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As Chris Farley has commanded: a thread about Spirit Island

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)
Hi.

Spirit Island is a cool game and I like it a lot.

I did a bunch of writeups on the old forum's thread, which I'll be porting over to this thread. I want to get this done in time for the Jagged Earth content, which is currently in the process of shipping to Kickstarter backers. I'm still not gonna be able to post that content for a while for assorted reasons, but I will get to it eventually, so I want this thread here. Anyway, posts!
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


Maybe not the ideal starting spirit to go over, but Lightning's Swift Strike has that delightful combination of raw power, meshing of mechanics with theme (but to be honest, so do basically all the spirits) and sheer "a giant eagle made of lightning" cool factor, so they win priority over my usual preferred Baby's First Spirit (more on them later).

I can see why people like this spirit a lot, but personally I just feel like they encourage some really bad playstyles, and it's almost solely because of their innate Swiftness of Lightning ability to convert Slow powers into Fast ones. This is a good ability, don't get me wrong, but it's important to recognize when to slow-play and shut down structures as soon as they're built rather than waiting for the next turn and trying to smash them down in a panic before they Blight cascade into three lands. On top of that, Lightning's Swift Strike has EXTREMELY skewed Presence tracks, able to consistently get more card plays whenever they want, but constantly starved for the NRG to play them, and their starting cards don't make that any easier. And then you have one of the most element-hungry innates in the game, on a spirit that doesn't get innate elements.

But hey, if you can put up with all of that, have fun destroying three Cities at fast speed whenever you want.



Ignore the NRG cost and this is the most Lightning card there is. Good range, Fire and Air, adds a bit of Fear, blows up a Town. The Sacred Site restriction isn't even that big of a deal considering how easy it is for Lightning to just plonk down Sacred Sites (and how often they have to do so if they want to have any hope at real NRG income). Even with the cost, I see this one played often, and even though it's on the boring side, I support it in these endeavors. You keep on shattering them homesteads.



One of the #1 questions you'll get from new players with this spirit is "what should I do with the Dahan?" Which is a good question, as it's not always apparent what to do with them, it's hard to use them offensively without Defend, and there aren't many ways of actively leading them at first, you kinda have to spec for it or be Thunderspeaker for that. Thankfully, the rulebook has a tips section that outlines what I'm going to paraphrase from memory here: put them in places with a few Invaders so the Fear deck can mess with them, move them out of places about to take heavy damage from Ravage unless you have a Defend effect. If you don't have any of those, who cares, it's still a 0 cost card that gives Fire and Air, do you really have a reason not to play it as Lightning?



This is such a good card, but it just exacerbates the exact same problem I have with Swiftness of Lightning by spreading it to other players. Yeah, it's cool and good that you can stomp that land into submission before it Ravages, but how many powers are you spending on doing that, and how many Builds are you letting run unchecked in the process? This is mostly just because this goes on a Low-complexity spirit, though, because it teaches bad habits. Ignore that and you get a card that can make some stupid stuff happen. Ever seen The Land Thrashes in Furious Pain at Fast speed? (Oh, and this is innately Fast, so you can also speed up one of your other cards for free.)



Yeah I'm gonna keep looking at this spirit through the lens of watching newbies fumble with them. You can't stop me. Every single time I see someone spend 3 NRG expecting to kill every explorer on the map and then claiming this is a bad card when that doesn't work, I employ hyperbole in my writing.

I mean. It's still not a good card, but it has stuff going for it. It's your only starting card with Water in addition to Fire and Air, making it worth saving for the higher levels of Thundering Destruction. It chains together well with any other spirits packing damage effects (i.e. not you, at first). It lets you kill all those pesky Explorers you keep shoving into that land that only just now got Explored. Hell, it lets you kill Explorers, period. Turns out you can't do that as Lightning without getting new cards.

But man, 3 NRG on one of the most NRG-starved spirits in the game just to hit Explorers? That's a terrible deal.
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


Each of the four Low complexity spirits has a Power Progression Deck, a baked-in set of powers they automatically get by playing so as to limit the analysis paralysis and the odds of getting screwed over by the draw. Broadly speaking, these powers are usually close to their wheelhouse, without giving them wildly overpowered or useless options. This card is a nice initial option for Lightning, and also one of the first of many cards that lets you choose between two different effects. Both of these are pretty good effects for 1 NRG at Fast speed, although if the card was just one or the other I wouldn't find it as attractive.



Hey, remember when I talked about speccing for Dahan cooperation? Here's a very nice card in that vein. It doesn't have Air, so it's harder for Lightning to speed up, but if you can do it, this plus Harbingers of the Lightning becomes a pretty dang good combo for taking out pretty much anything. And if you still have the NRG for Raging Storm afterwards (or a teammate with damage), there's not a lot that can stop you.

That gather effect is a bit less attractive, though. Sure, it's a lot of possible gather, but you have to target a land that already has Dahan, which is a problem for that one.



As much as I complain about Lightning's toolkit teaching newbies bad lessons, Powerstorm being the first Major power they have access to is really great. It's a very good card, but it's also very much a support card, and the thresholds (which Lightning stands a good chance of triggering whenever they play it, even without the progression deck) push it towards being used on a spirit with the NRG to spend rather than on yourself, fostering that good ol' sense of teamwork.

But y'know what spirit really wants to have this card in their hand? Thunderspeaker. Sun, Fire, and Air is literally their exact wheelhouse, and this lets them spike the effectiveness of all those smug-ass immortal spirits that don't depend on Dahan to do things.



The primary effect on this card, considering the pretty restrictive range, is honestly not that great. If you're getting up to 3 damage on this card, then how the hell did you even establish a Sacred Site here anyway? (Okay, Lightning can do it and Heart of the Wildfire probably inflicted most of that Blight anyway. And now that I look, this card has lots of elements both of them want, not to mention Thunderspeaker, who can move Presence... hm!) The terrain-dependent alternate effect, though, is MUCH more economical and worth the cost, although again it's iffy considering the range. All in all, a good and neat card, if perhaps not one that everyone will want.



So, one term I'm going to come up with a lot in these discussions is "dream card". This would be a card that is just so good for a particular spirit, that gels with their strengths and offsets their weaknesses, that there is no case in which they DON'T take it, given the chance. This is a good Lightning card for sure, but it's a dream card for Heart of the Wildfire. They'll always get the threshold, their starting Sacred Site has to actively try to get itself destroyed, the Blight it adds is frequently a feature rather than a bug, and the NRG cost, while a bit on the high side, is manageable with their NRG spiking Growth option.

Plus, come ON! It's a giant column of roaring flame! How are you not gonna want to swing that at some smug-ass conquistador outpost?



Very good card, love it, see it taken and put to use incredibly often.

But why is this in Lightning's progression deck?

A few reasons. First, while it doesn't offer Fire, it does offer Air and Water, and up to now they've only had access to Water via Raging Storm (and that's assuming they even held onto it considering their other major powers). Second, it combos really well WITH Raging Storm, letting you group up a bunch of Explorers together to be cleanly taken down. Finally, it has a Defend effect, and if you're going to be cooperating with Dahan at all, you REALLY need a Defend effect somewhere or other in there. It's not a very strong Defend, but hey, every bit helps.

Y'know, looking back, I'd almost swap this with Delusions of Danger in power order. But then you'd lose the easier synergy with Powerstorm. I guess the lesson here is that if you have a choice between these two, prioritize Entrancing Apparitions first as Lightning's Swift Strike.



And one more Dahan-focused card for the road. It's fast, it's cheap, if you have a bunch of Dahan grouped up somewhere where there's lots of Invaders it's bloody amazing, if you don't it's kind of trash.
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


Here is the actual best spirit to start people out on. River Surges in Sunlight is balanced, straightforward, and works well with any team. Their innate is good, their Growths and Presence tracks are both very nice, and all of their initial cards are good, rather than just a few of them, with the rest being situationally good. (This isn't just a dig at Lightning's Swift Strike; there are some spirits recognized as pretty high tier with bad cards, but we'll get to those too.)

Not only that, but River's playstyle, unlike Lightning's, teaches new players some very good lessons about playing the game. It teaches them how extremely valuable moving Invaders or Dahan can be (by making it something they can do more or less at will), it helps people figure out lands they want to prioritize with the River's Domain rule, and it even supports players who want to play slow and hoardy or quick and spammy.

That said, I definitely think players should at least get up to 2 card plays with their first Growth. Massive Flooding is such a good innate that you want to have active pretty much every single turn. But eh, that's about the only way you can really screw up playing as River Surges in Sunlight.



A bit expensive, but for a fast potential 2 damage I'll happily take it. Flash Floods is an extremely good problem solver, and it helps new players to learn another lesson in that they have to spread out across the board to be of the most help to their team. Sure, you can save this card to hammer your own coast, but maybe it'd be better if you were to push Presence over to help other players who DON'T have a fast 2 damage option?

And to be honest, a fast 1 damage is still pretty good, because it kills an Explorer before they Build. That's worth it even if you can't get to a coast with it.



Only starting card without Sun, only starting card with Earth. Also the effect is RIDICULOUSLY GOOD. If they just built a Town somewhere, this card lets you just scatter everything in that land to wherever you feel would be most optimal for later cleanup. The fact that this is an extra effect of Massive Flooding's middle tier mostly speaks to how good your innate is. You can scatter two completely different lands, rendering them harmless, and also one of them can have 2 damage.

This stops being quite as good once a City gets established, but eh, you can fix that.



I don't think EVERY spirit has a supporting option available in their starting kit, but I like that most of them do. Really drives the teamwork aspect of the game home.

That said, Boon of Vigor's usefulness varies drastically depending on composition. You want to use it on teams with lots of card plays but weak NRG income, like Lightning's Swift Strike or Sharp Fangs Behind the Leaves. If you're running with Vital Strength of the Earth and Keeper of the Forbidden Wilds, congratulations, you're diving for a Major power sooner rather than later!



