Spirit Island Board Game Review

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Spirit Island is a great game where you are the benevolent spirits that live on an island with the indigenous people called the Dohan. Unfortunately the island is being invaded by settlers who are setting up camp.

As the invaders spread they cause a blight on your beautiful island. Leaving you with no alternative but to use your innate powers to strike fear into their hearts. Join up with the Dohan and drive the invaders back into the sea from which they came.

Let’s find more about the complex but fantastically entertaining game.

Spirit Island Board Game Review
PlayersAgePlaytime (m)Overall
1-413+90-1208.4

Table of Contents

  1. What is Spirit Island About?
  2. How Well is Spirit Island Made?
  3. Is Spirit Island Hard to Learn?
  4. Is Spirit Island a Good Solo Game?
  5. Can you Play Spirit Island with 5 Players?
  6. How Many Expansions Does Spirit Island Have?
    1. Spirit Island: Branch and Claw
    2. Spirit Island: Jagged Earth
  7. Is Spirit Island Worth Buying?

What is Spirit Island About?

If you know Catan or have played it then Spirit Island turns that game completely on its head. In Catan you are settlers working to settle in Catan. This time you are the Island Spirits seeking to drive out settlers who are damaging your Island and its indigenous tribes called the Dohan.

Spirit Island is a Euro style game released in 2017 by Greater Than Games. It is a cooperative game for 1-4 players. It sets the players as the benevolent Spirits that guard over the island and its islanders who live there.

As the settlers begin to colonize the island they cause a blight to begin to spread. The blight threatens the island and the Dohan. So the Spirits seek to drive terror into the settlers and drive them off them island.

As the settlers spread out they build towns and cities and send out explorers. This enables them to spread semi-predictably over the island and gives you a chance to plan their demise.

Each Spirit has their own unique powers and as you play the Spirits will gain in strength. This comes in the form of a deck building element with each Spirit drawing from Major and Minor.

Your objective is to wipe out the settlers and complete the win conditions on the invader board. As the game progresses this will change but as soon as you meet those conditions you win.

How Well is Spirit Island Made?

Spirit Island is beautifully made with gorgeous artwork and graphics. Some of the spirits have great names like ‘Bringer of Dreams and Nightmares’ and ‘Lightning’s Swift Strike.’ 

The contents are solid and of good quality and you get:

  • 1 x Invader Board
  • 4 Modular Island Boards
  • 8 Spirit Panels
  • 36 Dahan Meeples
  • 20 Cities
  • 32 Towns
  • 40 Explorers
  • 38 Blight
  • 52 Spirit Presence divided into 13 of each color
  • 12 Single Turn Effect Markers divided into 3 of each color
  • 32 Energy Markers
  • 20 Fear Markers
  • 8 Player Aid Cards
  • 4 Power Progressions Cards
  • 15 Fear Cards
  • 2 Terror Level Dividers
  • 2 Blight Cards
  • 15 Invader Cards
  • 22 Major Power Cards
  • 36 Minor Power Cards
  • 32 Unique Power Cards
  • 3 Adversary Panels
  • 3 Adversary Reminder Tiles
  • 4 Scenario Panels
Spirit Island Components

You can see there is quite a lot in the box and it all looks very nice and well made. 

The modular island boards are double sided. One side is like a graphic pictorial of the different areas of the board e.g. trees for forest and mountain ranges for mountains. Whereas the other side is a colored pattern style. 

I guess the pictorial side is meant to be more immersive but the color side is much clearer. I would recommend using the colored side. At least at the beginning for ease of recognising the different areas. But there is no actual reason why you can’t use either side and it is up to your personal preference.

The Dahan, Cities, Towns, Explorers, and Blight are nicely made and look great. The Towns and Cities have a really nice mechanism where the number of buildings represent how much life that city or town has.

For example the cities have three life and there are 3 buildings on the city marker. If the city loses a life then you can place the city on its side with 2 buildings on the top. Indicating that the city only has 2 life. Turning it over again gives you 1 building visible and so only one life left.

These little production ideas really add to the games play and make it easy to remember what the state is. Overall this is a visually pleasing and well made game that has lots of nice well thought out pieces.

Is Spirit Island Hard to Learn?

Yes, Spirit Island is hard to learn but it is worth the effort. Spirit Island is a complex game and has varying levels of complexity for each spirit. There are easier options for first time players so that will help you get a feel for the game.

You can use the less complex Spirits and also remove the Blight Cards. You can also set a series of power cards aside taking away the randomness.

Finally, you can decide not to use an Adversary or Scenario, both of which add rules and complexity to the game.

So you can see whilst there is a lot to learn in Spirit Island it does give you an easy entry. As you progress in your understanding you can add more complexity and build on the fun, extending the game over time. This can only add to the replayability and longevity of the game.

Is Spirit Island a Good Solo Game?

Spirit Island is a good solo game. In fact it is number 1 in my 20 Best Solo Board Games 2022. You can take a look at other awesome solitaire games in that list too. 

