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Spirit Island First Impressions: Expansion

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Foote
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Spirit Island First Impressions: Expansion

I am extremely satisfied with the base game. I think it's incredibly well designed and has a ton to offer gameplay wise. I have not even touched scenarios but when I got into adversaries and the adjustable difficulty levels I really felt that there is more content than I'll be able to get to for a while. 

So when Paul reminded me there was an expansion I had almost completely forgot about it. It's a fairly small box so I'm thinking it's a few new power cards and some new spirits who introduce some new mechanics. Woooooo boy I was wrong. 

For such a small box, the expansion single handedly morphs what was an exceptional game into what may be someday considered an all-time great. 

 

Events: One of the small gripes you could have with the base game was that the core invader mechanic is more or less predictable. Sure you don't know which invader cards were removed, but as you progress in the stages you can make good guesses as to where you need to be next. Enter the Event deck. This injects a wonderfully needed element of surprise and randomness while offering player choices and effects that drastically change the game plan. And what's more is that in true Arkham Horror style, the event deck is massive with no duplicate events, ensuring that you'll only ever see a small fraction of the deck in any given game. In a game with already sizable replay value, the event deck alone adds a few magnitudes of value on top. 

More Blight/Healthy land choices!: the base game only comes with two choices for your blight card. This expansion turns two choices into an entire deck of its own to randomize and pick 1 from. A much needed addition and not one to overlook. 

New adversary: France. Even at level 2 where I have been playing the other invaders, France immediately distinguishes itself as a great challenge. Double explorers are bad enough, but the extra loss condition of limited towns will keep you on the edge. Spirits that can reliably dish out 2 damage will be a boon to both the town count and the explorer influx. 

New Spirirs!

Fang: speaking of dealing 2 damage reliably, Fang can fit that bill. Fang opperates entirely around the new beast tokens. There isn't a great deal of ways to add beasts outside of a starting card and events, so you want to be very careful when turning your own presence into beasts as it can get you in trouble. Fang is a fantastic early game spirit who can keep areas around it in check but struggles massively in the late game as it has very limited options when trying to influence lands with blight. You will need to pick up blight removal at some point for sure. You might also find that where it is really strong protecting areas around jungles, if late game problem areas are not near those jungles you might struggle a bit as well. Leverage the early game power you have to make the transition easier into mid-late game and pick up major powers with reach but that don't require sacred sites. 

Keeper: the description says that Keeper is a slow moving wall, and after I got the hang of what this spirit wants to do, I'd agree with that sentiment. Keeper is a mid-late game ramp who excels around spreading Wild (the new token which prevents explore actions) and creating an branching spread of sacred sites. The sacred sites become important as he has an innate damage bomb that relies on having multiple sacred sites in and around your target. Control Is the name of the game in the early-mid game as you spread and keep colonies in check until you have the energy and presence needed to bomb them out. As with Fang though, blighted areas are a massive problem in the late game as blight will prevent you from using most of your better damage and control powers as well as not being able to add presence cheaply. 

 

 

After a trial game where France stomped me, I was able to secure a level 2 France win with Keeper and Fang during the first part of stage 3 with a Fear2 win condition. And it wasn't easy. One board was completely clear of invaders for a while, but there were two sand based colonies surrounded by blight that were near impossible to touch. With blighted land card destroying our precence every round we had to get lucky drawing major powers that would cause damage with the reach we needed. Luckily we got some blight removal instead and with walls of Wilds buying us time we finally manage to get the damage we needed before our defenses were broken through by the 3rd stage onslaught (we had a double stage 3 explore coming our way next turn, so digging for fast powers was a must). And not for nothing, but the final town was destroyed by the slave rebellion (special event card for France Adversary) so we might have also gotten lucky too!

 

This expansion isn't a must have for Spirit Island nessesarily. The base game is just too deep on its own to consider that. But the honest truth is that after adding the expansion, I can't help but feel that this was the way Spirit Island was always meant to be experienced. 

Spirit Island is truely one of the best designed and enjoyable games Iv experienced in a while. 

Bunston
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An alternate strategy with Keeper is to neglect the early defense and focus on placing two presence every turn. Keeper has the second best stress tracks in the game in terms of raw numbers (only Serpent has better), so getting up there as fast a possible and then pummeling the invaders with Major Powers to make up for lost ground can work. This strategy works even better with Rampant Green.

dpt
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I have not tried heavy expansion with Keeper. I will have to do that!

Bunston wrote:
This strategy works even better with Rampant Green.
You mean if Spread of Rampant Green is in the game, right? The tracks of Rampant Green itself are kind of lackluster and so the heavy-expansion strategy is less effective, although there are other reasons for Rampant Green to want a lot of presence out.
Bunston
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dpt wrote:

You mean if Spread of Rampant Green is in the game, right? The tracks of Rampant Green itself are kind of lackluster and so the heavy-expansion strategy is less effective, although there are other reasons for Rampant Green to want a lot of presence out.

