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Spirit Island is a fully cooperative game where you play Spirits helping natives (the Dahan) drive off European colonizers. It's one of the best co-op games I've ever played, which is why I've created this page (drawing from the SI wiki) to help players decide which of the many Spirits they'd like to play.
Lightning's Swift Strike
The child of a passing storm-spirit, Lightning's Swift Strike danced off the shores of the island many ages ago, and liked it enough to stay. It spends much of its time resting and quiet, waking up to dance through the sky when the winds blow strong.
It only concerns itself occasionally with the Dahan, usually appearing out of nowhere to send them off on some obscure errant. The Dahan cooperate — partly out of a wary respect for Lightning's power, but as much for the sake of the Thunderspeaker (Lightning's child) who is a patron and ally of their people.
Play Style: Virtually all offense to start with: without a more defensive teammate, Blight may become a problem. Excellent at destroying buildings, less good at containing Explorers. Using Thundering Destruction tends to be a burst affair: a turn or two of position and build up Energy, followed by a really big turn. Starting Powers are extremely focused on Air and Fire: good for Thundering Destruction, bad for Major Power versatility.
Strength: Offense, Weakness: Defense
River Surges in Sunlight
On most of Spirit Island, the rivers run high during the rainy season, as one would expect. There is one exception: the lingering remains of an ancient curse keep a high ridge shrouded in ice, and when the sun beats down, it feeds a single river with abundant meltwater.
River Surges in Sunlight is a spirit of rushing water, inundation, and bounty out of season.
It gets along well with the Dahan who farm along its banks; they reap the benefit of good harvests, and tend to the health of the river in its drier times. Both gain.
Play Style: While capable of some direct offense, River Surges in Sunlight is best at flooding out Explorers and Towns, displacing them from lands where they might Build or Ravage. The ability to get free Sacred Sites makes a wide range of Powers more useful.
Strength: Control, Weakness: Fear/Defense
Shadows Flicker Like Flame
The Dahan say, "If the long shadows of sunset stretching beside you begin to shift and flicker like tongues of hungry fire, do not run. That will only feed your fear, and whet the shadows' appetite."
This spirit invokes an instinctive fear in humans, perhaps because it doesn't think at all like humans do — it's more alien-minded than most. Until a few generations ago, the Dahan carefully propitiated it only at a distance, steering as clear as they could. But during the Years of the Relentless Sun, it shaded large swaths of the island, averting catastrophe. Since then many Dahan have been willing to carefully (and cautiously) heed its words, feeling they have a debt they ought to try to repay.
Play Style: Good at causing Fear and picking off lone Explorers and Towns, containing the Invaders. Not so good at massive damage — may need to rely on allies to handle thoroughly colonized lands. The ability to boost Range gives more flexibility to Range 0 Powers, and can be important in larger games.
Strength: Fear, Weakness: Defense/Utility
Vital Strength of the Earth
A spirit of great and unhurried power. The life that earth yields up to roots, the ground supporting the life that lives upon it. The patience of seasons and of stone.
It is not usually a direct benefactor of the Dahan — rather than giving blessings, it prefers to work in concert with them, lending power to joint understandings.
Currently, it is trying to rouse itself to fight against the Invaders, but this swift and direct action runs somewhat counter to its nature.
Play Style: Powerful but slow: has potent Power Cards and an excellent Energy income, but starts with only one card play per turn, and Growth is limited to adding one Presence per turn. Also slow to change: learning new Powers carries slightly more cost than reclaiming played Power Cards.
Strength: Defense, Weakness: Fear
Grinning Trickster Stirs Up Trouble
There are many trickster Spirits, but this one is the most infamous due to its part in instigating the Second Great Reckoning between the Dahan and the Spirits. It wears any form it pleases — perhaps a tree, perhaps a canoe, perhaps a prominent clan-chief — but can always be distinguished by its multitude of eyes, though they may be subtle or concealed.
Despite its knack for stirring up trouble, it's neither unfriendly nor motivated by malice — it just has a driving curiosity to see what will happen when it messes around with things. Of course, this may involve putting Spirits, people, and animals alike into suddenly precarious situations, so the Dahan appreciate its shenanigans best at a healthy distance.
Play Style: Requires some comfort with risk: both Overenthusiastic Arson and Let's See What Will Happen involve uncertainty about how the Fast Powers phase will pan out. Can be effective from the get-go, but benefits greatly from not working too hard, instead improving its capacity for mischief by adding Presence and gaining Power Cards. Bonus Energy from Let's See What Will Happen can be extremely helpful in avoiding the distraction of gaining Energy elsewhere.
