How to Play

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This page is extremely in progress. For the time being check out the official rulebooks.

Spirit Island Rulebook, Branch & Claw Rulebook, Jagged Earth Rulebook[1]

This is intended to be a collection of all rules from rulebooks, sourced from various pages/sections on this wiki. The hope is for little-to-no content to be written directly on this page, and instead linked with transclusions so that everything will stay up to date easily.

use {{#lsth:pagename}}. More info here: Labeled Section Transclusion.


Gameplay Overview

Spirit Island is a cooperative game for 1-4 players where each player is a Spirit of nature, defending their Island from invading colonists who have little regard for the well-being of the land or its native inhabitants, the Dahan. But the Spirits start out small and limited, and will have to learn some new tricks in order to catch up to the rapidly expanding Invaders, whose Actions (automated by the game) drive them to spread across the island and etablish settlements, spreading Blight in their path. To win, the Spirits (with the help of the Dahan) must destroy the Invaders and scare away any survivors. However, the game will end in defeat if the Island is overrun by Blight, if any Spirit is destroyed completely, or if you act too slowly and fail to drive the Invaders off before they become entrenched.

Once you know the game, Spirit Island takes about 90-120 minutes to play - slightly shorter for games with 1-2 players, slightly longer for games with 4.

How to Read this Rulebook

The rules are divided into three major sections: Game Setup, Sequence of Play, Game Concepts. Read Game Setup first. Then read Sequence of Play and Game Concepts in the order that best suits your learning style. Sequence of Play will introduce you to the overall game structure while Game Concepts drills down into individual game mechanics.

First-Time Players

Spirit Island is a complex game with many moving parts. The first time or two you play, you should:

If everyone is playing the game for the first time, also:

  • Don't use a Blight Card. Instead use the pre-printed Blight space on the board.
  • Don't use an Adversary or Scenario. They increase difficulty and add additional rules.
  • Don't use expansion material that increases game complexity. (Plain Volcano) See Using Expansions below for more details.

Whenever your group is ready for a more challenging game, we recommend the Kingdom of Brandenburg-Prussia as a good first Adversary - it mostly modifies Setup rather than introducing new rules. The Kingdoms of England and Sweden involve more fundamental changes to how the Invaders work.

Using Expansions (JE)

This compiled rulebook contains rules for the newest expansion, Jagged Earth (JE) plus rules for the previous expansion, Branch & Claw (BC). Rules taken from each expansion is notated with either "(JE)", "(BC)", or a complexity icon (Base Game compatible/Base Game + some Jagged Earth, no Branch & Claw/Base Game + Branch & Claw + all Jagged Earth) as further described below. If you are already familiar with those expansion rules, you can skip these sections! If you have not played with the appropriate expansion, you can either skip these sections and omit the materials requiring those rules (see below), or read everything and attempt to digest two expansions worth of rules at once.

We strongly recommend playing the base game of Spirit Island at least a few times before adding most expansion items, particularly those using rules from BC. To aid in this, materials in this expansion are marked with one of three icons, indicating how many new rules are required to take advantage of them.

Jagged Earth complexity 1.png Items with a plain mountain rely on no rules outside of the base game. They may reference Events, but those references can be ignored if playing without Events. They may use physical components from an expansion box, like Element Markers, but will give you any necessary rules to do so. You can use these items without reading the expansion rulebooks, though in a few cases you may need to reference Actions or Clarifications and FAQs. Plain mountain items include:
Jagged Earth complexity 2.png Items with a smoking volcano rely on a rule, concept, or clarification introduced in Jagged Earth, but nothing from Branch & Claw. Read the relevant parts of "New Game Items", "New Rules", and "New Concepts" before including them. These items include:
Jagged Earth complexity 3.png Items with an active volcano rely on rules or concepts from Branch & Claw (and possibly Jagged Earth). If you own Jagged Earth, you have everything you need to play with these materials - the rules for BC are included in that rulebook, and the necessary tokens are included in that box! These items include:


Base Game

(3 of each in red, blue, purple, yellow)
Piece core single-turn effect red.png Piece core single-turn effect defend red.png Piece core single-turn effect blue.png Piece core single-turn effect defend blue.png Piece core single-turn effect purple.png Piece core single-turn effect defend purple.png Piece core single-turn effect yellow.png Piece core single-turn effect defend.png

Branch & Claw (BC)

Jagged Earth (JE)

(3 of each in orange and green)
Piece core single-turn effect orange.png Piece core single-turn effect defend orange.png Piece core single-turn effect green.png Piece core single-turn effect defend green.png
(3 of each in orange, green, yellow, red, purple, blue)
Piece core single-turn effect isolate orange.png Piece core single-turn effect isolate green.png Piece core single-turn effect isolate yellow.png Piece core single-turn effect isolate red.png Piece core single-turn effect isolate purple.png Piece core single-turn effect isolate blue.png

Game Setup

For most games of Spirit Island, Setup proceeds as below. However, when setting up Spirit Island using an Adversary and/or Scenario, select them first, as they can change how the game is set up.

