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Author Topic: Spirit Island  (Read 2642 times)
Goldenmean
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on: October 16, 2018, 03:31:02 PM

Kickstarter for the new expansion is up: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gtgames/spirit-island-jagged-earth/

If you have the base game and first expansion, backing this is a no brainer. It's just more of everything. Complexity ramps up a bit. There aren't any new spirits classified as low difficulty, and there are some at a new "very high" complexity level. Major and minor powers tend to be a bit more in depth also.

If you haven't played the base game yet, I wouldn't recommend doing an all in pledge here. This isn't going to reach backers until 2020, and at least at the moment, the base game and first expansion are in stock cheaper at any number of places. Try to buy one of those and give it a spin before the campaign ends and then back at the expansion only level.

Semi-quick sell on this game, as it is my favorite game of all time. It's a co-op set in an alt-universe colonial age where you play spirits trying to dissuade European settlers from ransacking your island. It is strongly themed, and the spirits are all quite unique. Gameplay is largely card driven. Every spirit has a unique player board and some unique starting cards. Your board has a power income track and a card plays track. At the beginning of your turn you can choose from among your unique growth options. These growth options do things like allow you to place presence from one of your tracks on to the gameboard, widening the range where you can act upon the island while also increasing your income or the number of card plays in your turn, or give you new powers drawn from a central deck, retrieve spent powers or... lots of other stuff. Once you've picked your growth options, you gain the power income on your track and then start planning your card plays from what you have in your hand and what you can afford. Powers are divided into fast and slow. Fast powers will activate before the settlers get to act. Slow powers act after.

The board is divided into four types of terrain. Every turn in the invader phase you reveal the next card from the invader deck and that will tell you where new invaders are going to explore, placing weak explorer pieces on the board. The next turn, they will build in that same terrain type, adding a town piece, or if a town already exists, a more powerful city piece, and the turn after that they will ravage in that same terrain, blighting the land. At a certain blight threshold, bad things happen to the island, and your job gets harder. At another blight threshold you just lose the game. The game starts slow, but rapidly picks up speed. A few turns into the game and invaders will be be ravaging in one terrain type, building in another and exploring in yet another, and you've got a finite amount of tools to deal with all of that.

Let's talk some about those tools. Every power card is unique. The most blatant way to deal with the settler problem is just to kill them. Many cards deal damage, removing pieces from the board. Other powers push or pull invader pieces. Luring explorers away from lands where they're due to build next turn is often more efficient power-wise than just straight up killing them. There's also other powers that manipulate the native people of the island, the Dahan. Left to their own devices, the Dahan fare about as well against the invaders as basically every real world native population did against colonists, but certain power cards turn them into a force to be reckoned with (and indeed, there's a spirit whose whole schtick is using them as a weapon). One of the most important abilities adds fear tokens to a pool. Certain number of fear tokens means you get a fear card which will do a random but usually beneficial action as the invaders start panicking as they realize this isn't your usual island paradise. Certain number of fear cards means the terror level goes up. The terror level determines your win conditions. Initially you only win by completely clearing the board of invaders, but as the fear level goes up, it changes to "Kill all towns and cities" and then "Kill all cities", and if you get to the level past that, you just win.

With just the base set, this is all very deterministic. The only randomness to the invader turn is what invader card is going to flip, but the deck is assembled in such a way so that there's a very narrow range of possibilities as to what that will be. The expansion changes this up by adding event cards that you flip every turn which starts making things very wacky indeed, and means you have to be ready for anything. The expansion also adds new types of abilities that add tokens to the board which block certain invader actions at some point in the future, which helps hedge your bets.

The game also comes with a ridiculous range of tuning options. Once you've mastered the base game, you can play with an adversary. Adversaries add new abilities to the invader. England is very good at building (seriously, they are terrifying at building). Sweden adds blight faster. Each adversary has different levels which are arranged into an overall difficulty rating of between 1 and 10. The designer has said that people at cons playing the base game (difficulty 0) for the first time have roughly a 50% win rate. There are playtesters who have played hundreds of times and level 10 adversaries still win more often than not.

