Battle for the Carolinas is a solitaire war-themed game that is designed to be played with a deck of cards that you hold in your hands the entire game.
Okay, it’s not even an elephant in the room because the designers openly admit that Palm Island was a huge influence on the game but Battle for the Carolinas is so much like Palm Island that if you’ve played Palm Island, you can pretty much pick up Battle for the Carolinas cold. Which is not saying it’s the same game with different pictures.
As someone who has played some Apocalypse World hacks, I would instead say that Battle for Carolinas is a Palm Island hack. It uses the same basic framework to do its own thing. It’s like comparing Dominion to Thunderstone.
Here’s the basic gist. You are going through the deck. You can turn up to four cards into resources by turning them on their side. You spend resources to upgrades cards, which either flips or turns over cards and makes them better. In Battle for Carolinas, your goal is win three skirmishes and two battles which means completely upgrading those cards.
Now, I have a very generous definition of war game. I do consider Memoir 44 a war game and some days I even consider the Battle for Hill 218 a war game. Battle for the Carolinas doesn’t pass even my loose definition though, simply because it has no conflict. You can’t actually lose a battle. You just haven’t won it yet.
That doesn’t mean I dislike the game at all. Quite the contrary, I’ve enjoyed my intitial plays. However, it is entirely a resource management game.
Here’s the real question: do I like it better than Palm Island? Which one would I rather play and which one would I recommend? The answer is: I don’t know. I have not yet tried playing Battle for the Carolinas with either the variant rule sets or the expansion cards. I also have only played the black and white demo version of Palm Island. I haven’t made a copy of the full game (yet).
I will make this observation: there are more paths to victory in Palm Island, different avenues to gain points and the initial shuffle will help you figure out what is your best option. In Battle for Carolinas, whether you are playing for points or achievements, your end goal is the two battle cards and that is what you are working towards.
Another significant difference is that Battle for Carolinas has spoils. When you completely upgrade a skirmish or battle, it becomes a potent set of resources. In Palm Island, that doesn’t happen. In fact, some cards stop being potential resources.
I suspect that the full version of Palm Island will be the better experience but I also think I will have fun exploring the variations and expansions in Battle for the Carolinas.