Of all the games I have ever owned and or played, this is by far my absolute favorite. So without further ado, here are the details, followed, as always, by my excessive utterances of praise.
Theme: This is a cooperative game where you and your cohorts are ancient spirits who have always been worshiped by the natives (the Dahan). But alas, explorers arrive and bring disease, destroy the land, kill Dahan, and build towns and cities. So you awaken to help the Dahan eradicate these invaders from the island.
Specs: 1-4 players with the base game and Branch and Claw expansion, but 1-6 players with the Jagged Earth expansion.
The box suggests 90-120 minutes play time. I do think I could get in a 90 minute game with a couple of my friends who are rather speedy in the decision making department, but 120 minutes is probably about the shortest average time frame. I would recommend being prepared for 3-4 hours depending on the number of players, longer with new players and folks who tend to take longer at decision making.
Recommended for ages 13+. This is pretty on par. It is a complex game that only gets more complex as you add expansions. Definitely a high level of difficulty game.
Mechanics: Variable player powers and set up, automatic resource growth, events, area majority/influence, hand management, modular board, and simultaneous action.
Designed by R. Eric Reuss
Art by Jason Behnke, Loic Berger, Loic Billiau, Kat G. Birmelin, Cari Corene, Lucas Durham, Rocky Hammer, Sydni Kruger, Nolan Nasser, Jorge Ramos, Adam Rebottaro, Moro Rogers, Graham Sternberg, Shane Tyree, and Joshua Wright
Published by Greater Than Games (and others)
If this game is so hard, why is it my favorite? Well, my friend, you've answered your own question! Because it's hard! I love a variety of games, but cooperative games are my favorite, particularly when they can avoid alpha gaming (that's where one person tells everyone what to do instead of letting them decide their player actions and basically just plays the game solo with an audience. It's just no fun). It is literally IMPOSSIBLE to alpha game Spirit Island! And I love that there is not way to just "go through the motions" to play. Every game is different and you have to think your actions through for the current phase and future ones. This is not a "10PM I was up early today and I have to be up early tomorrow" game.
Considering how complex and all of the details of the game, I'm not even going to attempt to fully explain set up, game play etc, but I'll give a quick rundown. Basically the island pieces are set up based on the number of players. Each board starts with Dahan, Invaders, and other components when using expansions. The game tells you where everything goes.
Each play either selects or chooses at random a spirit to play for the game. Spirits are all different in their skill level and powers and each is labeled with varying levels of difficulty to play as well as other information as to how they play (ie offensively, defensively, fast, slow, etc). Each expansion comes with more spirits to add to the pile and the base game has four low level spirits to start with while you learn the elements of the game. Each spirit also comes with their own start deck, though they can acquire more power cards throughout the game. All cards in the game have different actions they can perform, different points at which they may be played, and a cost to play them.
Once everything is set up each round goes through a series of phases allowing spirits to take actions as well as invaders. The object of the game is to take out invaders and scare them off so they leave the island for good, but it is also possible for the invaders to overrun the island and destroy you instead!
The art is really cool, the design is fantastic, the rulebook is easy to follow, the expansions tie in beautifully, and the theme is fun. So when you're ready to up your game play to the next level, I can't recommend this game enough!
What is your favorite cooperative game? What makes it top of list for you?