Rarely, does a Target run ever result with empty hands. This oasis of retail therapy often reminds you exactly how many things are missing from your life. You then walk out realizing that all you needed was toilet paper. A familiar story to most and to me one evening when all we walked in for was some household cleaners. The end result was two new games: Trellis and Spirits of the Wild. Let us take a closer look into the latter.
Spirits of the Wild is a two-player action selection and set collecting game. Inspired by animal constellations in the sky, Spirits of the Wild will have players collecting colorful stones and placing them on a personal player board in an attempt to complete sets which will earn victory points. These sets are associated with a constellation in the shape of an animal which fleshes out the intended theme of storytelling using the heavens.
The gameplay is quick and light with the challenge arriving from the choices you making in selecting an action. Each turn, players will choose take a single action card from a choice of six in front of themselves and perform the action depicted. These actions range from taking stones from the bowl (public supply) and placing them on your player board, replenishing the bowl with new stones from the bag, moving the coyote pawn, or recovering the spent action cards. Once the action is performed, the card is spent and flipped over. This action cannot be repeated until the player recovers those spent cards with the action cards that does this.
The replenish spent cards action also allows players to perform a spirit action which is available to both players to perform. These effects range wildly and are far more powerful than the normal action cards in front of each player.
Some of the action cards allow players to move the coyote pawn onto the other players board. The coyote pawn will keep the other player from placing new stones onto the constellation that the coyote is facing.
The game concludes when five clear Spirit Stones (more on that later) are drawn out of the bag. This triggers game end immediately after the player finishes their current turn.
The production of the game is one of it’s highlights. The artwork on the cards and boards are whimsical and pretty. The cards are of fine quality though they are a bit thin but will suffice as they aren’t handled as much as a typical hand management game. The stones come in a nice cloth bag and are sturdy themselves. The game also comes with small bowl to store the drawn stones which is a nice touch that wasn’t entirely necessary. The coyote pawn is a plastic miniature and not cardboard: another unnecessary yet appreciated expense. The player boards are sturdy and thick with small holes that the chosen stones fit into nicely. The rule book was easy to follow but lacked a any F.A.Q. section or expanded rules on the Spirit Cards which we were forced to make an educated guess on the ruling. Overall though, a positive experience from a production standpoint especially considering it’s a mass produced game.
The gameplay was equally surprising: quick, light, and strategic. The actions provided in front of the players are seemingly simple with short and direct instructions. Turns can move quite quickly. It isn’t until players stop to consider how to deploy those actions that the games strategies emerge. I often found myself taking the actions with confidence then hesitating upon realizing all the underlying challenges of the game.
Should I pick up a stone or two now and start to build up my collections? How about I move that coyote pawn from my board over to my opponent’s so I may be able to finish up the set I’ve been working at so hard? Will that Spirit Card action I really want be around for me to take next turn? Should I fill the bowl with stones and risk placing the very stone that my opponent has been desperately waiting to grab? The flurry of questions bombard your brain with every turn.
All of these questions you would be asking yourself during play all ride on the back of the end game trigger. It is that ever present elephant in the room that is always glaring at you with impending eyes. As draw stones from the bag to replenish the dish, you may find that some of these colored stones will be clear stones called Spirit Stones. These are acquired just like the average stones but they can be placed on a set as a 2x multiplier. This, effectively, blocks any further placement of stones on that set so it crucial that you place them on a completed set or a set that you are happy with the current score.
The Spirit Stones also trigger the game end: once 5 of these stones are drawn from the bag, the game ends immediately. This mechanic delivers heaps of tension as players draw stones from the bag but also forces smart play when it comes to placement. The end is never far from possibility as some of the Spirit cards can add up to 4 stones to the bowl. This could be a potential issue as some of our games have ended prematurely and unfulfilled.
I would say that this was one of my most surprising purchases I’ve made in quite some time. No research going into the purchase of a game is usually not my style. I’ve been bitten too many times early in my hobby board gaming collecting that I’ve learned to never be too frivolous. This was an excursion from my new norm and it turned out to be a fun experience. The game is approachable and simple for casual player yet strategic enough for an experienced player to have some fun as well. There are my few small gripes fall short of the compliments this game deserves. Spirits of the Wild is a light but good game that is a welcome addition to the 2-player game collection.