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Dice Tower Review of Spirit Island

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Powerhound_2000
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Dice Tower Review of Spirit Island

https://youtu.be/4S1o52QvZI0

The review does say a lot about who this will appeal to but man Zee comes across as someone who is really anti Euro style games.


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Silverleaf
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I originally thought that having fast and slow powers added needless complexity too, but I changed my mind after more plays. I still make "thought this was fast but it's slow and now my plan is all messed up" mistakes but I'm totally getting better!

I'm not sure how a game like this could possibly be any more thematic unless you give Lightning's player a mini Tesla coil, lock Shadows' player in a dark cupboard, and provide River's player with a hosepipe to wash little plastic pieces into Ocean's player's waiting gaping maw.


Just assume I'm always doing that.

Damn it, Ronway!

Mezike
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ahh, I think it just didn't jive with Zee on some level but he can't quite put his finger on why so he's plumping for "I don't like Euros and I've decided that this is a Euro and Euros cannot be thematic so therefore it's the theme that is wrongstuff with this Euro." You can even hear in his voice that he doesn't quite believe what he is saying himself. Spirit Island is hands down one of the most thematic games I've played, period, everything you do in the game is evocative of your chosen spirit and the slow battle over a couple of generations for control of the island. And this is coming from someone who also has a mild allegy to Euro-gaming. Fair enough that he didn't like it, but it ain't the theme that's the problem.

Powerhound_2000
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I would agree.  It seems he was expecting a lighter game which this is not.  


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Ameena
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What is meant by a game being "Euro"? That it's from Europe? Why would that have an effect on any aspect of a game? Confused...


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dpt
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"Euro" games are a style of games, that started gaining popularity in Europe. (Specifically, starting in Germany.) BGG and Wikipedia both have reasonable descriptions. The prototypical example is Catan.

Spirit Island is definitely not a Euro (and Zee wasn't saying it was). For one thing, it has way too much text.

("Little text" is maybe the clearest illustration of why being from Europe makes a difference to game design. It's way easier to translate a game like Catan or Carcassonne than a game like Sentinels of the Multiverse.)

ogseamus
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Euro is a style of game.

Here is a good breakdown of the differences between a Eurogame and a Thematic or Ameritrash game.

http://islaythedragon.com/guides/guide-to-gaming-ameritrash-vs-eurostyle-whats-the-difference/


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Animus
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Zee didn't care for it, but Tom loved it! Sam liked it too, which I was a little surprised by. All in all, I would say that the game went over well with the DT guys because Zee gave it a slightly positive nod after all. 

Mezike
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heh... the bit where he says "It's... wrapped up in a very Euro feeling kind of game... it plays like a Euro..." seems pretty indicative that he classes it as a Euro  wink

Labels have been blurred for a long time though. I look at what the Euro-gaming crowd play at my club these days and I don't even know how to describe what the heck they are furtively up to in their quiet corner. It's a far cry from games like Catan (which has a lot of text on cards btw) or Taj Mahal, stuff like that. Primary colours on a beige board.

Agree with the sentiment here that the DT crew were honest and generally positive, which is nice. I wonder what SUSD will make of it though, or even if they'll go there.

Foote
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Euro is starting to feel like a catch-all term for almost any game thats considered "heavy"

dpt
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It's a bit funny, because at least some of the original definitions were supposed to include "family-friendly", and thus not heavy. The Spiel des Jahres jury certainly tends towards lighter games. It may be a distinction that's past the sell-by date, although I still find it helpful to think about how much direct conflict there is in a game. (Euros tend away from direct conflict.)

Foote
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"Screw-you-over" mechanics are a staple and hallmark of what I consider American or Ameritrash style games

Silverleaf
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I kind of understand what Zee means about it feeling like a Euro, because honestly it feels pretty Euro-y to me too. In my case that's a huge plus!


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arenson9
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I think it feels _in_part_ like a Euro to me because the invaders are acting as if they're part of a Euro game.


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It is tough to place this game, because it feels like a Euro with the pieces, board layout, and how powers are selected and work.

On the other hand, while there isn't player conflict, the game is about theme driven characters facing a horde of villains and smashing them until they win the day.

It's a highly thematic co-op strategic combat game that feels like a Euro game.

Good job Eric, you broke gaming.

Silverleaf
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There's just something about it that ticks my Euro box, and I think it's probably because working out how you're going to apply the effects of your powers efficiently feels a lot like figuring how you can squeeze the maximum victory points out of the last few rounds of a game where you're trading in the Mediterranean, or impressing a king by building a castle.

Similarly, deciding on a strategy and trying to pick new powers that compliment that (or conversely modifying your strategy to reflect new awesome stuff you can do) reminds me a lot of buying buildings that give you unique abilities, and engine-building.

The asymmetric powers feel especially Ameritrash to me though, but surprisingly that's one of my favourite aspects of the game.

It really doesn't fit neatly into any category, and I'm perfectly fine with that.


Just assume I'm always doing that.

Damn it, Ronway!