There's also optional scenarios which change some rules of the game. One just accelerates the pace of the game, some change victory conditions. One allows for sort of a campaign version where you play against different waves of colonizers.

TLDR: If you like co-op games and can handle a pretty significant amount of complexity, you should definitely give this game a look.
Hawkbit
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Reply #1 on: October 16, 2018, 03:51:26 PM

It really is a very, very good game. I ended up selling my copy for more than I paid for it in between printings. Ultimately, it's a touch more complex than I care for and I couldn't get anyone interested locally. I found upkeep to be approaching tedious, but otherwise there's very little to complain about. Maybe the plastic figures could have been a bit better?

It should be owned by anyone with a good solid group that enjoys complex games.
Goldenmean
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Reply #2 on: October 16, 2018, 04:25:03 PM

I feel like it's the sort of game where once everyone is familiar with the rules you can distribute the upkeep work to "Everyone manage the AI for your own board" and it isn't so bad. Doing it solo in like a four player game can definitely be a bit fiddly though.

While we're stating negatives though, I will mention the one thing I don't like about it. For almost every game I've played at an appropriate difficulty level the tension level starts high and gets higher and it feels like you're barely scraping by turn after turn and then you either lose (which is fine) or else you tip over into a period where everything is under control and then it's just a matter of doing the math as to whether you can get rid of all of their cities to win. It's odd having the climax of the game a turn or two before the end of the game. The worst are the cases where you get stuck in a position where it's pretty clear that you can handle anything the invaders are throwing at you, but you can't quite get the wincon for several turns in a row. That sort of equilibrium is quite rare though, and probably largely a case of having a bad mix of spirits.
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Reply #3 on: October 16, 2018, 04:49:20 PM

Still haven't gotten around to trying this, but I love the theme so fuck it. Merry Christmas, two-years-from-now me.
Teleku
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Reply #4 on: October 17, 2018, 10:17:59 PM

$300 is $50 more than the Kingdom Death core box kickstarter price.  And it seems you get significantly less for that $300 than what you get out of the Kingdom Death Box.  Am I missing something that justifies that price?  The components don't even look very nice, though maybe that's because they are just showing prototypes or something.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2018, 10:19:39 PM by Teleku »

"My great-grandfather did not travel across four thousand miles of the Atlantic Ocean to see this nation overrun by immigrants.  He did it because he killed a man back in Ireland. That's the rumor."
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schild
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Reply #5 on: October 17, 2018, 10:19:28 PM

$300 is $50 more than the Kingdom Death core box kick starter price.  And it seems you get significantly less for that $300 than what you get out of the Kingdom Death Box.  Am I missing something that justifies that price?  The components don't even look very nice, though maybe that's because they are just showing prototypes or something.

we're probably missing something but this game looks crap
Goldenmean
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Reply #6 on: October 18, 2018, 03:44:20 AM

You'd get way more content out of that 300$ than you would out of the KD:M core box (and that's not me being snide about KD:M. I own all gameplay content for it and realize how much time you can spend with just the core box), but no, that's a bad price, and no one should back at that pledge level because you can buy all of the things already released for Spirit Island cheaper, and you could get it 18 months earlier. If you're going to back, back for the expansion and pick up everything else piecemeal. And honestly, you don't need most of it anyway. The playmat really doesn't add anything, and that price is including a broken token organizer and some wooden pieces, which have 0 gameplay impact. Pricewise, the expansion alone is 60$. That's high for an expansion, but it's about on par for a base game, and with the promo pack the expansion has more content inside than the base game does.

Other people on this board care way more about components than I do, so I'm a bad person to try to defend them, but I wouldn't try very hard, regardless. They're functional. Nothing more. I honestly don't really like the art style on the cards, but I like the graphic design. Cards themselves are pretty good quality. We play a lot unsleeved and they're holding up fine. The front of the map boards are ok. You can tell everything you need to from across the table at a glance. The "thematic" flip side of the boards is just downright atrocious. It's almost impossible to tell important gameplay features apart at a distance despite looking more realistic. I played on that side once. Never again. Spirit pieces are wooden disks. They're perfectly cromulent wooden disks. The cardboard chits are perfectly acceptable cardboard chits. Spirit boards are pretty good thickness. I happen to like the miniatures for the invaders, but they're not like KD:M or CMON or honestly any other miniature heavy company quality. They're not trying to be. Honestly, I like them more than most miniatures because they're actually useful for tracking game state, which ultimately is all I really care about. The town and city pieces can be tilted different ways to represent how much damage they've taken. That's sort of clever. The fact that the invaders are white plastic while the spirits and Dahan are all wood is a bit on the nose, but also clever.

