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James To My Friends
Netherlands
Eindhoven
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Palmyra is designed by Bernd Eisenstein and is published by Iron Games. It supports 1 to 5 players an will play in around 45 minutes.

I dream of gardens in the desert sand

Pretty much as soon as Palmyra was announced it went onto my must-buy list for Essen. This was based purely on the fact that this game was designed by the same person as Peloponnes. That game provides fast gameplay with plenty of depth and tension. Palmyra has a similar experience but with very different gameplay.

Palmyra comes in a small, Kosmos 2 player size box. Well maybe a bit bigger. This is kind of refreshing. So many games are just huge boxes of air these days. I'm looking at you Augustus. As a result Palmyra takes up little of my precious shelf-space. Inside the box, are some cardboard tiles and coins that need to be punched, ten wooden pieces, and the rulebook. The artwork itself does a very nice job of being functional enough to fit the abstract nature of the game, but pretty enough to be really cool.

The rulebook is very clear and quite short. The rules themselves fit onto 4 small pages. Crammed into those 4 pages are plenty of diagrams and examples. The rules themselves are very straight-forward. It's a quick and easy read. They make sense, and the players are ready to start.

A tile in the logic of my mind

Palmyra is a tile laying game. Tiles players that have been gained can be played to a central area, extending the map. This provides players opportunities to either gain more tiles or gain points. That is the heart of the game, the balance between giving yourself more options and more flexibility, or the gathering of points from a limited pool.

The tile laying has a very unique element to it, which can lead to a little bit of confusion during first few turns of the game. You see there are two sizes of tile. Large and small. The large tile has cut-off corners, creating a sort of non-equalateral octagon. This enables a strange dynamic within the rules. The large tiles can be placed diagonally adjacent to each other, and adjacent to small tiles orthogonally. Therefore the small tiles are never adjacent to each other. Like I say, it's a unique configuration and takes a little getting used to. It's important to the game though and adds a genuine puzzle element to the tile laying. If you have a bunch of small tiles, you'll be going nowhere fast.

The tiles themselves have one of three landscapes. Desert, grassland, or mountains. They may also have a feature on them. A tower, lake, or caravan. A player gains tiles or points by laying a tile adjacent to one of their two wooden pieces and then moving the piece onto the new tile. The legion piece gives you tiles, the censor gives you points. You must chose at the start of your turn which piece you are going to move. The number of tiles or points earned depends on the number of adjacent matching landscapes and/or features for each new tile you lay. The maximum number of tiles that can be laid in a turn is four, but this is reduced to two if a tile has a feature on it. Even then only one feature can be laid in a turn.

When you earn new tiles they are drawn evenly between the face-down stacks of large and small tiles. If there is an odd number of tiles to be drawn then that last tile can be chosen from between either of the two stacks. Any tiles you draw go face up in front of you. These can either be used to continue your existing turn (if you're within you tile laying limit) or saved for a later turn. These tiles are collected at the end of your turn.

When you moved the censor to claim points you can optionally flip over one of the tiles you have in front of you. This reduces the number of tiles you can play in future turns, but can provide extra points in when you move the censor again. You see, in future turns if you have collected more points in your turn than you have tiles flipped the you will collect additional points equal to the number of tiles you have flipped. Right! Go back and read that sentence again. It makes sense, it just takes a few reads of it to comprehend it. That is what the first few turns of this game are like. These rules are short and simple, it just takes a little comprehension at the start to get them to sink in.

As time runs through my hands.

Additionally a player can chose to re-organize instead of moving either their legion or their censor. As well as taking one tile this allows you to move your pieces to any unoccupied to tiles on the board. This is handy for a couple of things. Firstly, it gets you out or a corner you may have manoeuvred yourself into. Secondly, allows for some tactical play to block your opponents. You see one cunning rule is that adjacent tiles don't count towards gathering tiles or points if an opposing players piece is on it.

The game ends when one of two conditions are met. Either when the stack of tiles run out or when the stack of coins run out. The game then ends immediately.

