Spirit Island (Rules and Gameplay Instructions)

Spirit Island is an award-winning cooperative strategy game that takes you to another universe. In this world, players act as spirits who strive to protect their island territory from the invasion of explorers. Read on to learn the Spirit Island rules.

Board Game Quest Awards Best Coop Game award winner for 2017, Spirit Island is highly recognized internationally. 

This Spirit Island rules guide will cover the following:

  • What is Spirit Island?
  • A brief history of Spirit Island
  • What you’ll need to play Spirit Island
  • Spirit Island Rules
  • How to play Spirit Island (Video Tutorial)
  • FAQs

Read on to learn how to play Spirit Island.

What is Spirit Island?

Spirit Island Board Game Info image

Spirit Island is a cooperative game where players work to protect their islands from invaders. 

Number of Players: 1-4 players

Ages: 13+

Difficulty: Moderate

Length of Play: 90-120 minutes

Category: Strategy

Similar to: Catan, Robinson Crusoe, Everdell

Main Objective: Players work to protect their island from invasion by outsiders. 

Why We Love It: The multifaceted spirits and complex layers to each power card keep Spirit Island new and exciting every time you play!

A Brief History of Spirit Island

Designed by R. Eric Reuss, Spirit Island is produced and sold by Greater than Games. The Greater than Games company was formed in 2011 and has published various award-winning board games, including Tak, Bottom of the 9th, and Kill Doctor Lucky. 

What You’ll Need to Play Spirit Island

Everything you need to play is included in this boxed set.

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The complete game box contains: 

  • 1 invader board
  • 4 island boards
  • 8 spirit panels
  • 4 scenario panels
  • 3 adversary panels
  • 36 minor power cards
  • 22 major power cards
  • 32 unique power cards
  • 2 blight cards
  • 15 fear cards
  • 15 invader cards
  • 8 player-aid cards
  • 4 power progression cards
  • 2 terror level dividers
  • 3 adversary reminder tiles
  • 40 explorer pieces
  • 32 town pieces
  • 20 city pieces
  • 38 blight pieces
  • 36 Dahan pieces
  • 52 presence discs
  • 12 single turn effect markers
  • 20 fear markers
  • 32 energy markers

Area of Play

Players begin by removing all the game components and setting up the area of play. 

First, place the game board pieces on the table. You only play with one island board per player. 

Next, position the invader board next to your island boards, and place the fear markers, blight pieces, and fear cards on their specific spot on the board. Begin with the terror level 1 card.

Players choose 4 power cards for their spirit to begin. 

Each player selects a player board to use throughout the game and positions them directly in front of them. It is important to note that each player will represent a different spirit who will work in conjunction with the Island’s natives, the Dahan.

The invaders are trying to build cities and towns and spread blight across the island. You must help protect the island from these enemies. 

Spirit Island Rules

The island board is divided into the following regions:

  • Ocean
  • Sand
  • Wetlands
  • Jungle
  • Mountains

The white explorer figures also claim smaller white buildings, towns, and more significant white buildings, called cities.

In the beginner-level game, using terror level 1, the objective remains for players to remove all white explorers and their buildings from the land. 

Turn over an explore card to determine where to place the explorers at the beginning of each game. 

The invader board explains the three main phases of each round

  • The Spirit phase
  • The Invader phase
  • Time Passes (End of round) 

Your spirit card lists specific information regarding how many power cards you can play per round, particular rules for your character, and additional powers available to your spirit based on threshold requirements. 

The energy tokens serve as currency for the majority of the game. You will need them to play power cards.

The Spirit Phase

This initial part of the game allows you to spread your presence over the island by placing spirit chips on the board.

Players each decide which growth option they want to use. These options are displayed on the top of each spirit board. Follow the steps as described.

Next, players acquire energy by taking the amount shown on the highest number revealed on their spirit board. 

Lastly, players choose the power card they want to play for the round. Look at the upper corner of the card to determine how much energy is required to play.

Power Cards

Your spirit board also shows the number of cards you can play. 

The power cards are listed as either a fast action, shown as a red bird or a slow effort, depicted as a blue turtle. 

Resolve fast cards before the invader phase and slow cards during the invader phase. 

The power cards also take effect only on a specific island section. The type of land required is shown as an icon on the card. 

The individual effects are unique to the cards and can vary dramatically from card to card. The cards also have specific descriptors that vary based on the powers of your spirit.

Players select which cards they want to use, and the immediate actions begin. Once you resolve these powers, the next phase begins. 

The Invader Phase

The fear cards serve as an ally for the spirits as fear is instilled unto the invaders. 

The fear support will increase based on the level of terror card determined at set-up. 

Looking again at the invader board, you’ll notice three cards at the bottom: Ravage, Build, and Explore. These areas specify the explorer’s actions as the cards move to each section round to round.

Predicting the explorer’s next move allows you to utilize strategic play.

  • Upon looking at the invader board, when a card is shown on “build,” you can place white towns or cities on areas of the island where explorers are present. 
  • The “explorer” cards tell you which terrain to place another explorer token. 
  • In the third act, ”ravage,” the explorers on the identified terrain of the island will attack both the natives and the territory.

Ravage Action

Count up the points of attack based on the following:

  • 1 point per explorer
  • 2 points per town
  • 3 points per city

If the enemies apply at least two damage to your land, they earn a blight token, which is unfortunate. If all blight tokens are used during the game, you lose immediately.

You can also lose the game if your spirit is erased from the board or if you use all the invader cards. 

You can remove blight by using power cards. 

When placing blight tokens, be mindful of the resulting actions:

  1. Add the attack strength of the invaders (number of white pieces) 
  2. If natives are present, blight can injure or eliminate (1 Native token = 2 health lives) 
  3. Place additional blight on adjacent territory if the land already has blight present. 
  4. Placing blight on a region with a spirit present results in their elimination.

Whenever cities or towns are destroyed by either the spirits or the Dahan, claim fear tokens. (1 per town, 2 per city)

Finally, once you have completed the Ravage steps, you can resolve the slow-action powers from your power cards selected in the previous phase. 

Use power cards to help remove enemy cities or towns and other defensive strategies to help defeat your island. 

The Time Passes Phase

During this game stage, players take time to clean up and regroup. 

Place used cards in a personal discard pile, and right any injured Dahan. (Effects only last for one turn.) 

Right cities and towns that have been turned over (previously attacked) at this time. 

Continue this gameplay cycle until you win or lose the game!

How to Keep Score in Spirit Island

Game play continues following the 3-phase pattern until one of the following occurs: 

  • You lose all the blight from the invader board 
  • You lose by using all the invader cards
  • You lose by eliminating all spirit presence from the board
  • You win by completing the victory condition displayed on the fear level card.

How to Play Spirit Island – Video Tutorial

Frequently Asked Questions 

What kind of game is Spirit Island?

Spirit Island is a cooperative strategy game. Players work together to save their territory from invasion using specific power cards. You can select a different spirit and unique power effects every time you play for maximum versatility.

When was Spirit Island released?

Spirit Island was released in 2017 by Greater than Games. It is still available for sale today and includes many expansions, including Brach and Claw, Feather and Flame, and Jagged Earth

How do you beat Spirit Island?

Players beat Spirit Island by defeating explorers, keeping them from invading the land, and reducing the explorers and their buildings before they ravage the island harming the natives and spirits. 

Other Games Similar to Spirit Island (Our Guides)

If you enjoy playing Spirit Island, check out these other fun cooperative board games:

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