Invader Board

To set up the Invader Board:

  1. Place the Invader Board on one side of the play area.
  2. Put 4 Fear Markers Fear per player into the Fear Pool.
  3. Shuffle the Fear Cards and put 9 on the Fear Deck space. Place the "Terror Level 3" divider 3 cards from the bottom and the "Terror Level 2" divider 3 cards above that, so the deck is divided into 3 groups of 3 cards each.
  4. Make the Invader Deck and put it on the Invader Board on the Explore Action Space.
    The Invader Deck is 12 cards:
    • 3 Stage I cards on top, then
    • 4 Stage II cards, then
    • 5 Stage III cards on the bottom
  5. Take a random Blight Card and place it on top of the Blight Space on the board, “Healthy Island” side up, without looking at the back. Place the shown amount of Blight, plus one, onto the card. If you are not using a Blight Card, use the Blight instructions printed on the Invader Board instead.

The Island and Supply

To set up the Island:

  • Randomly pick one Island Board per player and arrange them to form the Island (Examples)
  • Populate the Island Boards with Invaders, Dahan, and Blight (from the box, not the Blight Card) as indicated by the icons in each land.

To set up the Supply:

  • Shuffle the Minor and Major Power Decks. Put them near the board with room for each deck to have a discard pile.
  • Put the Energy, Cities, Towns, Explorers, and the Dahan near the board. Make sure all players can reach them; you may need multiple piles.

Boards (JE)

This expansion includes two additional Island Boards, to add variety and allow games with up to 6 players. Underneath the board letter on the new boards is a smaller crossed-out letter: board E shows "no B" and board F shows "no D". You may wish to avoid using that pairing of boards in games with 4 or fewer Island Boards: it will concentrate some terrains as good (those starting without Townicon.png/Cityicon.png/Blight) and others as bad, which can skew Difficulty depending on Invader Cards drawn. If you consider island variety more important than the potential for swinginess, ignore this advisory and use whatever boards you like! (See Island for standard layouts for 5 and 6 players)

Player Setup

Each player takes all Spirit Presence and Single-Turn Effect Markers of one color, then chooses a Spirit by taking a Spirit Panel and its four Unique Power Cards, which is their starting hand. New players should choose a low-complexity Spirit and take its Power Progression Card, as described in First-Time Players.

Each player starts on a different Island Board and follows Setup instructions on the back of their Spirit Panel. This always includes putting Presence into one or more lands on their starting board; some Spirits have additional instructions. (Once the game begins, Spirits are not restricted to play only on their starting board. Presence and Powers may be placed or used on any board.) Players then flip their Spirit Panels and place all remaining Presence onto the dashed circles on their Presence Tracks. The leftmost numbers with solid circles remain uncovered.

Invaders' Starting Action

To finalize the Setup, the Invaders take an initial Action. Reveal the top card of the Invader Deck. The Invaders Explore in that land type (see Explore, page 10). Then place that card face-up in the 'Build' Action Space.

Setup Changes (JE)

Setup Changes (BC)

Sequence of Play (JE)

Each turn has the following phases:

Spirit Phase

  • Growth
  • Gain Energy
  • Play and pay for Power Cards

Fast Power Phase Fasticon.png (Cards and Innate)

Invader Phase

  • Blighted Island Effect
  • Base Game + Branch & Claw + all Jagged Earth Event (except first turn)
  • Fear Effects
  • Ravage: Invaders Damage the land and Dahan Dahan. Add Blight Blight if the land takes 2 or more Damage. Surviving Dahan fight back.
  • Build: If Invaders are present, add a Town Townicon.png or City Cityicon.png.
  • Explore: If a source of Invaders is adjacent/present, add an Explorer Explorericon.png.
  • Advance Invader Cards

Slow Power Phase Slowicon.png (Cards and Innate)

Time Passes

  • Played Power Cards go to personal discards.
  • Damage and Elements go away.

