Spirit Island unleashes your inner divine wrath. Take that, history!


I guess that does read confusingly if you know the rules. :) In any given territory, the progression of invader actions over successive turns is explore, then build, then attack. When you’re planning what to do, you know an exploring invader will build next turn, and then the turn after that it will attack. But you’re right that they’re resolved across the board in reverse order during each turn: ravage, build, explore. Good catch!

I’d be in the same boat – har, har – if I hadn’t swept Nemo’s War off the table to make room for Spirit Island. Which has been hogging my table since it arrived! I don’t anticipate it giving over the space anytime soon.

It’s certainly possible, zombiewoof, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The event cards are pretty deeply integrated with the rest of the content. Beasts, for instance, would be sadly defanged without the event cards. Actually, every single event card interacts with the tokens, so you’d undercut a lot of what the tokens are supposed to do. But for what it’s worth, it’s relatively easy to take the expansion content out if you ever want to go back to the base game.



Hey Tom, why would a reviewer make the point of saying someone’s not a genius?


This sounds like a cool game and an alternative to playing Pandemic with my wife, which is the only coop game I have. Well, I take that back. I’ve also got One Deck Dungeon - which reminds me that I’ve really got to try campaign mode.


I have three or four unplayed games I want to learn. This was the last one I purchased. I believe it is going to the top of the list after the tingly feeling I get reading your review.

And I feel the same about cooperative games. If I am with my regular group, i want to play something competitive and hopefully slaughter my friends, but I am fine if I lose, too. I’ll play cooperative games with my kids, but it is always a challenge to scale back my assistance even though I am not an “Alpha gamer”. I’m just old and have played more than they have.

I think I’ll download the manual and read it instead of work today.

I need a damn anti-cat boardgaming table so I can play more proper solo games and leave them out. Except for those insane chit-fests that real wargamers like. I am not nearly smart enough for those. You have to be a neurosurgeon or something.


This is probably what all alpha gamers tell themselves. :)

Seriously, though, playing with kids doesn’t count. You’re cultivating an experience for them, not meeting them on the field of battle the way you and I would. I imagine playing with kids is best served with a touch of alpha gaming.



HA! I’m too meek with real people to Alpha anyone.

I certainly do instruct them and give them options and then let them decide. My youngest (11) and I are playing Mechs vs. Minions right now and so I gently nudge her. My oldest (16) wants zero help in cooperative or competitive.

My youngest opened up Spirit Island and said “Nope, not playing that.” I still may try. She’s good with Terraforming Mars and Yokohama, but as I understand it this is more complex.


I bought Spirit Island yesterday at Pacificon here in the Bay area, primarily based on Tom’s review and the thread here, and I was looking for a new game to play with a couple of friends at the con.

I was very impressed but man is it hard! The first game I wasn’t surprised to lose as we were figuring out mechanics the hard way such as the blight eliminating your spirit tokens and spreading twice as fast if there is already blight present in the space.

But even in the second game where we had a grasp of the rules from the start, we just couldn’t keep the settlers at bay. Our second game we had the Earth spirit, Fear spirit, and Lightning spirit and were trying to coordinate quite a bit.


Fortunately, some time in the past century, smarter people than you or I invented “film editing” where not everything that goes into a film camera has to come out the other end as product. Unknown to people like calandale, this means that you can cut parts out to serve such goals as, I dunno, “pacing.”


Reminds me just a tad of Scythe, where plastic/wood have distinctive characteristics (combat units are all plastic, economy all wood), as well as offering the olive branch between players who prefer Ameritrash and Euros.


This is the review that convinced me to purchase the game. Thank you Tom. This is a great game.

My 3 Desert Island games are

  1. Hansa Teutonica
  2. Tigris & Euphrates
  3. Spirit Island


I may have bitten off more than I can chew with this one.

In retrospect, Tom’s review isn’t misleading, but I got so caught up in his enthusiasm I didn’t heed the warning signs that this might be a good game I’ll never really play.

My biggest problem isn’t with Spirit Island specifically, it’s the same problem I have with all my games: not enough opportunities to play them. I’m lucky if I can get the right group of people together to play anything more often than once a week, and for something even mildly complex it’s a lot less often. I’m doing well to get in a game like Scythe or Energy Empire every couple of months, and Spirit Island is probably the newly crowned “most complex” in my collection.