Oh, and let's round out your Very Good Starting Cards with an effect that can just add Dahan to the board for free. Do you know how many effects let spirits add Dahan to the board? The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Call of the Dahan Ways, and that has some VERY situational targeting on it. But yeah River can just drag a few Dahan together and provide for their entire family.

AND they get free NRG out of it.

River Surges in Sunlight is very good.
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


To be honest, I'm not 100% sure what's happening here. It's obviously some kind of extremely biological thing that people would find bizarre or revolting, but which is ultimately restorative for the island.

Hell if I can name what's going on, though. And why Sands and Wetlands as the targets? Mystifying.



There are a few minor powers in the game that have elemental thresholds, usually pretty slight ones. There are a few, like Sap the Strength of Multitudes, which ask for elements they don't innately grant.

But Nature's Resilience might be the only card in the game that turns into a completely different card if you have elements it doesn't provide.



River's deck has a lot of conditional effects, huh?

It also has terrain-dependent effects, which fits with its wheelhouse of focusing on Wetlands for sure. When playing these sorts of spirits, though, you always have to be careful to strike a balance between improving at defending your specialty lands, and branching out to be able to handles areas besides them. (We'll revisit the hell out of this concept when we reach A Spread of Rampant Green and Ocean's Hungry Grasp.)



Uncanny Melting's bigger exfoliating sister.

The elements of Spirit Island do have innate themes, which do very much guide what each spirit and card should be for, but by and large these themes are pretty abstract. Sure, you'll get more Blight-healing off of Water and Plant cards, generally speaking, but that's less because that's what those elements do, and more because the processes indicated by those elements lend themselves more often to healing. (They also lend themselves to massive property damage!)



HELP HELP ITS A PRINTING ERROR

Ahem.

Song of Sanctity is a really cool pair of effects, but it's harder to get that second effect than I'd like, considering that a single mistimed Explore can foil that healing entirely, making this a Slow move of 1. The terrain-restriction makes it even worse, since depending on the Invader deck you might be facing an unpredictable or even unavoidable Explore of your target, necessitating you to burn another card to get the heal effect guaranteed. (But if you have the effect to spend, why WOULDN'T you?)



Do you notice how the threshold effect carries over to other coastal lands on that board?

Multi-land effects in Spirit Island are very good. Being able to handle multiple lands at once lets you get ahead of the Invaders' tempo incredibly quickly. As such, most multi-land effects tend to be expensive, have some kind of drawback (in Tsunami's case, the Coastal restriction and Dahan collateral damage), or require a goofy-ass elemental threshold.

This is also possibly the most thematic major card in the game for Ocean's Hungry Grasp... but at the same time, I can't really call this one a dream card, given the requirement of a Sacred Site and the excellent range to only hit the same lands you already have on lockdown, plus it's a little more expensive than they're really comfortable with. Still good for them, but it's a bit overkill in the area where you're already doing that, y'know?



Speaking of multi-land effects, even a measly Defend 2 becomes a league of its own when you can apply it to any place a spirit of your choice has Presence. Obviously, this is good for River Surges in Sunlight, because it lets them keep Wetlands in check much more easily (and they don't start with any really good Defend effects, which River's Bounty makes more valuable), plus it has exactly their elements.

But the best case scenario here is for River to play this on A Spread of Rampant Green. Sure, they can destroy their Sacred Sites to block Ravage outright, but wouldn't it be better to let them keep those Sacred Sites instead?
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


This dopey Iron Giant looking fellow, while still being a low complexity spirit, somehow manages to change so much about how the game works by their playstyle that I can't even reliably say that they teach good or bad lessons.

Vital Strength of the Earth is awkward, because they're a high-NRG low-plays spirit, which is definitely viable, and the fact that they place presence even when reclaiming is handy, but they're hamstrung by extremely awkward card gain and a total lack of innate elements. Hell, the only reason that 0 range Presence growth isn't legitimately terrible is from their Earth's Vitality rule. Oh, and half their starting powers require Sacred Sites, so spreading out to other problem areas is going to be slow and awkward even if you do try reaching out.

Also, that innate is a hell of an element hog, and you won't even be guaranteed to get even the basic level of it until you're halfway through your card plays Presence track. The effect is nice, but I wouldn't ever play this spirit like I would River. In fact, there's a good case to be made for playing Vital Strength of the Earth completely disregarding elements outright.



Part of this reason is that three of Strength's starting cards are almost Major caliber. A Defend 4 effect is already pretty good, but throwing in a Blight heal in addition is amazing. Compare this to Nature's Resilience, which forced a choice between the two by asking for disparate elements. Sure, this costs 2 more NRG, but Vital Strength of the Earth has one of the best NRG incomes in the game. You can afford it.



Oh also you can just stop time whenever you want, that's good too.

There's a certain finesse to using this card that isn't apparent at first glance. Remember, the Invader deck follows certain rules when being built and played. So if the first two plays from the deck were Mountains and Wetlands, you can play this card to target a problematic Jungle or Sands to block the Explore there. But if you wait until the next turn and you're about to flip into Stage II, you can cancel a Build or Ravage in one land while also heading off an Explore that could be a potentially aggravating follow-up to a land that just got cleaned.

And if you hold onto this until stage 3, where every land is at risk for chaining multiple actions a turn, this card REALLY starts to shine.



That said, you still need to actually destroy the invaders eventually.

A lot of people undervalue this card due to the targeting restrictions, and I won't deny that they're harsh.

But once you get past those? You're looking at a starting card that can deal up to 5 damage AND has a ton of elements. And that targeting restriction isn't as bad as it looks at first. Partly because you are going to be swimming in Sacred Sites...



And partly because of the most overlooked card in Strength's starting hand.

It doesn't make a land indestructible, stop time, or kill a bunch of Invaders, but do not underestimate this card. With the boatloads of Defend your lands afford, you want to be able to get Dahan closer to them, and a slow gather of Explorers, properly aimed and timed, can often save vast swaths of the land. Plus, this helps you set up Rituals of Destruction pretty effectively. And by the time you can play the two of them together, that lets you use Gift of Strength AND gives you a good option for using it if nobody else needs it. (But ask your friends first.)
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


Now this is a card's card. A real meat and potatoes. This here's a card you can set your watch by. If someone asks you "what does a Spirit Island card look like?" look no further.



Gather combined with Push can move Dahan a very long distance, and this card is very good at that. This is, of course, more valuable for some spirits than others, and Vital Strength of the Earth is one of those spirits, considering their abundance of Defend and generally lacking killpower to start out. Even as few as two Dahan, adequately defended, can take down a City and an Explorer.



Poisoned Land: because Thermonuclear Warhead somehow wasn't thematically viable.



Now that we're done being flippant, let's talk Dahan-destroying effects.

Obviously, destroying Dahan isn't good. They share the island with the spirits and help them defend it, and they ain't done nothing wrong. So you want to avoid doing that.

But the Dahan themselves are not intrinsically vital to keep around. Sure, some spirits really like having them around, and Vital Strength of the Earth is one of them, but sometimes it's necessary to use heavy-hitting powers like the above (not really this one, it's a bit weak) even considering the cost.

Still, I always feel like a jerk whenever I get Dahan killed with powers like these.



Do you notice that the NRG costs for the major powers in Strength's deck are the same cost as the bulk of their starting cards?

Do you think Lightning's Swift Strike ever gets envious that all the other spirits get real 3 NRG cards?



The elements in Strength's deck are all the hell over the place, aren't they? The curious part is that somehow you can still meet all the thresholds of all the power cards in this deck, assuming you even get this far and get enough card plays to get them all out without finishing the game.



Seriously, if you've gotten this far playing Vital Strength of the Earth, just go win already.

Or stop taking strange candy from Keeper of the Forbidden Wilds.
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


I kind of completely adore the flavor of Shadows Flicker Like Flame. Its whole schtick is that its perhaps the least understood of all the spirits out there, and has an alien mindset that the Dahan don't really understand, much less the Invaders. All that they really know is that the more afraid of it you are, the more dangerous it is, and it's hard not to be afraid of something that just kind of... causes things to vanish without a trace.

Despite the name, Shadows Flicker Like Flame doesn't actually have a clearly defined sphere of influence, and in fact is hard to track down to any kind of natural phenomenon the same way most spirits are. However, the other spirits don't really regard Shadows any differently from the other spirits, and the lore indicates that perhaps this is just because their understanding of the natural world has room for something like Shadows.

Which makes a lot of sense to me, really. It's only recently that humanity's really come around to understanding a lot of things that are just part of the natural world, like, oh say, radioactivity. Not out of the question for there to be spirits of these more esoteric and less understood forces, and it's even more effective to convey that with a spirit that doesn't have anything really recognizable (aside from shadows I guess) as a sphere of influence.

And best of all: Shadows Flicker Like Flame is one of the more Dahan-friendly spirits, both in lore and mechanics. This primordial cryptid might not make sense or act in ways that aren't horrifying, but it's here to help however it can.



Which makes it a shame that one of their most flavorful cards for displaying this is so... bad.

Don't get me wrong, there are few effects in the game that let you just flat render Dahan impervious to a Ravage. At best, you manage to pull a crazy boatload of Defend, but even that has its limits against a heavily fortified land. Shadows Flicker Like Flame is unique in that they can send a cadre of Dahan into a land and guarantee the survival of every single one.

But you'll still take the Blight, and without spending the NRG on Shadows of the Dahan, that's a Presence of yours burnt too.

Usually, any instance that would ask for this card is just better off with the boring-ass Defend effect. Sorry.



Let's talk Fear.

Fear is loosely analogous to victory points in most other games. Any card that features it effectively trades immediate power for long-term success. You'll get some automatically as you play normally, but if nobody's going for any Fear, then you're going to run closer to the Invader deck running out before you win.

By that same token, any Spirit specializing in Fear, like Shadows, needs to be able to actually do SOMETHING in the meantime, or else all that Fear is going to be useless before the island gets horribly blighted. So that means most Fear-inclined spirits have a secondary wheelhouse or two. In the case of Shadows Flicker Like Flame, that's Dahan cooperation and Explorer disruption.



