Spirit Island: Nature Incarnate

Spirit Island: Nature Incarnate

More pre-production and Horizons shipping out!
25 days ago
by Greater Than Games
Welcome back again, everyone! We’ve got some good news and a little bit of clarification for you. We’re also making sure to keep our project FAQ up to date with questions we see the most frequently, so be sure to check there as well! Alright, without further ado, let’s get going.

First, let’s talk about Nature Incarnate. We’ve got the pre-production copies for the foil panels and the token pack in! This means that every piece of Nature Incarnate is now in the production phase. What does that mean? The game is well into production and will soon (in about a month or so) be placed on a container and shipped out to us. Now, we’re allowing for a little wiggle room here when it comes to shipping. I think all of us have learned that even if you think everything is fine… Shipping proves to be the most unpredictable part of any of this. So, no definite ending yet. 

Alright with the pending project out of the way, let’s get to a status update for shipping!

Horizons of Spirit Island is shipping out! Yes, Horizons and the premium panels are now shipping out! You should be getting them over the course of the next month. We hope to have fixed the issue with taxes already. But! In case they haven’t, the process remains the same. Email us at contact@greaterthangames.com with proof of paid charges and your backer email. We’ll get the refund back to you as soon as possible!

That’s all for now! The production phase is always a little bittersweet. On the one hand, it’s a big piece of news. The game is one step closer to you! On the other, that’s about all there is to say. Yep, it sure is being produced! So, until next month when we have more updates, that’s all for now!


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Shipping, pre-production, and more!
about 2 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Hello again everyone! Thank you so much for following along with our updates here. There’s a short bit of news and a few topics we’d like to clarify! First, let’s get the fantastic news out of the way: the pre-production copy is in! Woo!

Here is Christopher Badell with our copy!

Shiny! What does that mean? The pre-production copy is a physical copy of the game from the manufacturer. Think of it as the final draft before the game is moved on to mass production. We’re in the final stages right before production and then we’re into the semi-known space of shipping. Thankfully, things are much better than they were about a year ago, but it does still take time to cross an ocean and then all the way to us here in St. Louis. We’re making fantastic and quick progress, so be on the lookout next month for more updates about production!

And, finally, everyone has gotten their currently existing Spirit Island merchandise! … Except for Horizons, but we’ll get to that in a minute. The rest of you should have received all of your currently existing Spirit Island products or at the very least gotten tracking information! If you’ve gotten neither or the package is going to the incorrect address, please reach out to contact@greaterthangames.com as soon as possible for us to help you fix that!

Now, let’s move on to a few questions that we’ve had from a few people.

Why am I getting charged VAT?
Excellent question! A lot of you (unfortunately) were hit with VAT charges. No matter where the product is shipping from, that should not have been happening. We’ve investigated the issue and think we’ve found a solution, so it should be less of a problem moving forward. These taxes were paid ahead of time and thus nothing should be landing at your doorstep but a package. Sadly, we can’t pay these taxes on your behalf. But! We will be more than happy to refund you these unexpected charges! Please be sure to email contact@greaterthangames.com with your backer email as well as your proof of payment. We’ll get right on giving you that refund in no time!

Why didn’t I get Horizons of Spirit Island (and panels) with my package of existing Spirit Island products?
We were hoping to be able to ship all of the products together! Unfortunately, the latest print run of Horizons didn’t arrive in time for us to be able to do that. Instead, we’re going to have to wait. Horizons (and the panels) will be shipped out at a later date. Some of you may get it along with your Nature Incarnate, others may be getting it separately! It all depends on timing and stock availability. If you’re ever unsure, you’re always welcome to reach out to contact@greaterthangames.com for more details. In fact, we always suggest sending us an email as we usually need access to your information in order to locate your shipment, answer questions, and so on. Emailing us really is the best way to get all the information that you could possibly need.

Phew! Okay, that’s it for this month! Tune in next month when we’ll have more production updates! Thanks again, everyone!
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Horizons of Spirit Island Punch Board Panels
3 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Hello everyone! Welcome back to an impromptu update. This one because the item arrived a little earlier than expected! The item in question? Punch board style panels for Horizons of Spirit Island!

These are available on our website, since they’re an accessory to an exclusive here in the US. But! I’m sure many of you are wondering how you can get this added on to your current order to save on shipping. It’s a little complicated, so I’m hoping to be able to explain it to you as best as possible.

For our Non-US Backers who included Horizons of Spirit Island, we are going to be sending out an entirely different pledge manager that will only have options for these panels. Why an entirely different pledge manager? It was the only non-complicated, no-possible-order-messing-up way to get the option of these panels to you! We wanted to make sure to give you the option to help save on shipping rather than just buying them from our store.

Which, speaking of, there will be no additional shipping charges or taxes for this product! Since our shipment is based on weight, you’d have to add a heck of a lot of these to increase your shipment costs. Please don’t do that.

What do you need to do to take part? Absolutely nothing but carefully track and answer your emails. That’s it! We know that filling out a second survey can be a pain, but we wanted to make sure to bring you this opportunity as soon as it was available.

Now, this is just a set of the Horizons Spirit panels —  it does not come with the unique power cards — so you will not be able to play the spirits without getting a copy of Horizons of Spirit Island. This is why we’re not opening the option up for US backers. It seems a little pointless to give you just some panels when the product is available right here on our website if you really want them!

To summarize:
  • Punch board style panels (and ONLY the panels, no cards) are now available for purchase!
  • Non-US Backers who added Horizons of Spirit Island will be getting a second survey for the option of getting these panels in their emails.
  • There will be no additional shipping charged for this item.
  • No further action needs to be taken by these backers beyond the normal survey answering.
  • US Backers will not be getting these surveys, only non-US backers.

As always the best method of contact is through our email at contact@greaterthangames.com. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to reach out!

See you soon!
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Pre-production copy awaiting & February!
3 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Welcome back everyone. Now that some of you have started to get your items, we’re glad to say that we’re on schedule. First, let’s talk about what pre-production copies are all about, then we’ll get talking about the month of February, and finally we’ll be rounding off with a summary of the shipment process as it’s happening now.

Pre-production copies — what’s that all about? These copies are the physical copies of the game that let us give it a look-over before the full production is started. This is our last chance to do the final edits and make sure that everything is in top shape. When these do arrive, I’ll post some pictures! Once we approve those, it’s off to the races and Nature Incarnate production begins! We’re right on track for exactly where we thought we’d be.

But, talking about schedules, let’s discuss February. As many of you might know, the Lunar New Year is anywhere from late January through mid-February. This year it just so happens to be January 22nd. This means that our printers will be closed for the weeks surrounding the holiday to allow for travel and celebrations with their family. So, we won’t have a whole lot to report in February, and maybe not much in March, either! Not to worry, though, we always take the holiday into account when making our timelines. It’s part of the schedule from the very start. We’re confident that we’ll still be able to get it to you on time… assuming no shipping crises, of course.

With that in mind, some of you have started to receive your shipping notifications! The next round of shipment notifications should be sometime in March. Again, this does not apply to our Australian and Asian backers who will get everything at once. Some of you who were not part of this first wave have already reached out to me regarding questions, and please continue to do so! Whether it’s updating your order, your address, or answering questions, we’re always here to help. Please reach out to contact@greaterthangames.com if there’s something that BackerKit can’t help you out with.

That’s all for this month, so stay tuned for February’s update where we’ll wish everyone a happy Lunar New Year!
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Some stuff is getting shipped your way!
4 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Hello, folks! Bailey again for a quick holiday update. We’re going to try our very best to get things to some of you within the next coming weeks!

Let’s get a little bit into detail so it’s clear who is getting what and when.

Approximately the first 1,000 backers who have filled out their surveys will receive all of their already existing Spirit Island products (meaning stuff that’s already in print and not new as part of this crowdfunding campaign). This is based on current stock levels and generally how we’ll be handling this moving forward!

Every so often, when an update lets you know otherwise, there will be approximately 1,000 of you who get shipments from us. We expect the next 1,000 to be sometime in March. Addresses will be locked now, but be unlocked at a later date in order for you to update it for Nature Incarnate’s shipment.