Ya, I meant pairing Keeper with Rampant Green. Green lets Keeper put Presence out even faster and it can help stall the Invaders for the first couple turns while Keeper ramps up.

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@Bunston

That is definitely how I play Keeper, my most favorite Spirit :)


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arenson9
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"I can't help but feel that this was the way Spirit Island was always meant to be experienced. "

 

I think you're right!


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Foote
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I think it might be important to note, that while I missed this in the initial write up, I believe the expansion adds about an extra 60 or so minutes to game length. My average game times with 1-3 players (not played a 4 player game with others) has risen considerably with the expansion.

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Just from reading the rules I feel like the strife, disease, beast, and wilds tokens are some of the best things ever. I haven't used them yet, but I feel that once I start I'll never truly go back to playing without them.

 

 

The only problem is going to be finding a group to play with where everyone is experienced enough to play this game at the highest levels. I'd love to have a game with Serpent and Ocean (other two spirits optional) against an Adversary on level 6 on the canonical map, but I don't know if I'll ever have an experienced enough group to make that possible.

dpt
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Chaosmancer wrote:
The only problem is going to be finding a group to play with where everyone is experienced enough to play this game at the highest levels. I'd love to have a game with Serpent and Ocean (other two spirits optional) against an Adversary on level 6 on the canonical map, but I don't know if I'll ever have an experienced enough group to make that possible.
You can use your judgement, but there are various ways to make the game easier for new players while still playing with the expansion. If 2 out of 3 people have a good grasp on the game, the third person can do some learning as they go along. The expansion might be a bit much for a first game, but there's no problem introducing an Adversary that way. Give the new player a Power Progression card and pull all those powers from the deck. And you can introduce the expansion that way much earlier than you would otherwise.

(Two- or three-player games are much easier to track, especially for new players. And please don't throw a Level 6 Adversary at anyone who doesn't know exactly what that means...)

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dpt wrote:

 

Chaosmancer wrote:
The only problem is going to be finding a group to play with where everyone is experienced enough to play this game at the highest levels. I'd love to have a game with Serpent and Ocean (other two spirits optional) against an Adversary on level 6 on the canonical map, but I don't know if I'll ever have an experienced enough group to make that possible.

 

(Two- or three-player games are much easier to track, especially for new players. And please don't throw a Level 6 Adversary at anyone who doesn't know exactly what that means...)

 

Oh, I would never do that to someone. I don't even know what it means yet except there is a small corner of my brain screaming in terror. That is generally a bad sign.

 

But, I might try adding some things in earlier than expected, it depends on how many games they are willing to play and if we'll ever meet up again.

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The only problem is going to be finding a group to play with where everyone is experienced enough to play this game at the highest levels. I'd love to have a game with Serpent and Ocean (other two spirits optional) against an Adversary on level 6 on the canonical map, but I don't know if I'll ever have an experienced enough group to make that possible.

As a side note: the highest-Difficulty Adversaries (Brandenburg 6 / England 6) are incredibly incredibly difficult on the balanced maps. (I designed the game, and I haven't yet beaten them, though a few playtesters have.) And the canonical map still adds a bit of difficulty over normal, even with Branch & Claw.

More generally: when boosting game Difficulty, go up 1 step at a time, maybe 2 if you're really dominating. When switching from a well-known / understood Adversary to a new one, you may wish to keep Difficulty the same or even a touch lower - it will be a new type of challenge that benefits from learning just like individual Spirits do. :-)

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Hey Eric, out of curiosity, when you play the game for fun (you're not teaching new players or testing a specific invader power level) what difficulty level do you generally play on?

Eric R
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It depends who I'm playing with!

  • If all players are at roughly my skill level, I'll go Difficulty 5-6 for a fun romp that requires thought but which we'll almost certainly win if we play well, Difficulty 7 for a bit more of a challenge that we can still probably pull off with good play, and Difficulty 8-9 for "dicey but a win is plausible". Depends on the mood I'm in.
  • However, the overwhelming majority of my games are mixed skill levels. If I'm the lone veteran at the table, I'll pull the difficulty up 1 or maybe 2 from what the table would otherwise tackle. If the game is mostly veterans but there's an inexperienced player in the mix, I'll lower difficulty by around 2-3. So I play Difficulty 1-5 a fair bit as well.