Oddly enough, despite their good range and innate for tackling Explorers, Shadows is both not especially amazing at taking down Explorers due to being a little starved for elements, and also one of the only dedicated Explorer-killers in the game. Most other spirits that have Explorer-killing capability usually have it as an auxiliary move, often with high drawbacks. The only other spirit who comes close is Sharp Fangs Beneath the Leaves, and even they have to contend with Blighted lands.

None of this has anything to do with Mantle of Dread.



Like... if one of those cards could just switch up their Air with a Fire, Shadows Flicker Like Flame would be amazing, and they're honestly not too bad as is. Plus, all of their starting cards are incredibly cheap while still being pretty good, and their NRG income isn't half bad, which means powers like these can see much more flexible use thanks to Shadows of the Dahan.

I'm just sad when I can't go hogwild with good innates!
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


I strongly dislike Shadows' power progression deck.

The individual cards aren't really weak, or poorly suited to Shadows Flicker Like Flame. Far from it, this has some really cool and powerful cards in it.

My beef is that it feels like it's trying to teach a lesson that is absolutely not suited for newbies, and it comes at a real expense to Shadows' potential.

Dark and Tangled Woods has Moon, yes, but that's all it offers element-wise, and the effect isn't bad, but it's also highly land-dependent.



And it's immediately followed by a card that doubles down on the land-focus problem, while resolving much slower than its predecessor. At least it actually has Fire, but now you're just as hungry for Air as for Fire, and those later levels of Darkness Swallows the Unwary are looking more and more distant.



The actual lesson they're using the first half of Shadows' deck to teach is finally revealed with The Jungle Hungers, which is a very good card that uses one element Shadows readily traffics in, and one which they technically have a bit of but mostly by accident. But since all of their "draws" have been Plant element and requiring an investment in fighting in Jungles, it looks a lot more attractive. (Plus, again, Shadows can just kinda nope away that range requirement.)

Again, this is an important lesson to learn in the game, about when to abandon your "traditional" element set and play to the strengths your draws have offered you, but come on! Don't make a first-time player have to struggle with that when they got in expecting something else!

(Also: this is one hell of a dream card for the next spirit we're looking at.)



It almost feels like insult to injury when the first card that actually hits every element of their innate is... this.

Now, I don't think Land of Haunts and Embers is that bad. Situational, hell yes. Giving spirits a power that only works at its best when it causes a Blight cascade is generally bad mojo.

But there are instances where it can work. It's a 0 cost, fast, range 2 card that can scatter a land that's about to ravage and cascade Blight anyway, making it a good "oh whoops we can't actually save that land" consolation prize. Additionally, and this is a rule that's commonly overlooked, you can play a card just for the elements and never actually trigger the effect. That alone makes this a great card for Lightning's Swift Strike, and it's not half bad for Shadows Flicker Like Flame.

Most of the time, though, yes this is a bad card, and no it shouldn't be in the power progression deck.



Plus, by this point, the player's probably given up on their innate entirely, and will happily junk Land of Haunts and Embers for its hotter cousin.



This might just be my favorite minor power in the game.

Maybe I'm a sappy idealist, but the fact that you can convince the Invaders to actually listen to and coexist with the Dahan is just incredibly delightful to me. Moreover, this card is legit mechanically good, since it's another one of those rare ways to add Dahan to the board.

Come on. Tell me you don't have a soft spot for this one.



And then we get the card that should have been first in the roster for Shadows' deck.

Better late than never, I guess. I mean, it's been beaten by Land of Haunts and Embers plus Terrifying Nightmares, but if you decided to hoard all three of these that could be good silly fun.
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


Finally, we're free of the Low complexity spirits now and forever. Now we get to the really wacky ones. Frankly I'm just happy that we can finally have passive elements.

A Spread of Rampant Green is a really fun plant puppy with some very powerful capabilities, but the very first thing I want to point out is the fact that you place a presence every single turn, BUT it's limited to Jungles and Wetlands. (Other Presence you place is not constrained in this way.) This makes Green one of the spirits more susceptible to the Invader deck early on, where it's hard for them to branch out to the drier lands. This goes double for their frankly-underwhelming structure-attacking innate, Creepers Tear Into Mortars. At least the repeat keyword means it can target different lands with each threshold you hit, assuming you're okay with 1 point of structure damage in three different lands for some reason.

But y'know what? That's okay. Even if the Invader deck staunchly refuses to give you Jungles or Wetlands, that's a GOOD problem to have, and it means Green can maintain loads of Sacred Sites without having to worry about destroying any of them.

Also, A Spread of Rampant Green is the first of many Plant themed spirits I adore. They're all just so exuberant and happy to be here!



Number one rule every newbie Green player misses: you only get the benefit of Steady Regeneration during Growth! If you want to add Presence via powers like but have none on your tracks, sorry, move your existing Presence like everyone else.

That said, if that is a problem you're having? That's a GOOD problem to have. Plus, this is a pretty solid Fear generation card, if perhaps not for 2 NRG.

(I'm also a little miffed that all of your starting Moon cards are the ones that are the most expensive. Makes destroying stuff a little harder, ya dig?)



You could make a very good case for this card being the best starting power in the entire game.

A Spread of Rampant Green places their own Presence quickly, but to compensate, the rest of their track is fairly underwhelming, with only a cap of 4 card plays (same as Vital Strength of the Earth) and a dismal 3 NRG per turn (even Lightning's Swift Strike can do better than that!).

But accelerating the Presence of other spirits lets you advance people in ways that they really SHOULD NOT BE ABLE TO DO. Heart of the Wildfire can make even more attacks. Vital Strength of the Earth has the leeway to take their power card gaining Growth option. Any Spirit that spams their entire hand can still progress like everyone else without losing a ton of tempo to constant reclaims. Ocean's Hungry Grasp still can't leave the coasts, but you give them more wiggle room with their tidal manipulation. Serpent Slumbering Beneath The Island I don't even have to finish that sentence.



A Spread of Rampant Green isn't really a defensive powerhouse like the rest, but it's no slouch. So being able to move the Dahan around is a pretty nice option to have.

And oddly enough, considering it's free, a Town shove isn't even that bad of an alternative either. The range is just good enough that you can use that to pull it into Creepers Tear Into Mortars range. Mind, this power grants no Moon, so you need a few card plays for that to really work, but it's not out of the question.



Continued adventures of really cool thematic cards that just aren't very good in practice.

Think about it. Where are you going to have Sacred Sites? Jungles and Wetlands. This power gets more effective on their drier counterparts, and it's a totally cool thematic thing!

But unless you have your own Presence in the target land or a pal helping you out, this card is a whole lot of nothing, and just more reason for Green to open up a game with quick reclaims so they can get their actually good starting cards out rather than waste a turn using this when it won't do anything.

And this one doesn't grant Moon either! Ugh, the theming is great but the antisynergy is just breaking my heart.
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


The Low complexity Spirits have power progression decks, but no other spirits do, so I'ma just draw cards at random from what remains for the rest of our writeups.

Quicken The Earth's Struggles is a card I see taken a lot, probably because it has a very big Defend number, almost comically overkill. (I say almost because Indomitable Claim exists.) It's also free!

Very few players seem to mind that it can only target your Sacred Sites, or that there's another effect that does damage to every structure. Probably because 1 damage to structures is a weak effect unless paired with something else, and that's not always a guarantee when many spirits can just use destroy effects instead.

In practice, I'd say that this card isn't actually that useful for a lot of spirits, excluding Lightning's Swift Strike (who can quickly chuck out Sacred Sites and has good reason to do so, plus Raging Storm) and Shadows Flicker Like Flame (who can freely ignore the painful range restriction and really likes the elements).

But it'll still get taken and played. Defend 10 is a hell of a drug.



Here is a more reasonable cousin of Quicken the Earth's Struggles. Costs nothing, has better range, has even better range if you bring your own Air, and Defend 5 still is good enough to protect a lot of potential lands. The elements are weaker, but hey.

Of course this one still gets taken a lot too. And that's fine. Every day is fine like wine.

The contrast is interesting to me, that's all.



This is a pretty nice support card for costing 0 NRG, but it's not going to be a super huge gamechanger for a lot of spirits. If you have Sacred Sites and your buddies are going to favor card plays over NRG, then it's a free +3 for your buddies each time you play it. If not, oh well, nobody's perfect, and the underwhelming effect here makes this a fairly safe card to dump for a Major power.

You're doing your best, Gift of Living Energy, and I respect you for it.



Oh, I like this card. I like this card a lot.

Both effects on this card are very good, rather unlike a lot of cards that let you choose the effect. If you need Blight healing, this is cheap and effective Blight healing that only requires Dahan. If you can't get it or don't need it, you can instead move a bunch of Dahan around. There's really never a bad time to play Call to Tend.

And it's thematic, too! The Dahan are working with the Spirits to heal the island and I just like that very much!



This is perhaps one of the most destructive powers out there for a power that doesn't actually destroy anything by default.

If you just go for the base effect, this will sprinkle a heavily concentrated land into a bunch of different lands with a handful of Explorers, easy pickings for later. Sure, you'll want to take care of those guys sooner rather than later, but it's not going to be difficult to do.

The threshold on this card might be one of the hardest in the game to get and use, though. Seriously, Fire, Water, and Animal? Who even specs for that? And it only has an effect if you use it on a land with multiple Towns and Cities.

If you somehow find yourself with a hyper-concentrated land that nobody can do anything about, though, AND you can get the threshold on this, it'll work out very nicely for you.



[ed: Old text removed. This one's all new.]

Back when I first reviewed this card, I remarked that the non-threshold effect granting extra health to Dahan was one that drove me away from using the card. And, for the most part, I stand by that complaint. The game pieces have a fairly elegant way of tracking health that requires nothing more than the pieces on hand, so changing max HP values, especially by increasing them, just itches me in a way I cannot realistically scratch.