Strength: Defense, Weakness: Fear
Keeper of the Forbidden Wilds
Spread throughout Spirit Island are pockets of deep wilderness, untouched by human hands. A few have a spirit of sanctity about them. The leaves there whisper words of forbiddance, of warnings, of wrath for those who trespass. The Dahan know how to listen, and stay well away.
A few spirit-speakers claim that these wild-spirits (powerful as they are) are merely custodians and wardens for others more powerful, spirits of ancient trees and deep routs who wake neither frequently nor easily. Nobody much cares to test the truth of the matter.
Play Style: A slowly growing wall — expanding can sometimes be difficult, but the Invaders will have an equally difficult time penetrating wherever the Keeper plants itself. In larger games, it may be useful to spread to one of the two far-distant lands early on, to have multiple points from which to slowly grow.
Strength: Offense/Defense, Weakness: Fear
Lure of the Deep Wilderness
Most early Dahan settlements clustered along the coasts. From time to time, a handful of residents would get a distant look in their eyes and stride off into the heart of the island, no pleading or reason dissuading them from seeking some distant call only they could hear.
Many of these involuntary wanderers survived and settled together in time. This may have hastened the First Reckoning, as they relied much more on agriculture than did their fishing brethren along the coast.
A few wanderers spoke, in voices of wonder mingled with fear, of finding the Spirit that called them ever-further inward. But most never even saw it, only felt its distant beckoning.
Play Style: Very focused on the interior — its best options for coastal lands are "draw the Invaders inland" or "turn Buildings into Explorers, then draw them inland". Likes the interior to be dangerous (full of tokens), ideally where its Presence is. Has better-than-average potential for containing Invaders and setting up a zone safe from Explores, but the coasts may get messy while doing so.
Strength: Offense/Control/Fear, Weakness: Utility
Many Minds Move as One
A Spirit of flocks, swarms, and packs, where the whole moves together in concert to accomplish what the individuals in it could not do alone. Unlike Weaves a Web of Souls, its nature leans toward smaller and simpler creatures, and it regards other sorts of animals — including humans — as bizarrely alien in their individuality. While it will communicate with the Dahan, it has shown no ability (or inclination) to integrate them into itself.
While it is willing to sacrifice individuals to protect the whole, it is not a Spirit of sacrifice per se — that is a tactic it employs, not the essence of its nature.
Play Style: Requires heavy spatial thought for Beasts movement, due to its improved Push/Gather and large numbers of Beasts. Has no offense to start with, but an excellent stalling defense combined with Fear generation; outright Fear victories may be plausible in smaller games. Both Fear Cards and Beasts events are unpredictable, however, so swings of fortune are apt to be more relevant than usual.
Strength: Control, Weakness: Offense/Utility
Sharp Fangs Behind the Leaves
A predator-spirit of the jungles, a stalker and hunter of animal and human alike. Wherever it lives, savage beasts emerge to hunt, and the jungle grows dark and ominous.
Sharp Fangs doesn't bother talking with the Dahan. Sometimes it will hunt them, or run them off, but for the most part it ignores them. The Dahan's legends tell of a time when Sharp Fangs hunter them more actively, until a pair of warriors — twins, sister and brother — drove it off with traps and guile, then turned the tables and hunted it down. Since then, it has seen the Dahan as not-entirely-prey, which, for it, is something akin to respect.
Play Style: All about Beasts and Jungles. Can be very fast out of the gate, but doesn't have the late-game power that some spirits do, and is likely to have some difficulty with Blighted areas. "Ranging Hunt" is a critical Innate ability, particularly in early-game: it simultaneously gives Beasts mobility and permits picking off a stray Explorer or Town on most turns.
Strength: Fear, Weakness: Utility
Shifting Memory of Ages
An immensely old Spirit that has ascended to great power countless times over the ages — and then destroyed that power each time, severing huge pieces of itself to become small once again. It does this in part for the joy of learning anew, but also for the delight of perceiving the living world on the short timescales that larger Spirits grow beyond.
The Invaders' arrival has pushed it to grow much more quickly than it usually would, re-learning lessons and powers from its deep past in order to fight more effectively. After the fight is won, there will be time to forget, to diminish, and renew itself once more.
Play Style: Starts with little ability to influence the board — most of what it does in that regard will come from new Power Cards. Extremely good with Major Powers and usually wants to take them early and often. Can either try sprinting towards victory with its phenomenal Energy Growth or build up towards becoming a late-game powerhouse.