This does not include our Asian and Australian backers. You will still receive all of your product at once.

This partial fulfillment includes everything EXCEPT the following:
  • Spirit Island: Nature Incarnate
  • Spirit Island: Nature Incarnate - Foils
  • Spirit Island: Nature Incarnate - Sleeve Bundle
  • Premium Token Pack 2

How will you know you are one of the first 1,000? You will receive a shipment notification with all of your shipping information and product included. You should receive your product within one month of that shipment notification. If you do not receive a shipment notification, it will come later, around sometime in March.

Got it?

OK, here’s a short and sweet summary to make it as clear as possible.

  • Approximately 1,000 of you will receive all of your existing Spirit Island products.
  • It will be the first 1,000 people who filled out surveys.
  • The next round of about 1,000 people will be in March, 2023.
  • This does not apply to Australian and Asian countries, who will still receive all of their products at once.
  • This does includes everything EXCEPT for the following products:
    • Spirit Island: Nature Incarnate
    • Spirit Island: Nature Incarnate - Foils
    • Spirit Island: Nature Incarnate - Sleeve Bundle
    • Premium Token Pack 2
  • You will know that you are one of the first 1,000 if you receive a shipment notification, which will have your tracking number and what products you are receiving.
  • Addresses will be temporarily locked for this shipment and unlocked again for updating for Nature Incarnate shipping.

If you have any other questions, please reach out to contact@greaterthangames.com! This is the fastest and most efficient way to reach us!
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Printers & Pre-orders!
4 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Welcome to the first update post-funding, everyone! Thank you all for joining us. As promised, we’re going to be bringing you updates on our progress for the game as well as other bookkeeping, like updates about the pledge manager. If you didn’t catch our surprise update on that last Thursday, here it is. 

Quick summary on the pledge manager update: the surveys have been sent out! You should have received your email by now, but give it up to a week before reaching out. If you have any concerns or questions regarding changing your address or getting your pledge, don’t hesitate to reach out to contact@greaterthangames.com. Any questions on the technical side of BackerKit should go directly to BackerKit themselves.

Okay! Now onto the title of our update...

Pre-Order Store is Now Live

That’s right! The pre-order store is now live and available. You can click on the link here or you can click the convenient link at the tippy-top of our main page. This pre-order store allows for late backers to attain all the deals and items available to our backers. This pre-order store will remain open until we’re ready to ship, but these orders will not ship until after the orders from  backers who backed during the actual campaign. You might be getting the deals, but the early bird gets the package sooner! If you have ordered through the pre-order store, be sure to keep an eye on these updates. You have the same system as our backers for things like updating your address and general questions. 

That should be about it for the bookkeeping; let’s move on to news about the game!

Files are in the Printer’s Hands

The Nature Incarnate expansion is all set and ready to go on our end! Now, we have the files sent over to the printer for them to review and make sure that everything is perfect for when production starts. Not really much exciting stuff to say here, honestly! Things are moving right along right at the pace we thought they would. We’re happy to report that there is nothing causing any delays and we’re on schedule. Though if any of our more superstitious readers want to knock on some wood just in case… I’m definitely not going to stop you. I think we’re all a little leery of good production news after The Supply Chain Crisis That Technically Still Continues.

But hey! Good news! We’re going to do everything we can to keep it that way for you moving forward, and we’ll update you with any relevant information as the process continues

Until next time!
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Pledge Manager Surveys Headed Out!
4 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Happy late November, everyone! Very quick, early update: we’re sending out the pledge manager surveys for you tomorrow! This is your opportunity to tell us your address, fill out all of your shipping information, and finalize your order. This way, as soon as the game is ready to be shipped, you won’t have anything to do but wait and watch your tracking information with anticipation.

Some of you may not get them until Friday! Hey, there are thousands of you and no system can take sending that many emails at once. Please don’t worry until it’s been over a week since this update. If you still haven’t gotten your survey by then, reach out to contact@greaterthangames.com and we’ll be able to help send that survey along.

“But,” I hear you ask, “what if I have to change addresses between now and whenever in 2023 that the game will be to me?” No worries! Send a message over to contact@greaterthangames.com as soon as you know your new address. We’ll be able to update you in the system without a problem. We’ll also be able to take care of any shipping discrepancies at that time. 

That covers it for now! Stay tuned for next Tuesday where we’ll bring you our first official post-campaign update!


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End of the Campaign!
4 months ago
by Greater Than Games

Thank you, everyone!

Hello, all of our final 11,895 backers! Thank you all so much again for your support, care, and excitement for this new expansion to Spirit Island! We appreciate all of you for coming along for this journey with us learning more about the Spirits, Aspects, and more. As mentioned previously, we’ll be updating all of you on the first Tuesday of every month with progress on the game!

For those of you wondering about updating your pledge, add-ons, or paying for shipping, we’re not quite to that stage yet! That’s for the BackerKit survey, which we’ll be sending out sometime over the course of the next month or two. Don’t worry, you’ll get many, many warnings about when the survey is going out, when to have it filled in, and so much more. Need further help? Please reach out to contact@greaterthangames.com where we’ll be happy to help with any questions.

That’s all for now! We’ll see you on December 6th with our first monthly update!
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Thank you to all 11,501 backers!
4 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Well, folks, we made it! Here we are on the final update to thank each and every one of you. This literally is not possible without all of you. We've been blown away again and again by your continued support and the sheer amount of you. Again, thank you so much for bringing us all the way here.

For those of you who have never backed a crowdfunding campaign with us before, we’d like to offer you a warm welcome and special thank you! We’ll be explaining our general process now that we’re funded on how we get the product to you, what we think the timeline is, and how we’ll keep the process updated.

First, let’s cover the timeline. Here’s the roadmap ahead.

Estimated Timeline for Fulfillment

  • November-December 2022 — Finishing up the last few details on development and getting the print files ready to hand over to the printer.. The vast majority of the game was already set to go, but we want to go over everything with a fine-toothed comb.
  • December 2022-January 2023 — We send the files to the printers, exchange some back and forth to make sure everything is perfect, and then printing gets started.
  • February-March 2023 — A pre-production proof arrives. This is about as final as it could get before it starts to print.
  • March-June 2023— Nature Incarnate production! The game is printed and packaged in cases, which then get loaded into cargo containers! This is the biggest step.
  • June-July 2023 — Said containers wait for their turn to be shipped.
  • July-September 2023 — It travels across the sea and then waits for its turn to be allowed into port. 
  • October-November 2023 — The game arrives and fulfillment can begin! You’ll be getting your packages sometime by the end of the year

This timeline is more or less what each different fulfillment area is going to be dealing with. This is the part where I put the big, bold, italicized disclaimer: These are all estimates. Not only that, these are estimates with plenty of time padded in to account for things like… shipping mishaps or major holidays for factory workers. We’re hoping the games arrive to you sooner, but this is a pretty realistic timeline just in case. Of course, this is not accounting for any other major world changing events like supply chain issues. How will you know what’s going on? Great question.

How You’ll Be In The Know

For now, you don’t need to give us any information or finalize your pledge. There’s a crowdfunding manager to fill out with your final order, address, et cetera later. What about knowing what will happen in between then and when the package(s) actually arrive? How will you, dear backers, know what’s happening with the development and production of Spirit Island: Nature Incarnate? Wonderful news! Every first Tuesday of the month, Greater Than Games updates all pending crowdfunding campaigns. We tell you what we’ve been doing, the status of the project/shipping, and share any fun images of the design process when we can!

Some Updates on the Token Pack

Yesterday’s update contained details about Premium Token Pack #2. We did originally promise the reminder tokens, but neglected to include them! That was a mistake on our part. Now, we’ve made room to include both reminder and element tokens after yesterday’s feedback. Here’s the updated and expanded list of components:
  • 7 Incarna Tokens
  •  24 Deeps Tokens
  •  18 Vitality Tokens
  •  20 Quake Tokens
  •  72 Elements Tokens
  •  6 Fear Markers
  •  27 Single Turn Effect Markers (Defend)
  •  27 Single Turn Effect Markers (Isolate)

Here’s what they will look like, made of wood!