Trajector
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I thought the distinction was basically that American games are a zero-sum situation, where when I win a point, you lose one; but Euro games have each player (relatively) independently building their own thing, and at the end you compare to see who's did the best.

It's hard to see how a co-op of almost any kind fits into that framework.

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It's more of a continuum than two completely separate categories, imo. Or even a set of continua, like one of those personality tests - player interaction, complexity, depth, how essential the particular theme is to the gameplay, etc.

Me, I group games into "like", "dislike", "will play, but only if others really really want to and I have no other choice available".


Just assume I'm always doing that.

Damn it, Ronway!

Arcanist Lupus
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I see the identify of the 'Eurogame' is a complicated thing, made up of several different aspects.

 

In no particular order:

a)  Eurogames feature as their goal a race rather than a fight.  The goal that each player is trying to reach is independent of the success of the other players, so that harming them does not directly benefit you, with the exception of course that slowing down other players means that you're more likely to get there first (or reach higher than they did).  This aspect of course is mostly inapplicable for cooperative games

b)  Eurogames feature strategic play.  This is not to say that there is no randomness, but that the positioning of the randomness is different.  Typically in a Eurogame the randomness happens before decisions are made, rather than after.  For example, in Settlers of Catan, rather than attempting to build something and then rolling to see whether you have the resources for it, you first roll for resources and then decide what to build with them.  This contrasts most strongly with most wargames, in which decisions are made for combat without knowing what the result will be.  Spirit Island primarily features this sort of play, although hidden Fear Cards, Event Cards, and the newest Explore Card happening before the activation of slow powers adds some aspects of the gambling style. 

c)  Rules that are only loosely connected to theme.  Specific actions cannot easily be explained in terms of a story, and in many cases the game could be recast with a different theme without difficulty.  Here Spirit Island does not match Eurogame style.

d) The art / game layout style is minimalist and functional.  Pieces are usually flat wooden objects with minial details, and art used as a background and identifier rather than existing for its own sake.  Which is not to say that Eurogames are not beautiful, but that their beauty is secondary to their functionality, and designed not to catch the eye if doing so would distract from the game.  Spirit Island toes this line.  The spirit disks are simple, as are the Dahan huts, but the explorer sculpts are plastic and complex.  The board (at least on the non-thematic side) is designed for easy playability above all else.  The art on the cards is not at all secondary.  It draws attention, connects favor to rules, and helps define the game.

e) A simplicity of rules concepts.  This is not to say that all eurogames are simple, but that their rules tend towards having fewer concepts.  I'm probably not explaining myself well, but the evidence is in the fondness in eurogames for symbology over textual rules.  Text is more flexible than symbols are, because you can say exactly what you mean.  However, symbols can condense a larger concept into a smaller icon.  Therefore, symbols increase comprehension speed, but you are limited by the number of symbols that the players can interpret at once (occasionally referencing the rulebook is fine, but if you have to look up half the symbols then they are doing the very opposite of saving time).  Spirit Island straddles this line as well.  Growth and Presence Tracks are described entirely in symbols, but powers, fear, and adversaries are primarily text based, with a little bit of symbology.  

 

Everyone has their own opinion on how much of each of these are required to form a 'eurogame'.  (and will certainly disagree with me on specfics, etc, etc).  Notably, I'd say that C is less a defining aspect of eurogames and more of a byproduct of D and E, but it is also one of the more clearly visible aspects, so it tends to get a lot of focus.

 

Additionally, all boardgames are constantly evolving.  Increasingly, games like Scythe,Terraforming Mars, and Anachrony are starting to appear which straddle the lines which used to be more clearly defined. I'd say that Spirit Island fits in that category.  It is neither a eurogame nor a thematic game (I hate the term ameritrash.  Nobody will ever convince me that a name with 'trash' in it is in any way not derogatory), but something greater than either category could achieve on its own.


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Some Euro-ish elements I was trying for: low role of chance, fine-tuned balance (Power Card costing, balanced board development, etc), ability to plan, tradeoffs that are both meaningful and non-obvious (in choosing new Power Cards, in choosing what to play on a turn, etc).

Some American/AT/thematic elements I was trying for: strong role of theme informing mechanics (esp. for particular Spirits), presence of direct conflict (albeit vs. the game rather than other players), a feeling of growing ability to kick butt, strongly asymmetric positions right from the get-go, emergent micro-stories when cards / events align in a way that strikes a chord with the players, distinctive enough game effects for Spirits / Major Powers that their presence in the game can alter the timbre of play for the whole table, tolerance of more complex rules when thematically justified.

Some "I wish there were more of this in co-ops" I was trying for: heavier gameplay, ability to act/play simultaneously, player-count scaling that doesn't simply divide the same number of turns among more players, more levels of difficulty scaling than just "normal" and "hard", difficulty scaling which alters the way the game plays (ideally in thematic ways), heavier role asymmetry.

phantaskippy wrote:

It's a highly thematic co-op strategic combat game that feels like a Euro game.

Good job Eric, you broke gaming.

Thanks! That's pretty much just what I was shooting for. (Well, the first sentence, anyway. :)