If you're looking to set something up on the table and wow guests with its grandeur, I can point you to hundreds of better games for that task. If you're looking for a better coop game, I can't. I've been playing this almost exclusively with crudely assembled print at home playtest material for months, and it's still the best game I've ever played.
Teleku
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Reply #7 on: October 18, 2018, 04:58:56 AM

That's fair enough, I wasn't trying to knock the game itself.  It just seemed that the game pieces are all pretty basic and/or crude, so the price they are asking for at every tier seemed insane.

With your very strong endorsement, I might just grab the basics as you say.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2018, 08:50:53 AM by Teleku »

"My great-grandfather did not travel across four thousand miles of the Atlantic Ocean to see this nation overrun by immigrants.  He did it because he killed a man back in Ireland. That's the rumor."
-Stephen Colbert
Goldenmean
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Reply #8 on: October 18, 2018, 11:08:09 AM

China manufacturing prices have been trending steadily upwards, so that's at least part of the price problem. Their last kickstarter update said they took a bath on the first edition because the final factory bill had jumped since they got their initial estimates, and the company probably would have been in serious trouble if more people had backed the initial kickstarter. I imagine a lot of the price this time is including more of a margin for them so that doesn't happen again.

But yeah, the components are what they are.  They're not flimsy or cheap, but they optimized more for baseline usability than glitz.
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Reply #9 on: October 18, 2018, 11:25:36 AM

Anyway, on the topic of pricing. This is probably the best way to buy it:

CSI or Amazon - Spirit Island + Branch & Claw: $82
Kickstarter Tier 1 (Jagged Earth + Stuff): $59
Kickstarter add on: Promo Pack 1: $9
Kickstarter add on: Premium Tokens: $39

Total: $189

There is no tier close to this and the $175 tier is an absolute ripoff. Given the board can be rearranged (I think?) the neoprene playmat is basically worth $0. The broken token inset, while cute, makes no sense compared to Game Trayz. I don't know why they went that route. It costs more and provides less utility.

Anyway, costs going up or not and game being great or not, there's a measure of laziness to the Kickstarter itself.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2018, 11:37:08 AM by schild »
Goldenmean
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Reply #10 on: October 18, 2018, 11:43:39 AM

Boards are modular on one side and non modular on the other. The non modular side is the thematic island side which is the same as what appears on the playmat, so yes, there's no reason to buy it. Once the 5th and 6th boards show up in the new expansion you can assemble that mat out of player boards. But it's terrible to play on from a graphic design standpoint anyway.

Agree with Schild's pricing breakdown, with the possible exception of the tokens. They seem nice, and I'm buying them, but they're not at all necessary if you're not a super enthusiast.

And yeah, this kickstarter could definitely be run better.

Teleku
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Reply #11 on: October 18, 2018, 11:45:35 AM

Rad, thanks.

Goldenmean, 10 years from now when I finally sit down and play this (because I'm stationed in Dushanbe and all of us literally have nothing else to do), I'm going to be very upset with you when it sucks.

"My great-grandfather did not travel across four thousand miles of the Atlantic Ocean to see this nation overrun by immigrants.  He did it because he killed a man back in Ireland. That's the rumor."
-Stephen Colbert
Goldenmean
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Reply #12 on: October 18, 2018, 12:29:15 PM

Man, don't put all that pressure on me. Do some due diligence and watch some playthroughs or the like to make sure you like it in action. There's plenty of them out there. I think it's a great game, but I love (good) co-ops and I love complexity. If you're only so-so on one of those, it probably won't be a hit.

