E18 | Games | Spirit Island, Jagged Earth Exploration
After much anticipation we are finally able to explore the Jagged Earth expansion to Spirit Island! We spend the topic breaking down the spirits, analyzing their play styles, powers, and weaknesses. We also discuss an icebreaker that lets us play the critic and introduce a new ranking system for discussing our tasty beverages.
What's on our Flight (01:30)
We are starting a new ranking system with this episode to help communicate our Flights recommendations. Here is 4 Cheers for Flights!
One Cheer: Do Not Try
Two Cheers: Try, Don't Buy
Three Cheers: Buy and Try
Four Cheers: Buy Every Time
Dalton’s drinking: Amador Double Barrel Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Chardonnay). This whiskey is aged 5.5 years in American Oak barrels to give it those familiar bourbon tastes, then finished for 6 months in a used chardonnay barrel. This method is very rare in bourbons as the time spent in the second barrel does not count towards the age of the spirit. In this case, it smoothed out the mouth feel, rounding out some of the harsh chewiness common to bourbons. Other than that, the whiskey was a bit spicy and had good taste, though there was not much of a nose on it. 3 Cheers for this bourbon, definitely a buy and try!
Nelson's drinking: Busted Knuckle Porter by Quaff On Brewing Company in Brown County, Indiana. This straightforward porter offers the coffee and sweet toffee flavors you expect from a porter, but it marks a milestone as being Nelson's first porter on the podcast! SRM: 30, IBU: 27, ABV: 7.3%. 3 Cheers
What's On Our Table (07:57)
We recently tried Facility 07 from Never Engine Games which was in the midst of its first funding attempt on Kickstarter when we trialed the game (it has since been removed). This game had fantastic theme\ing and components, all art work being completed by co-designer Trevor. He and his wife Alyssa designed and are producing Facility 07 independently, so getting to demo the game with them was huge fun! The game reminded us of Betrayal at House on the Hill, as players start with an unsteady ceasefire that dissolves at a turning point in the game. Look for the funding relaunch in Summer of 2021!
Nelson was challenged to complete a "Designathon," choosing a game designer and playing through a number of their collection. He and his wife chose Daniele Tascini, playing through Tzolk'in, The Voyages of Marco Polo, and Teotihuacan (some of their favorite Worker Placement games!). He also tried On Mars for the first time, another extremely complicated game in the collection, but one that fits together and flows naturally.
We also recently joined The Gateway Network, a group of board game content creators and community leaders focused on fostering the growth of the board game community. The network targets independent content creators such as us, generating exposure and stimulating growth through shared connections. We talk in the episode about The Gamecasters, the founders of the network and our dear virtual buddies. Check out their podcast for hilarious segments and excellent board game content!
The icebreaker question for this episode was submitted by Schmahka (18:07)
What is one game that you dislike that most people rave about (or vice versa)?
Dalton: Betrayal at House on the Hill. This game has a phenomenal concept, offering two parties of players a book that contains only part of a complete horror story. The incomplete information adds to replayability and experience, but the high randomness of the game makes competition unrewarding. If the scenarios were balanced around player count I think the game would be much more successful. As is, it falls short of being worth if for the time invested.
Nelson: Dinosaur Island. Building a dinosaur-themed theme park should be right up our alley! Especially as a engine builder. However, high randomness again hurts the experience and value of this game. Nelson felt his decisions were not meaningful from turn to turn, making the actions feel like they were not worth playing. Even after multiple plays the game just did not seem to come together, relegating Dinosaur Island to the trade shelf for good.
Schmahka, thank you so much for the submission! If you are looking for us to answer a question, submit your question here.
Discussion starts at 28:45 in the episode
What a discussion we have in store today! We are starting with the moderate complexity spirits and working our way to the very high. You will hear us focus on several themes as we talk through the spirits, focusing primarily on main function, speed, card vs innate powers, and affect on teammates. Here is a summary of data on the spirits to reference as we work through the discussion. Buckle in!
Volcano Looming High (32:32 in the episode)
Sure to be a favorite spirit of many, Volcano is insanely fun to play. This spirit focuses presence in one or two areas of the board, removing them to “erupt” and cause large amounts of damage to surrounding areas based on presence spent. Large damage leads to a strong offensive focus, limited by the range of attacks and the time spent building up between eruptions. Volcano should focus on innate powers with minor power cards, though he has large energy growth potential so one or two expensive major powers can help provide utility during turns after eruption. Use Volcano on a team to devastate an area of the map, following up with small plink damage to keep that area under control while Volcano moves on.
Stone's Unyielding Defiance (36:44 in the episode)
Volcano's insane offensive ability is complimented in the stalwart defenses of Stone's Unyielding Defiance. One of his growth tracks reveals primarily earth energy and his innate powers function mostly on earth as well. Therefore, his engine sort of builds for you, without much effort. He also has a strong energy track, so focusing on card powers while letting your innate power engine grow in the background is the way to go here. Friendly spirits will be grateful for the powerful defensive abilities offered by this spirit, including the unique ability to block blight growth and take blight from the box instead of the card.