So with all of my games, I run into trouble getting people to play them frequently enough that we start to do more than scratch the surface of the potential, and Spirit Island looks like it has a lot of potential, but it’s going to need my most patient and adventurous friends to if I ever want to really experience that. I’ll be surprised if I can get this one to the table more than once a year. :(

I hoped I’d be able to get my money’s worth out of it in solitaire, but my first impression is that I’m never going to make it through the learning curve, because it’s just punishingly difficult if you’re truly playing solo. Playing multiple hands/players/gods myself isn’t my style in any solitaire game, but it sounds like if you don’t get at least a couple spirits into the mix, this might always be a slog.

I hope someday when I’ve got a little more patience and time to sink into it the solitaire can prove me wrong, or I hope I can convince some friends to play some complex games more often, but Spirit Island might be on the shelf a long time before that happens.



First of all, you’re not playing unless you’re playing with at least two gods. So the best I can do to maybe convince you not to walk away yet is to think of playing two gods as playing an RPG where your class consists of your choice of two skill trees.

And I think the steepest part of the learning curve is just wrapping your head around the way the AI is deterministic. Once the explorers land, you know exactly what the AI will do (until you start playing with the expansion). The key is anticipating before something happens rather than reacting after something happens.

Also, maybe you just played a boring god. The earth elemental dude is a bit of a dud unless he’s “tanking” for someone else.



I did, in fact, play the earth elemental dude/dud. So maybe I won’t try him again.

I hear what you’re saying about playing two gods, I just…don’t want to? I don’t know if that’s something I’ll change my mind on, I’m not taking some principled stance against it, I just, yeah, I dunno, it doesn’t appeal to me in a general sense—not just specifically when it comes to Spirit Island.

I love Mario vs. Rabbids on the Switch, I cleared 100% of the single player content, and I have zero interest in playing the co-op by myself. There’s no technical reason not to, it’s just turn based, it’d just be like I’m moving extra characters around, but I’m not even a little tempted to pick it up. Some part of my brain just says “nah, that’s not how it’s supposed to work”, and that’s that. I didn’t play two characters in Legendary Encounters: Alien this week either, despite reading about plenty of players preferring that way (and complaining that “it’s not fair” they can’t kill Ash if they don’t). Happy to report I loved that one pure solo.

I don’t know if that’s something I can force myself to change my mind on, maybe someday I’ll try, but it’s not something I want to try right now.

I know you’ve gone round and round with other people when it comes to co-op, and I don’t really want to rehash those debates. But where I am right now, I like the idea of a co-op game, but only actually playing it with other people. I hear and I think I understand the reasons you don’t like that, but I’m not there yet. Maybe that’s something that will change with time too—in the same way I have a hard time playing my games often enough to really get deep into the potential of any given game, maybe I just haven’t played enough co-op for the problems with it to bother me.

I don’t regret buying Spirit Island, and like I said, your review didn’t mislead me. I’m just mostly sad that I don’t have more people to play with more often around here.

Edit: I will probably feel just as sad when my pre-ordered Rise of Fenris expansion for Scythe arrives in August and I get briefly excited and then stop and think and realize I may literally never get to play it. I think I’m just dumping some general boardgaming ennui on Spirit Island because it’s my latest acquisition.


Oh, well in that case, you’re fine, because you literally have to use multiple gods if you’re going to play co-op with other people! It’s a shame if you won’t get as much mileage out of the game if you don’t want to play more than one god when you’re solo’ing, but at least you’ll see how it’s supposed to work if you try a multi-player coop playthough.



My buddy and I played this last night for the first time in months (we’ve been wrapped up in Gloomhaven) and within minutes we realized two things:

  1. this is still the best co-op boardgame around for pure gameplay
  2. wow do your skills atrophy fast with this game!

I played Shadows and my buddy played Green against Level 1 Brandenburg and we got smoked! We immediately fell into the trap of getting too focused on the present at the expense of preparing for the future. We were so busy managing the latest crisis we never got our feet under us to control the game state in any way.

Even with that miserable loss we immediately wanted to play again. This game is just so good with so much variety.

I’ve also been playing a lot of Mummy’s Mask lately and some Arkham Horror LCG and unlike those games, I prefer to play Spirit Island with a friend instead of solo. It’s still awesome solo but I think the complexity and variety of the choices presented to you in Spirit Island really shine when I’ve got another brain working on their piece of the puzzle.


Whoops. Just realized I got at least one rule wrong in my first game, I was adding explorers to land containing or adjacent to any invaders, instead of land containing or adjacent to Towns and Cities.

Don’t know if that would’ve turned the tide for me if I’d done it right, but good to get that figured out.


Towns, Cities, or the coast.


Right, knew the coast part.




I just wanna go on record as saying that I liked Spirit Island before it was cool!