Also, you don't need to wait around for other people to get bored. It works quite well solo as the people here will attest. You'd probably eventually want to play as 2 spirits simultaneously because some of them just don't really work as well solo, but it takes a while to get that comfortable with the game (I tried it as my first game and could feel my brain overheating)
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Reply #13 on: October 18, 2018, 12:37:23 PM

out of curiosity, and apologies, I'm still on the cost for what you're getting

why is this not getting shipped til 2020
Goldenmean
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Reply #14 on: October 18, 2018, 03:11:35 PM

Yeah, the release date thing is what annoys me the most about how this is being run. It's mostly because the art isn't done, or honestly, even begun for the most part. I got my first look at what the new spirits would look like when the kickstarter launched. It wasn't even clear what spirits were going to make the cut for this expansion until pretty recently. There was a change in spirit lineup as recently as a month back (Which is kind of a shame. The one that got swapped out was a neat idea, but it was reaaaaaalll weird). Now that the spirits are locked in, they can start making art for all of the cards, and that process apparently took way longer than they expected for the first kickstarter, which was more than a year late, so they're using that sort of timeline for this kickstarter. Art time + production time + shipping time puts it at 2020. It sucks.

If it helps, there's easily enough content in the base game + expansion to keep you going for the next 18 months if you like the game. I'm still nowhere near being able to beat level 10 adversaries.
Teleku
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Reply #15 on: October 19, 2018, 05:46:30 AM

Man, don't put all that pressure on me. Do some due diligence and watch some playthroughs or the like to make sure you like it in action. There's plenty of them out there. I think it's a great game, but I love (good) co-ops and I love complexity. If you're only so-so on one of those, it probably won't be a hit.

Also, you don't need to wait around for other people to get bored. It works quite well solo as the people here will attest. You'd probably eventually want to play as 2 spirits simultaneously because some of them just don't really work as well solo, but it takes a while to get that comfortable with the game (I tried it as my first game and could feel my brain overheating)

Lol, it was entirely a joke man.  Iím interested enough to probably buy, and will certainly not have any more regret than the 20 other kickstarters I havenít played.  Just wanted to rib you a bit.   why so serious?

"My great-grandfather did not travel across four thousand miles of the Atlantic Ocean to see this nation overrun by immigrants.  He did it because he killed a man back in Ireland. That's the rumor."
-Stephen Colbert
eldaec
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Reply #16 on: October 19, 2018, 06:56:51 AM

$300 is $50 more than the Kingdom Death core box kick starter price.  And it seems you get significantly less for that $300 than what you get out of the Kingdom Death Box.  Am I missing something that justifies that price?  The components don't even look very nice, though maybe that's because they are just showing prototypes or something.

we're probably missing something but this game looks crap

It does.

I love the idea of the heavy asymmetric design but the single most important component in this game is the player board and it is not helping.

The deluxe tokens help a little with clarity on the main board - but I find that largely OK.

I might back this anyway.

"People will not assume that what they read on the internet is trustworthy or that it carries any particular ≠assurance or accuracy" - Lord Leveson
"Hyperbole is a cancer" - Lakov Sanite
eldaec
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Reply #17 on: October 19, 2018, 07:02:04 AM

In fact the right play here is obviously to buy spirit Island retail *right now* then decide if I want the expansion in 28 days.

We'll see.

I do want this to be good because euro coops that are not pandemic and not shit are like hen's teeth.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2018, 07:04:50 AM by eldaec »

"People will not assume that what they read on the internet is trustworthy or that it carries any particular ≠assurance or accuracy" - Lord Leveson
"Hyperbole is a cancer" - Lakov Sanite
Goldenmean
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Reply #18 on: October 19, 2018, 10:25:15 AM

I love the idea of the heavy asymmetric design but the single most important component in this game is the player board and it is not helping.

The deluxe tokens help a little with clarity on the main board - but I find that largely OK.

Huh. I actually hadn't heard that one before. Most people take issue with the map pieces looking "prototypey" because the terrains are pretty much just swathes of color, or with the invader pieces. I don't hear a lot of people complaining about the player boards. What is it you don't you like about them? I imagine they seem busy if you don't know the game, especially for high complexity spirits, but I can't think of better ways to convey all of the information they need to convey.

