So Spirit Island was definitely the new-to-me board game highlight of this year's Trogland meetup. Let's talk about it a little.
First off, Spririt Island is a cooperative game, which is always a big plus for me. There are a number of competitive games I enjoy of course, but all else being equal, coop is always more fun. I'm always glad to find a new, solid, coop game.
In this game, each player plays as one of several primal "spirits" inhabiting an island and taking care of the natives. Unfortunately, some punk colonists from who-knows-where have arrived and are messing up the place - like they do. Your objective as a group is to stop their spread, repair their damage, and ultimately eliminate them from the island - hopefully keeping the natives safe(ish) in the process.
Each spirit starts off in their own little corner of the island. As the game progresses, they will spread their influence, gain powers, and increase in colonist-stomping strength. On each turn, you'll "grow" a bit, and then try to find the best way to apply your current powers to the situation at hand. The growth and power mechanics have a satisfying feel to them.
Each spirit also plays quite bit differently from the next. Not quite Vast-level "different", but enough that it meaningfully effects the play and feel of the game. Also enough that, with all you have to keep track of just for yourself, it would be hard to concern yourself with what anyone else is doing. This goes quite a ways in preventing the "alpha gamer" problem where you have one person that wants to tell everyone else how to play.
Since only some of the Spirits will be at the table in any given game, the particular mix present also affects the overall strategy and the general progression of the game. Really interesting dynamics there, too.
The pacing of the game has an interesting reversal of many games. Many games start out slow and easy and ramp up to a certain franticness. Spirit Island is almost the opposite - you start off feeling pretty overwhelmed by the colonial presence, but as you play through turns and gain power, you quickly begin to out-pace them and, by the end of the game (if you're winning), you're pretty handily wiping them out. At first glance you might think this would be anti-climactic (and, I suppose it could be in some senses or situations), but it actually plays really, really well.
So yeah, really enjoyed this one. Like I said before, my favorite find of the weekend.