National Parks: Get Wild was sent to us for review by The Op. In this game each person is assigned a national park. The goal is to try and remove all animal species not native to that area and collect the species that are. You start the game with all of the animals that are invasive to your park and none of the native animals. For example, if you have the Grand Canyon national park where rattlesnakes are native, you will want to get rid of everything besides rattlesnakes.
The amount of tokens you start with depends on player count, while this is pretty standard for games it is done well here particularly. It never felt like there were too many tokens to get rid of and always felt like a challenging amount. The tokens are all very distinct from one another in shape and color, which helps for easy sorting and game setup.
Each player starts with their own player board depicting a specific national park (two sided for more options). There is also a map of the United States of America that goes in the center of the playing area. This center board serves two purposes — As the game progresses players slowly collect and deplete the supply of tokens from the map and it signals the end of round once empty. This was a much nicer way to end the round than via a timer.
The gameplay consists of simultaneous dice rolls to try and collect/get rid of animal species. This game relies on three dice. First, there is the Direction die (this tells you which neighbor will be affected). The Direction die is standard L (left), R (right), ? (Any direction), or USA symbol (center board). The second die is the Quantity die (how many animals are affected) with a range of 1-3, with more 1 sides than anything, Lastly, there is an animal die that shows each of the different animal species, and will show which animal species is affected by the roll. If a player rolls and the Direction die lands on L (left), the Quantity die displays 3, and the animal die depicts a Sea Turtle — this means that the movement will involve three sea turtles. This is where it can get a little tricky. If the sea turtle is native to their park, the player will collect three from the left opponent’s player board. If the sea turtle is not native to their park, the player will distribute three sea turtles from the left. This was maybe our largest problem with the game, because the dice rolling is so quick it was hard for everyone we played with to constantly remember that certain animals needed collected and others distributed in a fast paced game. It was doable, but perhaps created an unnecessary amount of work to the player turn.
When the center board is emptied of animals, the round ends. Whoever grabs the last piece(s) from the center gets 3 points for ending the round, and every person scores point for each species they have that is native to their park minus any animals they have that are not native to their park. Whoever gets 20 points is the winner, this may take a few rounds to complete. While these point guidelines are great and make for a unique point structure, if you wanted to just give points to whoever won the round and score best two out of three rounds, that is an unofficial house rule way we liked to play.
The gameplay variations are very considerate. There is a Junior Rangers version which allows kids to skin using the Quantity dice so they can just move as many of one animal type as they can in one roll. There is also a Family Vacation variation that involves the player board being moved to the next player whenever a 3 and a Left or Right is rolled. In that variation, the first player to have only native animals wins the round and two points wins the game.
Earlier in the year, we reviewed Disney Mickey and Friends: Food Fight also published by The Op, and while we normally don’t compare games to other games, we think it’s relevant to mention here that National Parks: Get Wild is essentially reskinned with a few added rules. This is not a bad thing, because they added the element of collecting only one type of token which Food Fight did not utilize. The end scoring conditions are also different. While we personally preferred the simpler mechanics, National Parks succeeded in adding an educational element to the game about native species to different national parks. Not to mention that each player board and the rule book are full of animal facts!
Language Barrier Playability: While the rules are in English, once those are learned you can play without language being needed. The game relies a lot on symbols (icons or numbers) which make for pretty universal gameplay.
Replayability: The game is fast paced but also can be challenging to win, which makes it very replayable. Especially if you are stubborn and want to collect animals faster each time like we are.
Artwork: The artwork is wonderful, Each player board looks like a National Park postcard, which was creative and very enjoyable as each board is double sided. The animal tokens themselves are basic shapes, which is great as the simplistic artwork there makes the icons very distinct.
Quality: Very good quality. Thick player boards and tokens, the dice are light but even in weight distribution, and the rulebook pages are easy to flip. The rulebook paper is a little thin but not detrimental. There aren’t a lot of different elements but they are made well.
Strategy: This game is a little heftier on quick strategy than Food Fight as it has that element of collecting a native animal but getting rid of all other types, so your brain constantly has to think if it is supposed to collect a certain animal or get rid of it. As far as strategies to win, we’ve found that the best way to do so is to distribute more tokens to a player who looks to have the most points whenever you roll the ? mark icon. It is also important to pay attention with the ? mark icon that you are not giving another player their native animal which gives them positive points.
Instruction Manual: The instruction manual is short, to the point, and easy to re-reference. It utilizes images often which help demonstrate both set up and gameplay for visual learners. Interestingly, the last two pages of the Instruction Manual are dedicated to animal facts, which is another way that this game is promoting learning.
Organization: There aren’t a ton of pieces and the bags help keep the organization intact. The boards fit well within the box too. The box itself fits nicely on the shelf, being a little thinner than a lot of our boxes, which makes it fit well into those spots on the shelf where other boxes can’t fit.