Strength: Utility, Weakness: Offense
A Spread of Rampant Green
One of the older spirits on the island, though its' even more wild and exuberant these days than when it was young. Contrary to some stories, it does think things through — it's just far more concerned with the process of life than with things like "consequences".
It's not unfriendly to the Dahan, but its idea of a good time is to smother their buildings in all manner of inconvenient greenery, and its notion of "help" transforms carefully cultivated areas into overgrown thickets. Entire villages have been known to move to fresh planting-sites years early if a spirit-speaker suspects that Rampant Green is going to stay in the area for too long.
Play Style: Fairly good at dealing with Towns, but terrible at handling Explorers (who are unfazed by prolific foliage). Can get Presence onto the board faster than most other Spirits. Extra Presence is good for targeting and especially for 'Choke the Land with Green", which can be extremely effective at slowing down invaders. Just be careful not to destroy Sacred Sites needed for Power use.
Strength: Defense, Weakness: Fear
Stone's Unyielding Defiance
Some things refuse to break.
Underneath the soil and sand of the island lies rock, layer upon layer built up over the ages. Some stones weather quickly once exposed to the elements, while others are sterner and harder. Stone's Unyielding Defiance is a Spirit of that stone which resists being shattered, moved, or shaped to the will of another.
It is capable of tremendous feats of resiliance and obstinacy, particularly when confronted head-on in a belligerent fashion. It's not unfriendly to other Spirits or the Dahan, but it works with them on its own terms.
Play Style: Most of its special rules and innates require being where the Invaders are — particularly in the worst, most-overrun lands, so it can mitigate incoming Blight and (eventually) destroy the Invaders with their own Ravages. Does best with the patience to build up a position over time, and the temperance to hold some Energy in reserve so it can take advantage of Hold the Island Fast With a Bulwark of Will.
Strength: Defense, Weakness: Fear
Child of the Lightning, once known as Bright Thunder Roars in the days when it tore across the land as an avalanche of sound and chaos. It lost that form when the Stalker of Hidden Secrets imprisoned it in a canyon, binding it to echo perpetually back and forth until its thunder died out or the stones of the island wore away.
The Dahan freed it from that imprisonment. Weakened but grateful, Bright Thunder Roars bound itself to aid the Dahan until a generation had passed for every year of its imprisonment, and in so binding changed its nature, becoming both less and more than it had been. It often takes human form now, and with centuries' practice wears it with ease.
Chiefs call on the Thunderspeaker only in times of great need. It has not been much seen since the destruction of the Servant Cults.
Play Style: Has a keen interest in where the Dahan are — partly because so many of its starting powers work through them partly because its Presence can move along with them. When picking new Power Cards, it will often want to take good Dahan-centric Powers, but it can also branch out into other areas.
Strength: Control, Weakness: Utility
Volcano Looming High
A Spirit of fire and earth stretching upward to the sky, casting a long and dangerous shadow across the land. The deeper Spirits of vulcanism are too powerful and slow, too removed to respond to the Invaders — but not so this one.
It doesn't dislike humans per se, but neither does it have much use for them, so the Dahan tend to keep away from it as much as possible, and will not quarry stone in its shadow. OF course, larger eruptions can impact a good chunk of the island, so they sometimes end up dealing with its temper whether they want to or not.
Play Style: Benefits more than most Spirits from getting Presence onto the board; in addition to the usual benefits, it can fuel an Explosive Eruption. This can result in a huge turn, but if overdone the following turn or two may be very constrained. Bigger eruptions are extremely powerful, but cause Blight, and the Invaders may not provide the luxury of enough time to build up the desired pressure — judging the timing of when to erupt and for how much is a key part of playing this Spirit.
Strength: Offense, Weakness: Control/Defense
Bringer of Dreams and Nightmares
When the moon is bright, and the leaves overhead are thing enough to let stray beams fall to earth, the Bringer of Dreams and Nightmares may sometimes be spied, an apparition of pale light and deep shadow. Seen this way, it will neither stop nor acknowledge attempts to communicate with it, whether by Dahan or Spirit. It might not even be there at all; perhaps it's a reflection of a self somewhere else entirely, the realm of The Pathmaker, or some strange road that borders it.
But beings which dream hear from the Bringer frequently, even if they rarely remember it. Certain patterns may even call its attention, if drawn with sand and scattered with breath before sleep. Since the Invaders came, it has tended toward more terrifying forms, even well before the current conflict arose.