OK! We’ve covered the timeline going forward and how we’re going to keep you updated. It’s a lot of information dumped on you at once, so that’s about all that I have time for! We’ll see you soon!

Ah, just kidding. Of course I did not forget the little teaser reward for those who carefully followed the interviews!

What were the Spirits and aspects from the Dev Team Interview?

Alright, here it is for our eagle-eyed readers: Wounded Waters gave the whole dev team the most trouble! Honestly, after yesterday’s write up, is it any wonder with the complexity of it? That wasn’t all that was hidden away, though, for the especially eagle eyed readers!

Emilia’s Aspect she was most excited for was Mentor. Nick’s was Unconstrained. Christopher’s Aspect was Lair.

And that really is the end of the campaign! It’s been a wild month with an amazing turn out, which we still cannot thank you enough for, still absolutely blown away by. We will see you on the first Tuesday of the month where we likely won’t have anything too major to report, but it makes everything easier to keep it all nice and neat and in one place. We’ll see you then!

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Final Spirit Reveal: Wounded Waters Bleeding
5 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Hello to our 10,869 backers! Here it is, the final Spirit. We’ve had 467 of you join since we last had an update and we’ve saved one of the best for last for all of you to enjoy. There’s no real best of course, but this complicated Spirit offers so much in both terms of theme and gameplay complexity.

The creator of Spirit Island R. Eric Reuss and development team member Ted Vessenes write more about this incredible spirit with our final bonus card for this campaign. Gentlemen, please tell us all about Wounded Waters Bleeding.


In years and generations past, there was a small lake (or a large pond, depending on how you looked at it) nestled into a wooded area. It was fed by a large brook (or a small river) that ran its way down a rocky slope, producing a bit of spray and a pleasing burbling noise.

You might expect that animals would come to the lake to drink, and you would be more right than you knew - for the pool was (or was the home of, again depending on how you looked at it) Peace-Waters, a Spirit of contented co-existence and the gift of water. On its banks, predators did not hunt prey, and a curious feeling of peace spread through all who approached.

(Do you wonder to yourself how the ecosystem survived such a thing? The protections of Peace-Waters only applied to guests, to animals visiting for water, not to those which lived within the waters itself. Any animal or human which came to drink would, after finding enough inner peace to lose track of time's passage, feel an urge to move onwards - prey animals could drink without fear, but predators could do quite well for themselves on the game-paths leading to and from Peace-Waters, so long as they were far enough away.)

Then the Invaders came. Some of their explorers found Peace-Waters' lake, and in keeping with the nature of the place, decided it didn't feel quite right to site a mill there. But upstream... upstream of Peace-Waters, they settled, and built slaughterhouses and tanneries. With death’s blood and worse pouring into the pool day after day, Peace-Waters started to change.

They are - for now - still a Spirit of water and water's gift, but half-transformed to a Spirit of blood, predation, and wracking taint. Caught between these two deeply opposed natures, they are slowly disintegrating, trying to find coherence before dissolving completely.


Wounded Waters Bleeding is a great example of how initial design ping-pongs between the elemental and the thematic and the mechanical, with experience hovering over the whole thing.

The initial prompt which eventually led to Wounded Waters Bleeding was “Hmm, what might a Water + Animal Spirit look like?”. 

As a first step, I reviewed the Water, Animal, and (especially) Water+Animal Minor Powers to get a sense for the types of resonances baked into those elements. (This is a pretty standard step for any Spirit, once I have an idea of its elemental portfolio. Having some cards that don’t match up quite right is fine, but if there’s a major conflict between its concept and what it’s likely to want to pick elementally, that’s a big warning flag.)

What I found in this case was a deep conflict - some of the powers were extremely life-affirming, like Teeming Rivers or Call to Tend, while others like Fleshrot Fever or Blood Calls Predators were very much about death.

I could have chosen to focus on just one of those, and leaned towards Water or Animal (which correlate somewhat with those tendencies) - and/or included other structures in the Spirit’s rules which would pull it in one direction or the other. But I found the dichotomy really thematically interesting, and after some thought decided to move forward with it as a choice the Spirit itself faced.

(I’ve mentioned before that “how will you (the Spirits) change?” is one of the secondary themes of Spirit Island. This is usually represented via what Power Cards a Spirit gains and Forgets, but sometimes it will be more front and center in a design, like Starlight Seeks Its Form or Relentless Gaze of the Sun. Wounded Waters Bleeding is another one about change, and here, the question is much more “how will you change to survive?”)

From this came the core concept of a wounded, bloodied Spirit trying to find coherence in a new nature. I liked it not just for the resonances of element and change already mentioned, but because it showed a new facet of the Invaders damaging the island: they weren’t just obliterating, they were also transforming in destructive ways. It tied nicely into the truth (of both game and real life) that messing with the environment can come back to bite you, and also to the in-game belief of the Dahan that wounding a Spirit without destroying it will let it grow back stronger than before.

So, then, how to implement it?

Getting “wounded” across seemed like it wanted effects during gameplay - simply “starting with some destroyed Presence” wouldn’t have the same oomph - and the most obvious way was “lose a Presence every turn”. 

Not only is losing Presence an obvious sign of a Spirit getting hurt, but it tends to have a bigger feel-impact than mechanical-impact. Having it happen every turn would evoke echoes of the desperation the Spirit itself would be feeling - though it needed to be clear to the player that the Spirit wasn’t going to just implode, that it had the ability to find a new stability before it ran out of Presence. (Early versions had an Energy-costing costing Growth choice to add Destroyed Presence, which was usually an obviously bad move but acted as a security blanket - “OK, this is here if I ever really need it”.)

For “finding stability in a new nature”, I settled on having two innates - one Water-primary, one Animal-primary - each of which could replace the other one, permanently shifting the Spirit’s elemental affinity. The replacement innates leaned more strongly towards the extremes of “life” and “death” than the on-panel innates, so after healing you’d end up with one on-panel innate that still had echoes of being wounded (“healing” is “finding a new way forward”, not “all is now exactly as it was”) and a new innate that was more focused on its new nature. This let the two healed states feel very different from each other.

As it turned out, structuring the healing via Innates brought with it some intrinsic problems that required a very late redesign; the dev notes will go more into that. The final version still lets you replace innates, to a very similar effect, but via a completely different means.

The Spirit comes with 4 Healing Cards - here’s two of them:

Two of the Healing Cards can be played Turn 3 and grant a Special Rule; the other two can be played Turn 5 and replace one Innate Power (as well as stopping ongoing Presence loss).

The dev notes talk more about how those work, as well as a bunch of other things! But before I hand it over, I just want to note that the way you handle gaining 0 Energy/turn for multiple turns is that you start with some Energy - see the panel back above. (And this “spending a resource you’re not getting more of” also contributes to the feeling of being wounded, while giving you enough Energy that you’d have to work at it to run out before reaching a better income.)

Dev Notes, by Ted Vessenes

Along with Relentless Gaze of the Sun and Dances Up Earthquakes, Wounded Waters Bleeding was the third Spirit of Eric’s original six that I thought we could plausibly include in this expansion. One of these had a blight adding death laser innate, another was the precise definition of very high complexity (players must plan multiple turns in advance), and Wounded Waters forced players to destroy their presence every turn. That is quite an intimidating set of Spirits to refine! For a long time I thought we couldn’t make Wounded Waters work, which is why I asked Eric to design a control spirit (which turned into Wandering Voice Keens Delirium).

The core idea behind Wounded Waters was always the same: it’s a Spirit with a conflicted, split sense of identity. This slowly destroys the Spirit until it can reconcile its nature, healing one way or the other. Originally the Spirit had two simple heals (one for water, one for animal), which were triggered by hitting mid-game 4-2-1 element thresholds. When you healed for one side, you traded in your other base innate for a different innate with more aligned elements. This also stopped future presence loss. The intent was that players would have to work to heal sometime in the mid-game, and that it would sometimes be a niche strategy to avoid healing for the entire game.