Then I remember that Dahan have to be killed as efficiently as possible (that never feels good to say), and stop worrying because tracking multiples of 6 is easier. And if some effect would move Dahan out of the land, all you have to do is destroy one of them if there's not a clean multiple of 6, damage-wise.

Best of all, you can completely ignore the Blight in this case, threshold or no!



At 2 NRG, this is the cheapest Major power in the game.

Now, considering that many Spirits begin the game with card that cost the same, you might wonder why this isn't just a Minor power.

Turns out that there are no Minor powers that exceed a cost of 1 NRG. I guess the lesson is that spirit starting powers aren't Major or Minor, but their own class.

Anyway this card is kind of underwhelming but it's not bad. It has okay synergy with Vital Strength of the Earth, assuming you actually card about element thresholds and NRG expenditure for some weird reason.
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


You guys like that Jeremy Signor cat, right?

Well, here's an article discussing the theme of colonialism in board games and exactly what needs to happen with it.

Spirit Island gets mentioned in the article, and in fairly favorable tones (which isn't hard when your competition is stuff like Puerto Rico), but it doesn't get off scot-free. The two major complaints are that 1. the threat the Invaders deal in is largely abstracted, which makes the conflict feel a bit onesided when all they get is "Ravage" and you can literally sink an entire board on them if you want, and 2. the Dahan are incredibly secondary to the goal of preserving the island, which would lead many players to treat them as expendable tools.

I think both of these are pretty sound points and have no interest in refuting them generally. Instead, this is all a leadup to talking about why people play as Thunderspeaker, one of the most popular spirits in the game.

Yeah, Thunderspeaker has incredible offensive power comparable to Lightning's Swift Strike on a good day, but the real reason people play as them is because of how linked they are to the Dahan. Many spirits can get some good synergy going with them, and a handful, such as Ocean's Hungry Grasp, don't really care too much if they live or die. Thunderspeaker, however, is so closely linked with the wellbeing of the Dahan that their Presence follows many of the same rules as they do, including being destroyed when they die to Ravages. Thunderspeaker, simply put, is mortal in a way the other spirits aren't, and if a spirit dies, unlikely as that can be for most games, you lose the game outright.

And people don't play as Thunderspeaker DESPITE that limitation. I've introduced a person to the game primarily because they WANTED to worry about the Dahan and do everything they could to keep them alive and winning. Playing as Thunderspeaker means watching out for every one of those little huts like you know the individuals within on a first-name basis.

(That said, Sworn to Victory only applies during Ravage, so you can take powers like Devouring Ants if you really wanted to, but what kind of monster does that as Thunderspeaker?)



It helps that Thunderspeaker definitely has the firepower to back up their limitation. (Ask me about knights in Fire Emblem sometime.) Damage multipliers in Spirit Island are incredibly rare, and Thunderspeaker has the rare honor of being in possession of one of these from the start.

That said, actually using this power effectively requires a lot of careful planning and timing. Lead the Furious Assault is already capable of mondo property damage, if perhaps not as effectively against Cities. And if the Invaders are about to Ravage, it's generally more efficient to just pop a Defend on your target unless you have 3 Presence in that land (and if you have 3 Presence and Dahan in a land that's about to be Ravaged I sure as hell hope you have a Defend up anyway).

But when it all comes together, this power can just solve lands that any other spirit would've written off long ago (or would have to force a Blight cascade to nuke out).



Naturally, you start with a Defend effect, and not necessarily a bad one either. The Dahan-only restriction isn't even that big of a deal since you have lots of Dahan movement and incentivization to protect lands with Dahan in them.

The simultaneous damage effect is weird, because while it's very good, it also is only good when you're going to take casualties from the Invaders' Ravage that would weaken your counterattack, which means Thunderspeaker's going to lose at least one Presence any time this effect gets activated.

And Defend 3 is decent, but you're going to want a bigger number in the future.



Like Lightning's Swift Strike, Thunderspeaker only has one card that can take down Explorers.

Unlike Lightning, Thunderspeaker's card is actually good.

The fast movement of Dahan let you get your Presence into position, the scaling based on Dahan in the area means you can use this for cleanup if you've been pushing lots of Explorers, and most importantly: it doesn't cost 3 NRG you dang madman.



Thunderspeaker's Dahan management is their most iconic gameplay theme, but did you know you have to manage and juggle a lot of different elements, too?

These elements all have different priorities, too. Sun is obviously key, as is Air, but you also need a bit of Animal (so you can activate Gather the Warriors at all) and Fire (while your track lets you get the first level of Lead the Furious Assault with only a single Sun card after a point, the second level needs more investment).

The annoying part is that while Animal is a pretty good element, only requiring a single bit of it makes it annoyingly difficult to spec for. When do you have enough? How much do you prioritize it over your other elements when deciding? It's a delicate balancing act, especially when only half your starting cards provide it at all.

I guess what I'm getting at is your first card play in every game should be Sudden Ambush, and that Voice of Thunder, while being pretty good for 0 NRG, isn't actually that useful for Thunderspeaker most of the time.
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


Reclaiming has a very important effect on the player's tempo, and it's the chief limitation in high-play development for your spirit. NRG, at least, you can build up over time, but reclaiming is a necessary thing you have to do in order to keep functioning at full capacity. This leads some spirits focused in that vein, like Lightning's Swift Strike, to hold back on their max card plays if they can't contribute sufficiently with them.

Gift of Constancy is a really nice option for these spirits for obvious reasons: it costs 0, and you can get a reclaim for yourself as well as an NRG boost and a reclaim for your friend.

But it's even better for high-NRG spirits who have picked up a good major power (or have good starting powers) and are perfectly happy just bouncing it back into their hand as often as they can, while also spiking the NRG and reclaim of the spirits who need it most.

Plus, those elements just scream Big and Slow.



Nobody really WANTS to take Rain of Blood. All of its restrictions are put on an underwhelming effect, and the elements are all askew from what basically anybody wants except MAYBE Bringer of Dreams and Nightmares.

But maybe that'll change with Jagged Earth. I know there's at least one spirit out there that likes Air and Animal together.



[ed: Old text removed due to rule inaccuracies.]

This power is good, but the damage effect is extremely weak. While it's a great way to take down a land full of explorers, forcing each Dahan to deal a single damage to different invaders makes it pointless on its own against anything bigger.

That said, if you have a Defend effect that needs a bit of extra kick, this card is a great combo. Either you can quickly get Dahan to a defended land, or soften up Invaders within a defended land, so that their counterattack on Ravage can do even more damage.

Or, y'know, you can combo it with an actual damaging card. That works too.



Come on, guys. This is just a major power that's being lazy. You can't fool me.



Hello, dream card for A Spread of Rampant Green!

The basic effect for this is already really good, especially for spirits who have a hard time extending their range like Keeper of the Forbidden Wilds. But it's also nice for spirits who want to get lots of power cards, like Lightning's Swift Strike.

The threshold effect here is nice for the NRG boost for sure, but the card-trading effect can lead to some WEIRD scenarios. It also lessens the chances of some other player finding your dream card and getting rid of it, and gives you another avenue for getting cards that don't gel with your style at all out of your hand (aside from Major powers, which aren't for everyone and are subject to the same problem of luck of the draw).



The two biggest elements for Fear generation in the game are Moon and Air, with Moon being a bigger contender. There are other elements that can have the effect, like Fire, but usually it's those two.

Earth is not usually the element in question, so what makes it so central to this heavily Fear-themed card?

I think it's because the primary effect here isn't the Fear, it's the immobilization. Vital Strength of the Earth has the same effect on one of their Earth-bearing starting cards. The method you obtain that immobilization by is fear, but it's about keeping things the same either way.

Also please appreciate Bringer just kinda hanging out in the window staring in.



One last dream card, this time for Ocean's Hungry Grasp. Amazing range, an area attack, and up to 4 Fear from smashing dudes. (Note that the threshold damage is dealt like normal damage, not to each Invader. It's not THAT good.)

The trick here is that while these are elements Ocean can invest in, they're not what it usually tries for. Air is generally its lowest priority, with Water and Earth being much more important for their raw destructive power and NRG income.

Still, I'll happily take this card as Ocean even if I haven't been going for Air, nothing a few more power card draws can't fix!
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


Ocean's Hungry Grasp is the first of our High complexity spirits, and a personal favorite for being another excellent mesh of gameplay and theme, as well as one that manages to outweigh their significant drawback (COASTS ONLY NO ITEMS FINAL etc.) with tremendous power and potential.

In a lot of cases, Push/Gather effects are an excellent way to neuter the threat that the Invaders pose, with the exception of Cities since those tend to require a more concentrated attack to bring down. However, you run the risk of piling up too many guys in one land when the Invaders start acting in that land. Ocean's Hungry Grasp provides a convenient way out by letting you just chuck them in the ocean WHERE THEY BELONG. This is especially strong for spirits who trade damage for shoves, like Bringer of Dreams and Nightmares.

While you can't really solo-defend the coasts, you are good enough at it that you can cut off the Invaders where they are ordinarily at their strongest, and the ability to throw Presence in literally any ocean on the board makes that much better, but man, than NRG income if you don't get fed tasty Invaders is HARSH. (Also I need to stop ragging on Lightning's income because apparently it's better than like half the base game's spirits.)



Like A Spread of Rampant Green, Ocean's Hungry Grasp has two potential routes it can take with further powers: intense Fear generation with Moon and Air, or structure smashing with Earth.

Unlike Green, the element distribution of your starting cards isn't quite as regular, and the weight of these effects favors the stronger power in my opinion, so oftentimes I just disregard getting Air on cards outright.

It certainly helps that Call of the Deeps is a VERY good card, and that you only need one Air to hit the second level of Pound Ships To Splinters Eat Boats. It's also your only initial method of hitting Inland enemies, however indirectly.