Play Style: With most Spirits, Terror Victories are a backup plan if the main push against the Invaders stalls out for too long, but Bringer turns Fear into a more viable primary strategy. Its transformation of damage & destruction into Fear can turn Major Powers into tremendous sources of terror and panic. However, the only real offense Bringer has is the Dahan fighting back. While it does have some defensive ability, it is fundamentally poor at clearing areas of Invaders.
Strength: Fear, Weakness: Offense
Downpour Drenches the World
The deluge. As the Dahan say, "When the very air turns to water and the sound of rainfall drowns out all but the loudest thunder, at that moment when it could not conceivably pour any more — and then suddenly, impossibly, it is raining twice as much — that is the downpour."
Downpour Drenches the World bridges the high skies to the earth below with a cascading torrent of rain. It is both the water which brings life and growth, and the water which overwhelms everything save plants and soil entwined in each others' protection. While it is sometimes playful and often content, it is at heart a Spirit of unrestrained excess.
Play Style: Cares about the question "How useful is this Power in the current context?" even more than most Spirits; it rarely plays all its Power Cards in any given Reclaim cycle (some get discarded to Growth), and for those it does play, it often has the option of using them multiple times. Benefits even more than most Spirits from having lots of Presence on the board, both for Rain and Mud Suppress Conflict and to facilitate its Unique Powers (by making more lands Wetlands).
Strength: Defense, Weakness: Control
Heart of the Wildfire
A spirit of natural destruction . . . and renewal after destruction, though those whose lands have been scoured by flame don't usually much appreciate the latter. Thrives near human habitations, glorying in their fires and sparks, but has existed on the island since long before the Dahan arrived, a child of the Volcano and the Green.
The Wildfire is a long-standing friend of the Dahan; the early slash-and-burn agriculture which turned most Spirits against them gave it the best decades it had had in centuries. It later supported the Dahan during the Second Reckoning, backing their threats of reprisal. It doesn't interact with the Dahan often these years, but spares their villages as best it can, and fights the Invaders in large part for them.
Play Style: Starts with good offense and gets better from there, but lays down Blight as it grows. The smaller the game, the more restraint is needed to prevent tipping the island over into being completely Blighted. The Wildfire can heal the land where it is, but may benefit from other Blight removal Powers so it can add Presence to problem lands without triggering Blight cascade. Removing Blight from its own lands limits its "Firestorm" innate power, however.
Strength: Offense, Weakness: Defense
Ocean's Hungry Grasp
The hunger of the ocean runs deep and powerful, sometimes patient, sometimes tempestuous and angry. It slowly wears away at rocky shores, or devours half an island during a hurricane. It lures humans out onto the water with its siren call, then consumes ship and crew alike unless the proper offerings are made.'
The ocean's voraciousness keeps the Dahan from frequent sea travel, though they still manager a trading expedition every decade or so. These trading-trips take the cooperation of several families, and always involved at least two spirit-speakers. That way, even if one perishes abroad, the expedition will still be able to get home.
Play Style: Extremely good at assaulting the coasts where the Invaders start out strong, but quite weak island — the ocean is not accustomed to affecting events so far ashore. Its Presence shifts in and out like the tide, which can be tricky to manage, but permits re-positioning and tactical retreats or offensives in the hands of a skillful player. Has fairly inexpensive Unique Powers, but the energy gained from drowning Invaders can be necessary in stepping up to more potent Powers.
Strength: Offense, Weakness: Utility
Serpent Slumbering Beneath the Island
Long ago in an earlier age, there was only water where islands now lie. One day — for there were day and night by then, though humans did not yet exist — a great serpent grew tired of swimming and decided to rest. It drew the earth up around itself, and so the island was born.
Other stories say different things — in particular, Volcano Looming High has its own account — but stories do not need to agree for them to be true.
Regardless, many spirits can sense the immense serpent deep below. It is mostly asleep, and its influence on the land above is limited, but the Invader's Blight already begins to sting it toward greater wakefulness.
Play Style: There are several ways to play the Serpent, but all require patience: early game involves slowly building up Powers and Presence. It's not helpless during this time, but it isn't as effective as anyone else. It becomes incredibly powerful after awakening, but getting there requires a lot of time. Make sure to Absorb Essence before you run up against your Presence cap — and to get other players' buy-in before using Absorb Essence on their Presence.
Strength: Utility, Weakness: None
Shroud of Silent Mist
A Spirit of dissolution and the cold silence of death, creeping quietly down from the hills and across the open waters. Its trail is adorned with dew-covered leaves and the bones of small animals.
