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How to Play Spirit Island Rules for those who hate rulebooks

I hate reading rulebooks and wish they would be more straight forward. This How to Play Spirit Island rules guide was written with the hope of helping you get your game started quick.
We use visual mind maps to teach you the essential  how to play Spirit Island Rules, making it easy for you to learn how to play.
Find out more about Spirit Island if you are looking for a quick overview.

Click here to get quick and easy instructions on how to setup a game of Spirit Island.

What is the goal?

  • Players are Spirits of Nature and are defending their island against the Invaders
  • The Invaders do not care about the land and its inhabitants (called the Dahan)
  • Each turn, Spirits use Powers to:
    • push the Invaders back,
    • help the Dahan and
    • protect the land
  • The Spirits start out small but learn new tricks and grow along the way to fight against the rapidly expanding Invaders
  • The Spirits must destroy the Invaders and generate fear amongst the remaining survivors, in the hope that they retreat
  • If the Spirits act too slowly, or the land is overrun by Blight or a Spirit dies or fails to drive off the Invaders, they lose!
Spirit Island 1

Spirit Island

The game uses one Island Board per player to form an Island, with each board featuring lands and an ocean.

Spirit Island Rulebook - board and lands


The Dahan, native to Spirit Island, only attack invaders when urged by Spirit Powers or if attacked first.

Everything to know about the Dahan in Spirit Island board game

Spirit Island Gameplay Instructions

Game involves a series of turns. Each turn comprises the following phases:

  1. Spirit Phase
  2. Fast Power Phase
  3. Invader Phase
  4. Slow Power Phase
  5. Time Passes Phase
Spirit Island Gameplay and turn actions

Spirit Phase

Spirit Phase involves the following actions:

  1. Grow
  2. Gain Energy
  3. Play and Pay for Power Cards
Spirit Island Spirit Phase Steps

Fast Power Phase

  • Players resolve Fast Powers simultaneously
  • Resolve both Innate Powers and Power Cards they played.
Spirit Island Fast Power Phase Steps

Invader Phase


  • Goal: Fend off Invaders by meeting the victory conditions of the current Terror Level.
  • Winning becomes easier as Invaders grow more fearful.
  • Invaders do not automatically harm Spirit Presence or Dahan in a land.
  • Invaders harm only when Ravaging (see Ravage under Invader Phase section).
  • Each type of Invader has specified Health.
  • To destroy an Invader, deal damage equal to or exceeding its Health in one turn.
  • Some effects destroy Invaders regardless of Damage or Health.
Things to know about Invaders in Spirit Island

This phase involves the following steps:

  1. Blighted Island
  2. Fear
  3. Invader Actions
  4. Advance Invader Cards

Step 1 Blighted Island

If Blight Card is flipped to “Blighted Island”, follow instructions there. Invaders slowly Blight the land.

Things to know about Blight

Things to know about Blight in Spirit Island

Step 2 Fear

  • If player has earned Fear Cards, pick up whole face-down stack, flip it over and resolve cards one at a time, in order they were earned.
  • Discard resolved cards to Fear Discard space on board
  • Effect only lasts for current turn
Fear in Spirit Island Board Game


Terror in Spirit Island

Step 3 Invader Actions

Invader card in an Action Space on Invader Board shows which lands on the island are affected by action (if no card is present on the space, there is no action)

Invader Actions

Ravage Action Space

Invaders ravage in land of shown type on the card.
When there are Invaders in the shown lands,

  • deal damage: 1 per Explorer, 2 per Town, 3 per City
    • If 2 or more damage done, add Blight to the land
    • Destroy 1 Dahan for every 2 points damage
      • Damage cannot be distributed to multiple Dahans to avoid destruction.
      • If Dahan has 1 damage, flip over to indicate damaged.
      • Damaged Dahan recover at turn end.
  • surviving Dahan fight back and deal 2 damage to the invaders. Dahan fight back even if invaders deal no damage.
Ravage action steps in Spirit Island

Build Action Space

  • Invaders build on land shown on Invader card if there are invaders on specified type of land
    • Add either 1 City or 1 Town
    • If land has more towns than cities, add city. Otherwise, add 1 town
  • Do not build if land has no Invaders
Build Actions in Spirit Island

Explore Action Space

  • Turn top card of Invader deck face-up
    • Card has a flag icon and you are playing with an Advesary
      • Perform Escalation effect first
    • Add an Explorer to every land of the shown type that has a Town or City or is next to a Town, City or Ocean
  • If there are no more cars, you lose.
Explore Action Space - Spirit Island Board game

Step 4 Advance Invader Cards

  • Slide all Invader Cards left
  • Move card on Ravage to Discard
  • Move card on Build to Ravage
  • Move card on Explore to Build
Step 4 Advance Invader Cards

Slow Power Phase

  • Resolve Innate Powers printed on the Spirit Panel
  • Resolve played Power Cards
  • Powers resolve in order of player preference
  • Players can choose to skip a Power’s text effect (or cannot use it)
Slow Power Phase

Power and Fear Effects

Here are some the effects of Power and Fear

Power and Fear Effects

Time Passes Phase

  • Wrap up Phase of each turn
  • Discard all Power cards in this turn into personal discard piles
  • Clear damage and Elements: All Elements go away. All damage done during turn goes away. Pieces that have partial damage are restored to normal.

How do you win?

Win by completely clearing the island of Invaders.
There are different win conditions with each terror level:

  • Terror Level 1
    • No invaders on the island
  • Terror Level 2
    • No towns or cities on the island
  • Terror Level 3
    • No cities on the island
  • Terror Level Victory
    • Immediate victory
Spirit Island Board Game Rules - Victory Conditions
Victory Conditions

Solo Rules

Solo games work like normal games, but with a single board as the whole Island. The only difference:

  • you can target yourself with Powers that specifically target “Another Spirit”, but you do not gain extra benefits from Powers that are better when used on another Spirit, like Gift of Constancy or Elemental Boon
  • the luck of the draw is high, and you have no fellow Spirits to make up for your Spirit’s weaknesses and limitations.

Optional Rules


  • Adversaries are specific colonizing Powers from the world of Spirit Island.
  • Including an Adversary is optional. It adds depth and strategy to the game.
  • Be sure to choose your foe before Setup begins, as some may change the rules of Setup

The Adversary Panel specifies an Escalation Effect, which is performed when the \"\" is revealed on Stage II Invader Cards.

Some Adversaries have additional loss conditions.  Each Adversary offers multiple increased difficulty levels, indicated by the number on the left. All listed game effects are cumulative: if you’re fighting vs. Level 3, you also use the effects from Level 1 and Level 2.

Some Adversaries modify the Invader Actions. There are Reminder Tiles to put below the Invader Action spaces on the Invader Board to remind you that the rules for those Actions are modified.

Fear Cards

As the difficulty increases, reaching higher Terror Levels becomes harder. Each Level shows how many Fear Cards to use and how many cards go in the top/middle/bottom of the Fear Deck.

Spirit Island 28
Spirit Island 29
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