Monday, October 8, 2018

[Review] Palm Island and Sprawlopolis - Two Micro-Card Games That Fit In The Palm Of Your Hand

During my lengthy hiatus from posting here at The Savage AfterWorld, I've been doing quite a bit of board gaming. Because I'm usually on my own here at Casa Sniderman, I've discovered solo board games. Typically these games are spread out all over your gaming table with many figures, cards, counters, pawns, dice, and a sundry of other bits and pieces to lose or knock onto the floor. However during a Kickstarter shopping spree of the past two years, I discovered two solo games that consist of no more than 18 cards....each. These two games literally fit in the palm of your hand. First we'll take a trip to Palm Island, followed shortly by a visit to the thriving metropolis of Sprawlopolis.

Palm Island by Portal Dragon tasks you to develop and expand the resources of your tiny Island Kingdom. You do this by amassing resources and spending them to “level up” your island's temples, housing, markets, etc. As your island begins to thrive, you have access to more resources to further expand your domain. Did I mention the game is played solely in the palm of your hand?
The 17-card deck is shuffled, then each card in the deck is dealt with one at a time. To store a resource (fish, logs, and stone) for future use, you turn it 90 degrees to expose it. If you amass enough stored resources, you can then spend them to develop your island's buildings and temples by straightening them back up, paying the cost to upgrade. As your island grows stronger, you have access to better and more abundant resources. When you've gone through the deck 8 times, the game ends. Each developed card is worth a certain point value depending on how far you managed to upgrade it. I've oversimplified how to play for this review, but there is an amazing amount of depth and gameplay here. Plus, if you meet certain goals in play, you can add additional cards to the game, such a "Feat" card which gives you special abilities and bonuses. There are Villagers who can offer their help to your island paradise. The game can be played head-to-head, both cooperatively and competitively! And watch out for disasters such as hurricanes and volcanoes that could destroy your kingdom! The portability of this game allows you to play it anywhere you have a free hand, because you don't need a playing surface at all! Very highly recommended!


Sprawlopolis by Button Shy Games challenges you to build a thriving city made up of industrial, residential, commercial, and city park blocks, while meeting certain predetermined construction goals. And your city will come together with only the 18 cards in the deck!
To begin a game of Sprawlopolis, you shuffle the cards, then pull three at random. On the back of each card is a unique construction goal that applies only to this game. For example, one goal might be "Morning Commute" which gives you a two-point scoring bonus for any roads that pass through both a residential and commercial block. Or "Go Green" which gives you a point for every park block, but penalizes you three points for every industrial block! Each goal card also has a target score number -- adding the three goal numbers together gives you your final Target Score which must be reached or exceeded to win. To play, you use each card in order in the deck from top to bottom. You can play a new card next to or overlapping any card in play, as long as it's always lengthwise oriented and not played corner-to-corner. Your placement determines whether you can meet the scoring conditions on the construction goals. After the last card is placed, you score points per the beginning goals. You finally score one point per block in your largest area of each zone type. If you reached or beat your target score, you win! The Kickstarted version I got also has a few bonus cards, such as Points of Interest (city beautification!), Construction Zones (under development!), and Wrecktar (monster attack!).

Both of these games prove you don't need expansive boards and fiddly bits to have a great game. These 17-18-card decks have given me a lot of gameplay is a very small footprint. Sniderman says, "Check them out!"

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