Some legends say Shroud of Silent Mist came from the final breath of a Dahan spirit-speaker who spoke to freely of secrets entrusted to him, for which is soulform was afflicted with a death-bringing curse. Others claim it was born from legends and tales rather than from any actual person, for the story of Kadura shows that human and Spirit do not so readily transform into each other.
Play Style: Constantly shifting and moving its Presence around the board. Hurt more than most by Presence loss due to its desire to surround and envelop the Invaders. Can (slowly) clear the most built-up of lands, but its real strength is the free Fear from Slow and Silent Death. Extremely limited Energy income, but can stretch to Major Powers if it manages to gather enough Energy from its Special Rules.
Strength: Fear, Weakness: Utility
Vengeance As a Burning Plague
A Spirit of vengeance, anger, and retribution. In its incarnation as Burning Plague, it slumbers in a simmering volcanic pool, awakening at unpredictable intervals . . . or when roused through supplication by one wronged. Most Dahan consider this foolhardy, for it vents its wrath on entire communities, and its pestilence may spread anywhere. Clans with a close relationship to Hearth-Vigil have less to fear, but still deem it wise — and humane — not to push their luck.
It is unclear whether its recent waking is due directly to the ravaging of the Invaders or to some Spirit's please.
Play Style: Starts slow, facing an early choice whether to stop Builds (with Disease) or let them happen (to generate Fearand keep Disease on the island). Grows to be very effective at tearing into heavily-populated lands with lots of Blight and/or Disease, but setting those up may require some care . . . and make other Spirits uneasy with how much Blight is piling up.
Strength: Offense, Weakness: Defense/Utility
Very High Complexity
Finder of Paths Unseen
Finder of Paths Unseen is well-known to the Dahan; it traverses the island with ease, and most spirit-speakers have met it at least once or twice. It communicates more straightforwardly than most Spirits, layering thought-sendings over its high-pitched trills. And it — or its assistants — sometimes help soulforms of dead Dahan move swiftly on, eluding those Spirits that seek to devour them.
It is almost commonplace . . . but also deeply enigmatic, even to those clans who call it Pathmaker. Does it truly make paths, or find them? Is the otherspace it moves through a realm, or a state of being? While it is occasionally willing to answer, its thoughts do not always translate well to words.
Play Style: All about moving the Invaders — and Dahan/Presence/Beasts from time to time. Good at creating Invader-free "safe-zones," due to its many movement Powers and its capacity to Isolate. Can't afford to Destroy Invaders too often without a way to re-add Destroyed Presence, so either needs a big-hammer Major Power or to rely on its teammates for offense. (Changes the topology of the board, which increases complexity for all players — particularly in larger games!)
Strength: Control, Weakness: Offense
Fractured Days Split the Sky
The sun and moon are short-term timekeepers of Spirit Island, measuring days and months with their rise and set, wax and wane. When they meet in a solar eclipse, time collides with time, sending jagged pieces of Was, Will-Be, and Might-Have-Been tearing through the weave of seasons and years. Gleaming vision-shards of future or past events may shimmer across the sky, but often those futures or pasts do not match what others know.
Fractured Days Split the Sky exists mostly in the high reaches of the heavens, but touches the island now and then, time and possibility flowing around it like a wind-blown mantle.
Play Style: Excellent at support and sweeping indirect effects, but starts off very limited otherwise. Several of its Unique Powers need setup to use well; it's entirely possible 1 or 2 of them may see no play in a given game. Has a hard time getting lots of Presence onto the board. This can make targeting tricky, and may be quite dangerous if a Blighted Island effect Destroys Presence.
Strength: Utility, Weakness: Offense/Fear
Starlight Seeks Its Form
Every once and again, where starlight falls to ground there arises a new Spirit. Its essence is initially that of the stars and nighttime sky, but from the moment it touches the island it begins to change, adapting and reimagining itself for its new home. Only a few of the island's Spirits came to be in this fashion, but many of them have been memorable.
This one arrived shortly after the Invaders started to spread, striking the earth where they had cleared land for farming. Fragile and new, it was saved from dissolution by Stone's Unyielding Defiance and, in gratitude, fights the Invaders even as it seeks to define itself.
Play Style: A build-your-own-Spirit, capable of going in many different directions based on Elements picked, Growth choices selected, and Power Cards kept. Has a very high personal/visual complexity and a huge number of early-game options, but doesn't alter play much for other players at the table. As it commits to choices, it loses versatility — not all paths will be good (or even possible) at all things. It especially wants a measure of adaptation to early Power Cards, rather than trying to pre-select a strategy.
Strength/Weakness: ??? (leans toward Defense/Utility)
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