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Spirit Island Board Game Review

Spirit Island Board Game Review

R. Eric Reuss created Spirit Island, a cooperative strategy game for one to four players that centers on settlement destruction and takes place in an alternate timeline circa 1700 A.D. As various indigenous spirits with distinct elemental abilities, the players’ mission is to protect their island home from encroaching invaders that spread devastation and blight. In this intricate area-control game, cooperate with other spirits and the Dahan (native islanders) to strengthen your power and expel the invading colonists from your island!

History of Spirit Island

In reaction to earlier board games where players assume the role of colonists, Reuss created Spirit Island. Spirit Island’s Invader game pieces were purposefully rendered white to emphasize that light hues don’t always convey “good.”

There are four expansions for the game: Nature Incarnate (which was last released in 2023), Feather and Flame, Jagged Earth, and Branch & Claw. Through Kickstarter, the core game and its add-ons were financed. The game’s multiplatform digital edition was initially revealed in 2018 and launched in 2020. The game was made available on iOS and Android smartphones as well.

A “free to learn” version of the mobile versions is available that requires no payment and grants access to a tutorial game featuring four spirits to play. In 2022, a revised version of the game called Horizons of Spirit Island was made available. The game principles of Horizons are identical to those of the full version, but it has fewer, easier-to-produce game components. Furthermore, the spirits that come with Horizons are meant to be simpler for novice players to learn.

How to Play Game?

You assume command of one or more spirits on Spirit Island. Every spirit has a spirit board on which they can record their particular skills, what they can do on each turn, the number of cards they can play in a round, and the amount of energy they receive each round.

The objective of the game is to clear the island of intruders at the beginning, but it may change as the game progresses. You win the game when you accomplish your aim. When your spirit is no longer present on the board, the timer (invader cards) goes off, or the island has been too severely damaged, resulting in excessive blight, you lose the game.

You make decisions during the spirit phase based on the possibilities displayed on your player boards. once that, based on the tracks on your player board, you can play any number of cards once you’ve gained energy. Cards are paid for right away, but they aren’t yet resolved. Increasing your visibility on the board can help you grow by expanding the potential of your cards, gaining more energy, and being able to play more cards.

Game Phases

One of two phases—the sluggish power phase, symbolized by a blue turtle—or the fast power phase, represented by a red bird emblem, is when spirit powers come into play. The distinction is that sluggish powers come into play after the intruders, whereas quick powers activate first.

Activating natural powers (on your player board) could also be the result of playing cards that have the appropriate elemental symbols on them. Playing cards can help you take control of the board, intimidate opponents, move or completely destroy them, guard the Dahan (or get their assistance), or do all of the above.

Selecting which powers to use depends on what the invaders decide to do or not do. Three tactics are used by invaders. They start by exploring a land if it is next to another terrain they are on or if it is a seaside location. If there are any people on the land, they will create a town or city there in the following turn.

If not, they will plunder the area, inflicting damage on the Dahan as well as the soil, causing blight. Dahan who are still alive do battle back. You can see what’s going to happen next turn when you resolve these activities in the opposite order (ravage, then build, then explore), as the invader cards change one slot once they’ve all been resolved. You can be sure that if invaders investigate woodland areas this round, they will construct there the following turn and wreak havoc the turn after that.

If the Spirits are able to force all of the Invaders from the island or instill enough terror in them to give up on their colonization attempts, then the game is won by the Spirits. The game is lost if the Invaders are able to destroy too much of the island’s natural beauty or diminish the Spirits’ power.

Spirit Island’s initial objective is to drive out invaders, but as fear cards are collected and used, the bar may drop. If the invaders are sufficiently alarmed, you may even win without using any board states.


Spirit Island presented a somewhat bold argument when it was originally released in 2017. The HobbyTM has been on the side of those who history has come to define as the villains for decades, taking colonization and all of its atrocities for granted. Spirit Island was released, and Catan declared their rebranding the following year. Only a few months remain till Puerto Rico, a staple of the game, gets a makeover that will remove every hint of exploitative content. Hmm, not exactly subtle undertones, are they? All they are are…tones.

Spirit Island has had a big influence, even though you can’t put all the blame on them—this is more of a result of this ongoing conversation than a cause. For some who might have found the argument tedious or inconsequential before, it made it more immediate and understandable. Halfway through your first game, if you have any kind of critical thinking ability at all, you’ll realize, “Oh, wait, hang on…aren’t we the other guys most of the time?”


Spirit Island has everything needed to become a favorite among lone players. It contains chess-like openings and footholds, as well as tension and variation. Even though the game’s concept is straightforward, it has a lot of depth within. You don’t even need to touch the expansion until you’ve finished all the information packed into this box—in fact, one could argue you never need to. The icing on the cake is its novel concept, but it’s still a big one. Spirit Island is a clear winner at the top of the solo gaming ladder when seen from all angles: theme, difficulty, depth, and variety.