 

tedv
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As a separate data point, my wife and I generally play at Difficulty 7-8 (~Brandenburg 5) for our 'for fun' games. It's pretty tense and we'll occasionally lose. For testing things, especially spirits, we'll do Difficulty 6 (~Brandenburg 4). In our experience we should never feel like we're losing, but there should be a bit of early game tension. If there's no tension, the spirit is probably too strong. If we struggled, it's probably too weak. Later spirit testing is at higher difficulties. We'll do an occasional game at Difficulty 10 just for fun, but that's pretty rare.

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I'm kinda in awe. I'm obviously not yet groking all the strategy I need to have, because I am still under .500 on playing without an Advisary... I can't even imagine a level 1 yet!


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I actually beat Brandenburg 6 last night for the first time! My wife and I play Brandenburg 5 a lot and generally do ok, but have only tried level 6 a handful of times and had always gotten pretty soundly defeated. This was a nice change.

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Am I the only person so far who plays games for fun at Difficulty 10?

Definitely switching Adversaries changes things up a lot, and merits a decrease in difficulty level--I usually get trounced when I've been away from a particular Adversary for a while.

Maybe it's worth making a playthrough of the style Eric did earlier, but with an introductory spirit, to give an idea of how to plan things out and make sure all the rules are being played correctly?

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The overwhelming majority of my games are teaching games, which means I don't get to play against adversaries at all most of the time. After that, it depends on who I'm playing with, but it's rare that everyone in the group wants to max out the difficulty. I don't mind getting stomped on, so I'll usually play as difficult a game as is appropriate for the rest of the players.

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Question for Eric and the playtesters:

Is it possible to add things from the expansion in a modular fashion in the same way that you can tune the difficulty of the base game by adding scenarios, adversaries, and blight cards piecemeal, or does the expansion stuff more or less need to be added all at once?

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jffdougan wrote:

Question for Eric and the playtesters:Is it possible to add things from the expansion in a modular fashion in the same way that you can tune the difficulty of the base game by adding scenarios, adversaries, and blight cards piecemeal, or does the expansion stuff more or less need to be added all at once?

 

Oh! I know the answer to this one!

 

There is a FAQ answer about it:)

 

https://querki.net/u/darker/spirit-island-faq/#!.7w4g8ow


Lynkfox.
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I feel like I'm getting better with strategies, but I'v been focusing on spirits I don't quite get recently. Usually I'm playing adversaries at lvl2, or with prussia at lvl3. I have not been loosing much but some of those games have still been really close and especially in my last River/Nightmare game against England.

I might take some more familiar spirits and try and up the difficulty a bit. But I feel like I still don't have a solid enough grasp with River and the "soft defense" strategies to be able to combat the higher difficulties.

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River + Nightmare was my first stage 1 win (before the first lvl 2 explore).  Absolutely crushed England lvl 1.

It is incredibly amusing to me how different our experiences are.

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phantaskippy wrote:
It is incredibly amusing to me how different our experiences are.
One thing I've been noticing more as I introduce the game to more people is how much certain spirits mesh with certain people's natural playstyles.
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phantaskippy wrote:

River + Nightmare was my first stage 1 win (before the first lvl 2 explore).  Absolutely crushed England lvl 1.It is incredibly amusing to me how different our experiences are.

How? One of us must be doing something very wrong lol

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Drew one good defense power, got a fear card that pushed and 2 straight turns had Dahan stomp massed invader forces, while river destroyed the other city.

Flipping the fear cards and getting terror 2 involved some luck, but pushing dahan and invaders together is my go to early game.  I gambled on the 3rd wave 1 land and guessed right (I mean it's a 50-50) and it worked.

 

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How did River destroy a city that early? Couldnt be through innate, so it must have been there was a ravage with dahan defense early right where the city was?

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1 damage from a fear card and flash floods, one of the each board damage fear cards.  When I flipped it I realized that I could pull it off.

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phantaskippy wrote:
1 damage from a fear card and flash floods, one of the each board damage fear cards.  When I flipped it I realized that I could pull it off.
But Flash Floods is fast, and you need to select the target before that fear card was revealed. What made you decide to do damage to a City that you had no reason to think you could destroy?

 

Just to clarify any possible points of confusion: You cannot choose to use a fast power as a slow power[1]. Use it in the fast power phase or lose it. You only reveal the fear card at the start of the invader phase, not when you earn it. And partial damage heals at the end of the turn.

Did you maybe instead reach the 2nd level of your innate, which does 2 damage?

[1]However, Lightning's Swift Strike can choose not to make a slow power into a fast power.

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dpt wrote:

But Flash Floods is fast, and you need to select the target before that fear card was revealed.

Not true with Bringer of Dreams and Nightmares in play. The fear card could have been revealed (but not activated) earlier that turn or on a previous turn.

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Sorry, by flipped I meant flipped face up.