September 22nd, 2015


Spirit Island

Finally -- time to spread the word.

Many of you know my friend Eric Reuss (in the SCA he's mainly known in archery circles; he's married to my apprentice Nora). He's a professional game designer, and I've burbled from time to time about his previous game, Fealty, which stands as one of my all-time favorites. Today was the start of the Kickstarter for his second game, Spirit Island.

I've been playtesting Spirit Island for a couple of years now, and it's really neat. While they can't say so in the publicity (lest they piss off a Big Game Company), you can think of Spirit Island as the inverse of Settlers of Cataan. It takes place on a lovely tropical island that has been discovered by explorers, who are now bringing settlement and civilization. They are the Bad Guys: their settlements are driving out the natives of the island, and bringing blight and devastation. The players take on the roles of the native spirits of the island, whose job is to work together to drive out the settlers and restore the island to its proper state.

What sets Spirit Island apart is depth of gameplay -- it is far more involved and strategic than any other co-operative board game I've previously seen. Each player plays a different supernatural spirit, with its own distinct powers and limitations, and builds up their own set of cards that give them additional abilities. This variety tends to prevent the common syndrome that you see in many co-op games, where one player just sort of takes over and directs everyone else; frankly, there's simply too much going on for someone to easily do that. But it is intensely co-operative: at a pretty deep level, you need to co-operate in order to play effectively, and many powers work best when synergizing with others.

The game also scales in difficulty quite nicely. The initial teaching game is a bit challenging to start out: thoroughly winnable, but you will likely find yourselves losing ground to the settlers until you start to get the hang of it. From there, there are scads of ways to gradually increase the difficulty level, to keep the game challenging as your group gains experience. Combine that with a board layout that changes each time, and the many options for powers, and you get a hugely replayable board game.

It's being produced by Greater Than Games, the folks who made Sentinels of the Multiverse, so I expect it to be a pretty big deal. But I recommend backing it now and helping it be a big Kickstarter success: it's an excellent game, and deserves some fame.

Highly recommended to anyone who likes co-op games, or likes games with some strategic "chew" to them. (If you think of this as a co-op Eurogame, you won't be too far off in terms of the flavor.) Doubly recommended if you like both.

So -- here's the Kickstarter. Check it out, and pass it on...