Spirit Phase

Each Spirit does three things, in the following order:

  1. Grow: Choose one option (unless stated otherwise) next to “Growth” at the upper-right of the Spirit Panel. Each section is a single choice. You must do everything shown, but may choose the order. (For more on Growth options, see page 14.)
  2. Gain Energy: Gain an amount of Energy equal to the highest uncovered number on your Energy Presence Track. Place any gained Energy on or near your Spirit Panel.
  3. Play and Pay for Power Cards: Select the Power Cards (Fast and Slow) that you will use this turn. The maximum number of Power Cards you can play each turn is the highest uncovered number on the Card Plays Presence Track (even if you have enough Energy to pay for more). You must immediately pay Energy for all Power Cards played, even Slow ones. Likewise, you immediately gain all Elements from played Power Cards, even if the Powers’ effects are Slow. Do not resolve the effects of the Power Cards yet.

Fast Power Phase

Players resolve Fast Powers - both Innate Powers printed on their Spirit Panel and Power Cards they played. Power resolution can be done mostly simultaneously. When timing becomes important, Powers may be resolved in whatever order the players want, so long as no Power interrupts another partway through.

If a player discovers they do not want to use a Power’s text effect (or cannot use it), they may choose to skip it entirely. Sometimes, a Power Card will be worth playing purely for its Elements (see Elements Gained, page 16).

You can’t delay using a Fast Power until the Slow Phase, even if you want to. Use it now or forego it.

Invader Phase

The Invader Phase has the following parts:

  1. Blighted Island (once appropriate)
  2. Fear
  3. Invader Actions
    1. Ravage
    2. Build
    3. Explore
  4. Advance Invader Cards

1. Blighted Island

If the Blight Card has flipped to ‘Blighted Island’ follow the instructions there. If you have trouble remembering to do this, put a Blight from the box onto the Fear Space as a reminder.

Base Game + Branch & Claw + all Jagged Earth Event

Draw and resolve one Event Card (except the first turn).

In the Core Game, the Invaders are perfectly predictable, save for what lands they will next be interested in. But in truth, all living things - the Invaders, the Dahan, and Beasts of the wild - sometimes act in unanticipated ways. To represent this, Events occur during each Invader Phase, after any Blighted Island effect and before resolving any Earned Fear Cards.

2. Fear

If any Fear Cards have been earned (see Fear and Terror, page 12), pick up the whole facedown stack, flip it over and resolve the cards one at a time in the order they were earned. Then discard them to the Fear Discard Space on the board. Use only the effect listed next to the current Terror Level. This could be higher than when the card was earned. Fear effects last only for the current turn.

3. Invader Actions

The Invader Board has three Action Spaces: Ravage, Build, and Explore. The Invader Card in an Action Space determines which lands will be affected by that Action. (If there is no Invader Card in a space, no action is taken.)

3a. Ravage Look at the Invader Card in the Ravage Action Space on the Invader Board (if any): the Invaders Ravage in each land of the shown type only. First, Invaders deal Damage to the land and Dahan. Then, any surviving Dahan fight back.

Wherever there are Invaders in the shown lands, Invaders deal Damage: 1 per Explorer, 2 per Town, and 3 per City. Reduce the total Damage by any Defend powers played (page 18), then simultaneously:

  1. Invaders Damage the Land: If 2 or more Damage is dealt, add a Blight to the land. (See sidebar.) This only happens once, no matter how much Damage is dealt. Partial Damage to the land is ignored.
  2. Invaders Fight the Dahan: Every 2 points of Damage destroys one Dahan. You must destroy Dahan as efficiently as possible; you cannot disperse Damage among multiple Dahan to avoid killing them. If a Dahan is dealt 1 Damage, turn it over to show that it is Damaged. Any surviving Damaged Dahan will recover at the end of the turn.

After Invader Damage has been fully resolved in a land, any surviving Dahan there fight back. Each Dahan deals 2 Damage to the Invaders. (See page 15 for Invaders’ Health.) The Dahan will fight back even if the Ravaging Invaders deal no Damage (for example, due to Defend Powers), but not if the Ravage Action has been skipped or stopped from happening altogether.

Spirit Presence does not fight back as Invaders do not directly attack the Spirits.

3b. Build Look at the Invader Card in the Build Action Space on the Invader Board: the Invaders Build in each land of the shown type only.

Wherever there are Invaders in the specified type of land, they add either one City or one Town:

  • If the land has more Towns than Cities, add a City. (You are not upgrading the Towns, you are adding a new City from the supply.)
  • In all other cases, add a Town.

Do not Build in lands without Invaders.

