Spirits of the Wild
I have had this full run-down of Spirits of the Wild kicking around for a while now and figured I had might as well put it up here. Why not hey?
We also put up our first impressions here.
THEME & DESCRIPTION
Spirits of the Wild is a 2 player game designed by Nick Hayes (Wizards Wanted, Stratego Conquest) and published by Mattel. It is a game about gathering colorful “mystical” stones to entice the spirits of the forest animals to share their secrets while the trickster coyote tries to foil your plans.
While the theme is a bit of a thin skin here, it is still a beautiful skin. The theme is used to give the game a comfortable, inviting feel. Though not immersive it does almost offer the mystic feeling it promises.
|# of Players||2 - 2|
|User Suggested # of Players|| Best with 2 players|
Recommended with players
|Mfg Suggested Ages||10 and up|
|User Suggested Ages||6 and up|
|Language Dependence||Some necessary text - easily memorized or small crib sheet|
|Category||Abstract Strategy, Animals, Fantasy|
|Mechanic||Action Retrieval, Hand Management, Set Collection|
|Family||Animals: Coyotes, Player Count: Two Player Only Games|
|Primary Name||Spirits of the Wild|
GAMEPLAY & MECHANICS
Spirits of the Wild is a set collection game that has players gathering colored stones from a common pool. Gathered stones will go into various sets for scoring.
Each player has the same set of 6 action cards and a matching player board. The player boards have 5 spirit animals that each require a different type of set to score points. For example, the owl collects pairs of matching stones; scoring 3 points per completed pair at the end of the game. While the salmon wants to collect one of each color of stone with scores increasing for each stone collected.
Colored stones are picked by players from a common pool. A small sculpted dish at the center of the table. This dish often only contains a few stones at a time. Some actions allow players to add more stones to the dish by drawing them from a bag.
Both players have one double-sided card that allows them to reset their actions. If resetting at least 3 of their cards they will gain access to a set of larger animal spirit cards. These offer more powerful actions that either player can use. Only 2 are available to choose from at a time and they shift after one is used.
Besides the colored stones that the players are collecting for their sets, there are clear stones that act as point modifiers and each spirit animal can take one clear stone as well. When placed with an animal you can no longer add colored stones to that animal’s collection but any score you get for sets you have collected will be doubled at the end. These clear stones also act as the game’s timer. The game ends when five clear stones are present at the end of a turn.
Finally, there is the coyote. This little figure is moved back and forth between player boards with certain actions and bonus actions. By placing the coyote figure on an opponents board you can block them from placing stones.
Each turn a player selects one of their 6 action cards (or one of the larger power animal cards if they have previously used a minimum of 3 of their action cards) activating its ability and then turning the card over. The abilities will allow the player to select stones to add to their various collections, add stones from the bag to the common pool, move the coyote or some combination.
First IMPRESSIONS OF SPIRITS OF THE WILD
When I first saw this game, while browsing the internet, it caught my eye. The art and presentation were just that fantastic. I was pretty sure this game was going to be a hit with our daughter. She was still 5 at the time but was quickly progressing her game understanding.
The biggest boon for us was that our daughter loved it instantly. She wanted to play again, and again.
One small chink in this game’s presentation is that Mattel skimped a bit on some of the quality. The card stock is a bit too thin. The box is a bit too thin. Even the small sculpted dish for the stones feels a bit thinner than it should have been. I am not too sure how much to fault Mattel for it though. On the one hand, it makes some of the components feel cheaper than they look. This makes me wonder how much abuse they will stand up too when playing with kids. On the other hand, those choices most likely helped keep this game more affordable. The other components, the stones, and the fox are fantastic. Solid and bright sculpts with a great rubbery feel.
Personally, I would have liked the cards and box to be sturdier.
The art for Spirits of the Wild is by Syd Weilder, an illustrator and animator from West Virginia. Her wonderful art breathes life into what could have been a bland game of collecting bits of stuff. Syd’s illustrations elevate the game and give it an inviting warmth and captivating presence.
The design for the player mats, with each animal’s set, defined clearly, has fantastic visual cues that make the game easier to teach and learn. The bright sculpted stones and sculpted bowl add a tactile experience that brings you into this light mystical theme. which is fantastic for what could have just as easily been a themeless abstract game. The choices made for art and design make it easy for gamers to feel something just a bit more special about this light-hearted game.
The one choice I did not enjoy was the dark lettering on the player boards that explains each animals scoring. In low light, or with weak eyes, this becomes very hard to read. This text is important enough to have been highlighted better. I found myself using a flashlight or having to get my wife to read the text as we learned the game. or to check the scoring rules.
IS SPIRITS OF THE WILD A GOOD TIME?
The most fun here is with younger players. It is light and the choices narrow quickly so that there are never any big taxing decisions. I have played it with some more competitive gamers and the scores get high and the game drags on longer than it should have.
We definitely got enough fun out of the box to justify the price tag and it will find its way back to the table for years to come. More often to introduce it to new players. It is a great gateway game and introduction to action selection concepts or set collection games.
Playing with kids is where this game really shines. Even with our daughter, who is now 6, we never feel a need to “pull our punches” as it were. She has a great handle on the game and can easily hold her own. I don’t think her mom has beat her yet actually.
WHAT AGES CAN PLAY?
The age posted on the box for Spirits of the Wild is 10+ but that is way off the mark for who can actually grasp this game. This light-weight set collection game is easy to learn and teach.
If your child has a decent grasp on basic gaming you can easily coach them through this game until they understand how it works enough to give you a run for your money. The iconography is clear and effective. We bought this when our daughter was 5 and she has been a fierce competitor from day one.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON SPIRITS OF THE WILD?
Spirits of the Wild is an easy teach and quick to learn the game with a fantastic table presence. It is a great gateway to action selection and set collecting and board games in general. The little bit of take-that in this game is as light-hearted as the rest of the game and quickly becomes a fun tug-of-war with the trickster coyote. Which is quite spot on for the theme.
The game has some fun strategy and choices as you sort through how to use your cards to get the stones you want while trying to slow your opponent’s progress.
Some people may shy away from a game that has the Mattel name emblazoned on the box, but Mattel has been actively publishing some great modern hobby games lately, and doing a decent job at it too. Ghost Fightin Treasure Hunters and it’s budget-cutting offshoot Ghostbusters: Protect the Barrier comes to mind as well as the other Nick Hayes designed beauty, Wizards Wanted. Spirits of the Wild, with it’s the low price point, fun gameplay and beautiful art, is a shining example of what could be a new era in mass market games for Mattel. It is an easy decision to add this game to your collection.