Days of a Game Librarian

I work as the curator of a board game bar and café. This is just a place that I hope to put out some musings of what my job is, reflections on games, my average day to day and other things that I love about my job.
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Spirit Island

Evan Welsh
United States
Tempe
Arizona
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October 24th 2021
Saturday was kinda rough, I got into work and it was pretty slow for the first few hours and then it felt like all of a sudden we just got hit. One of the first tables I got to talk to was wanting to play Spirit Island. Starting off the day right. What a treat that game is to share with new players. My table did really well which is something I was thankful for. When it gets to Saturday night and we get busy sometimes it feels like there is no way that I can be there all the time. So I set them up and ran them through all the concepts and then I had to just let them go. There were questions that they asked but for the most part they were on their own and really succeeded with that. Which means all the honors go to them, well done guys.
For those readers who don’t know Spirit Island is a co-op where each player gets to control their own unique island spirit. You work together playing cards to manage the board, scaring off or killing the invaders' towns and cities while they try to build and blight your island. I think I have a soft spot for Spirit Island. For a co-operative game it gives a really great sense of individualism. Quarterbacking, or having someone who knows the game tell you what you should be doing, is a problem I think in all games. Co-operative games however take that to a new level where it can go really wrong since you’re working together. Looking at Spirit Island this problem is alleviated by a complex enough game where players are unable to quarterback because they have so many of their own problems and abilities to manage. I can’t tell everyone else what to play while concentrating on myself. Plus, Spirit Island has just a beautiful merging of mechanics and themes I can’t help but appreciate. One day I want to make my own game and I think Spirit Island will definitely serve as inspiration for how well the world building ties into the construction of the game. It feels like every card is unique and shows the narrative elements that in the world of the game would create the mechanical effects. One example of which I can give is a card called “Gold’s Allure” You get to gather an explorer and a town into the targeted land, and you also add a strife. The explorer and town belong to the invaders and they flock to the area that has the gold. Strife is basically a token that represents infighting between the invaders. All of the actions taken on the card are really well surmised by “Gold’s Allure.” It creates a miniature gold rush and then the invaders are gonna be focused on gathering gold and staking their claim that they aren’t able to focus on the island spirits. I am sure there are plenty of games that do this but Spirit Island I think stands head and shoulders above everything else with just how well it does it. I would really like to do something like that one day, but am well aware of the work that would entail. So for now I will just appreciate all of the work the Spirit Island team did.
I would love to talk to the designers about it and learn how they went about structuring and creating the incredible world that Spirit Island takes place in. Where do you start, how do you balance things, how do you assign the elemental markers? What ideas got rejected for cards because they might be too complex or too easy? You just know that the development process must have been such an incredible learning experience. I would love to peek behind the curtain to see what they got to experience.
Well writing this has made me want to play a lot more Spirit Island, I know what I am doing tomorrow.

As always thank you for reading,
Ev
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