3c. Explore Turn the top card of the Invader Deck face-up. Invaders Explore in accessible lands of the shown type only, venturing forth from Towns and Cities or approaching from the Ocean. If the card has a flag icon and you are playing with an Adversary, first perform the Escalation effect (see sidebar). If there is no card to turn up, time has run out and you lose.

Add an Explorer to every land of the shown type which either:

  • Contains a Town or City; or
  • Is adjacent to a Town, City, or Ocean.

No matter how many sources are in or adjacent to an Explored land, you only add one Explorer. Explorers are added directly from the supply, not moved around on the board.

4. Advance Invader Cards

After Explore, slide all of the Invader Cards left: Move the Ravage Card to the discard, the Build Card to the Ravage Space, and the Explore Card to the Build Space, so that next turn they will Ravage where they Built this turn and Build where they Explored this turn.

Slow Power Phase

Players resolve Slow Powers, which may be either Innate Powers printed on their Spirit Panel or Power Cards they played. This works just like the “Fast Power Phase”, explained on page 8.

Time Passes

This is the wrap-up phase at the end of each turn.

Discard: Players discard all Power Cards played this turn into their personal discard piles. Damage and Elements Clear: All Elements go away. All Damage done during the turn goes away; if you turned any pieces on their sides to note partial Damage, turn them back.

If you’re using the reminder tokens for Single-Turn Effects, make sure to remove those at this time.

BC/JE Update

The Branch & Claw and/or Jagged Earth expansions added Events as well as new tokens with impacts during Invader Phase.

Spirit Phase

  • Growth
  • Gain Energy
  • Play and pay for Power Cards

Fast Power Phase Fasticon.png (Cards and Innate)

Invader Phase

  • Blighted Island Effect
  • Event (except first turn)
  • Fear Effects
  • Ravage (Including Strife Strife): Invaders Damage the land and Dahan Dahan. Add Blight Blight if the land takes 2 or more Damage. Surviving Dahan fight back.
  • Build (Including Disease Disease): If Invaders are present, add a Town Townicon.png or City Cityicon.png.
  • Explore (Including Wilds Wilds): If a source of Invaders is adjacent/present, add an Explorer Explorericon.png.
  • Advance Invader Cards

Slow Power Phase Slowicon.png (Cards and Innate)

Time Passes

  • Played Power Cards go to personal discards.
  • Damage and Elements go away.

Game Concepts

Tokens (BC/JE)

Badlands (JE)

Beasts (BC)

Disease (BC)

Strife (BC)

Wilds (BC)

Treating One Piece as Another (JE)

Ongoing Effect Reminder Cards


Victory and Defeat

Fear and Terror

Boards and Lands

Presence and Sacred Sites

Energy and Card Plays


Element Markers (JE)

Aspect Cards (JE)

Pick Two Growth (BC)

Growth that Costs Energy (BC)


Multiple/Missing Invader Cards (BC)

Normal vs Extra Actions (BC)

Invaders Doing Damage Multiple Times in Same Land (BC)

Events* (BC)

Choice Events* (BC)

"Does not Participate in Ravage" (JE)

Health and Damage (BC)

Saved from Destruction AND DAHAN (JE)


"Still Healthy" Blight Cards (JE)

Moving Blight (BC)

The Dahan


Slow played during fast still slow (BC)

Discarding Powers as a Randomizer (BC)

Origin Land (JE)

Single-Turn Effects


Isolate (JE)

Gaining Power Cards

Power and Fear Effects

Tips & Tricks

Streamlining Gameplay

Basic Strategy

Gameplay Options

Solo Player Mode

Blight Cards (BC)

Blight Cards which have only 2 Blight per player on the Blighted Island side can be especially nasty when playing solo. If you get one of them in a single-player game, you may choose to draw a random replacement from among the unused Blight Cards.



Thematic Map

Setup (BC)


Play Options (JE)

Island Layouts

Archipelagos (Multiple Smaller Islands)

Including and Extra Island Board (Larger Islands)

Combining Two Adversaries

Playing without Events

Playing with Fewer (or No) Tokens

Post-Play Option: Renaming Your Spirits


The Story Thus Far

The Enemy Advances


Adversary & Scenario Difficulty Chart

Appendix: Actions in Detail (JE)

Appendix: Clarifications and FAQs (JE)


Design Notes


The Dahan Archives

This is the Table of Contents for the Spirit Island Wiki.


  1. >G Rulebooks!.7w4g8pi
  2. The Major Power Card, Sea Monsters, from Branch & Claw has been updated to resolve balance issues with Many Minds Move as One. If you own BC, replace its copy of the Power Card with the one included here. If you do not own BC, this Power should be omitted.