Spirit Island Board Game

In the mystical realms of Spirit Island, where magic is still alive and embodied by the spirits of the land, sky, and nature, a battle unfolds against the encroaching powers of colonial empires. This complex and thematic cooperative board game revolves around defending your island home from colonizing Invaders. As different spirits of the land, players wield unique elemental powers to strategically combat the relentless onslaught. The spirits must harmonize their elemental affinities, carefully choosing and playing power cards each turn to thwart the Invaders and protect the islanders’ way of life.

In the ever-escalating challenge of Spirit Island, players navigate a dynamic landscape where Invaders progressively expand, build, and ravage the island. The game introduces a semi-predictable pattern to the Invaders’ movements, creating a strategic layer as players anticipate and counter their colonization efforts. Spirits gain energy, grow in influence, and confront the Invaders through a delicate balance of reclamation, seeking new powers, and spreading presence. As the turns progress, the game unfolds alternate-history scenarios, with victory hinging on driving out every settlement and city from the board or intimidating the Invaders to flee.

Spirit Island offers a diverse array of adversaries, such as a Swedish Mining Colony or a Remote British Colony, each adding unique challenges and difficulty levels to the game. The spirits must adapt and evolve their strategies to overcome these adversaries, ensuring a thrilling and ever-changing gaming experience. With its rich thematic elements and cooperative gameplay, Spirit Island captivates players in an immersive world where the spirits of the land fight side by side with islanders against the forces of colonization.

How The Game Works?

How the spirit island board Game Works?

In Spirit Island, you become the guiding force behind powerful spirits, each with a unique spirit board detailing abilities, turn actions, card plays, and energy gain. The objective is to clear the island of invaders to win the game. Losing can happen if your spirit loses all presence on the board, time runs out with invader cards, or if the island suffers too much ravaging, leading to excessive blight.

During the spirit phase, you decide your actions from the options on your player board, gaining energy and playing cards based on your board’s tracks. Growing involves placing your presence on the board to extend card reach, increase energy, and play more cards. Spirit powers activate in two phases: fast powers before invaders act and slow powers after. Cards control the board, cause fear, move or destroy invaders, and protect the Dahan.

Invaders explore, build, and ravage in sequence, affecting lands based on previous actions. Anticipating invaders’ moves is crucial, as their actions are revealed in advance. The game ends in victory if spirits drive invaders off the island or generate enough fear. Defeat occurs if invaders severely blight the island or deplete the spirits’ presence. The initial goal is clearing invaders, but fear cards can alter victory conditions, allowing outright wins when invaders are sufficiently terrified.

Theme, Setting & Narrative

Theme, Setting & Narrative spirit island board game

In Spirit Island, the theme, setting, and narrative are central elements that distinguish it from traditional board games. The game takes a bold stance by embracing an anti-colonial theme, where players are not seeking to colonize a new world but are fervently defending it from settlers. The core narrative revolves around actively working against the forces of colonization, emphasizing the preservation of the habitat and lives of indigenous people.

What makes Spirit Island stand out is its deliberate choice in materials. Peaceful forces, such as spirits, Dahan, and player pieces, are represented by ‘organic’ materials like wood and cardboard. In contrast, the invaders, symbolizing the opposing forces, are crafted from an ‘unnatural’ material – plastic. This conscious decision, both visually and tactilely, serves to visually distinguish between the forces of good and evil. It not only adds a unique dimension to the game but also enhances the immersive experience, aligning players with the theme of settler destruction and the struggle to protect the lands and lives of the indigenous people.

Spirit Island effectively demonstrates that a game can be enjoyable without relying on traditional stereotypes. By embracing an anti-colonial narrative and incorporating thoughtful design choices, the game creates a meaningful and engaging experience that goes beyond mere entertainment. The thematic elements, setting, and narrative in Spirit Island contribute to a gaming experience that resonates with players on a deeper level, encouraging reflection on important real-world issues.

How Does It Play?

The player’s journey with Spirit Island is a tale of rediscovery, as the reviewer reflects on their initial experience and the game’s evolution over six years. Initially, the reviewer played the game two-handed, leading to burnout and a decision to sell the game. However, the allure of Spirit Island’s theme and unique gameplay mechanics drew them back. The game’s appeal lies in its asymmetric nature, with each spirit offering distinct interactions and strategies. The challenge arises from the need to adapt to different spirits, adding variety to each playthrough.

The game’s thematic richness and the concept of tracks to progress upon captivated the reviewer. The unique spirits and their diverse abilities set Spirit Island apart. Learning each spirit’s strengths and weaknesses is essential for effective gameplay. Despite the game’s complexity, Spirit Island encourages learning through play, making mistakes, and evolving strategies. The reviewer emphasizes that the game accommodates different play styles, offering a supportive learning curve.

Spirit Island’s asymmetric gameplay adds depth, requiring players to reassess their approach with each new spirit. The randomness in acquiring new cards introduces an element of surprise, allowing players to make strategic decisions based on their evolving deck. The reviewer suggests starting with solo play to ease into the game’s intricacies, highlighting the importance of being adaptable and capable of handling diverse challenges. The game’s difficulty can be tailored to individual preferences through adversaries and scenarios, enhancing replayability and variety.

