Quick Takes: 1-4 players 90-120 minutes (or more!) Ages 13+ Level 3 (advanced, looking for a challenge. Check out our Quick Start guide for some tips to make this game more manageable for more casual gamers)
Spirit Island offers a pretty unique twist on the classic "you play a colonizer" (looking at you, Puerto Rico) board game theme. Here, you play as one of many powerful spirits who have existed on an isolated island for time immemorial. As a spirit, you are both part of the natural world and something supernatural. You coexist reasonably peacefully with the native islanders, the Dahan, but are now being faced with invaders from a far away land who are trying to colonize your island.
In this cooperative game, all players take on the role of spirits who must work together to beat back the foreign invaders and restore the health of the island. Each of the spirits have a unique skill-set, with strengths and weaknesses that play against each other in interesting ways. Some of the spirits try to win by attacking invaders, others by defending the lands and Dahan, and still others by striking fear into the hearts of invaders to weaken them.
The game play is broken into several phases, with players taking their turns simultaneously. Spirits first grow by drawing power cards, gaining energy (currency), and placing presence at different points on the island. Then they are ready to use their powers. Power cards are divided into two different speeds which govern when you can play a given power. Some powers can be used before the invaders get a turn ("fast powers"), and others have to wait until after the invaders explore, build on, and ravage the island ("slow powers").
We rate this game a Level 3 for many reasons. The available spirits vary considerably in complexity and powers, all of which must be considered as the group moves through each round. For very analytical players (like our Warehouse Bear), this means that each round takes a long time as he maps out all possible actions for each spirit in the fast round, the invaders, and each spirit in the slow round. More decisive playing groups will get the game done a lot quicker! Once you learn the spirits, there are lots of additional twists you can start exploring within the game, from new and more powerful invaders to blight (harm to the land itself). And you may also face broad natural disasters like fires or famine that can threaten the Dahan. If they die out, you lose - so choose wisely.
If there were an inside out Pandemic, this would be it. Like Pandemic, Spirit Island seems very hard to win... right up until the moment you are victorious. This game has so much to offer that we feel like we've barely scratched the surface, but for those who want even more, check out the expansion Jagged Earth.
- Meets the challenge - the twists in this game make it a great new game for an advanced board gamer
- Two player - this game is great for just two. Not all games are.
- Also great for solo play!
- We love the creative spirit names. Not content to make up fantasy equivalents of Thor and Athena, the spirits in this game have evocative names like "Bringer of Dreams and Nightmares" or "Lightning's Swift Strike." Annie's personal favorite is "Shadows Flicker Like Flame."
- Golden Geek Board Game of the Year Nominee - 2017
- Board Game Quest Best Coop Game Winner - 2017
- Nominated for 7 Golden Geek awards in 2017
Our Board's Edge team breaks down how to approach a complex game like Spirit Island in this Quick Start Guide at our blog.