This afternoon I had a chance to try #Spirit Island for the first time. I played solo, as "river surges in sunlight." I ended up winning the game.
I specifically bought this game to play solo, though, I hope I can at some point get some multiplayer games in.
Spirit Island is a 1-4 player cooperative game set in a alt history 1700s. You are the spirits protecting a Island from the the "nasty white guys over the seas." Space Biff called it the "anti Catan" and I think he pretty much hit the nail on the head. The game comes with 8 spirits in the base box. These Spirits are wildly asymetrical and that is one of the main draws of the game.
On your turn you are choosing a option which allows you various growth options, such as gaining new power cards, gaining energy, reclaiming played cards, placing presence on the board.
Next you play cards. These cards have a cost, and a effect. The effect is either fast, it takes place before the invaders can do anything about it, or slow, it happens after the invaders have had a chance to do any damage that they can.
After you play your cards and resolve fast actions the invaders act they, firstly explore a land, then they build in it, then they ravage it, destroying the native inhabitants and blighting the land with plastic bags and beer cans.
After they have wreaked havoc, your slow cards take effect, and so on and so forth.
You win when you have fulfilled a set of objectives that changes some during gameplay. You lose when your island becomes to blighted.
This is a extremely simplified overview of what is a quite complex game.
Presentation: The art is very good. I don't like all of it, but I do think it is all very good. The names of the spirits are the best names I have encountered in board games, names like: River surges in sunlight, Oceans hungry grasp, Spread of rampant green, Shadows flicker like flame. The symbology seems clear and consistent. It is very easy to determine the state of the gameboard at a glance, and determine what the invaders will do next at a glance.
Rulebook: The rulebook is very good. Lots of nice pictures and examples, easy to find stuff when you need it. The only gripe I have against it is that it is printed on a very glossy paper, and it sometimes glares when the light isn't right.
Component quality: I am going to say that the component quality is very good here. It is not amazing, but it is very good. The insert is functional, and actually helps during gameplay. But, it does mean that the box is very very full. you wont get anything else in unless you ditch the insert. Ditto for the cards, if you want to sleeve them you will be needing to ditch the insert.
Gameplay: I think this is a great game in most regards. I do have one niggling thing I wish were a little different. In the game, assuming you don't lose, you are becoming more and more powerful. I can see the the last several turns you can be so powerful that the end is sort of anticlimatic. But, all the moments leading up to that are wonderful. Lets talk about the good now.
Most of the rules make thematic sense so they can sorta get out of the way and let you play.
The Spirits are wildly different. I really think this would be best with at least two spirits, either two player or two handed solo. But the ways that they can complement each other are just wild.
The sensation of leveling up is so so cool.
The sensation of threat from the invaders is very real.
The variety in this game is mind boggling. You have 8 wildly different Spirits to play with, And I think that is enough for most people. If it is not enough for you, in addition you have a number of specific nations you can combat. You have a number of scenarios that you can play, and a lot of ways to fine tune the difficulty level.
This is a complex game. But it is complexity I like, in that it emerges from gameplay rather than being inherent in the rules.
The wildly assymetrical spirit powers, combined with the emergent complexity make this a game that I think will be impossible to quarterback. I think that this game is perfect for those groups who want high interactivity, but don't feel like it needs to be negative interaction.
Final part of first thoughts.
I don't know if this will be my favorite solo game of all time or not, but I think that it could be. FYI the bgg single player guild recently had this show up as their number one solo game of all time, dethroning #Mage Knight who had been the champion for many years. I feel like this is a game that will reward richly those who play it repeatedly, and I feel like I can not really put a number on a rating for it at the moment. But, I think that the chances are very very high that when I do my next top five list next year this will be firmly planted therein. Based on my first play I highly recomend it.
P.S. Please Remember, this is not a review. These are first impressions based on one solo play. I hope to write something more complete when I get a chance to get more plays in.