There is also a variant you can add. There is a Caesar piece that can be purchased for one point when you perform a re-organize action. Caesar is very handy to have. He allows you to move both your legion and censor on your turn. This means it is possible to gain tiles and points on your turn. Also you gain one additional point or tile when you earn points or tiles. Caesar is a powerful ally to have. The cost of a point and a turn to get him though is quite high, especially as another player can lure him away on their turn too. The flip side is that allowing a player to have Caesar for a large portion of the game is suicide.

Play in the shape of man’s desire.

Like Peloponnes this is an easy game to teach which takes a turn or two to get used to how everything fits together. It's a wonderful little puzzle of game though. Which despite the tactical nature of drawing tiles requires a lot of planning, careful thought, and a little risk taking to get as many points as possible. It is key to save tiles and gain position. Then you will be able to chose how you are going to snake the tiles across the table, then you can really score some big points, even at the expense of less optimal moves. It takes a little getting used to, but it's a very rewarding mechanism.

There are some opportunities to reduce opponents points, or even block them completely. This is where a lot of the tension comes from. When you spot a great move, and hope that no one else is going to be jerk and ruin it for you. But all in all you can be as friendly or as a nasty as you want to be. Either way at the end of the game you're going to be going over your moves and decisions and knowing where your went wrong, or what you could have done differently.

The game plays nice and quick. 45 minutes on the box is easily do-able and it will definitely take less that 1 hour. It definitely falls into the light/gateway category for the ease of rules. I would have no problem getting this played with non-gamers. However, the mechanisms in the game do provide some nice brain-burning moments. It could probably do with a cheat-sheet just to help through the those few turns.

All in all Palmyra did not disappoint. I can see this getting just as many plays as Peloponnes or Carcasonne has managed. Hopefully, like Peloponnes, a few mini-expansions can make their way on the Essen stand in future years. And I am pretty sure there won't be a catapult expansion for it either.

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James Cartwright
United Kingdom
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Nice review. I notice it says you can play this 1 player, have you tried it solo and if so what's it like?
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Tim Goose
United Kingdom
Hitchin
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We played Palmyra at Essen this year and really enjoyed it. My only quibble (and it is a minor one) is that, once the game gets going, it isn't obvious which are the (6?) starting tiles. These are the ones that I believe you can return to at any time. It would be good if there was a larger tile for this.

Other than that I can thoroughly recommend Palmyra as a light, abstract tile-laying game.
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John Brownsill
United Kingdom
Milton Keynes
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Shandazar wrote:
My only quibble (and it is a minor one) is that, once the game gets going, it isn't obvious which are the (6?) starting tiles. These are the ones that I believe you can return to at any time. It would be good if there was a larger tile for this.


Really? I find them very easy to distinguish as they're the only ones that have the picture of a group of buildings on. None of the other tiles look anything like them.
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Olav Fakkeldij
Netherlands
Beverwijk
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Nice overview!

One correction:
Quote:
Any tiles you draw go face up in front of you. These can either be used to continue your existing turn (if you're within you tile laying limit) or saved for a later turn.
This is not true: you draw the tiles at the end of your turn, so you can't use them before your next turn.
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James To My Friends
Netherlands
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olavf wrote:
Nice overview!

One correction:
Quote:
Any tiles you draw go face up in front of you. These can either be used to continue your existing turn (if you're within you tile laying limit) or saved for a later turn.
This is not true: you draw the tiles at the end of your turn, so you can't use them before your next turn.


Quite right. Looks like I missed that one. I've corrected the review.
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Michiel Hillenius
Netherlands
Hoogland (Amersfoort)
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Rindel wrote:
Nice review. I notice it says you can play this 1 player, have you tried it solo and if so what's it like?


I tried it once, but it wasn't very difficult. For an experienced player it was quite easy to reach the highest targets. Still a nice quick activity to do and fill some time.
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Michiel Hillenius
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voynitsky wrote:
Caesar is very handy to have. He allows you to move both your legion and censor on your turn. This means it is possible to gain tiles and points on your turn.


Nice review James. Just one thing: Caesar is handy, but not that strong. You still get to move either your Censor or your Legion. But it offers flexibility: you can now get tiles with your Censor or money with your Legion. And you get the bonus of one tile/money.
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