The first thing I noted was that this Spirit needed a special rule to tie together the water and animal strategies. Generally speaking, Spirits are most interesting when they give players reasons to care about power card drafts besides the elements. For example, Ocean likes all cards that move invaders, even those without Water. Wounded Waters needed a special rule that gave players mechanical direction, and it needed to contribute to both the water and animal strategies, because you want those early game effects to stay relevant even when your innate powers shift. We tried some variants around beasts and disease tokens, until we eventually settled on dealing 1 damage when you moved invaders/Dahan/beasts. This worked because the Water side focused on piece movement and the Animal side focused on damage.

As for the healing mechanic, this was a great example of how intent in game design isn’t as important as how players actually want to play. In testing, we saw that nearly every player tried as hard as possible to heal as soon as possible. Our target heal turn was “5 or 6, or maybe 4 if you stretch”. Testers felt that the spirit absolutely had to heal by turn 4, or it was too weak. Some testers would try to get enough elemental support to heal on turn 3 or even 2. We tried weakening the value of healing and strengthening the spirit pre-heal, such that the relative benefit was a lot smaller. But none of that changed the perspective that healing immediately was a priority. It only made players unhappy with the payoff for going through that much work, even if healing a turn later would have been easier.

Relatively late in the dev process, the Spirit was clocking in at Very High complexity, and playtesters just weren’t as excited about the Spirit. Eric took the Spirit back in the shop and came up with a different take on the healing mechanic. Each turn, Wounded Waters gains a healing marker associated with whichever element it has the most of. And when you have enough healing markers of the right type, you heal your Spirit, trading your water innate for a new animal innate (or vice versa). This let us precisely control which turn the Spirit heals on, so players could focus on what they wanted the Spirit to do instead of healing quickly. Initial tests showed this was a step in the right direction, but the healing mechanic was still too complicated. And the play dynamics shifted too much in the mid-game.

I took this idea and ran with it. To simplify things, I made 5 healing cards instead of the original 3. Three of the healing cards gave you a different special rule and two of them changed your innates. They were structured such that you would eventually pick one special rule and one innate. As we refined the Spirit, the design settled on two different special rules and two innates, with four possible healing combinations. The special rule heals happen on turn 3, giving players an early game power boost as well as tactical direction. And on turn 5, once Waters has drafted its element identity, it finishes healing with a new innate power. There are four different builds of this Spirit, each with its own unique strategy and strengths.

Because a Spirit’s name changes as its nature changes, we named the healing cards with portions of Wounded Waters Bleeding’s new name. So on turn 3, the spirit becomes either Roiling Waters Bleeding or Serene Waters Bleeding, depending on whether the Spirit leaned more into its water or animal side. On turn 5, Roiling Waters Bleeding will turn into either Roiling  Waters Renew or Roiling Waters Taste of Ruin, completing its healing process. This means the Spirit has seven different names.

And that’s where things landed right at the layout deadline! Wounded Waters had four additional healing cards, but otherwise was a pretty normal looking spirit. There’s nothing else interesting about this Spirit, right? Right?

Oh, yeah… That forked presence track.

As the layout deadline loomed, we realized the Spirit had similar balance problems as Wandering Voice and Breath of Darkness had. In particular, too much early control will trivialize the game and too little control makes it impossible. It still had a standard two track layout as well. To solve this, we seriously restricted early access to card plays. But that only resulted in a “one true opening” for the first 3 turns. This frustrated players who wanted flexibility while also being a trap for players who tried the wrong opening.

I negotiated an extra week of time for Wounded Waters and tried a dramatic redesign of the entire presence track. The idea was that if we were going to force players to have the same presence track opening, we should at least be honest about doing that. There are three things I really like about the forked track concept. First, it gave us perfect control over how many card plays the Spirit has on the first three turns, which lets us fine tune the early game strength. Second, it’s very thematic how a wounded Spirit doesn’t have as many choices. And third, when I only had a week to balance the tracks, it’s really helpful to have a highly constrained problem.

I also changed the growth choices such that players must take the second growth for the majority of the game. This is intentional because without gaining power cards, the Spirit can’t move towards any new identity. While it looks like the Spirit has fewer early game choices, the reality is that initial power card drafts are very important. A full 50% of the minor and major power cards are relatively good cards for at least one of the four healing builds, and some of them are downright amazing. What other Spirit is excited to see any of Tigers Hunting, Smothering Infestation, and Irresistible Call? Wounded Waters has been an incredible Spirit to develop, and I think one of our best efforts to date.

Major Power Card: Flocking Red-Talons

Of course there’s also some new major powers that are great for Wounded Waters. Here’s one that’s utterly exceptional for Roiling Waters builds:

Any beast-using Spirit would be happy to take this card as a beast-based control card. But Roiling Waters gets 3 bonus damage just for adding/moving the beasts. Hit the threshold for another 3 damage, in a land up to 6 away from the origin!

Thank you both for all the hard work you, and the rest of the development team, have put in for these information filled updates! We’re here, the last heavy update of the campaign. We’ve got one more to go tomorrow with our last celebration of our number of wonderful backers and how we’re going to keep you updated moving forward to bringing this product from us to you.

Oh, and the answer to the little hint all the way back from the dev team interview. That’s right, I didn’t forget because I knew at least one of you out there would remember! Tomorrow, we’ll see you one more time when the campaign is over!
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Premium Token Pack #2 and Aspects
5 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Hello again to all 10,402 of you and welcome for our first-timers! We’ve got a short update for you today as we get ready to wind down here for the final week. Only a few days to go! Many of you have had questions about two particular things: the premium token pack #2 and the aspects. Let’s go over those very quickly.

Premium Token Pack #2

First, let’s go over the exact contents of the token pack. They are: 
  •  7 Incarna Tokens
  •  24 Deeps Tokens
  •  18 Vitality Tokens
  •  20 Quake Tokens
  •  72 Element Tokens
  •  8 Strife Tokens
  •  6 Badlands Tokens
  •  8 1-Energy Markers
  •  12 Fear Markers

Now you know! But what exactly do they look like? Well, we’re still in the process of designing them, especially for those Incarna tokens. We don’t have any final images yet for some of them. But, we do have a previous product that shows you exactly what you can expect.

Premium Token Pack 1 is available both as an add-on here on BackerKit and for sale on our website! They are wooden token versions of the cardboard variety that come with the game. Here’s a component shot of the current tokens that we have so you can get an idea of what you’re getting into.


Another question we’ve gotten quite a bit is about aspects. We couldn’t possibly have time to talk about every single one of them throughout the length of this campaign. (Unless you wanted this campaign to go on for months? Which no one wants. I hope?) 

So, without further ado, here is a complete list of all twenty Aspects in Nature Incarnate, along with a bit of gameplay teaser info. You’ll see some familiar names of things we’ve talked about before, but also some brand new and exciting things! 