It's important to note that every single one of Ocean's powers can only target Coastal lands. Even if you extend your Presence with Growth, that only lets your 0 range powers hit Coastal lands rather than just the Ocean.

This means that while for most spirits, a Defend 4 with 2 fear for only 1 NRG is a really good choice, it's mostly just kinda necessary for Ocean. It does mean you can buy a bit of a reprieve if a coast is getting hit too hard provided there are some Dahan around to take the heat.



Ocean's Hungry Grasp doesn't really play nice with Dahan, though.

This is a very good card, specifically because it lets you outright drown enemies without using your innate, unlike every other card you're going to get from here on out.

But if you want to use it optimally, you have to avoid targeting lands with Dahan, which means extending your Presence to a bunch of different potential target lands. Which you want to do anyway as Ocean so you can put your Ocean Breaks the Shore innate to use.

I tend to run tides-in a lot as Ocean.



This is another one that's really good for helping teammates shove things into the ocean while also giving them a little bit of NRG to work with. It also doesn't have to be used on coastal lands either, although it's better if you do.

The Dahan-teleport is weird, and I can never really find a good way to use it solely because it's usually in a game with Ocean's Hungry Grasp, and therefore the coasts usually don't want that many Dahan around.

It combos with Grasping Tide a bit I guess maybe? But it combos with Ocean Breaks the Shore even more.
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


This is another good card that I don't usually like to pick up.

Part of it is that it only helps a specific subset of spirits, those who have a hard time getting their Presence extended and so need the range boost, which on its own is fine.

But then there's the fact that you don't really get anything yourself for playing this card except helping someone else (which could be you) do shenanigans. Which, again, is fine on its own.

The two of those together, plus the fact that this card becomes less useful as a game progresses, just make the entire set unappealing, not to mention the fact that some players might consider it a card that they're just going to have access to. I like helping other people, but I don't like that help being taken for granted.

Of course, that's less of an issue if you play with cool people who are friends.



A very nice set of elements, a fast effect, a threshold that's not necessarily impossible and if you don't hit it that's okay. The only problem is the range. And that's fine with me, really.

Lots of spirits want this card, but I think Lightning's Swift Strike and Serpent Slumbering Beneath the Island are chief among them.



I really like the terrain-dependent cards, since they let themselves have more thematic creativity by their limitation.

It also means that if you're a real card-counting sort of person, you can more readily categorize lands based on the potential options that you have available to tackle them.

And, of course, you have spirits who have constraints on what lands they can mess with to make these options more or less attractive.

But you're out of your damn mind if you think I'm ever going to play this for the measly Defend 1.



I don't know how a card can be so idyllic in theme and so scary in mechanics at the same time, but I like it.



Just barely beaten in range by Mists of Oblivion (and even then only because that one doesn't require a Sacred Site) but that's okay because of the really good Defend effect. The threshold on this is nice too, but it's hard to hit for a lot of spirits at the moment. Bringer of Dreams and Nightmares can do it most easily, and they still get the replace effect since it's not a destroy.



This is the only way in the base game for most spirits to return destroyed Presence to play. And it's a hell of a dynamic entry, too.

This is another dream card for Heart of the Wildfire in several ways. The elements are very good for The Burned Land Regrows, and it lets you more freely extend into lands controlled by other spirits, or use your more destructive powers in their lands. After all, you might destroy their Presence now, but that's cool because you can just re-establish a Sacred Site for them wherever you want and also kill everything in that land.



At the complete other end of things, here's a dream card for River Surges in Sunlight.

In fact, these two are probably about as dream card as it gets.

Drink it in.



One of the two most expensive powers in the base game, tied for Tsunami. Note that both of them have very harsh targeting restrictions, but also note that they can do things to lands outside of their primary target.

Multi-land effects are rare for a reason in Spirit Island. The biggest threat the Invaders have is the ability to target more lands than there are players, forcing them to prioritize and cooperate. As soon as you get any kind of effect that can target multiple lands, even a small effect like a Defend, all of that threat just goes right out the window and is never seen again.

There's a reason these cards cost 6 NRG and have targeting restrictions.
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


[ed: Changed the second paragraph.]

I wonder how much crossover there is between tabletop game enthusiasts and legal professionals.

To Dream a Thousand Deaths is a very confusing and defining rule, and one that must be played around. In particular, it means that Bringer of Dreams and Nightmares, when using damage effects, will not be able to do chip damage with multiple powers the way, say, Heart of the Wildfire might. If your "damage" didn't "destroy" anything, sorry, that effect is wasted. It took me up until the first time I posted this thread to have that clarified for me.

Thankfully, Spirit Island takes the right approach to a realization you've been accidentally cheating ingame (which I believe a few other game devs, like Level 99 Games, also adopt) and that is this: if you were accidentally cheating in your game, it's okay, just keep going as is and take the rules into account next time. Especially for co-op games like this. If you try to go back and undo all the changes your inaccuracy caused, you're just going to bog things down and make the game a headache for everyone.

The funny thing is, this sort of thing happens even with games considered accessible entries into the hobby. People have made the remark that nobody enjoys Monopoly because nobody plays it right. I think they're wrong and Monopoly has always been bad, but details. I've seen someone claiming that you had to win Pandemic by wiping out every disease and THAT was a fun notion to dispel.

At the end of the day, reading through long rulebooks isn't for everyone, and the quickest way to learn anything is to just do it and learn via experience. Which means that a lot of simple misunderstandings like that can propagate even in very simple games. But they're still just games, nothing's going to get damaged except some feelings, and as long as you can admit the way you always did things isn't how it's supposed to be done, it's all fizzy.



Right, now that the after-school special is over, let's talk damage.

Very few spirits spec towards damage in any reasonable capacity to start. A Spread of Rampant Green and River Surges in Sunlight both have multiple sources of damage, but they're very awkward in the case of the former, and tend to be apocalyptically useful in the latter's case one they've progressed enough.

The weird thing is that due to the prevalence of Destroy effects, raw damage alone usually isn't going to do very much unless there's a lot of it, and that's especially true in Bringer of Dreams and Nightmares' case. This card could just be a push of 2 Explorers and Dahan for 2 NRG at slow speed. It could also get you 10 Fear.

Cooperation is, as ever, key.



Most cards that generate Fear don't care about the land they target. Fear is Fear, no matter where it comes from.

Dread Apparitions turns that around by letting you use Fear to fuel a Defend effect. On its own, again, it doesn't do much. But even out of the gate, Bringer can combo it with their Night Terrors innate to get a respectable number up, more than enough to handle virtually any early settlements.

But later on, this isn't going to cut it, not when Night Terrors demands you to be in the very land that's about to be Ravaged and larger settlements start building up. Course, if you get some other fast Fear options, it can stay competitive for a lot longer.



One subtler element of Bringer's design that I really like is that all of their powers work through people. Sure, To Dream A Thousand Deaths prevents them from actually dealing damage, but every single one of their powers is either rooted in shenanigans for the Dahan, or scaring the Invaders. They have no healing, barely any spirit support, no restrictions on terrain... granted, it's hard to simulate other stuff without the Event deck, but I still like it.



Shadows Flicker Like Flame had two other things it did besides Fear: helping the Dahan and killing Explorers. Bringer still works with the Dahan pretty easily, but its other wheelhouse, surprisingly, is Major powers. Out of everyone in the core set, they're one of the best in the game for getting and using Major powers despite their abysmal card play progression.

Part of that is that they have amazing elements. Being able to tune your elements to whatever Major power(s) you feel like throwing this turn is incredibly handy and gives them a lot of freedom in choosing newer ones.

They also have two very nice Reclaim options in their Growth, which let them bounce a preferred Major card back into their hand to use over and over again.

Only real problem is their NRG gain isn't super amazing. It's not bad, but both of their tracks start out above average and have a bit of a hard time ramping up, and the only Growth option that spikes NRG also puts some restrictions on where you can progress. Plus, quite a few of your starting powers have a bit of a cost to them.
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


A pretty good effect for how little NRG it costs, but I rarely see this one taken. No love for the goofy gopher gang.



By contrast, this card that only provides elements gets taken and played a lot.

The value of individual elements varies from game to game. Obviously, each spirit wants to trip their innates as much as they can, but sometimes your power draws just don't support that, or you're running very low card plays, or just can't get new powers enough to justify splurging on a Major power that would require elemental investment. Additionally, Elemental Boon loses value if you don't share favored elements with any other spirits in play (for example, if you're playing Lightning's Swift Strike and trying to work with Sharp Fangs Behind the Leaves. At best, you can share, what, 1 Fire?) since you're effectively sacrificing a card play of yours for a better threshold on theirs.

So do you attempt to defy the problem anyway and take Elemental Boon, or shrug, roll with it, and get Gnawing Rootbiters?



Can't help but notice that most of the dream cards for A Spread of Rampant Green grant new power cards to other spirits.



A very powerful card desired by a wide range of spirits.

Only problem is that you have to target empty lands, which makes this one of the cards that gets less valuable as the game goes on (unless you're overtly winning and even Explorers are hard to come by).



As far as the base game goes, cards that require an investment in Animal are generally disregarded. Every other element sees spirits that want a little bit of this or that. Animal is only needed by Thunderspeaker and Bringer of Dreams and Nightmares, and even then only in small doses. And since Vengeance of the Dead is a terrible pick for either of them, it virtually never sees play.

But then Branch and Claw rolls in, and this card becomes a dream card for the new friend, Sharp Fangs Behind the Leaves. Their heavy investment in Animal makes the highly-desirable threshold easy to get, they care significantly less about the Dahan than either of the above spirits, and it even helps with their slower, punchier innate, which they usually lack the Moon and Fire to pull off.

And once Jagged Earth hits, Vengeance as a Burning Plague with this power? Now that's terrifying.



In the meantime, most other spirits will simply make do with this if they want to capitalize on things dying off.

Unlike Lure of the Unknown, this card gets significantly better as the game goes on (unless you're winning). It's nice for spirits that have picked up other cards that cause Blight (particularly Heart of the Wildfire), leading to devastating combos that even the most dedicated Invader capitals can't take.

