The site uses cookies that you may not want. Continued use means acceptance. For more information see our privacy policy.

Review of ISLANDERS

A chill game of filling islands with buildings.

ISLANDERS (Wikipedia: “Islanders (video game)”) is a building placement game that takes place on a series of randomly generated islands. It can be thought of as a board game in which the island is the board and the buildings are the cards you get dealt. Presented with a fresh island, you add a batch of buildings to your hand and from there you place them on the board—on the island.

Each building has a bubble representing its range of influence, and you get points based on what is inside the sphere when you place it. You can also undo the last move (unless you’ve added a new batch of buildings). Each building has a set of others that it wants and doesn’t want near it—call them friends and enemies. Friends add points, enemies subtract.

Different building types take up different amounts of space (and there are some variations of some building types that have their own distinct footprints). Equally important, some buildings are worth more points. These need to be played strategically to max out your score—building up an area you plan to place these in. But the game nudges that as most of their friends want to be near each other anyway.

It’s not too challenging once you play a few islands. You start to figure out roughly where things should go by trial and error. You’re free to hover the ghost building all over the island and try to find the highest score you can get. Advanced strategies mean in some cases you’re better off not going for the best score for a single building, so that you’ll have spaces to place things later and so that you keep future buildings from losing points by being too near to their enemies.

For most of the game, you will want to add new buildings to your hand as soon as they become available. The exception is an achievement for always exhausting your buildings before getting more and scoring 1000 points. Having more buildings available means you can try different placements or hold some for later while adding their friends to the board ahead of time.

Once you have enough points, you have the option to move on to a fresh island. You can keep adding buildings to the current island until you fail to get enough points to get a new batch of buildings. At that point, if you’ve unlocked the next island you can go on to that. Otherwise, you’ve hit the end of the world and your score is your score. Early islands are easier to fill out: you add more buildings to your hand for fewer points, and you can move on to the next island sooner too. The first islands are also give you more space to play.


There weren’t any bugs for me on Linux. There are ways you might be able to shove some buildings where they don’t look like they fit, but nothing too crazy. The biggest annoyance was the yellow point text when placing a building could have poor contrast with the background (especially the sand and some of the levels with yellow grass areas). In those cases you might need to spin the level around so that you get an orientation with enough contrast to read it. (A simple drop-shadow on the text could probably have solved this.)

I enjoyed my time with ISLANDERS. Including achievements, it took me about 30 hours to play through. While I was playing I wondered about the people who would build these cities, the architecture and the world they would live in. A calm and easy enough game, I’d call it contemplative. No quick thinking is needed as you can take all day to make a move (though there are a few achievements for getting through some of the early islands quickly). If you want to try harder to maximize your score in the early rounds, some math will come into play. You’ll try to calculate which order to place things. But as the game progresses, it becomes more about space management and making use of your undo to try things.

There is a sandbox mode where few restrictions are placed on what you build. You can add as many of the various building types as you want there. And from the main menu there is a photo mode where the UI is hidden so you can take pictures of your current island. There isn’t a way to save islands, which is a small heartbreak, but it also adds to the charm of the game that what you build is quickly washed out, like a sandcastle.

The title, Islanders, written using the wall building in sandbox mode.
A simple example of what can be done in the sandbox mode. In high score mode, this would be terrible.

Worth a look if you want to slow down and fill up islands with buildings.

On Policy Vacuums

A party that doesn’t create policy leaves itself to be filled with grifters.

The Republican party as a whole has no policies to address many major issues:

  • Gun safety
  • Climate change
  • Non-climate environmental issues
  • Healthcare
  • Drug prices
  • Democracy reform
  • Immigration reform
  • Labor rights
  • Women’s rights
  • Racial disparities
  • Poverty
  • Police reform
  • Tax reform

I forgot some. Sorry. But the point is that there are all these major modern issues that the party is silent on (or denies exist in a meaningful way). For some Republican officials, for certain issues, they might support a policy, but the party as a whole does not. What does that do to a party?

In the case of Republicans, it does two things:

  1. It makes them seem less competitive with Democrats, who don’t always have the best policies, but they do have policies that attempt to address the problems.
  2. It makes the control of the party about things other than policy.

Most parties shift over time between more moderate and more extreme factions. This happens in terms of policy, but also in terms of tone choices. If your base is mad, policy aside, they want the fiercer voices up front. If they’re happier, they want more moderation, don’t want to upset the way things are.

But policy comes into play in those shifts. A madder base will still want the party to match their policy choices. If you remove policy from the discussion, all they have is tone, and on tone alone, the angry voices will whip them into anger, the angry voices will win.

When there are policy disagreements within a party, that can overcome tone disputes. But without policy, tone keeps building. The loudest voices win.


The party that lacks real policy (other than doing nothing and ignoring the problems) is a party whose days are numbered. There are too many important issues that will be addressed. This isn’t the bad old days when so many issues could be ignored due to lack of information, communication lag, and so on. The modern world limits how long a party can go without policy.