Addressing potential concerns, the reviewer acknowledges the game’s unique tension curve. While it may lack a steady incline, the tension peaks around the 75% mark, where crucial turns determine victory or defeat. This structure, while adding a sense of anticipation, may make the endgame feel somewhat procedural and anticlimactic. Despite this observation, Spirit Island’s expansive content, including adversaries and scenarios, allows players to fine-tune difficulty and keep the game engaging over multiple plays.

What You Might Like

  • Unique Spirit Identities:
    • Each spirit in the game has a distinct identity, breaking away from stereotypes.
    • Players have the opportunity to learn about each spirit’s unique traits and powers.
  • Dynamic Gameplay Across Sessions:
    • Playing multiple games with the same spirit offers a different experience each time.
    • The variability comes from the upgrades acquired and the unpredictable behavior of the Invaders.
  • Replayability Features:
    • Variable setup, spirit powers, and card draws enhance the game’s replayability.
    • Players are motivated to return to the game due to the ever-changing dynamics and strategic possibilities.
  • True Solo and Two-Handed Solo Options:
    • True solo play is ideal for learning the game but may have some variability (swingy outcomes).
    • Two-handed solo provides a more balanced and interactive experience, though it challenges mental capacity.
  • Customizable Difficulty:
    • The game offers various ways to tweak difficulty levels.
    • Players can adjust scenarios, introduce adversaries, and explore different strategies for an easier or more challenging gameplay experience.

What you might not like

  • True Solo Mode Challenges:
    • The true solo mode may feel unpredictable and swingy.
    • Not all spirits may find the true solo mode equally accommodating, especially those with narrow abilities.
  • Multi-Handing Complexity:
    • Managing multiple spirits simultaneously, known as multi-handing, can lead to brain burn.
    • Players might experience cognitive strain, and it’s recommended to seek specialist advice if needed.
  • Lackluster End Game:
    • The end game lacks excitement as the outcome is often determined before it concludes.
    • Winning or losing can feel procedural, diminishing the suspense of the final moments.
    • The lack of a dynamic conclusion may impact the overall satisfaction of the gaming experience.

Spirit Island Board Game Rules

Spirit Island’s gameplay revolves around cooperative efforts to defend the island from Invaders. Here’s a simplified overview of the rules:

  • Spirits and Powers:
    • Players embody different spirits, each with unique powers. Spirits use energy to play power cards, and the right combinations can unleash potent effects.
    • Elemental affinities play a key role. Spirits gain energy and grow by reclaiming cards or spreading presence across the island.
  • Invaders and Turns:
    • The game unfolds in turns, representing 1-3 years. Invaders expand, build, and ravage. Players strive to thwart colonization and prevent the destruction of the island.
    • Victory is achieved by eliminating every settlement and city. Defeat can occur if a spirit is destroyed, blight overruns the island, or the Invader deck depletes. The game introduces adversaries for added challenges, ensuring a dynamic and engaging experience.

Spirit Island Board Game Review

Embarking on the Spirit Island board game is an immersive journey into a magical realm where players defend their island home from colonizing Invaders. The cooperative gameplay adds depth, as each player embodies a unique spirit of the land with distinct elemental powers. The game’s strategy involves cleverly choosing and playing power cards to thwart Invaders and protect islanders. 

The semi-predictable movements of the Invaders add a dynamic challenge, requiring players to anticipate and counter colonization efforts. While the true solo mode can be unpredictable and less friendly to certain spirits, and multi-handing may lead to brain burn, the overall gameplay captivates with its thematic richness.

Despite its engaging elements, the Spirit Island board game does have some drawbacks. The end game, in particular, can feel lackluster, with outcomes often decided before the game concludes, somewhat diminishing the suspense. Nevertheless, the diverse adversaries, each with unique challenges, and the cooperative spirit of the game provide an enjoyable experience for players seeking a strategic and thematic board game adventure.


Is Spirit Island a good board game?

Yes, Spirit Island is a captivating board game with strategic depth and thematic richness, offering an immersive gaming experience.

What type of game is Spirit Island?

Spirit Island is a cooperative board game where players, embodying different spirits, defend their island home from colonizing Invaders.

Can you play Spirit Island offline?

Yes, Spirit Island can be played offline, offering a versatile gaming experience without the need for an internet connection.

How long is Spirit Island?

The duration of Spirit Island varies but typically ranges from 90 minutes to 2 hours, providing a satisfying and engaging gameplay experience.


Spirit Island is a captivating board game where players, embodying powerful spirits, unite to defend their island home from Invaders. Despite some challenges in the true solo mode and the potential for brain burn in multi-handing, the game’s thematic richness and cooperative strategy shine through. The dynamic gameplay, with semi-predictable Invader movements, adds excitement. While the end game may feel procedural, the diverse adversaries and immersive experience make Spirit Island a worthwhile journey. Whether you’re a seasoned gamer or new to the tabletop world, this game offers an enjoyable blend of strategy, teamwork, and magical storytelling.

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