Board Game Geek Rating: 5.58
Board Game Geek Avg Player Rating: 7.93
Players: 1 to 4
Content Notes: Kickstarter Spirit Island Board Game Bundle. Includes Core Game, the Branch & Claw Expansion and Kickstarter "Serpent Slumbering Beneath The Island" & "Heart of Wildfire" Promo-Spirits. Please note: unless otherwise stated paid add ons from the Kickstarter Campaign are not included.
💥 Kickstarter "Serpent Slumbering Beneath The Island" Promo-Spirits
💥 Kickstarter "Heart of Wildfire" Promo-Spirits
💥 Branch & Claw Expansion
🔥 8 different Retail Spirits, each with 4 Power Cards unique to that Spirit
🔥 Over 50 distinct Major and Minor Retail Power Cards which Spirits can grow into
🔥 4 modular Retail Island Boards, for a variety of layouts
🔥 4 Retail Character Stands with Plastic Light Speedometer Slider
🔥 Over 100 Retail pieces for representing the Invaders and Dahan (native islanders)
🔥 15 Retail Invader cards, driving a distinctive Invader expansion system
🔥 15 Retail Fear cards, showing what happens as you terrify the Invader
🔥 3 Retail multi-tier Adversaries (specific Invaders) for play variety and fine-tuned challenge: England, Brandenburg-Prussia, and Sweden
🔥 4 Retail optional Scenarios for even more play variety
In the most distant reaches of the world, magic still exists, embodied by spirits of the land, of the sky, and of every natural thing. As the great powers of Europe stretch their colonial empires further and further, they will inevitably lay claim to a place where spirits still hold power - and when they do, the land itself will fight back alongside the islanders who live there.
Spirit Island is a complex and thematic cooperative game about defending your island home from colonizing Invaders. Players are different spirits of the land, each with its own unique elemental powers. Every turn, players simultaneously choose which of their power cards to play, paying energy to do so. Using combinations of power cards that match a spirit's elemental affinities can grant free bonus effects. Faster powers take effect immediately, before the Invaders spread and ravage, but other magics are slower, requiring forethought and planning to use effectively. In the Spirit phase, spirits gain energy, and choose how / whether to Grow: to reclaim used power cards, to seek for new power, or to spread presence into new areas of the island.
The Invaders expand across the island map in a semi-predictable fashion. Each turn they explore into some lands (portions of the island); the next turn, they build in those lands, forming settlements and cities. The turn after that, they ravage there, bringing blight to the land and attacking any native islanders present.
The islanders fight back against the Invaders when attacked, and lend the spirits some other aid, but may not always do so exactly as you'd hoped. Some Powers work through the islanders, helping them (eg) drive out the Invaders or clean the land of blight.
The game escalates as it progresses: spirits spread their presence to new parts of the island and seek out new and more potent powers, while the Invaders step up their colonization efforts. Each turn represents 1-3 years of alternate-history.
At game start, winning requires destroying every last settlement and city on the board - but as you frighten the Invaders more and more, victory becomes easier: they'll run away even if some number of settlements or cities remain. Defeat comes if any spirit is destroyed, if the island is overrun by blight, or if the Invader deck is depleted before achieving victory.
The game includes different adversaries to fight against (eg: a French Plantation Colony, or a Remote British Colony). Each changes play in different ways, and offers a different path of difficulty boosts to keep the game challenging as you gain skill.
The Serpent Slumbering Beneath the Island
Let's shift our sight so we see only spirits. There are throngs of them visible across the surface of the island: spirits of tree and glade, of rushing river and entangling vines, of beast and butterfly and mists floating eerily over the marshes.
Turning our vision downward, we see nearly as many within the land itself: spirits of hard unyielding stone and of drifted sand dunes, of sinkhole and high peak. Vital Strength of the Earth is here.
As we look deeper, fewer spirits greet our eyes - some of volcano, some of dark and ancient caves, a handful of others. But like the earth itself, most of those we see are large, powerful, and slow.
Deeper and larger than all of those lies the Serpent Slumbering Beneath the Island. It could be argued that it is the Island, or at least its roots. Like all spirits of such size and power, it is slow beyond human reckoning. Unlike many of them, it is also asleep.
Or, now, mostly asleep. The distant sting of the Invaders' blight has begun to rouse portions of its consciousness towards waking, those fragments aware of the land's surface far above. Even that small aspect of the Serpent is slow to act, slow to awaken... but contains the potential for power greater than most spirits could ever muster.
The Serpent Slumbering Beneath the Island is a high-complexity spirit. If Ocean's big limitation is "coastal" and Wildfire's is "blight", Serpent's is "waking up": it's a very slow spirit, limited in its development, but with the prospect of great power if it wakes up fully.
Overall: Fighting alongside the Serpent requires an awareness of its limitations (slow start, occasionally needs to chow down on someone's Presence) and of the benefits it brings to its allies (energy, power cards, additional plays, and more). It's far from powerless in early-game - the element and card-play boosts it gives to allies can push them over into higher-level Innates much earlier than would normally be possible; it can damage buildings with its Serpent Rouses in Anger innate; and it can grab an early Major Power if it so chooses - but it can only manage one or perhaps two things a turn, and is nowhere near as good at defense as, eg, Vital Strength of the Earth. Its allies should expect to pick up some of the slack in early-game, but will reap the rewards in later-game... if the island can survive that long.
Heart of the Wildfire
Burning, blazing, rising, consuming - Heart of the Wildfire is quite fond of humans, in a general sense: they keep hearths and use fire as a tool all the time, and those sparks give birth to so many lovely conflagrations! It is the nature of Spirits to be true to what they are, so even though Wildfire knows on some level that too much fire is bad for the land, it just doesn't think about that aspect of things very much. It is also, after all, a spirit of renewal after the blaze, so it implicitly assumes that everything will regrow eventually. (Its strong ties to A Spread of Rampant Green probably contribute to this point of view.)
It fights the Invaders partly due to the exhortations of other Spirits, but more for the sake of the Dahan, as it's become clear that the Invaders have no compunctions about putting them to the sword. (The Dahan and it have a long and storied history together, beginning with the very first Dahan settlements.) It is also, it should be said, somewhat gleeful over the chance to really cut loose without the other Spirits getting all riled up and putting out its firestorms.
Overall: Heart of the Wildfire is a high-complexity spirit. It has excellent offensive power, but its fires bring Blight to the land - and require some of that Blight to stay out in order for several of its offensive powers to work. In smaller games, it will have to be careful to avoid tainting the land (or outright losing), as the Blight it brings can be a substantial fraction of the available pool. In larger games, it'll have more leeway on Blight, but will face the problem of dilution: either the lands it sets up as deathtraps will be much sparser, or it'll concentrated be over in one corner and won't be able to help much in other portions of the board.
Branch & Claw Expansion
Features two new Spirits, Sharp Fangs Behind the Leaves and Keeper of the Forbidden Wilds, and a new Adversary (France) as well as adding Events to the Invader Phase of the game!
The Event Deck has events that happen each turn, adding further variation to the game play. In addition, the expansion has Tokens that prevent the invaders from exploring, building, or ravaging or add wild Beasts to the land, a new set of powers (31 Minor and 21 Major) that use the new Tokens and expand the gameplay, 15 new Fear cards, new Blight cards, and new Scenarios.
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