Shifting Memory of Ages (41:37 in the episode)
Another very fun spirit to play, Shifting Memory of Ages focuses around the new mechanic of elemental markers, which allow him to store up reserves of elements to be cashed in for big turns. That, coupled with the ability to discard instead of forget a minor power when taking a major, plus a growth option for +9 energy (insane, really), makes taking turn 1 major powers a powerful strategy for this spirit. There is a strong card focus with this spirit as his innate powers will not be winning any games, so feel free to abandon the starting elements if needed. The strength of this spirit comes from the ability to cover his allies by flexing in to abilities through drafting major powers, so he can be difficult to play for someone new to the game.
Grinning Trickster Stirs Up Trouble (46:10 in the episode)
One of the best concepts in the expansion, Grinning Trickster Stirs Up Trouble sows chaos throughout the game. The spirit essentially is built around randomness and manipulating the board through strife tokens. Results can vary wildly from timely abilities winning pivotal conflicts to rampant blight generation that is unrecoverable. This is certainly not a spirit for a new player as the engine building and control mechanisms are not obvious and it is easy to generate so much blight as to cripple your team. The randomness and chaos that this spirit brings makes for a fun and unpredictable game, but the spirit does not have much to offer at higher levels of play.
Lure of the Deep Wilderness (49:37 in the episode)
Another very fun concept to play with, Lure of the Deep Wilderness focuses on converting invaders down to the explorer level, then blocking and removing those explorers in the deep wilderness. Presence from this spirit blocks the ravage of two explorers without cost, providing a very strong defensive mechanism when used correctly. Lure also manipulates and benefits from the tokens, so expect a very crowded board when he is in the game as Lure sets up kill zones in the wilderness. Focus on innate abilities, using cards to drop additional tokens and provide push/pull when able. Be aware that his presence can only be placed inland, so you may need a teammate with reach or control in coastal regions to compliment that restriction.
Many Minds Move as One (54:14 in the episode)
Coolest artwork in the set! Do you see the face in relief (I could NOT think of that word during recording), formed by the bodies of the birds? High control and complexity, with a potential for high fear and defense with the right cards. Many Minds Move as One builds defense and fear with the placement and control of beast tokens. With the right play, it will feel like the Thunderspeaker of the set, moving beasts around the board to eliminate threats. Innate ability should be the primary focus, especially with the relatively low element cost. Cards will be important to kick the spirit to the upper levels of its potential.
Shroud of Silent Mist (59:37 in the episode)
High offense and fear, plus the theming of a Ringwraith, this spirit is one of Nelson's favorites in the set. Shroud of Silent Mist prevents invaders and Dahan from healing where his presence exists and generates fear for each territory where this happens. Damage increases when his enemies are surrounded by his presence. The tricky part of playing this spirit is deciding where you can afford to leave cities and towns alive to use as a fear engine without losing control. This spirit will benefit from a strong defensive teammate who can help prevent built up territories from destroying Shroud's presence. The concept of this spirit was expertly executed, giving you the feeling of playing a creeping, poisonous, ominous fog.
Vengeance as a Burning Plague (1:04:36 in the episode)
Vengeance focuses on the disease token, spreading it across the board and stifling invader growth. The interactions and combinations of his abilities are not immediately obvious and may take a couple of plays to get right. For example, Vengeance can allow a build to happen where a disease would prevent it, instead generating one fear and keeping the disease on the land. His innate powers then ramp in damage with disease in the land, creating incredible offensive potential. You will find a combination of relevant card abilities, especially in the early game before innate powers are active, and the right elemental generation will be key when playing this spirit. Can make a powerful ally with a fully functioning engine, but can be slow in the early game and fall behind the invader power with a few misplays.
Fractured Days Split the Sky (1:09:22 in the episode)
This spirit will change your expectations for what is possible in the game. All four of his starting cards offer abilities that are wildly different from card abilities previously available in the game. Additionally, Fractured Days Split the Sky starts with 8-12 powers available face-up in a sideboard at the start of the game. During his turn he has the option to take a card from this pool of cards to his hand, allowing him to plan out several turns to build to key major powers over the course of the game. Cards will be the main focus here, though his innate powers do offer interesting utility to take advantage of. Slow to build, this spirit can be incredibly powerful in the hands of an experienced player. Not for the weak of heart.
Starlight Seeks its Form (1:16:00 in the episode)
Self-described as a "Build Your Own Spirit," Starlight Seeks Its Form can truly be and do anything. Starlight's growth tracks reveal new growth options, allowing the player to build the engine that will be needed based on play style. All 8 elements are playable in the innate powers. There are two main strategy forms that we can identify with this spirit. First, a player can identify something they want to do and pursue it by focusing on innate powers. So if a player wants to provide defense and control, they can build the spirit to do that for the team. Alternatively, a player could begin drafting cards and build the spirit to maximize the impact of the cards drawn. Both paths lead to a very slow power growth, so plan on relying on your teammates in the early game. This spirit is incredibly fun and rewarding to play, but a jack of all trades is a master of none. Do not expect to be taking this spirit to the upper levels of difficulty, but be very happy to be dealt it in a randomized game!
Thanks for reading! Let us know who your favorite spirit is in the comments, and we hope you enjoy the game as much as we do!