Interview with designer, Henry Audubon, on his newest Keymaster game, PARKS.
Henry, first off thank you for agreeing to do this interview. This is the first time I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing you, and we are here today to talk about your game PARKS. Currently on Kickstarter, could you share with our readers a little bit about the goal and gameplay of PARKS?
Henry: PARKS is a game about hiking on a trail and visiting national parks. Each player has two hikers that they move down a trail to take actions, such as gaining water to fill canteens or taking photographs. When a hiker reaches the end of the trail, they have a chance to visit national parks to gain points. The game is played across four seasons and the player with most points at the end is the winner.
Every game has a story behind it. What is the story behind the creation of PARKS?
Henry: Keymaster Games and 59 Parks decided to collaborate on a board game and they honored me with an invitation to work on the project. Using the art from 59 Parks as a starting point, I tried to create a game where players feel immersed in America’s natural beauty. When playing PARKS, I hope players feel like hikers on a trail and not tourists on a road trip.
What challenges did you face designing a game around already finished art?
Henry: The main challenge was fitting the gameplay to the art. The art is peaceful so I knew I had to make a peaceful game. I tried to find a way for players to interact that preserved the tranquility of the game’s setting.
In PARKS how will players interact with each other?
Henry: All of the hikers are on the same trail. If you want to move your hiker to a location that is occupied by another hiker, you’ll have to share your campfire with them. You can only share your campfire once before you need to refresh it by having one of your hikers finish the trail. Deciding when to share your campfire is critical to the game’s strategy.
Did Space Park inspire any of the gameplay in PARKS? For example, I notice that the Controller and the Camera kind work the same, in the sense that only one player can have it at a time.
Henry: There is definitely a family resemblance between the “park” games! Both the Controller and the Camera are inspired by king of the hill games where only one player can be in control at a time. PARKS has some big differences from Space Park, though. For example, in Space Park, everyone is sharing neutral pieces that are orbiting around a circular board, whereas in PARKS players have two of their own pieces that move down a linear trail. I think the games are complimentary.
One of the card types in PARKS is the Season deck. What do Seasons do and what do they add to the gameplay?
Henry: Season cards provide modifiers that only affect a single season, such as making players gain a water resource whenever they gain a canteen token. Season cards also show a weather pattern that indicates where extra resources should be placed on the trail during season setup. The purpose of season cards is to make each season a surprise, but they also help to make each game a surprise since players will only see four of the season cards in a single play session.
If a player reaches the end of the trail first, they are given a choice of either taking the 1st hiker marker, buying new gear or reserving a park. I would assume that each of these options is equally as good as you weight them out. Could you tell us about what each option is and how it affects the gameplay?
Henry: Buying gear makes your future turns more powerful, therefore players tend to pick up gear in the early seasons to get their engines rolling. Visiting parks is the best way to get points but it doesn’t help to build your engine, so it’s typically a good option late in the game. Claiming the 1st hiker marker can be a powerful move if you want a head start on the next season. Each Trail End action is useful but it requires the player’s judgment to determine which is best for their situation.
What was the biggest hurdle you faced in the design of PARKS and how did you overcome it?
Henry: This was the first time that I was approached by a publisher to design a game (rather than me pitching to the publisher). When I first got the assignment, I worked hard to discover what the game should be. I tried many versions and had to start over many times. That was certainly the biggest hurdle.
What three adjectives would you choose to describe PARKS gameplay?
Henry: Peaceful, friendly, but always wild!
As we wrap this up, is there anything else that we should be looking from you this year or anything else you would like to share or say about PARKS?
Henry: I’ve got a few more projects coming out this year so follow me @henryaudubon to stay up to speed. Look out for Kingswood from 25th Century Games on Kickstarter in the next few months. Also stay tuned to Keymaster Games because they’re full of surprises.
Thanks, once again Henry, for taking time out to do this interview.
- If readers would like to check out the PARKS Kickstarter you can do so by clicking here.
- If you like to check out the Fifty-Nine Park Prints Series’ website, you can be taken there by clicking here.