Monday, June 27, 2022

On the limits and influence of Palm Island

As I’ve mentioned before, I have been playing a lot of In Hand games lately. And that means I’ve been revisiting Palm Island, which is the poster child of In Hand games.

Palm Island definitely didn’t invent In Hand games. But it did give the idea a kick in the pants. I honestly would say that a third of the In Hand games I’ve seen post Palm Island were clearly Influenced by it.

Something I want to do this summer is get the color files printed so I have the ‘full’ games and get the ‘full’ Palm Island experience. I’ve spent years with the low ink demo and I’ve wanted to see how much deeper the game gets.

However, when I actually looked at the files, I realized that most of the cards are for the two-player version of the game. As a solitaire player, the only new element are feats. Which turn the game essentially into a campaign but doesn’t seem like a major mechanical shift.

And I know that the basic framework can be tweaked just a little to get significant changes. In Battle for the Carolinas (which I have started replaying and really enjoying), you need different cards at different points in the game. You need maps and compasses to find the battlefields but then they need to become men and weapons. It creates a different tempo than Palm Island.

While Palm Island has a very solid structure of resource management and infrastructure development, it is ultimately very simple. The individual actions are very simple. This is not a bad thing.

Between the random shuffle of the cards and the limit of only being able to store four cards, Palm Island does has variabily and tough choices. But it’s presented in such an accessible way so that the initial learning curve is just about keeping the deck in your hand the whole time. It’s great for casual gaming.

But now I’ve been seeing that the si one structure is one that can be built on. And, while games like Battle for the Carolinas shows that other folks are doing this, the fact that Portal Dragon will be publishing Palm Laboratory and have mentioned Palm Galaxy shows that this was intended.

And even as I become more and more aware of the limitations of Palm Island, I am playing it more often. I keep on going back to it and having fun. There is a good game there.

Palm Island is not the definitive In Hand game. It didn’t create the genre. But I think it is an important milestone and has helped there he better games ahead.

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