  • Dark Fire - Shadows Flicker Like Flame: Shadow and Flame are one
  • Deeps - Ocean’s Hungry Grasp: Return the island to the deeps, one land at a time
  • Encircle - Sharp Fangs Behind the Leaves: Predators lay in wait, surrounding their prey
  • Enticing - Bringer of Dreams and Nightmares: More dreams, fewer nightmares
  • Haven - Rivers Surge in Sunlight: A place of peace and rest for Dahan and Invaders alike
  • Intensify - Shifting Memory of Ages: Strengthen your powers by tapping into past memories
  • Lair - Lure of the Deep Wilderness: Trap Invaders in your lair, using them to bring you more
  • Locus - Serpent Slumbering Beneath the Island: Focus the Island’s Spirits on the place of your stirring slumber
  • Mentor - Shifting Memory of Ages: Pass on lessons from your past to your friends and allies
  • Nourishing - Vital Strength of the Earth: Revitalize the earth, the Dahan, and yourself
  • Regrowth - A Spread of Rampant Green: Your destroyed presence shall return to the land
  • Sparking - Lightning’s Swift Strike: Inspiration strikes
  • Spreading Hostility - Keeper of the Forbidden Wilds: Punish the Invaders for trespassing in your lands
  • Stranded - Shroud of Silent Mist: Invaders have lost their way in the ever-shifting mists
  • Tactician - Thunderspeaker: Prepare for the Invaders in advance
  • Tangles - A Spread of Rampant Green: Wilds tear down the Invaders’ buildings
  • Transforming - Heart of the Wildfire: The fire is a crucible of change, for better and for worse
  • Unconstrained - Sharp Fangs Behind the Leaves: Your beasts roam wherever they find prey
  • Violence - Bringer of Dreams and Nightmares: Fill their dreams with your unbridled wrath
  • Warrior - Thunderspeaker: Fight alongside the Dahan with your Incarna

There we have it! Something straightforward as we get ready for the big, beautiful revel of our final. Spirit. Tomorrow. I know! Our final Spirit! Can you believe that the final Spirit and the final days of the campaign are already here? I know, a month just flies by. We’re excited to show you this one tomorrow as it’s one of the most interesting and complex Spirits to date! See you tomorrow!
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Adversary: Habsburg Mining Expedition
5 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Hello again all 10,196 of you for bringing us to one million dollars! All ten thousand one hundred and ninety-six of you brought us to one million dollars! So incredible that we had to say it twice! Mostly in disbelief! Thank you all again so much for backing and making all of this possible. We would be here without each and every one of you. Welcome to those of us who have just joined. You might want to go back and look at the Spirits for this pack before facing… the foe. Yes, Nature Incarnate comes with one new adversary: The Habsburg Mining Expedition. R. Eric Reuss, creator of Spirit Island, and Nick Reale, dev team member, tell us all you need to know about the story, design, and development. We finish off with our bonus card — an Event card this time! Gentlemen, please take it away.


Emperor Joseph inherited the Hapsburg monarchy upon the death of his father, Leopold I, shortly after the conclusion of the War of Spanish Succession, a short-lived attempt by Emperor Leopold to put Joseph’s younger brother Charles on the Spanish throne. Secure in his alliance with Sweden and Prussia, Emperor Joseph stepped back from territorial conflicts in western Europe and focused on growing the wealth of the empire for his son and heir Leopold Joseph. 

Joseph I chartered the Ostend Company in 1697 to bring trade from the East and West indies through his Belgian provinces, setting up overseas colonies and beginning a program of  resettlement of Hungarian peasantry.

Alongside the mixed successes of their nomadic herding livestock colonial efforts, the Habsburg dynasty also reached across the seas with an eye towards gathering a key resource: salt. The salt mining colonies were outfitted to be self-sufficient, able to send the vast majority of their efforts back home to Austria. What the miners and their overseers did to the lands from which they extracted the precious mineral was of no consequence to Emperor Joseph.


I handed off several Adversaries to the devs, and this was the one that seemed to show most promise after some testing, so they went with it - though it’s undergone a long, long journey from its initial form, exploring to find out what worked and was fun.

The handoff version had a very simple conceit: lands with lots of Invaders were entrenched: they cared about those places, and their numbers let them support each other.

Mechanically, this was “in lands with 4+ Invaders, all Invaders are Durable (have double Health)”. A higher level lowered the requirement to 3+ Invaders, and made Ravage cards match all lands with 6+ Invaders (so you couldn’t just shovel all the Invaders into a single stronghold and deal with it in endgame). There were a few other supporting bits (starting a land with 3 Explorers, messing with Remove effects), but that was the heart of it. Outside of these strongpoints, it changed the game very little, but you either had to break up these clumps of Invaders or use a lot of overkill damage to power through the extra Health.

It had some really interesting dynamics, and was really conceptually straightforward, but unfortunately it also proved both sloggy and had a tendency to snowball. There was a lot of exploration of different paths to mitigate both of these problems - I’ll let the devs talk about the journey - but ultimately, Durable got altogether dropped from the Adversary. I honestly feel some relief at this: Durable is a hack that’s necessary to make Health buffs work reasonably (otherwise “destroy” effects become too good, see England 5) but it carries an annoying amount of rules load for what should be a simple concept. And since health buffs really want to be conditional in some way (again, see England 5), Durable invariably ends up layered on top of some conditional checks, which boosts complexity.

The concept of some high-importance, high-threat lands remains, however. We’re not going to post the entire Adversary here, but the rules for Level 1 include:

So once a land accumulates 3 Invaders, instead of adding more Invaders, they Ravage. Then they Ravage again the following turn. This might seem like it’s going to cause cascades all over the place, but here’s the other part of Level 1:

So you don’t take as much Blight, but the Invaders fortify and become harder to destroy (but without needing Durable).

For the journey from the initial version to this one, I’ll hand it over to the devs!

PS: As a quick aside, one of those other handed-off Adversaries actually turned into a Scenario that will also be in Nature Incarnate! It worked really well, but could be swingy, and had a hard time breaking up what it did into 6 different levels. So instead, it’s a Scenario with an easier mode (+2 Difficulty) and a harder mode (+7 Difficulty) - and once you understand what it’s doing, it’s extremely rules-light.

Dev Notes, by Nick Reale

This Adversary changed more than anything else in Nature Incarnate. We completely rebuilt it not once, not twice, but thrice! Playtesters tried over 50 different variations. It was even originally themed as a completely different country. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The first version released to playtesters was similar to Eric’s, but we started Durable at 3+ Invaders as its signature Level 1 effect. We fiddled with this version for a while, but the Adversary just didn’t have enough pressure towards ending the game -- at least not in a fun way.

The first major rework gave this Adversary a small army of (Durable) Explorers that would march into lands that had just Explored. Moving all of the Explorers around felt too fiddly and was too hard to overcome at lower Difficulties, so that idea didn’t last long. The second major rework switched the Adversary to Ravaging in empty lands adjacent to big (Durable) stacks of Invaders. This too did not last, but it brought the Adversary to its current mining theme and association with the Habsburg Monarchy.

With three all three versions, having Durable at Level 1 was the underlying problem. It was pretty easy for players to get into a position where the game was effectively over aside from dealing with one stronghold per board. Low-Difficulty players wouldn’t even try to get at the Durable Cities; they’d spend about an hour keeping the other seven lands clear, realize that they were running out of turns, and then rush Fear to win.

And so we made the most critical change to this Adversary: switching Level 1 to be essentially what Eric shared in his preview. Durable stuck around a little in the middle Levels, moved up to Level 6 to make space for a more interesting mechanic, and then got cut entirely late in development. Ultimately, we learned that most players only like breaking Durable when it’s a bonus on top of something that’s already worth doing; the average player will never tactically use a Power just to break Durable.

So what was the mechanic that replaced Durable in the middle Levels? A new Invader Card that’s specially-positioned in the deck.

With some Adversaries (most notably Sweden and France), the game feels decided around Turn 3 or 4, when the Spirits survive their initial push towards one of the loss conditions. To avoid that problem, we tried multiple mechanics representing a gold rush; this one played the best. (At the time, we hadn’t decided which substance they were mining.)

With this card, the Habsburg Mining Expedition tries to make as many new Mining lands as possible before Ravaging in every Mining land on the island. But the miners don’t stop there; they keep Ravaging in all Mining lands for the rest of the game. Hurry up and scare the mining expedition off the island before it strips the land bare!

Event Card: Ethereal Conjunction

Before I go, we have one additional preview: another Choice Event! Like all Choice Events in this expansion, this one doesn’t require the entire team to agree.

Here, each Spirit has a choice between paying a small cost to weather the storm and paying a higher cost to seize the initiative. Choosing which Power Card (if any) to use and lose can be a surprisingly hard decision – stronger effects help you more this turn, but hurt more to miss out on for the rest of the game.

Thank you both again for your excellent details for this foe! Everyone, we’ve got updates every day this week! One tomorrow, one on Wednesday, and one on Thursday. I know, I can’t believe it either that the campaign is so close to finished! Tomorrow, we'll have a quick update about the premium token pack #2 AND Aspects. Wednesday, we have our final spirit to show you all and it is definitely worth the wait. We’ll finish off the campaign with a final thank you and letting you know the plan moving forward on bringing this game to you! See you then!

