Palm Island – Portal Dragon – Review

"Eventually I was no longer focused on individual cards, and everything flowed together into a soft zen breeze."

Theme and What is it?

Have you ever wanted to hold the fate of an island in the palm of your hand. . .

Sunshine flickers through the palm trees as you embark for the humble beginning of your village. Harvest the trees with your Loggers and fish the vast rivers from your Canoe Houses all the while searching for stone Quarries. This small handheld game reminds me of the quick introductory moments of Age of Empires as you quickly try to establish your kingdom.

As the first few rounds past, more equipped resource options come available along with a Tool Maker. Establishing a Market and a Trade House with the indigenous people of the island to share control over the resources. Constructing Housing to keep your budding civilization cozy and protected from the island’s harsh climate.

As the last round comes into view, your civilization uses its spare resources to establish Temples and to convert Lumber camps into reforestation bases. In the end what will your island look like? Only your hand can decide.

Gameplay Mechanics

Manage the 17 Cards in your hand representing your island and its many upgradeable sites.

  • Logger: Wood resources and a source of end game points
  • Quarry: Stone resources
  • Canoe House: Fish and wood resources
  • Tool Maker: A variety of all the resources and end game points
  • Trade House: Trade in some of your resources to get a large amount
  • Market: Trade in some of your resources to get a variety
  • Temple: Expensive Upgrade to get end game points
  • Housing: Cheaper Upgrade to get end game points

These cards utilize both front and back creating a 4 part card that can be upgraded through the course of the eight rounds. Cards may be stored as resources to pay for upgrading other cards, which will allow you to rotate and flip them gaining you new and improved abilities. Your decisions will alter your experience each game. After eight rounds, you will score up your points.

The game is played one or two player from the box, it can be played competitively as well as cooperatively with some additional challenge cards.

Palm Island has a Solo mode that adds in Feat Cards that can be unlocked over the course of multiple games. This adds in nine creative challenges to explore as well as increased replayability.

Initial Impressions

The game comes in a small box with a magnetic clasp and promises to be an island adventure. I wasn’t confident that the game was going to deliver an engaging experience. The card manipulation and all of the base mechanics were simple and straightforward as was quickly shuffling the 17 cards together to form my first island.

One round into that first Solo game, I was already understanding why Palm Island will be apart of my traveling game collection forever. Every aspect of the game literally fits into the palm of your hand, the subtle rotating and flipping of upgraded cards all lend to this handheld mechanism.

Eventually I was no longer focused on individual cards, and everything flowed together into a soft zen breeze.

Palm Island is an incredibly fun Solo experience that can be played everywhere because of its portability. The two player competitive experience still felt like a solitary puzzle although with a small competitive race for extra victory points.

I feel that if you are going to play multiplayer, then play cooperatively with the added Hazards which give the players a reason to communicate with each other.

Game Build Quality

The Box is of great quality with it’s small profile and magnetic flap. The Card stock in plastic which means that the Cards will last a very long time, if not forever.

The small 32 page instruction booklet, is fairly well written and the pages seem to be of high quality paper.

Artistic Direction

The designer Jon Mietling is also the Artist. The art works well with the theme of the game.

I am more impressed with the easily read graphic design choices that help make this game flow. The graphic design and the art present helps the player get into the spirit of the game.

Fun Factor

A small portable game that literally can be played without a table. Villager, Cooperative, and Feat cards creating a high replayability factor.

A game that drives you to do exceed yourself, and because of its low play time allows for you to explore many paths to higher scores.

Age Range & Weight

A low weight game in its complexity. It also helps that the graphic design is simple to understand. The low playtime and encouraged replayability makes the rules stick. Teaching the game is simple.

The only issue is having hands large enough to hold the cards and also make all of the necessary turns within the game without dropping the all of the cards. You can play with a table, but it kind of goes in the face of what this game is trying to do.

Conclusions

I take Palm Island with me in my backpack and play it on a plane, while standing in line, waiting on food, sitting on the toilet, (plays well here too) and so many other places. The portability of the game and it’s small form factor has made it my go to travel game alongside Mint Works. It is a fantastic puzzling experience.