BTW, for the base game, the tokens you use don't even go on the main board. The first expansion introduces the wilds, disease, strife and beasts tokens. The new expansion introduces badlands. The energy tokens are essentially currency, and the fear tokens just fill up and empty from a pool. They'd honestly be better represented as a dial, except the size of the dial would need to vary by player count.
jgsugden
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Reply #19 on: October 25, 2018, 10:01:13 AM

I'm waiting for the inevitable reprint with better art, but Iconstantly hear good things about the gameplay. 

What can you tell me about gaming and fun in Charlotte, NC?
Goldenmean
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Reply #20 on: October 25, 2018, 11:32:00 AM

I wouldn't hold your breath for a new art reprint. If there will ever be one it's a decade or more down the line, and I highly doubt there will be one, barring some other company taking over. This is above average art by Greater than Games standards.
Goldenmean
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Reply #21 on: October 25, 2018, 12:34:47 PM

Possibly of interest to this thread: the designer is doing an AMA right now on reddit
Jeff Kelly
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Reply #22 on: November 26, 2018, 04:57:28 AM

We only use the backside of the board elements where you get the more stylized version of the island. The "artwork" side is neither very good and it is also much more confusing because the terrain types are less obvious than on the iconographic side. This game also broke my brain for the first game session until we all had a bit of a grasp on hwo the game mehanics worked, because it plays quite a bit differently, which was nice.

In the two or three games we played it was a heavily front loaded experience though. You struggle at the start over getting in control of things and preventing the game from spiralling out of control and by mid game you've either lost quite decidedly or you already know you've won and just have to play out the next few turns to make it happen.

Our games either ended with "well we're fucked" or "we've already won but need to play the next three turns for the board to reflect that"

So I agree that the endgame can feel a bit anti climactic
Goldenmean
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Reply #23 on: November 26, 2018, 10:22:37 AM

It's been my experience that as you get more plays under your belt, it gets rarer that the game will get to a point where there's multiple turns of knowing you're going to win but not quite being able to deliver the coup de grace. If there are, it's usually a pretty good sign that you're right on the cusp of being able to kick it up a difficulty level. Adding the expansion changes that also, because it adds a random event to every turn, so you're never entirely safe. This only mitigates the problem though; games that end in victory will still almost always end with the players suddenly realizing that they can kick the terror level up to 3 and knock out the cities on the board in the next fast phase before more can be built. You're trading out "We've already won" anticlimax for "Suddenly shifting from 'we're screwed' to 'I guess we win'" anticlimax.

Also, supposedly the new version of the playmat they're offering with this kickstarter fixes a lot of the art issues with the thematic side of the board. I'm not entirely convinced, as the way the terrain bunches up on that board can make for some weird play experiences that have nothing to do with the art, but I figured I might as well have everything available for my favorite game, so I ordered it anyway.
jgsugden
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Reply #24 on: February 13, 2019, 12:58:23 PM

I just picked up the core box and expansion and a Ding and Dent sale for $45 combined.  Are the KS exclusives for this one really key additions to the game?

What can you tell me about gaming and fun in Charlotte, NC?
Goldenmean
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Reply #25 on: February 13, 2019, 03:08:16 PM

There are no KS exclusives. Everything they've made thus far has been for sale on their store front (though some parts go in and out of stock quite bit).

As for those, the promo spirits are great. No reason not to get them if you like the game.

I wouldn't bother picking up the playmat. The existing one has really terrible graphic design on the thematic side that makes it difficult to pick out what the terrain types are meant to be. The recent kickstarter is printing a new version that supposedly fixes that and IIRC is a bit bigger also. This really isn't necessary however you slice it. The thematic side of the map has more realistically clustered terrain which makes the game a little bit harder, but there's sufficient ways to tweak the difficulty without it. Regardless, skip it entirely, or wait for the better version in a year when the next expansion ships.

I'd recommend skipping the 5/6 player pieces also. You'll need either the playmat or another copy of the base game to play with that many players (or wait for the next expansion) and honestly, unless your players are reaaallly familiar with the game and play quickly, that's going to take an agonizing amount of time.