Just don't forget to clean up after yourself.



One lesson that's always a little pernicious for newer players is the concept of land targeting. Ordinarily, if you use a power, that power just affects the land you point it at. This can make effects like Gather a little underappreciated, since it lets you yank stuff from just slightly out of the listed range of the power.

Wrap In Wings Of Sunlight lets you basically ignore range for its effect, because the actual important part (the teleport and Defend) doesn't care where you aimed the power. All that counts for is which teleporter origin you can choose (and which land you can gather to if you have the threshold).

This is another really good Defend card, since you also get to dump a bunch of Dahan right at the land you're Defending and also you get to ignore range.



"Oh man this is such a good card for Ocean's Hungry Grasp!"

Well, yes, Indomitable Claim lets them disregard the restriction on their Presence placement, letting them target lands further in. But even if you do, Ocean's starting powers still all target Coastal lands, so unless you've branched out into a bunch of other powers that would benefit from Indomitable Claim, it's a neat trick but ultimately not a very useful one.

Now if you want to talk who this is really a dream card for, go ask Vital Strength of the Earth if they'd like to accelerate presence placement. They don't even care about the threshold, and if they do, they can actually trip it with some investment and play two timestops a turn. At that point, you just reclaim cards every turn because WHO'S GOING TO STOP YOU
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


Welcome to the Branch and Claw expansion, boyos.

One of the common complaints about the base game is that the island doesn't really feel that organic. The Invader deck's design makes encounters feel predictable and formulaic, and the island has little to make it stand out.

Branch and Claw fixed that with the addition of the Event deck to change things up each turn, which also added events to move the Dahan around and new token types to represent additional hazards to the Invaders. Keeper of the Forbidden Wilds, one of the two new spirits from this expansion, traffics in Wilds, a token type that prevents Explore actions in a given land. Wilds represent things that make travel difficult, like steep cliffs, dense foliage, or sand dunes with no landmarks, that sort of thing. Once you know the path, the threat is gone, and the Wilds are removed.

And by that I mean you just pissed off one of the most dangerous spirits on the island. Keeper of the Forbidden Wilds is the Spirit Island equivalent of a cantankerous old man, sitting on the porch in his favorite rocking chair, holding a shotgun and daring anyone to mess with his lawn. Sure, he doesn't move around a lot and it's easy to do stuff away from his property, but he doesn't do warning shots.

It's telling that the Dahan react to Keeper's Sacred Sites by immediately fleeing at top speed. Not even spirits like Ocean's Hungry Grasp command that level of fear, because they can always be appeased if you really need to get into their territory.



Mechanically, Keeper of the Forbidden Wilds fits much the same niche as Vital Strength of the Earth, and even shares the elements of Sun and Plant as a focus (although Keeper doesn't touch Earth and has a much higher focus on Sun and Plant). Flavorwise, of course, they're very different, as the Dahan and Vital Strength of the Earth work together much more effectively.

As far as mechanics go, I'd just say that Keeper is flat better than Strength. There's a few reasons for that, among them the ability to double place Presence, the constant placement of Wilds that let you keep a cleared land clean, and the multiple ways to do lots of damage.

Of course, Keeper has a restriction or two on their presence placement, but that's hardly an obstacle when you also have multiple ways to play Wilds, and to turn them into damage if Invaders still get into those lands somehow.



Keeper also has some pretty nice support options on hand to start, too. This one in particular is great for spirits that have few ways to get power cards and a high demand for playing them, but you already knew that.



It's telling that Keeper is considered such a powerful spirit that Regrow From Roots is one of their weaker starting cards.

Sure, it stops being useful when cascades pile up, and it can only target certain land types, but Keeper starts with a Blight heal, and most of the time they don't even care to use it. Their other options are just that good, and this card doesn't have the Sun they desperately need.



Also: despite favoring a high NRG low plays style, Keeper only has the one 3 NRG card in their starting hand. It's definitely worth it, but still, they aren't taxed as often with their regular card plays as Vital Strength of the Earth.

The actual weaknesses of Keeper are generally considered to be its presence placement. Keeper has serious issues with range, between the low range of its existing powers and the need for either Wilds or NRG to place Presence at any real distance. Besides that, as you can see, it's also an incredibly unsafe spirit for the Dahan, but that's rarely a problem when your Sacred Sites automatically push them to safety, and you're going to get a lot of Sacred Sites by design.

Somehow I don't feel like that's enough of a weakness for them.
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


Branch and Claw introduces a total of four token types. Beasts, seen here, don't have any innate effect like the rest do, but make up for it by being weighted, through the event deck, towards acting and appearing more often than other token types. Their usual stuff is just Fear generation here and there, with some Explorer munching and occasional costly damage.

Unless you either know the next card in the Event deck is going to be one that packs a kick for Beasts, or are playing with a lot of Beast-synergy powers (perhaps because you're Sharp Fangs Behind the Leaves) then stuff like Teeming Rivers isn't that great. Not really a bad card, but not going to do as much for you as a card with similar elements and less of a beast focus. Like, say, Call to Tend.



Next up is Strife. Like Wilds, it blocks one instance of an Invader action, namely Ravage. Unlike Wilds, it's on a per-Invader basis, and has a lot more synergy with certain Fear cards. Usually, operating procedure when adding Strife is to find the biggest piece in the target land and slap one on, and then to treat it like a relatively reliable Defend that you don't need to spend a future power on.

Which means that for Twilight Fog Brings Madness, the cost isn't measured in NRG, but in weakening the Dahan in the area so they can't reliably follow up on the upcoming Ravage. That's mostly in the Push effect, despite appearances; there are very few cards that instruct you to damage the Dahan, and most effects that do would focus on killing as many as possible before the Slow powers phase, so the splash damage rarely, if ever, secures any kills.

Unless the Event deck has lowered their max health. Then you should worry.



Finally, you have Disease. Like Wilds and Strife, Disease blocks one shot of Build in the target land and is then spent. It's a very powerful token, since Wilds does nothing of note if Invaders already exist in a land, and Strife is a per-Invader token. However, most instances of Disease in the Event deck also deal out damage to the Dahan, which makes them unsafe to put into lands where the Dahan are going to live for a while.

This means that Tormenting Rotflies, while good at putting out Disease due to its longer range, is frequently more valuable for generating Fear using already-placed Disease tokens. You CAN stack multiple Diseases in a single land, but that's usually fairly wasteful and can be hazardous.



This doesn't really feel like an expansion card to me. It just feels like another version of Call to Bloodshed, there to keep the new cards from the expansion from diluting everything with new token shenanigans.

It's a good card, though.



Also a really good card. Wilds placement is incredibly powerful, particularly early on, but it loses potential if Invaders are able to get in regardless of the Wilds. Throwing an Explorer push on top of things can go a long way towards keeping a given land safe.

The big problem is that it's much harder to predict where Invaders are going to Explore than the other actions. You can hedge around what remains in the Invader deck, like with A Year of Perfect Stillness, but it's always going to be a bit of guesswork. And Disorienting Landscape has a terrain restriction, too, so sometimes you can't even hedge safely because all that remains for the next turn is Sands or Wetlands.



I guess even Ocean's Hungry Grasp has to try to replenish Dahan and heal Blight sometimes?

Except the Blight heal, for them, is much more valuable considering how little they like the Dahan and how important coastal lands are to them.

Maybe just let River Surges in Sunlight have this card instead.



I see this card taken a lot, but I rarely see the threshold on it.

I don't blame most players for that, either. Getting an elemental Yahtzee is no small task, especially for spirits who demand heavy investment in their choice elements to maintain strong innates.

I think the two spirits most able to get this one to work are Vital Strength of the Earth (whose starting cards have highly varied elements and who doesn't really care too much about their innate) and Bringer of Dreams and Nightmares (who can achieve half of the elements on this with ease and use their other two card plays to tag the others).

And Unlock the Gates of Deepest Power is still a good card regardless, because it can get people a free Major power. The lack of choice on it isn't a big deal since you take it without forgetting another power, so if your draw here is bad, just sacrifice it next turn for a different Major power more suited to your tastes.

[ed: I have finally witnessed an elemental Yahtzee. It was exactly as glorious as you might expect.]



Well this one's perhaps one of the most bizarre cards in the entire game.

The artwork, the effect, the elements, even the name. No part of this card is normal.

I like it, I guess.

(Oh, fine, actual mechanics talk: because it's a remove rather than a destroy, you don't add Fear for removing structures, and Bringer of Dreams and Nightmares can actually remove pieces this way.)



Despite the appearance of the token, Wilds can be represented in many potential ways. I doubt that Pyroclastic Flow would add greenery. Probably the opposite. So in this case, I'd say that this is you destroying pre-existing paths, natural or otherwise, and forcing the Invaders to find another way through the region.

It's a good card, I like it.



This might just be the easiest elemental threshold on a Major power to hit in the entire game.
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


The other new spirit from Branch and Claw, Sharp Fangs Behind the Leaves, is generally more popular than Keeper of the Forbidden Wilds (murderkitties apparently have mass appeal) but they are, at least in my opinion, the weaker of the two.

The dependence on Beast tokens isn't the main reason why, since they're easy enough to generate and the Event deck tends to get you more or make your existing ones better with a good deal of regularity. The inability to hit Blighted lands with Ranging Hunt, though? That's a big problem. Sharp Fangs Behind the Leaves struggles to perform in any land with Blight.

But there's also the more pernicious weakness of being tied explicitly to Jungles, despite having Presence mobility like Thunderspeaker does. That one's going to trip up a lot of newbies, and lends this spirit to players who favor more long-term planning as to where they're going to establish themselves.

All that said, though, Sharp Fangs Behind the Leaves is still a pretty good spirit. Fast damage nearly right out of the gate, with a threshold you shouldn't have any trouble hitting every turn after turn 1, plus two potential reclaims a turn? I can dig it.