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The Big Achievement! 10k?! Two cards!
5 months ago
by Greater Than Games
10,000?! TWO Unique Power Cards Revealed!
We did it! This project reached this goal!

Goal: 10,000 backersThis goal was reached on Nov 13, 2022 8:39am PST

Whoa, whoa, whoa... ten THOUSAND people?! That's so many!

We are genuinely thrilled by the turnout for this campaign! What a ride it's been, and we're going into the last week with a few more reveals still yet to come!

With passing the 10k backer mark, it's time to check out TWO Unique Power cards, the first from Wandering Voice Keens Delirium:

Wandering Voice loves throwing Strife around, and that Strife is incredibly effective at making Invaders terrible at Ravage. However! When it's used that way, it gets used up and goes away, and Wandering Voice really likes it if the Strife sticks around (that second Innate Power that happens in the slow phase... it's not as good if there's no Strife anymore). Fortunately, it's got Exhale Confusion and Delirium:  

Seems like there's upsides and downsides, right? Invaders with Strife not participating in Ravage means that they're not part of ANY of the Ravage, including damage from Dahan counterattacks. But, with Wandering Voice's Incarna nearby, the Dahan weren't participating in the Ravage anyway, so might as well have the Invaders sit out, thus keeping their Strife tokens. Plus, there are other clever ways you can use this effect in conjunction with Wandering Voice's other tools... but I don't want to spoil EVERYTHING here.

On to a power card for Towering Roots of the Jungle!

Towering Roots's unique token "Vitality" is powerful stuff. It prevents Blight from being added to a land, which in of itself is incredibly strong. However, once you have three Vitality in the same land as your Incarna, your Incarna gets Empowered, which means that Invaders can no longer take any Build actions in the land with your Incarna. Because of those inherent strengths, adding Vitality tokens takes a while. Towering Root's Spirit Panel only has one way of adding a Vitality token, and that's through its second Growth option. However, it also has the unique card Blooming of the Rocks and Trees:

Early game, you're going to have to decide between using it in lands where you can take advantage of the Vitality OR the Wilds, and both are incredibly useful! However, it doesn't take terribly long for Towering Roots to make its way to 3 Plant elemental icons in play, and then this card really takes off. Nope, no Explorers OR Blight in this land, thank you very much.

We've got exciting updates coming this week, and then we'll wrap up the campaign on Thursday! Thanks for being part of this wild ride!
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Spirit Reveal: Wandering Voice Keens Delirium
5 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Hello all 9741 of you and welcome to the penultimate Spirit reveal! Thank you to the 212 of you who joined and welcome back to those of us who have been here from the beginning! We’re closer and closer to the end of the campaign, but it’s not over yet! Creator of Spirit Island R. Eric Reuss and dev team member Ted Vessenes are here again to tell us about this spine chilling and madness inducing spirit. With, of course, a bonus blight card at the end to tell you a little bit more. Here is R. Eric Reuss to start us off!


Many Spirits break bodies. This one breaks minds.

Whether it really intends harm to humans is a hard question to answer, as it itself is also somewhat broken: it is a great Spirit’s voice, torn away but not destroyed, erratically roaming the island. It can be heard from a far distance, and its sound is many things: sometimes an eerie keening, sometimes a direly fascinating song, sometimes a brain-numbing resonance more felt than heard - most often all of these at once, forming strange and perilous harmonies.

(It may be argued that its song is entirely in the minds of those who hear it, for it does not ripple water nor shake trees. But this is hard to prove; it may simply be that Spirits of water and plant have learned not to heed it.)

Over its long existence, Wandering Voice Keens Delirium has gathered up moonlight and sunlight, twining them together with strands of breath and mind to create a sometimes-visible form for its voice: its Incarna - while it leaves faint echoes of itself hither and yon across the island, that voice is always the primary locus of its existence, its primary tangle of power and reality.

Fortunately for the Dahan, that voice is much less deadly than it was before it was separated from its owner. They have figured out a number of ways to avoid the worst of its effects; while individuals may sometimes be caught unawares, it is quite rare for communities to be. Stopping one’s ears helps a bit, as do certain line-patterns, but neither is generally sufficient on its own. Small Spirits with affinity for air, sounds, thought, or journeys can assist a fair bit, however; there are stories of long-ago days when someone might sacrifice themself to try and attract the attention of Finder of Paths Unseen or its assistants in hopes they might help, though thankfully such drastic measures are no longer needed. Also more reliable is singing certain types of songs together while working on cord-making, hair-braiding, sewing, and weaving; retreating to a fastness covered with vines or living earth; or both together.

Perhaps the biggest mystery around Wandering Voice Keens Delirium is that it has chosen to focus on the Invaders. Perhaps it has been convinced by other Spirits - it can be communicated with, by some - or perhaps the Invaders simply call to its nature in some fashion.


I designed Wandering Voice Keens Delirium right after Breath of Darkness Down Your Spine, as another Incarna Spirit. Some discussion on the Kindred Spirits podcast had highlighted that there were notably fewer control Spirits (counter Invaders by moving them) compared to direct-offense Spirits (counter Invaders by destroying them), and at the time this expansion was heavy on direct-offense Spirits, so “more control Spirits would be nice” was on my mind, and Ted had mentioned there was room for a High-complexity one. I couldn’t tell you exactly where the concept of a disembodied voice singing a mind-shattering song across the land came from, but once the idea got in my head it felt pretty compelling.
Just as there are a variety of ways to do direct offense, there are different ways to do control. Wandering Voice does it by not by physically moving the Invaders against their will, but by messing with their minds - adding Strife:

Its Incarna is moderately mobile - not quite as much as Breath of Darkness’, but definitely more so than the other two Incarna Spirits. Moving its Incarna lets it add a Strife - and if that’s added to a Town/Explorer, to Push that piece - so Incarna movement is really really good, and especially during early-game can be extremely helpful in preventing Builds or creating safe zones. You can see how the Presence tracks carefully make getting a consistent 3 Air/turn tricky (if you power straight to 3 Plays, your Energy income isn’t likely to support actually playing 3 cards every turn): you can take Growth 3 for a one-turn boost to 3 Air, but then you only get 1 Presence down.

Also worth noting is that its Incarna always counts as a Sacred Site, which means you can always target Mind-Shattering Song (its second Innate) from it, as well as any Sacred Site-requiring Power Cards you happen to pick up. 

(Several of the Strife-adding Minors require a Sacred Site. Over half of them grant Air, its primary element, and all the rest except Gold’s Allure grant Sun or Moon, its secondary elements. They’re not necessarily instant picks - sometimes the board state really wants something else - but they’re extremely compelling since they stack bonus control atop the Strife and enable targeting for Mind-Shattering Song to boot.)

Some early versions of the Spirit also added Strife to Dahan, which seemed like it ought to be conceptually simple - it would prevent them doing Damage in a single counterattack - except there were some thematically odd and rules-complicating cases: what about Dahan-requiring Powers or Dahan Events which did Damage? What about Dahan-requiring Powers or Dahan Events which did useful non-Damage things like Defend or Pushing Invaders? The rules overhead was more than would be worthwhile for a single Spirit, so it metamorphosed into a static rule that required the Incarna not be nearby for Dahan to counterattack.  (During handoff it was “Dahan don’t fight back”, but in development it changed to the much kinder “Dahan don’t participate in Ravage”.) The Dahan should be generally better at coping with hostile Spirits than the Invaders are - even Dahan-hostile Spirits tend to have more ways of Damaging Invaders than Dahan - so this worked thematically. 

At handoff, Wandering Voice’s second innate was an “even more control” innate with a mere side order of damage at higher levels - it let you Gather with Moon+Air and Push with Sun+Air. This proved both to be too much control and not enough ability to close out a game, as well as kind of brain-breaking: it was often targeted from the Incarna, which was mobile, and trying to figure out where to move it in order to use the Gather+Push effectively while also considering the benefits of adding Strife (and Pushing) where it moved to was a bit much.