You will find it will keep you engaged with the rich choices and variability of play. It is also a nice challenge as a solo game. 

You will feel the pressure of the invaders and won’t feel you are getting anywhere until at least 50% of the way through the game. Possibly even 75% with some games.

This keeps the pressure on and the enjoyment high, especially when you have vanquished the invaders and see them sailing off into the distance.

Can you Play Spirit Island with 5 Players?

The base game of Spirit Island is designed for 1-4 players. If you want to play with 5 players then you will need to buy the base game and the Spirit Island: Jagged Earth expansion. As you will read shortly, Spirit Island: Jagged Earth enables up to 6 players to play.

It also comes with a whole bunch more Spirits, Adversaries, and Scenarios. Due to the complexity of the game I would recommend you play with the base game and 4 players. Once you are comfortable with the gameplay then it would be a good time to buy the expansion and play with more friends.

How Many Expansions Does Spirit Island Have?

Spirit Island has two expansions so far:

  • Spirit Island: Branch and Claw
  • Spirit Island: Jagged Earth

Before running off and buying any expansions. It would be a really good idea to get the base game down first and really know what you are doing. The base game is already complex and you will have many happy hours learning and playing that before investing in more.

Spirit Island: Branch and Claw

In Spirit Island: Branch and Claw you get two more Spirits to play with along with more Adversaries to fight. What really turns up this expansion is the addition of Events cards.

These cards remove some of the predictability of the game and throw in the odd spanner to mix it up a little.

Spirit Island: Branch and Claw comes with:

  • Invader Board Extension
  • 20 Scenario Markers
  • 22 each of Beast, Wilds, Disease, and Strife Tokens
  • 2 Spirit Panels
  • 2 Adversary Tiles
  • 1 Adversary Specific Event Card
  • 1 Adversary Panel
  • 4 Scenario Panels
  • 4 Player Aid Cards
  • 31 Minor Power Cards
  • 21 Major Power Cards
  • 25 Event Cards
  • 8 Unique Power Cards (4 per spirit)
  • 7 Blight Cards
  • 15 Fear Cards

There are quite a few additional components in this expansion. The new Beast, Wilds, Disease, and Strife tokens are a nice addition. As you begin to play this expansion you will feel that the island is really coming alive and fighting back against the invaders. This is a really nice addition and gives a real boost to the immersion of the game..

Spirit Island: Jagged Earth

This expansion doesn’t bring anything ground shatteringly new to Spirit Island and Spirit Island: Branch and Claw. With that said it does bring buckets and buckets of new components. 

With 10 new spirits ranging from Medium to Very Complex you will have loads more replayability and variety with this expansion.

  • 2 Modular Island Boards
  • 10 Spirit Panels
  • 6 Player Aid Cards
  • 18 Dahan
  • 35 Beasts Tokens
  • 30 Disease Tokens
  • 22 Wilds Tokens
  • 22 Strife Tokens
  • 25 Badlands Tokens
  • 16 Fear Markers
  • 24 Blight
  • 25 Explorers
  • 16 Towns
  • 10 Cities
  • 4 Adversary Reminder Tiles
  • 24 Energy Markers
  • 26 Spirit Presence
  • 28 Scenario Markers
  • 6 Single-Turn Effect Markers (Defend)
  • 18 Single-Turn Effect Markers (Isolate)
  • 64 Element Markers
  • 6 Fear Cards
  • 7 Blight Cards
  • 6 Aspect Cards
  • 30 Event Cards
  • 24 Major Power Cards
  • 33 Minor Power Cards
  • 41 Unique Cards
  • 2 Adversary Panels
  • 3 Scenario Panels
  • 8 Reminder Cards

You can see from the above there is a huge amount of new components. Some of this goes into extending the game for up to 6 players. So if you have been arguing with your friends on which two are going to sit out whilst the other four play then this will be your solution.

This expansion brings a whole lot to the game and if you take a look at the new Spirits, all 10 are beautifully drawn and inspiringly unique. There are some great Spirits that you will enjoy discovering and playing with.

This expansion also comes with new ways of putting the boards together so that you can even play across multiple islands. On the whole it is epic.

Is Spirit Island Worth Buying?

Spirit Island is complex and is not an entry game by any means. Even with the simplifications it will take you a few games to begin to get the hang of it and begin to add in the full game.

If you like a challenge and want something that is a little more strategic in the gameplay then this will be a game you love. With this beautifully made game with its amazing artwork, you will spend many happy hours attempting to scare the invaders off your island.

It is also a high strategy game and so will require thought and a good strategy in order to win the game. To win the game is hard to do but rewarding when you do.

Pros

Very replayable
High strategy game
Game escalates as the game progresses
One of the best solo games

Cons

Takes time and perseverance to learn
Card draw can create imbalance
PlayersAgePlaytime (m)Rating
Greater Than Games Spirit Island Core Board Game
Spirit Island
1-413+90-1208.4Buy at Amazon

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