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 (JaggedEarthDormant.png/JaggedEarthSmoke.png/Jagged Earth Symbol.png) 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.

JaggedEarthDormant.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:
JaggedEarthSmoke.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 Symbol.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


Branch & Claw (BC)


Jagged Earth (JE)


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 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. Put the entire shuffled stack of Blight Cards atop the Blight space, "Healthy Island" side up, and use the top one, 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
  • 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/Citiyicon.png/Blighticon.png) 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)

Badlands on Thematic Boards: The Thematic Boards from the base game did not have Badlands Setup icons. If playing on the Thematic Boards with Badlands.png tokens:

  • Add 1 Badlands.png to NW Board, land 7
  • Add 1 Badlands.png to E Board, land 6
  • Add 2 Badlands.png to W Board, land 9

Starting Presence on Thematic Boards: Sometimes, a Spirit's Setup instructions won't work for all 6 Thematic Boards - not just ambiguity (which you decide), but, e.g., "place your Presenceicon.png in a land with Blighticon.png" on a board with no Blighticon.png, or "place your Presenceicon.png in Terrain A next to Terrain B" where there's no such pairing. You can either (a) not start that Spirit on that board, or (b) follow the instructions as best you can – if it tells you to place , do so, choosing freely when no land(s) match the criteria given. Feel free to use what you think would be most thematic as a guide.

Setup Changes (BC)

  • Add the extension to the Invader Board
  • Put the Beasts Beasticon.png, Wilds Wildicon.png, Disease Diseaseicon.png, and Strife Strifeicon.png tokens in the corresponding areas on the Invader Board extension.
  • Shuffle the Event Deck and put it on the Events space on the Invader Board extension. Playing with a Blight Card is now required rather than optional. (The Event Deck depends on using one.)
  • During Setup, put one Beasticon.png and one Diseaseicon.png on each Island Board. The Beasticon.png goes in the lowest-numbered land with no printed Setup icons; the Diseaseicon.png goes in land #2 (with the City).

Thematic Boards: Instead of placing a single Diseaseicon.png and Beasticon.png on each board, place tokens as indicated by the Setup icons in each land.

Short on Space? If your table doesn't have space for the Invader Board extension, put the Event Deck near the Earned Fear stack, so you remember to do it first.

Sequence of Play (JE)

Spirit Phase

Fast Power Phase

Invader Phase

Slow Power Phase

Time Passes

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.