This one's annoying to reach because of the range. I often find people playing it for the Build block, only to realize they don't have any Presence anywhere the Invaders are slated to Build (possibly because they already killed all the Explorers there, which is a good problem to have).

Don't underestimate that Gather effect, though. If you're having trouble affecting further lands, hitch a ride on a Beast!



Yeah, this, right here. Can only be used from Jungles, can't target lands with Blight.

The effect is good either way, but the targeting restrictions can get pretty heavy sometimes.



Until Sharp Fangs Behind the Leaves builds up a giant pile of Beast tokens, their Ranging Hunt will usually only be doing 1 damage per shot or so. Which is still good for picking off Explorers since it's fast, making them one of the best spirits in the game for tackling Explorers, and thus guaranteeing a niche.

Too Near the Jungle, however, is not a very good card. It's a slow Explorer destroy for sure, but the elements are functional at best and the effect is underwhelming. It costs 0 and I'm still disappointed.

(This goes double against any level of France. Destroying one Explorer doesn't help when almost every Explore adds two.)



This is your starting bunker buster until you get enough elements for Frenzied Assault, and it's pretty good (if a bit indiscriminate, since you have to target as many things as you can, which might scare Dahan away). It also is your only real way of putting the kibosh on Blighted lands.

Speaking of Frenzied Assault, did you notice that Fangs only has two cards with Moon and one with Fire? You'll need to be prepared to get a more varied hand if you want to have that slower attack. Don't be scared of removing Beasts either, they come back quickly.
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


I like that the effect is basically "mandate wrong turns at Albuquerque" but I feel like most people will just take the Defend.



This is so close to Call of the Dahan Ways in terms of flavor, but I dislike it significantly more because it keeps the Invaders doing what they do. Sure, it prevents the Ravage, but you're still very likely also turning out a City onto the board.

Still, a City that's missing a Ravage is a City that is just gonna sit there and get dunked on at your leisure. So I can't really call this card bad, just not my style.



It's weird that this one's named Call to Ferocity, yet has no actual damage involved.

I guess the damage is implied in the Gather effect, and they just kinda intimidate the Invaders for the other one.



Infinite Vitality Lite.

It goes without saying that if I didn't use Infinite Vitality despite it being a good card there's no way in hell I've ever used Promises of Protection, and I still don't intend to use it.



This is a pretty nice pair of effects for a 0 cost slow card, to be honest. If you plan to target a land that's empty, you're basically coming out ahead no matter what you do.



One of the few effects in the game that can move Blight. But how useful is that, especially as a Slow power?

It can be a 2 NRG slow Blight heal at range 1, which isn't terrible, but is a bit chunky. So assume that you don't heal the Blight, but just Gather.

That's still good for relocating Blight for powers that care about targeting with it, or preventing a cascade when an already-Blighted land is unavoidably going to Ravage next turn.

So there's options.



This card is really hard to use, not least because it require you to facetank a City-fueled Ravage.

But you gotta respect a card that amounts to you standing right outside the Invaders homes and yelling "STOP TRYING TO HIT ME AND HIT ME"



I like that you can choose effects even if the land is Coastal, just so you can get that sweet sweet Ocean's Hungry Grasp synergy.

But again, this is a card better suited to River Surges in Sunlight, and even without Ocean's Hungry Grasp in play it's still pretty good.



I know what you're thinking.

But no, this isn't the most expensive card in the deck.

It's only the second most expensive.

Unless you count the, like... six or so Blight this could add with the threshold. Thank goodness those are optional.



Y'know how Gift of Proliferation is one of the best cards in A Spread of Rampant Green's repertoire and also the base game?

Here's a Major power version of it!

But it's better for Keeper of the Forbidden Wilds. Wilds spam and some really nice elements!
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


Hi! Let's take a brief detour from the expansion to look at a promo spirit.

Heart of the Wildfire is, bar none, the best offensive spirit in the game. You can do incredible amounts of damage solely by placing your presence, but you also are going to add Blight just by doing so as well.

You REALLY need to have a light touch with Heart of the Wildfire, but it's tricky, because your best firepower comes from adding Blight, and while you can heal it up, you're still amping up the placement real badly.

Also: you REALLY want those tracks advanced, and it's not very feasible to leave it at only 1 Fire on your track. So you can't just play it cowardly like, and you don't really want to go without adding any Blight at all since that means you have no way to use Firestorm in the lands where it counts.

But it is SO worth it for the easy fast damage.



And also I guess you can use this card too.

It's good for Fear generation, but let's be real: you are NEVER going to get that auxiliary effect.



Now this card? This is WAY good.

You might be like "but didn't you say that Damage is useless unless you have a ton of it at once?" Well, yeah, which usually means Flame's Fury isn't too handy unless you already have a ton of tiny damage sources. So at the very least, you can use it on yourself, and it's not the worst idea in the world.

But if you want to see some real damage, put this on a repeating damage power. Like, oh say, Creepers Tear Into Mortars.

How does 2 damage to structures, three times, sound to you?



Meet the new Raging Storm, I guess.

It's not super bad on account of the fact that you already have a ton of other damage to combo it with, and Air is an element you'll want to dip into a little, but it's still a weak card.



So you've noticed the big elements here by now are Fire, Fire, and Plant, but with a little bit of Air. You also really want Earth, but you don't have any innately.

But splashing for that when you already need Fire and Plant is tricky, and while there are a healthy amount of those cards around, sometimes you'll have to prioritize.

Don't neglect that Earth, though. And in the meantime, you have some pretty nice damage to work with, plus a decent destroy and Dahan push here!
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


It's important to note that all of the tokens you can add are abstracted to a degree. Beasts need not be pack hunters!

Also this is a really nice card for Lightning's Swift Strike to get into the Beast shenanigans.



A good, but weird, support card that lets you pretend to be Lightning's Swift Strike or Ocean's Hungry Grasp.

One element really worth noting is that this can actually slow down Fast powers. There aren't many instances where you'll really want to do this, but if you have, say, Steam Vents, but don't want to waste it on an Explorer when you're about to get a Town built on your doorstep, it can be nice.



Drought for a new generation. Better at taking down Explorers, worse at taking down Cities.

I think between the two, I prefer Scour the Land.



Another card whose true cost is measured not in NRG, but in another resource. In this case, it's Presence, which combined with the elements makes this an easier choice for A Spread of Rampant Green, or any spirit in a game where Blazing Renewal is on the table.

Only real gotcha here is that the Presence add is at range 0, so you'll only get Sacred Sites out of this, but that's not a big problem.



See, Devouring Ants? THIS is how you incentivize a minor power that destroys Dahan.

Okay, the range is hot garbage so you're probably going to get Dahan killed much more with this than Devouring Ants. But still!



Good for Thunderspeaker, either to use themselves or for someone to use on them. But it's also good for a few other spirits, such as Sharp Fangs Behind the Leaves or Keeper of the Forbidden Wilds, even if they personally don't want to have Dahan in their lands. You can use this on your buddies, y'know!



By coincidence, almost every Major power today will be heavily Beast focused and thus good for Sharp Fangs Behind the Leaves.

Tigers Hunting is also a dream card for them, specifically, and almost nobody else due to the existing restrictions Fangs has to live with on a daily basis. At least it's cheap for a Major.



Spirit Island reasons: you can throw a Godzilla at your foes.



Kind of a weaker version of Call of the Dahan Ways, except it's a Major power?

Weird.

It's not really a bad power either since it can target multiple lands, but without pre-existing Beast specialization I'd just as soon have Call of the Dahan Ways.



This card is REALLY nice for Ocean's Hungry Grasp, but not because it lets them move their Presence to Inland lands. There's an explicit restriction on that, and we already covered why that's a better idea in theory with Indomitable Grasp.

No, this one's good for them because it lets any spirit move Cities and Blight. Obviously, moving a City into the Ocean (or just into range of being Drowned) is super amazingly good. Moving Blight is also handy, as mentioned earlier with Absorb Corruption, even if the applications are a little more technical there.
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


And here's the other promo spirit.

MOBAs have a concept they call a carry, or at least they do if I remember my secondhand gleaned terminology right. The basic idea is that a carry represents a character who doesn't actually contribute that much to gameplay at first, but who can reach ridiculous heights of power if properly supported up to their zenith. You can already see by the Presence tracks and the innates that Serpent Slumbering Beneath the Island here is very much a spirit in that mold.

I wouldn't say that the biggest challenge from playing them comes from being slow, though. Early on, your growth options and high amounts of elements favor a low plays style with high NRG, which we've seen multiple times before to decent effect. The actual challenge comes from maintaining and juggling all the different elements you need to succeed.

Also worth noting that while most spirits on the island represent some facet of nature around it? Serpent Slumbering Beneath the Island pretty much IS the island for all human-perceptible purposes. Which makes it pretty thematically appropriate for them to be a carry.



The Deep Slumber track caps how much presence you can have out on the island, and in order to expand that track, you have to make use of this card. It's not a bad card at all, since you regain the NRG you spend on it and then some, plus it has a lot of nice elements for you and whoever you use it on.

The issue comes from that you have to absorb the presence of other spirits for it to be of any use. Which isn't a huge issue in practice for most spirits, since you rarely need all of your presence to reliably target your powers. Just something to be cautious of. And hey, if you reliably make use of Serpent Wakes in Power (more on that later) then people will be clamoring to offer you Presence to chow down on.



Defend is pretty nice.

Defend across multiple lands is really nice.

Scaling Defend as the game goes on across multiple lands? Are you guys SURE Serpent has a weak kit to start out?



Okay, that makes a bit more sense.

Elemental Aegis is really good, but that's because three of Serpent's four starting cards are just "boost effectiveness for yourself and/or other spirits a bit". You're running hard support early on, although it's not out of the question to get more powers later that can do more tangible things.

Giving another spirit a bonus card play is pretty nice, so it's weird that you also offer a weak choice of elements. I guess if you want someone to hit a threshold that uses Fire and Water for some reason but they lack the cards in hand to do that, it's nice?



