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Horizons of Spirit Island: Protect the Land at All Costs!

Horizons of Spirit Island board game
Horizons of Spirit Island by Greater Than Games

Horizons of Spirit Island, a board game of fighting back invaders published by Greater Than Games, has players assume the role of a mystical island’s spiritual defenders as they attempt to repel ignorant invaders from destroying the natural beauty and inhabitants of said island.

Designed by R. Eric Reussi, the Horizons of Spirit Island board game is a Target-exclusive game that serves as a suitable introduction to the highly-acclaimed Spirit Island board game, complete with five Spirits that will make your initial foray into the island easier to manage.

So let’s tap into the powers of the island and see if you have what it takes to secure the safety and sanctity of the land around you!

Horizons of Spirit Island Gameplay

Players take on one of the Spirits, each of which have their own strengths and style of play, which makes it easy to find one that suits your preferred playstyle. Each turn will have the Invaders Ravaging, Building, and Exploring different terrain on the map, so it’s important to keep an eye on the progression so that the situation doesn’t get out of hand.

You will decide which cards you play, both based on the limit of the maximum cards you could play, as well as ensuring you don’t exceed your max energy with the costs of the cards. Some cards have a red bird on them; these are played before the invaders begin their turn. Others, marked with a blue tortoise, resolve at the end.

The invaders will be building up towns and cities, dispatching explorers in neighboring locations, and attacking the land and its inhabitants each turn. The goal is to generate Fear on the Island which will ease up the win conditions as the island becomes too terrifying for the invaders to remain. You can increase fear primarily by destroying the towns and cities, and this also helps prevent the spread of more explorers.

At the same time, you will need to manage the Blight that will spread across the island. This Blight is representative of the ‘stain’ left on the land by the disrespectful invaders, and it is very difficult to remove once it has appeared. If the land is Blighted too much, then there is no hope of recovery, and the Spirits lose.

Between the hand management, area control elements, and loose engine-building, the Horizons of Spirit Island board game offers a difficult cooperative experience that will have you heading back to the island for more, again and again.

Staking Our C.L.A.I.M. on Horizons of Spirit Island!


Keep in mind that Horizons of Spirit Island is meant to be the introductory version of Spirit Island, and therefore the components reflect that. Instead of wooden Dahan pieces like you’d find in the main version, you’re just going to have cardboard tokens. However, the Spirit Presence tokens are wooden discs, so no everything is cardboard.

The Spirit Panels are also thinner than what you might expect, simply having a linen finish, the thickness of a playing card. You can upgrade these to the cardboard versions which would put them right in line with original version if you’d like.

The only reason I’m making these comparisons is because the original version exists; all of these components are perfectly serviceable and keep the price point down to something more manageable for players looking to dip their toes into the world of Spirit Island.

Oh! And there’s a delightful Quick Start Guide that will help you play through the first turn, which is incredibly helpful in learning the game. I wish more games did something like this, because a lot of players learn best by doing and diving right into the game instead of reading a rulebook aloud and then being forced to referenced it again every two minutes anyways.

Horizons of Spirit Island board game


The Horizons of Spirit Island board game – and subsequently the original – is one of the more difficult cooperative games that I’ve ever played. It usually takes me a few games with a new Spirit to understand how they operate, which honestly is a really good challenge that makes me want to ‘figure it out’.

As for the five Spirits included in the game, they are all of an easier difficulty than some of the Spirits in the base game. Each has its own niche that you can leverage to defend the island, and finding interesting combinations of the Spirits makes each play unique.

The key to winning Horizons of Spirit Island is to understand the progression of the Invader track. The terrain types all slide over each turn, so if you fail to deal with a specific location on the board, it’s going to continue escalating until you do. Use this to your advantage; if you can nullify a location right after it’s explored, you don’t have to worry about it for another few turns at a minimum!

Every game feels like a puzzle where the slightest misstep can send you reeling into the throes of defeat. But that’s exactly why I keep coming back for more, to see if I can beat these scenarios with proper planning and execution.


The Spirits in Horizons of Spirit Island were drawn by a variety of artists, which makes them really enjoyable to look at. However, this does lead to a qualm of mine that there is a stylistic lack of cohesion because of the various styles. This makes it seem like all of the Spirits were drawn independently without following a style guide. It’s a minor quibble on my part, but it’s worth mentioning.

Besides that, the art on the cards is excellent, and the naming conventions of everything are outstanding. I never have any issues trying to discern what type of terrain is being referenced or which elements are being granted by the cards I’m playing. Everything is clear and clicks, especially with the large cardboard tokens that make it painfully obvious which locations are going to be problematic for you each turn.

Horizons of Spirit Island board game


I recommend Horizons of Spirit Island to anybody who hasn’t played Spirit Island yet, but wants to see what the game is all about. It serves its purpose as a gateway to the broader game, and its much lower price point is easier to swallow than dropping $70 on the original game. Obviously if you can try it from other sources, like a library or a game cafe, then that would be another route to go as well.

As far as cooperative games go, one of the primary benefits of the Horizons of Spirit Island board game is that it is fairly difficult for a single player to ‘quarterback’ and take over everybody’s turns with constant suggestions. Because of the asymmetric nature of the Spirits, coupled with their unique powers, each turn becomes a question of who can manage which locations. The rest of the table can then put their faith in the actions of those players, because they have plenty to strategize with in their own hands.

If you’re looking for a cooperative game that will test your strategic thinking abilities and offers nothing but a constant challenge, then you can look no further than Horizons of Spirit Island. It is one of the more rewarding feelings to successfully repel the Invaders, a feat that feels exceptionally good the first time that you accomplish it.


The overall mood of the table when playing Horizons of Spirit Island is one of hopelessness. But Abram! Why would I want to play a game that makes me feel like I’m constantly running uphill with no end in sight? Eventually you’ll turn a corner and begin to make some progress, and you get a tangible, palpable feeling from the table when that happens. That yes, you actually CAN do this!

With all of the different Spirits and cards, it’s honestly amazing to me how the designer was able to evoke that feeling in every single game. It’s packed with those little moments of victory followed by the idea that you cannot let up for a single second if you hope to win. And even within those moments are other victories of chaining together a powerful set of elements to unleash a decisive turn, or having a miraculous Dahan that puts in more than their fair share of work defending the Island.

The game is incredible.

Horizons of Spirit Island: Strike Fear into the Invaders’ Hearts!

Horizons of Spirit Island does everything that the original does, just in a much more approachable package. You don’t have to worry about learning uber-complicated Spirits right off the bat, instead easing yourself into understanding the mechanical interplay of Spirit Island.

I can’t speak highly of Horizons of Spirit Island enough, and I’ve logged over a dozen plays of it already. I won’t tell you how many of those I’ve won, mostly because it’s a process! Just like the original, it’s a no-brainer to hand out the Nerds on Earth Seal of Awesomeness Award to Horizons of Spirit Island. It’s a delightfully crunchy puzzle that gives you just enough hope to keep you going along the path to victory.

You can pick up a copy of Horizons of Spirit Island from Target, as I don’t think they’re available from your FLGS.

[Disclaimer: Nerds on Earth was provided a copy of Horizons of Spirit Island from Flat River Group Games in exchange for an honest review.]

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