Excellent solo (or duo) game

Palm Island fits with ease into the palm of your hand, so you’ll be able to play it anywhere ~ even on the beach, keeping it safely stored in its rainproof plastic wallet.

It’s made up of just seventeen cards, cleverly designed to launch the player into the quest to reveal conditions that may help the island to grow and thrive: things like the most housing, or brightest temple.

But it doesn’t come easy. You’ll occasionally struggle to decide just when to save resources as potential for later purchases, and just when to spend them in order to build the biggest pile of gold stars.

The rules aren’t actually hard or complex, but it probably will take a couple of games or so to work out how to play, and most especially how to employ a strategy. To begin with, you might even feel that things happen almost at random, and there’s nothing you can do to control them – but that’s not the case. Of course, luck is bound to be involved, but players’ decisions matter enormously.

In the rules, “discard” means put the card at the back of the deck: you don’t actually ‘discard’ it.

Each of the seventeen cards (one of which is a turn-counter) represents a feature to be found on Palm Island, such as Quarry, Trade House, and Housing.

Each side of the card has both an upper and a lower section, and each section shows you a small number of options you can take for your next action. What’s more, they’re double sided, so each card has four states or positions. Clearly then, there will be many choices and pathways towards improving the island.

Above each of the four ‘action’ areas, each card has a thick brown ‘title’ bar: such as “Canoe House” or “Logger”. Within that brown bar there also may be (a) a numbered star (for scoring) and (b) a numbered upward arrow , which is an indication of how much that feature has been upgraded. The Market, Canoe House, and Trade House never bring you any scoring stars, but like all features, they can be upgraded (as shown on the upward facing arrow) with a rotation or a flip, and these upgrades bring you more powerful purchasing ability, even if they bring no scoring stars.

To help make decisions, you’re allowed to look the top three cards, including their reverse sides.
Yes, I checked with the designer on that one .. 😃

In each game, the earlier rounds might seem to be going nowhere in particular, but they’re helping to set up the later rounds for bigger benefits, hopefully revealing even more gold stars.

If you do so well in a solo game that it’s noteworthy, you may achieve a feat card, which can stay with you for all your future solo games, and add to your potency as an island-improver.
For example, the Mark of Balance feat-card is achieved if all cards are at level 2 upgrade (upward facing arrows in brown title-bar), or above, when you finish a solo game. When it’s in use in later games, it’ll enhance your purchasing power.
(At the end of a solo game, once you’ve checked to see if you’ve earned a Heart of the Mountain feat card, all stored cards are rotated and included in the star-scoring.)

And there’s more!

Designer Jon Mietling has included variants to help make the game viable for two players. Even here there is variety, in that a duo can play either cooperatively, or competitively. In both cases, they each have a deck of seventeen cards (two packs are included of course).

When cooperating, using their card decks separately, players try to fend off the effects of an eruption, famine, or hurricane, and their efforts may be facilitated by enhanced abilities in things like shipping or rebuilding.

When competing, their card decks are sorted into identical order, and they work through their individual decks separately, each trying to achieve the greatest “build” efficiency.

Plastic cards edition with carry-wallet – £14.50. UK postage (second class) £3…. EU £7.50 (6-7 days)

Mandoo’s Merchants of Dunhuang and Jekyll vs Hyde also are available from FunGames4CasualPlayers.

A game to challenge and (perhaps) to satisfy ☺

  • minimal setup time
  • it really is an island in the palm of your hand – take it wherever you go
  • some luck, as in all games where one’s trying to build up a thing of strength – islands included
  • replayable because it’s never the same game twice
  • can be quietly exciting … and annoying !
  • with a second set, you can play with more than two !