Imagine making a game with 17 cards. Total. That’s it. Now, those 17 cards are double sided, and each edge has something on it based on orientation, but it’s still only 17 cards.
Palm Island is exactly that. Mostly. The basic game is just 17 cards. There are additional things you can earn and therefore add to the deck, but no more than 18 cards. There are additional cards with goals to reach, and even an extra deck so you can play with another person in the box, but really it all comes down to just the 17 basic cards to play. Oh, and you don’t need a table, you can play it completely in your hands.
So let me start with how the cards work. The picture above is the front and back of a basic Canoe House card. See the white corner in the upper right on the first picture? That’s how you need every card oriented at the start. That means that the part on the top is the active part of the card.
So the top part of the pic on the left shows a green arrow that says “Free.” That means you can save that fish for free. You turn it sideways and save it to purchase things. You do this by putting it at the back of the deck. The other parts on the top are what you need to pay to upgrade the card. The yellow U-turn card means you flip it so the bottom is now on the top, but only if you pay a fish. So the next time this card comes around, the 2 fish will be available for free. The blue circular symbol means you can flip it over for the cost of one fish. That means the log and fish would be available the next time this card comes back. As long as you have the resources, you can keep updating the card until there isn’t any cost to pay, like on the bottom part in the right picture. You make the cards more powerful by upgrading them.
A lot of this isn’t going to make much sense. So I’ll show a picture with resources and a card to upgrade.
So, as you can see, I have saved a fish and a wood. They are still in their place in the deck, moving towards the front. But I can upgrade the Canoe House card by paying the fish & the wood, so I turn them back into the deck, making sure the single fish and single wood are still at the top, and then I can flip the card in the front over and move it to the back of the deck.
That’s basically how the game is played. You keep cycling the cards, moving things to the back. If you can’t upgrade them, you don’t change their orientation. You keep doing this until you get to the end of the deck. Oh, the end of the deck…
This card is always at the end of the deck. After the first round, turn it over to 2. When it comes up in round 2, flip it to 3. Keep doing this until you hit turn 8, and then the game is done.
The point of all of this is to score as many points as possible. You score points by counting the number of yellow stars facing up, as you can see above, as you upgrade the card, you get more points for it.
There is one other goal, and that’s Feats. Feats are goals you reach that can get you another card to add to your deck. You don’t get it on the first turn, it starts the game behind the end of turn card, but it can help in subsequent turns.
To get the feats, you reach a goal. Some are for scoring so many points, some are for upgrading things during the game. I’ll keep what the various rewards do a secret, wouldn’t want to be accused of spoilers.
That’s pretty much it. I guarantee I haven’t done this wonderful little game justice. It plays in 10-15 minutes, and the fact that a table isn’t needed is fantastic. I’ve played the game over 30 times, and still haven’t completed all of the feats. It’s compact and relatively cheap. I think it’s a must have for solo gamers, or gamers who travel and want something to do on the train, bus, or plane. I haven’t played it co-op or competitive yet, but I’d like to give it a try someday.
Have you tried Palm Island? What do you think? Or f you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them. I left out a lot, and I suspect I didn’t explaing thing particularly well either.