Dev Notes, by Ted Vessenes

Back when we still thought this would be a four spirit expansion, I told Eric we had room for a high complexity control spirit. The plan was to get Relentless Gaze of the Sun and Hearth-Vigil to Medium complexity (though Gaze actually landed at High), and print Dances Up Earthquakes as a Very High complexity spirit. None of those spirits have a control focused gameplan, so a high complexity control spirit was a good way to round out the set. Eric used the Incarna idea from Breath of Darkness to make Wandering Voice.

Wandering Voice’s core gameplay is the same as the first design: Push your Incarna around, adding Strife to Invaders and incapacitating them. This is Strife-based control. The only major change was that the original version let you push Cities when they were Strifed! In retrospect that’s clearly overpowered, but it survived several months of testing until we finally decided it needed to go. We made sure that one of its Uniques, Twist Perceptions, could still Push a City when adding Strife, as this is an effect the Spirit thematically is allowed to do.

A major development challenge for Wandering Voice was not about adding strategies but removing one of them. When a Spirit is built around Strife, the gameplay focus quickly becomes about setting up Dahan counter-attacks. However, this is thematically out-of-character for the spirit. Dahan avoid Wandering Voice when possible. Additionally, we wanted this spirit to spit out a lot of Strife. By making counter-attacks worse, that lets us increase how much Strife the spirit can generate and still be balanced. This is also why the Spirit has no way to move Dahan in its starting kit. We didn’t want players even thinking about positioning the Dahan. Wandering Voice is not the sort of Spirit that thinks about that, and we wanted players to think about the island the way the Spirit would, focusing primarily on Invaders.

Another challenge we had to handle was finding the right amount of early game invader control. Like Breath of Darkness, if this Spirit can contain the Invaders too much in the first two turns, the remainder of the game becomes both easy (because the Invaders aren’t doing things) and boring (because the Invaders aren’t doing things). But too little control makes the Spirit feel overwhelmed almost immediately. In this expansion, we learned that there’s a very small range for how much early control a Spirit can safely have, and that range is significantly more narrow  than the amount of early offense, defense, or Fear that a Spirit can have.

This is why the bonus Air element is relatively late on the Energy track: it unlocks more Incarna movement, which is a big source of Invader control. This track is also a good example of another development lesson we learned: Spirits tend to play better when they unlock secondary elements before primary elements, because it still encourages drafting primary element cards. This same pattern shows up on most Horizons of Spirit Island and Nature Incarnate Spirits. And contrast with Sharp Fangs and Wildfire, both of which end up encouraging players to focus on Plant over Animal and Fire, respectively.

Blight Card: The Border of Life and Death

Nature Incarnate includes some new takes on Blight Cards, including Still-Healthy Island cards. Here, the island is on a thin line between health and Blight: there’s more Blight to work with, but the Spirits are strained to maintain this balance, as badly as they would be under some Blighted Island cards! Sometimes, maintaining this careful balance is more trouble than it’s worth.  

A big thank you to Eric and Ted! We appreciate your insight into these Spirits so much! 

We’re gearing up for the end, with lots more information to come. We’ve got an adversary, a few bonus cards, and one more spirit before we’re through! We’ll see you all on Monday!

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Special Dev Feature: Aspects for Expansion Spirits
5 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Welcome back, our wonderful backers! All 9,529 of you! Incredible as always, and thank you for helping us reach yet another achievement. Today we bring you even more Aspects. These Aspects are for Spirits from the expansions of both Jagged Earth and Branch and Claw. The development team again provided us with excellent write ups on each of these aspects. Here is Ted, Nick, and Emilia  with our new Aspects.

Lure of the Deep Wilderness - Lair, by Ted Vessenes

Besides Thunderspeaker, Lure of the Deep Wilderness is the Spirit that most has a sense of “singular presence”, meaning an Incarna Aspect makes a lot of sense for it as well. The original plan was that Lure’s Incarna marked a spot where it could slowly draw all Invaders on the island towards it, but all of Lure’s power had to use the Incarna as the origin land.

There were several problems with this, but the biggest ones were that the Incarna land didn’t feel special enough, and it felt primarily like a downside. We went back to the drawing board and redesigned it with the following objectives:

  • The Incarna’s land needs to feel important
  • The Incarna needs to feel like a benefit
  • The Incarna needs the thematically feel like Lure is attracting people to it

We ended up with this version, which lets Lure build its own collection of explorers and Dahan. The Lure Incarna makes the land so enticing that (almost) nothing can escape it. And the more explorers and Dahan you can recruit to your collection, the greater your strength over the island at large. Just be sure to use “Never Heard From Again” to cull a few explorers from your collection if they start to get out of control. Not that Lure would ever collect too many explorers…

Sharp Fangs Behind the Leaves - Unconstrained, by Nick Reale

Sharp Fangs Behind the Leaves has the Aspect I like the best, even though I’ll likely never play it again now that development is done. To explain, Fangs is my favorite Spirit in the original wave of 12. But a lot of players bounce off the Spirit for two reasons: the no-Blight restriction on Ranging Hunt punishes early mistakes, and getting enough Beasts to feel powerful requires sacrificing your own Presence. The Unconstrained Aspect exists to remove those barriers to entry and make Fangs easier to play in the hands of someone new to the Spirit.

The only major change from Eric’s design was to how and how quickly it added its “free” Beasts. The original mechanism added 1 Beasts almost every turn, while testing showed that 1 Beasts every 2 Turns was a more reasonable rate. To add some interesting strategic choices, we brought back the Prepare mechanic from Shifting Memory of Ages, allowing players to get more Beasts over the course of the game if they’re willing to delay when those Beasts arrive.

Shifting Memory of Ages - Mentor, by Emilia Katari

Unlike basically everything else in this expansion, Mentor was created by the devs with relatively little guidance from Eric. While we were brainstorming, I had the idea that a Shifting Memory of Ages Aspect that could hand out its power cards would be thematically neat, but also Memory didn’t really have enough Power Card gain for it to be something it could regularly do. At the same time, Ted thought that a Shifting Memory Aspect that gained bonus Power Cards, but without being able to pick what they were, would be mechanically interesting. However, on its own this concept would be too high-variance with respect to how in-element your Power Card draws were. Eventually we decided to combine these two ideas together, and it was a big hit in testing. 

The only major change that came about was switching which Innate Power the new power-giving Innate replaced. Initially, it replaced the Defend, but this left Shifting Memory a little less able to affect the board than we wanted, so we switched it to replacing Observe. This meant it had to Prepare Element Markers, so we took the opportunity to give you Markers based on the elements of the card you gave, so it wouldn’t feel as bad giving away in-element cards.  

Event Card: Far-Off Wars Touch the Island

Another card we're retiring with Nature Incarnate is the polarizing event "War Touches the Island's Shore". Far-Off Wars is designed as the variant of this effect with better dynamics. Players can make different choices for different parts of the island, letting them decide exactly how much to lean into destruction versus protection.


Thank you again to our dev team for their insight into these Aspects that they’ve worked so hard on. We’ll be back again on Friday with an update on the penultimate spirit! What do you think the name is? Tell us below, and we’ll see you soon for the answer!

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Another Achievement, Another Power Card! For Dances Up Earthquakes!
5 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Unique Power Card Reveal!
We did it! This project reached this goal!

Goal: 9,500 backersThis goal was reached on Nov 8, 2022 9:58pm PST

Good morning, everyone!

Last night, we reached another tremendous achievement! Over 9500?! Amazing. Thank you all for being such a key part of bringing Nature Incarnate to life!

So, without further ado, here's one of the many Unique Power cards for Dances Up Earthquakes!

As you've seen in the update all about Dances Up Earthquakes, this Spirit has quite a lot of destructive potential. They also have a lot of utility, given their flexible options on when and how they play and pay for power cards. But don't forget the Dances part of their name! They're also all about moving stuff around, using this power card Exaltation of Echoed Steps, or dancing to inspire others to gain energy, using their card Gift of Seismic Energy. When Dances Up Earthquakes dances, you can't help but be moved by it, one way or another!

