Dale Yu: Review of Twin Palms  

Twin Palms

  • Designer: Kristi B
  • Publisher: Bink Ink
  • Players: 2-5
  • Age: 10+
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by publisher

twin palms

Twin Palms was pitched to me as a new take on trick-taking; and as you are probably aware, the Opinionated Gamers are big fans of the genre… so we were definitely interested in taking this one for a spin.  

As the box says: Hidden somewhere along the tropical coastline, you’ll find a charming little beach town called Twin Palms. Here you’ll see dolphins jumping, lovers holding hands, and children playing in the sand…always in pairs.

The catch in this game is that each time you make a play, you have to play a pair of cards from your hand – so you must craft each of your combinations to get the desired result.

The goal of the game is to score the most points; and this does not necessarily mean to win the most tricks.  Over the course of the game, you will play a number of hands, and in each hand, you’ll look at your cards and make a bid as to the number of tricks that you think you will take in that round.  Additionally, you can make a bet on your bid to possibly increase your score.

The deck of cards has 72 cards, 3 suits (aqua Palms, pink Dolphins and yellow Sunglasses) – each with two numbered cards of ranks 0 to 10 as well as two Wild cards which can be of any rank.  The length of the game (number of hands) is determined by the number of players, and at the start of each hand, the deck is shuffled and each player is dealt a hand of 10 cards.  As you will play a pair of cards for each play, each hand will only have 5 tricks in it.

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Players examine their cards and then they all secretly and simultaneously choose a Bid card (and optionally a Bet card).  The Bids go from 0 to 5, with each one telling you how many points you score for exactly hitting the bid or what your consolation will be if you miss.  There are 3 Bet cards to choose from.  You can bet 0, Max (= to the round number) or ½ (of the round number) of points that you will exactly meet your bid.  These cards are all chosen and then simultaneously revealed.

Then the start player for the round leads the first trick (the game is set up so that all players will have an equal number of turns to be the start player).  Each player in turn chooses two cards from their hand to play as a pair.  If you play a wild card, you must announce the rank of the Wild as you play it.  Once all players have played a pair, the trick is resolved with a few simple rules.

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A pair is the best possible play, and the suits have a fixed order (Palms, Dolphins, Sunglasses, Mixed).  Thus a pair of 1 Palms beats a pair of 7 Dolphins.  If no pair is played, then a 2-card flush of Palms > Dolphins > Sunglasses > Mixed with ties broken by the card with highest rank.  In the uncommon event that two plays are exactly alike, they are simply discarded (a la Gib Gas or Raj) and the next best set wins.  The trick is collected in front of the winning player, and that player leads the next trick.  Continue this until all 5 tricks have been played. 

Now it’s time to score the hand.  Each player sees whether or not they met their bid or not and then scores accordingly.  Next, evaluate whether or not a Bet was successful or not – either gaining points or paying them back.  Continue for the proscribed number of rounds and the player with the most points wins.  If there is a tie, continue playing rounds until the tie is broken.

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The game that I have described above is the Advanced mode – and this is the version our group plays most often and enjoys the most.  There are four different ways to play the game: Easy, Normal, Advanced, Expert.  There are nice summary cards to show the relative ranks of card pairings for each version.

My thoughts on the game

So when I first read about the game, I was interested from the start as it is called a trick taking game.  But after playing it, I really think this is more about bid and hand management.  Sure, we play “tricks”, but with most may-follow trick taking games, I feel like I often don’t have much control over the trick itself, so my mind concentrates on the other aspects of the game.

Here, you score points not necessarily by collecting tricks but rather by matching the number of tricks you take to your bid.  The interesting part about this is that you get to create your “card” by making a pair from your hand.  You are free to play any combination of cards, so much of strategy comes from choosing what to play.  If you are going last, you can definitely decide if you want to win a trick or not.  You can also look at the bids of the players going after you in turn order to try to figure out if they are trying to win the current trick or not.  

You are also fairly concerned with the composition of your hand after the play as you may not want to leave yourself with a particularly strong or weak set of cards to finish out – but again, it all depends on your bid!

The one thing that we’ve found is that it is still best to be dealt a bunch of pairs, preferably Palms.  While you are always rewarded for meeting your bid, the best payoffs are for the higher bids (you can score as many as 15 points if you bid 5 and make 5!)  However, such a hand is seriously unlikely, and we’ve honestly yet to see anyone make more than a 3 bid to date.  Near the end of the game, especially in a 4p game, a max bet can be worth 7 or 8 points, and these swings are what have usually decided the game for us.

It should be noted that there are a fair amount of cards not dealt out each hand, and this makes the bidding a bit trickier, as you never are quite sure what other cards you are playing against.  You might think that you have a middling hand, but it turns out to be filled with winning combinations because your opponents have even lower cards than you!  Some of my group didn’t like this about the game – but I think it’s fine – so long as people are cognizant of the size of the deck left after dealing it out.  I suppose that you could have discarded some of the ranks based on player count to have each play similarly; but I think it works fine as is.  

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There are four different levels of play, and this should allow you to make the game suit any level of player.  The beginner level only uses two suits, and well, it’s suitable for beginners – but I doubt it would hold the interest of many gamers.  At the other extreme is the Expert level which even ranks the unpaired plays by the suits contained within – and I found this to be more work than it was worth in figuring out the resolution of each trick.  But, there are player aid cards for each of the four levels, and it is nice to be able to find the level that suits your group or particular circumstance.

The artwork is beachy themed, though really the game itself is an abstract card game and could have any theme pasted on it. For gameplay purposes, the colors and icons of the suits are easily distinguished from each other, and that is really all I would care about for a card game.  The cards are not lefty-friendly as they are only indexed in the top right and bottom left corners. 

The game plays quickly, and the 5 trick hands can zip by.  I’ll be honest that the 4p games maybe goes on a bit too long (at 8 hands) and is a bit swingy due to the large value of the bets at the end of the game; so I might prefer this at 3 or 5 – but like I said, the hands go by quickly in any event. 

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Twin Palms makes an interesting addition to the card game collection.  It is not quite like anything else I have right now, and for that reason, it may earn itself a home in the collection.  Either way, we’re playing it a bunch now, and I’d certainly recommend others to try it as well.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Dan B. (1 play):I did not like the game with three players; so many cards are out of play that bidding is a crapshoot, especially given that it’s simultaneous. I’d be willing to try it again with more players but am not optimistic.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y
  • Neutral.  John P, Steph
  • Not for me… Dan B. (with three)

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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