards from the meadow, send workers on journeys, all in an effort to build the strongest village. Don’t be intimidated by the size of the rulebook. It includes more of the fun fantasy art that’s on the other game components and includes a detailed backstory that’s fun but not required reading for game play. 

FYI: If you find yourself getting figuratively lost in this world, there are numerous expansions available with added cards, characters, and more. 

6. Oh My Gourd!

Ravensburger www.ravensburger.com $24.99 suggested retail

While Everdell, above, may look like small kids might enjoy it, this one is far more appropriate for the new-to-schoolers. Like any good gardeners, kids playing this bright, beginner’s game must maximize the size of their crop while also keeping damaging forces at bay. In this case, what’s being grown is a giant gourd, represented by multiple layers of rainbow-shaped cardboard that puzzle together. The pests include The Big Bad Weed (hey grown-ups, stop snickering) and Mean Mr. Frost. There’s a little math involved and a touch of planning needed.

FYI: As in real life, the ladybug is always your friend.

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