One major example is climate change. We’ve seen drought and bad storms increase. Temperatures have gotten worse. Bad weather will continue to happen with more frequency, particularly when you consider the time lag at play. Like COVID-19, where hospitalizations lag two weeks behind infections, and deaths another week or two depending on the strain, climate lags. We live today in the climate caused by ten, twenty years of the thickening carbon blanket in the atmosphere.

Ever go to bed cold, with the covers piled on, only to wake up sweating? That’s what the thickening blanket does. It takes time to trap the extra heat. It takes time for the seas to rise, the storms to worsen, the rain patterns to cause worse droughts.

But we live in the first wave of climate-changed weather. It will take but a few short years before enough of the country has been hit by at least one or two effects. That includes Republican strongholds, and enough people will not like to see the disasters and their costs. There are limits to denial.

Like it or not, the Republican party will either develop a set of climate policies (which will be debated within the party) or it will be completely irrelevant as people will want policy.


The rise of idiots like Donald John Trump can only happen when policy has been pushed aside. The Republican voters wanted the Democrats’ policies blocked, but they keep coming. At some point the other reason to have policy gets recognized by the voters: negotiation.

There are very few issues in politics that should be absolutist. Basic rights, including the right to vote, rank up there. But the rest are subject to negotiation. If the Republican party wanted to, it could shove Senator Manchin aside and negotiate a much better Build Back Better bill. They are stuck in the Nancy Reagan drug war response mode, but it’s their voters’ (and donors’) policy choices that suffer.

At some point, as with seeing climate disasters, the policy effects will push Republican voters to demand negotiators. They will learn they are missing all kinds of opportunities by saying no to everything. As it already stands, every Republican voter surely wants at least one of the policy areas I listed to be dealt with. Most probably wants several. They stick to the party because of some other anchor, plus fear of what the Democrats will do on the issue.

The Republican party lies about the Democrats’ true intentions being nefarious and far beyond whatever their opponents propose. They can always point to the far left, but even if they don’t, they can make up whatever slippery slope they want to scare their voters with.

Until they can’t. If any set of Republican electors find one of the policies above outweighs their anchor, they will switch to at least independent voting. And as issues get worse from neglect and inability of Democrats to pass solutions on their own, Republicans will move on from a party that fails to govern.

The alternative, as always, is the Republicans doing the right thing. They can only hide from the truth so long. I hear the truth calling out, “Ready or not, here I come!”

Six January Plus a Year

A year later, what can be said, except that not enough has been done.

Our government exists to protect our lands and our lives, and to see that we have a say in how that happens, in how our collective efforts bring us to a better future of prosperity. We make our voices heard, and that result is felt in the next stent of government at which point we adjust. And we repeat this every few years, in order that our nation may find its way forward in a complex world.

A year ago some Donald John Trump supporters decided America was theirs for the taking, that they didn’t give a rat’s ass what we thought. Led by Donald John Trump, they embarked on a campaign of lies and noise that culminated on 6 January, 2021, when they sought to steal our government and our law, to pervert it for their own preferences.

But behind them was a larger movement all focused on the same outcome through different methods. Their lying began well before the 2020 election, and they kept lying in all kinds of venues including courts and on all modern forms of media. And some are lying even today! They had no evidence, no real claim, but the design didn’t require either of those things. They at the top of the orgy of authoritarianism seek power through whatever means available, with the caveat that they don’t want to face consequences when they fail (which precludes only a few methods).

The party that shelters this element has repeatedly refused to take a stand or kick them out. Wyoming’s Republican party kicked out Representative Liz Cheney for her efforts to uphold American values. Several state party election officials have held meetings with liars where they say the state’s election was straight, even as the liar says otherwise. Other states have held bogus audits that still failed to deliver evidence as they invalidated the voting machines.

Those seeking Republican nominations, including for offices that administer elections, have voiced their zeal for the lies, portraying themselves as pliant servants of the devilry it represents. They say they will not certify valid elections that oppose the liars. They pass laws, and call for more to be done, to thwart legitimate electors from voting, and from allowing the result to stand, in order to suppress their political opponents.

The impeachment that followed the Capitol attack fell flat, with no new evidence, no testimony, and with a rush to move on, particularly by the Republican caucus of the Senate that had already stalled it while they retained the majority. The federal government is prosecuting the attackers, but as yet no charges for those who egged them on, who brought the mob. And the responsible parties continue to delay, if not defeat, any real accountability.


One year on, we haven’t seen real consequences for the liars, and we don’t see much reason to hope that they will come. For the briefest of moments, a year ago, after the attack, some prominent Republicans spoke as if they would finally return to reality even as others voted to remain in Delusionville. Only a few stayed in reality, most have returned to the land of filth and crud that is inaccessible to those of us with clear minds.

If Democrats and sane Republicans, along with businesses that want a real government more than tin-pot tax cuts (where’s the polling on that?), cannot act to put down this rebellion of the deluded, something besides the Republican party is certainly broken, and likely irrevocably so.

We do still have hope. Our hope is our ability to sift truth out of lies. That we will support those who seek to strengthen democracy, seek to build a better world for all, and we will reject them that won’t. In this division, we are fallible but determined. And over time we will get it right enough that good will prevail. The clock is ticking.