And while it's not a promo item, I'll just mention the first expansion. I'd say it's mandatory once you know the game just for the additional spirits and adversaries. I'd never play without it at this point. Some people don't like the randomness the new event deck adds, but once you know the base game well, it gets a bit deterministic, and the events keep the puzzle fresh. I emphatically recommend against adding it until you know the game well though. There's a ton of content just in the base box, and learning the game and expansion at the same time can be pretty brain melty.
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Reply #26 on: February 20, 2019, 02:47:29 PM

I played this game on Monday at a heavy board game night in Austin.

Right after the game was over, I bought the expansion on the spot.

I have a copy of the base game arriving tomorrow.

Chucked $185 at the Kickstarter late pledge for the new expansion, playmat, chits, etc.

This is a fucking masterpiece.

It's still pretty ugly, but should be passable with the upgraded chits. The base game is just.... really something - and everyone should own it.

Edit: Seriously, this is immediately, after ONE PLAY ON THE BASIC FUCKING SCENARIO, in my top ten. Probably not top 5, but I can see it getting there with the last expansion (now that I've read what Branch and Claw adds). This game is begging for real minis though, not big ones, just good ones. The ones that come with it are passable but shit - just like the rest of the artistic direction.
« Last Edit: February 20, 2019, 02:50:26 PM by schild »
Jeff Kelly
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Reply #27 on: February 21, 2019, 09:31:18 AM

Better Art on board and material and great minis would instantly make it better.
schild
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Reply #28 on: February 21, 2019, 10:21:37 AM

Better Art on board and material and great minis would instantly make it better.

Yes. I might look to pimp my shit out here.
Jeff Kelly
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Reply #29 on: February 21, 2019, 10:26:16 AM

How did you adapt to the rule set? I'm a gamer with more than 30 years of "experience" playing obscure shit and even I felt like the game broke my brain a little for a while until I got a grasp on the mechanics.

Didn't have such an experience for decades.
Goldenmean
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Reply #30 on: February 21, 2019, 03:02:12 PM

... I felt like the game broke my brain a little for a while until I got a grasp on the mechanics.

Didn't have such an experience for decades.

And this is why it's my #1 game.

Even dozens of plays later, the mental process of moving from "These are the problems we are facing and these are the cards in my hand" to actually deciding what growth options to take and what cards to play is incredibly satisfying and puzzle-y like no other game I've played, and even knowing the game well, moving to a new spirit is like opening a whole new puzzle box.

I think a lot of the initial brain breaking comes from a combination of just having such a wide toolkit you can use to attack the problems, but also because the turn order is almost opposite of how you need to think of it. The first thing you need to do in the game is pick a growth option, but that can only be an informed decision once you figure out what cards you want to play and what innate spirit powers you want to try to activate, and you're not going to be able to properly weigh those choices until you know how the invader automata operates. Practically every new player I've taught the game to has vastly undervalued "Push" powers, when they're far, far more efficient than powers that actually deal damage.
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Reply #31 on: February 21, 2019, 03:21:50 PM

Push is like, fairly obviously huge - and though I only have one game under my belt, I'm looking forward to someone playing river like less of a moron.
Goldenmean
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Reply #32 on: February 21, 2019, 03:40:15 PM

I can see why most newbies undervalue push. People tend to think in terms of "How do I win this game", and for Spirit Island that's "Kill invaders". "How do I not lose while trying to win this game" is a more nuanced question, and in terms of abilities that help you do that, the efficacy of defense is more obvious than that of push.

It's one of those things that I'd expect most hardened serious gamers to get pretty quickly, but I understand why it's the last thing in the toolkit more casual people seem to grok.
Jeff Kelly
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Reply #33 on: February 21, 2019, 04:05:10 PM

Moving pieces on the board is probably the most valuable early game when you try not to lose
Goldenmean
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Reply #34 on: February 21, 2019, 04:17:03 PM

Yeah, I'd broadly agree with push being stronger early game, though as with all things Spirit Island, it really depends on spirits, scenario and adversary in play. Our default strategy for most games is to just push a lot of stuff into a single area that forms a vast invader metropolis that we then either use "Skip all actions in this area" type powers on, or just eat the blight if it ravages and only worry about it when we're ready to win the game.

That strategy loses you the game reaaaally fast if you're playing against England though.
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