Spirit Island Review

Saturday I played the game Spirit Island by Greater Than Games. It’s a cooperative game where the players are the spirits of an island being invaded (colonized) and your goal is to drive them away.

There are a number of spirits to play as of various levels of complexity. They represent all kinds of different things. There’s your standard elemental spirits (earth, air, fire, water). The basic fire one I like to call Firethulhu and the air spirit is a bird made from lightning. But there’s even a giant snake the slumbers beneath the island that gains power by absorbing the presence of other spirits…in a cooperative manner.

The game currently plays 1-4 players (unless you had a lot more money than me and got the big version that can play 6 during the Kickstarter). Each player randomly selects a starting board and chooses their spirit. We played a three player game with three of the low complexity characters (since it was our first game). I was the earth spirit, my wife was Firethulhu and our friend was the lightning bird. The game then progresses with the invaders exploring, building, and ravaging the land and the native inhabitants, the Dahan.

The spirits have various powers in the form of cards and innate abilities. Powers usually have some kind of cost, either energy that is generated by your character or elemental power than is generated from your power cards. In general your powers allow you to move around invaders and Dahan, deal damage, or remove Blight (damage to the land caused by the invaders). There are some powers that can allow other spirits to do additional actions or make their actions faster. All spirits also have a “Special Rule” that generally breaks the rules of the game in some way to make their play a little more unique. The special rules do things like automatically defend areas or allow you to speed up your powers (there are fast and slow powers). Every spirit has different strategies and different situations where they are stronger or weaker. In order for spirits to get stronger they have to increase their presence in the island. Having presence is the starting point for all your powers. If you get two presence in a single area you have a sacred site. Strong powers require a sacred site as their starting point as do most of the innate powers. Your presence is not only your power, but your life. If your presence is ever completely wiped off the map, you’re dead. Your spirit has ceased to have any power on the island. The game is over. Everyone loses.

As the invaders more in they start dealing damage to the land, construct villages and cities, and kill the Dahan. When they damage the land it receives Blight. There is an amount of Blight set aside at the beginning of the game and if it’s ever all gone you lose…instantly. Blight is dangerous. If an area is blighted a second time instead of gaining a new blight it cascades to an adjacent area, continuing to cascade until it no longer can. As Blight spreads it reduces the presence of the spirits in those areas.

Some of your powers create fear. Another way to create fear is by destroying villages and cities. As you acquire more fear you gain fear cards. The fear cards represent the natives rising up against the invaders. As you go through the fear cards your victory conditions get easier. Your initial victory condition is to wipe out the invaders completely. Every single explorer. Every single village. Every single city. As the terror level rises the number of things you have to eliminate goes down. At level two you just have to eliminate the villages and cities. At level three, just the cities. Finally if you make it all the way through the level three fear cards…Game Over, you win. When the victory condition is met you win instantly, and man is it a great feeling.

When we played there were times that we were so worried the invaders were going to utterly destroy us, but then as we went things turned around. It was an amazing feeling. I love this game. I think I would play this game anytime someone wanted to. It may take a while (90-120 minutes), but it’s a lot of fun and very thematic.

I give the game 10/10. It is in my top 3 cooperative games and I’m not completely sure which one is actually on top.