Granting a power is nice for sure, but it's curious that this card also lets you play it right out of hand.

So when choosing between your two gifts, there's the elements for yourself (and arguably your recipient) to consider, but also whether their existing hand is good enough, or you want to take a chance at improving their capabilities later. Usually, the latter is better.

Also, important note: none of Serpent's cards, nor their element track, grant you Plant outright. You have two Any elements, but if you really want to make use of Serpent Wakes in Power, you're really going to have to look for Plant in addition to three other elements. Have fun with that.
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


Blocking Invader actions is always nice, and Build is usually one of the best ones to block, so I'm totally cool with the Fear here basically being an afterthought, and the Push isn't too bad as a side prize either. The targeting's a bit hairy, but manageable.



There's a few cards like these, where the conditional effect for the land and the elemental threshold are 100% independent of each other. Sometimes you might want to make a choice as to whether you stall out exploration or heal the land.

Also, goes without saying here, but total dream card for A Spread of Rampant Green. Somehow their dream cards stand out to me the most.



I mean, unless the card makes it really blatantly obvious exactly who it's for.



Hey did you want another Rain of Blood?

No?

Oh, okay.

At least this one's fast.



Slow Explorer destroys are certainly okay, but the range and cost here make this just a little unwelcome, especially considering it only gets really good if you hit the right lands. Plus, the elements are all awkward.

Still, it's not terrible. I'd use it.



Now this card, here, this one's terrible. The elements are a complete mess (they're good for Ocean's Hungry Grasp but), the range is hot garbage, and it either has a terrain dependency or an area attack depending on whether you have other ways to get disease out fast enough to capitalize on it, AND other damage so you can actually use the area attack.

And it costs 1 NRG. How about no?



Flavorwise, it makes sense for the threshold here to have a completely different effect. Without the threshold, you're limited to forcing one land to fight itself, but if you have it, suddenly you can direct an entire Ravage to your own benefit.

Mechanically, it's a bit awkward to me, not least because this is one of the few powers that capitalizes on pre-existing Strife, and it just drops that for the threshold.

But hey, it's a dream card for Thunderspeaker that doesn't require a single Dahan, so that's cool.



Tigers Hunting but also it's incredibly dangerous and unsafe. The damage, Fear, and range are better, but every other part of this card is significantly worse. It's still good overall, just be careful with it, especially because chaining the effect to another land also means killing Dahan and adding Blight in another land.



If you discount Instruments of Their Own Ruin, this is the only real Strife-focused Major power in the game so far.

It's not too bad really, although without the threshold on it, stacking further Strife to capitalize on is going to be difficult. Needless to say, this one's great for Shadows Flicker Like Flame.



The most interesting thing about this card is that it explicitly targets two lands, rather than just having effects spill over into other lands nearby.

And also that it has two separate thresholds, one for each primary element in the power, which means almost any spirit could easily hit one, but might not get both.

Thematically? Ugh. This is an excellent but boring card, and I'll happily take a more flavorful but actively worse option any day of the week.
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


Out of spirits to discuss, so this post will be about the various adversaries in the game.

Adversaries represent the major colonial powers of the era, although it's worth noting that this is a slightly alternate reality they're working with here. They all have different motivations and pressures for what they're doing, but they're all still colonial asshats and you should destroy. Them. ALL.

Brandenburg-Prussia is the most conventional "difficulty slider" of the lot, as they ask of very few changes to how the game runs throughout play, instead just modifying setup for a speedier deployment of the Invaders. Spirits that have a slower time getting off the ground, like Serpent Slumbering Beneath the Island, will have a harder time here, but that's about the only real caveat.

Note also that the Fear deck adds extra cards as you increase the difficulty of your adversary. This is primarily a balancing feature to handle spirits who can shortcut the usual win condition by gunning for a Terror victory. You can still play spirits that deal in Fear, just don't expect to be completely orthogonal to the increased difficulty.



While Brandenburg-Prussia is the easiest adversary to incorporate into normal gameplay, I'd argue that Sweden is the easiest to fight against. They look really scary with their Ravages, but those only matter if they actually get to pull those Ravages off. It only takes two or three ravages to lose to Sweden in a lot of cases, so all you have to do is put everything into ensuring those Ravages don't happen. Which, y'know, you're already doing normally against most adversaries.

The only real gotcha is the Stage II Escalation. Each time that little fort icon comes up in the Invader deck, you resolve the effect on that text, which usually means Stage II Invader deck threatens to destabilize your tempo even after the spirits have gotten ready for handling the Invaders. Most Stage II Escalations aren't too bad if you prepare properly, but Sweden's is particularly nasty.



For my money, England is the hardest of the three in the base game. Like Sweden, they specialize in one specific Invader action, that being Build. Unlike Sweden, it's much harder to stop that particular action, especially with England's multiple ways of getting extra Builds out. They have an alternate victory condition too, but that's not even close to necessary for them to win when every single land gets some REALLY deadly Ravages with all those extra Towns and Cities popping up.

Like the manual says, this adversary becomes much harder for spirits that rely on killing Explorers to prevent Builds, and much easier for spirits with good structure-killing potential, like Lightning's Swift Strike. It's not even easy for them alone, though, because it still takes some time and planning to ramp up to the City-destroying powers. Definitely consider some of those more destructive powers like Drought, even where you normally would find them overkill.



Branch and Claw only adds the one adversary, which is a little disappointing because of how much the expansion adds for the adversary they DID include, as well as for how that adversary handles very much like England.

It's a little interesting how France ends up being the adversary that uses slave labor, right down to having a card in the Event deck for it (which keeps coming up until it hits the Rebellion at Invader Stage III). That's the main difference between them and England, which provides the only real strat alteration. In particular, Strife becomes much better, since it lets Dahan work to free their enslaved comrades. On the other hand, Ravages under France become even hairier since the Blight is very slow to heal, and there will just be Explorers literally everywhere to add chip damage. Hey look it's one of the rare few times where Raging Storm is actually worth the trouble.
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


Those are literally the exact elements Bringer of Dreams and Nightmares wants, and it's not even that bad for the price. Basically just "do the thing you already do, but also get a bonus point if Beasts".



Encompassing Ward, but for one Sacred Site only.

It's not a very good card most of the time, unless of course your team either has lots of Sacred Sites (but not Vital Strength of the Earth) or lots of Beast-dependent abilities. If you have both, it's great. The elements are also pretty wacky and very much Not For Everyone.

I still like it solely because helpful snakes.



This might be the single funniest card in the entire game.

I have taken it on that basis alone and I don't regret it a single time.



Infested Aquifers is bad because of the wide range of restrictions it has to contend with, but Fleshrot Fever doesn't have nearly as many restrictions (and some generally better elements for a lot of spirits, including Lightning's Swift Strike). As such, it's mostly the better card.

The interesting part is that it targets the two lands that Infested Aquifers doesn't. I guess that makes for a kind of balance between the two cards despite their similar portfolios, but significantly different mechanics.



One of the better Strife-adding cards in the game, really only hampered by the Sacred Site targeting restriction. Going Fast really helps it pack some kick, and the Fear is nice too.

I guess the Strife is from everyone going "okay who fired the mortars without clearance?" but it's hard to tell for sure.



In exchange for being generally weaker than either card before it, you have the potential, if running Animal, to get both effects for one card play. As such, this is a dream card for Sharp Fangs Behind the Leaves (and having every element they could ask for doesn't hurt either).

A lot of Branch and Claw is about incentivizing Animal as an element, considering how it was the weakest element in the base game by a significant margin. I think they did a pretty good job of it too.



One rule that sometimes trips up new players is that you can't use any NRG you gain on the Fast power resolution to pay for cards you've played. NRG has to be up front.

There are a lot of cards that do this in the base game, but Spur On With Words of Fire is the only card that grants another card play.

I'll give you a hint: unless you really have some good elemental synergy with another spirit, you can usually read this as "Elemental Boon, but Better". Giving a spirit freely customizable elements is nice for sure, but usually the cards in their hand give them what they want anyway, unless their draws have sucked or they're running on empty anyway.



After I watched Jumanji as a kid, I literally couldn't go into flower shops with my mom without being paralyzed with fear.

Anyway this is a pretty nice attack power, very good range, somewhat restrictive on lands. I don't know why it has Sands on the roster, but hey. You REALLY want that threshold on this one because multi-targeting, but pushing for Air and Plant together is a bit difficult.



This is the most expensive card in the game, and most spirits can't even get close to that threshold. Your best bet for that is Ocean's Hungry Grasp, and even then Sun isn't usually their wheelhouse.

Without the threshold, it's still a single-land nuke, albeit a Coastal one asking for a Sacred Site. Good, but maybe not 9 NRG good.

I have gotten the threshold effect once in a game. Usually, that's all you need to win a game. Sure, it has a ton of collateral damage, but between the huge jump in Fear you'll get for this (frequently enough to earn 1 or 2 cards outright) and the sharp limiting of what lands the Invaders can target, if you've activated this card's threshold, you're in for a much easier game down the line.



This is a good card with a pretty powerful effect, but also this might just be one of the illustrations that actually makes me feel a little bit bad for the Invaders. Colonial jackasses or not, that looks downright heinous to suffer through.

It doesn't even deal damage without the threshold and it still looks painful.



Y'know what would make the carnivorous plant from Jumanji scarier? IF IT WAS ALSO ON FIRE. Nobody, Robin Williams included, wants to approach that with a sabre.

Also this card is insanely good, but the requirement to target it from a Sands makes it a little tricky to work with. Note that you can target the same land the power originates from if you really want to spike the damage.



And finally, the power that uses every token. The easy threshold, versatility, low cost, and elements ensure that basically anybody who gets this in their major power draw has something to work with here. Nobody doesn't like Pent-Up Calamity.
 

Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
Is this a good time to mention that I never understood the Chris Farley reference?
 
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