The next Achievement we reach will be a whopping 10,000 backers! That would be stunning, and it seems entirely likely, at this rate! If/when we do reach that achievement, I'll post TWO Unique power cards from two different Spirits. Celebration! 

See you in a few hours for another Spirit update!
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Spirit Reveal: Dances Up Earthquakes
5 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Hello to all 9234 of you! We celebrate every morning with the number of you who keep wanting to back our campaign. Really, we can’t thank you enough. Anyone who’s ever felt the need to move and shake from joy will understand this spirit. R. Eric Reuss and Nick Reale tell us all about the story, design, and development of Dances Up Earthquakes! Of course, there is also a bonus card reveal at the end. Here are Eric and Nick with more!


Dances Up Earthquakes is a Spirit of rhythm, inexorable crescendo, and the earthquake - a sudden unleashing of ground-shaking energy. It is patient, but nearly always in motion; it exults in movement, movement grounded in the earth, but so powerful that eventually the earth itself also moves to the dance, becomes a dancer partnered with Dances Up Earthquakes.

The earth is hardly the only thing it dances with: it will dance with the swaying trees, with the pounding ebb and flow of the surf, with the flickering flames of a wildfire, with humans who shuffle and stomp leap to the beat of drums and hands. It may leap atop a cliff's edge as gulls cry overhead, or pound across sand dunes under starlight. But the living earth and stone beneath seem to be the partner it circles back to, time and again.

It is rarely not dancing.

The Dahan observed long ago that where it went, earthquakes tended to follow - but that if it was dancing with things upon the earth that its devastation rarely touched the area. (It would be a poor dancer that harmed its partner or bowled them over, and Dances Up Earthquakes does not dance poorly.) So if it approaches one of their villages it is made welcome; if it is observed nearby then fires are lit and a dance started in hopes of attracting it - and if that does not work, preparations are made equally swiftly for the quake which will quite likely follow.

Dancing with it is exhilarating, wild, and exhausting; a physical meditation of motion where nature is experienced-but-not-contemplated as movement drives out conscious thought. Its presence may allow humans dancing with it to surpass their usual limits of endurance and grace, though even so, no flesh-and-blood being can hope to match it for sheer indefatigability.

It does not (or will not) command others to the dance, only inspire them. It has tried to dance with the Invaders, multiple times, and has found that as more of them gather together, the less they heed the call to motion. After being fired upon by guns as it approached an Invader City, it has decided that they no longer belong in the dance here.

It has a much more nuanced view of what may be meant by "dancing" than many Spirits (or Dahan) might realize. Even though most of its dancing is the direct, individual, physical sort, it sees greater dances in all aspects of life. There's a story among the Dahan about a time it was found standing perfectly still, limbs outstretched, speaking, and making a dance of its words and its stillness, with the same sense of timing and grace and rhythm and crescendo that it usually has for the physical. The story may or may not have actually happened, but it rings true to the Spirit’s nature.


Dances Up Earthquakes was a later Jagged Earth design - by that point we didn’t really need more designs, but sometimes I’d be in a headspace where doing initial-design work let my brain take a break and recharge. And that timing was a good thing, because this Spirit’s core mechanical conceit needed loads of iteration: it never made it into Jagged Earth testing at all.

That initial mechanical conceit was the idea of Impending power cards.

Earthquakes have massive, incredible power, which builds up slowly over time and is released in an instant. Dancing involves deliberate movement/stillness, very often with considerations of timing or coordination (dancing with others; dancing to music; internal rhythms; orderings of motion determined by choreography, tradition, or the instinct of the moment).

Time, timing, crescendos, building power, sudden release.

Instead of playing a Power Card normally, Dances Up Earthquakes can set it aside (optionally putting some of its Energy on it) to dance it into happening on a later turn. Every turn, each such Impending card accumulates Energy from the supply - and all Impending cards which have Energy meeting their cost are automatically played.

So it might have only one or two Power Cards in play for this turn, but also have accumulated three or four or more Impending Power Cards off to the side that it’s in the middle of dancing up power for, which come into play in future turns. And if it has enough cards in play on a single turn, it can make a really big earthquake.

(This mechanic also means that Dances Up Earthquakes can play Majors of arbitrarily high cost without any Energy, it’ll just have to wait a long time for them to take effect.)

A lot of the early iteration was about “can this even work at all?”, followed by “...and can it be fun?” / “...and how does it impact other considerations in the design?”

Before talking more about some of those initial factors, let’s look at its panel for context:

(This panel references a new icon:

This icon is for Quake tokens, a Spirit-specific token. The dev team came up with these to solve some mechanical issues while simultaneously supporting the Spirit’s main theme, at which they work beautifully - they represent that same “build up potential then unleash it” dynamic as the Impending mechanic, but in a board-focused way rather than a Power Card-focused way. I’ll let the devs talk about the mechanical problem that the tokens solved.) 

Low threshold, High thresholds: One thing that became clear early on was that the Spirit wanted some low, easy-to-hit innate thresholds (for turns where most of its plays were being used to make cards Impending) and some high, hard-to-hit thresholds (to reward timing everything well to a coordinated crescendo-turn), ideally with the lower thresholds helping stall and survive until the big thresholds could be hit could go off. Having really useful middling thresholds encouraged players to mostly ignore the Impending mechanic and just play it like any other Spirit.

The two innates serve these two purposes, and the devs have crafted them so there’s this really lovely dynamic for how the first (Land Creaks With Tension) flows into the second (Earth Shudders, Buildings Fall), both in theme and in multiple mechanical ways: Land Creaks checks Impending cards, leading to Earth Shudders checking cards-in-play; Land Creaks adds Quake tokens, that are used by Earth Shudders; and Land Creaks provides Defend, to stall until Earth Shudders can go off. 

Impending Energy: Another early design question was “how much Energy per turn should get put onto Impending cards, and how strong is this ability?” My first stabs were informed by thought-experiments around concrete examples: I’d specify Effect X and Effect Y, with Y worth 1 or 2 or 3 more Energy more than X, then ask myself (and others), “generally speaking, would you rather have X now or Y next turn? How about if Y was in 2 turns?” This methodology isn’t perfect - humans have a cognitive bias to prefer rewards now over better rewards in the future - but it got me in the ballpark, indicating that +1 Energy/turn was roughly balanced but added little strength, +2 Energy/turn was roughly balanced and added notable strength, and +3/turn was almost certainly too much but might be needed to make Impending cards worthwhile towards endgame (when the value of “do stuff in the future” starts falling off precipitously).

I experimented with both +1 and +2; either seemed plausible, but the latter felt more awesome and better incentivized Impending cards, so I went with that as a starting-point, trusting the playtesters to figure out if it was too strong (which it was) and, if so, the devs to fix it (which they did). You start at +1/turn - but the Spirit now also gets other benefits from having Impending cards, so the value/awesomeness of doing so is higher than my design testing for +1/turn indicated. And you can get to +2/turn as a Presence track reward, which helps with that future-value falloff towards endgame.

Dancing: As discussed above, some very deep fundamentals of this Spirit’s design were informed by thematic truths about both Earthquakes and Dancing. However, it’s also good to try and convey themes closer to the surface, in a more direct/obvious/representational way. “Earthquakes” was the easy part here: damage, perhaps done over a wide area, perhaps to buildings only. “Dancing” is trickier: there are a limited number of ways to represent that in-game. Unsurprisingly, they nearly all involve piece movement.

The two you can see here are the first space on each Presence track: easy access to both “Move your Presence 1” and “Gather 1 Dahan”. The first has always been a part of the design; the Spirit dances across the land. (Not in a singular spatially-limited form, though - it’s not an Incarna Spirit.) I can’t honestly remember if the second was or not - I know its relationship with the Dahan was originally the focus of one of its Innate Powers, but there have been so many iterations I forget exactly what happened when.

4 of its 6 Unique Powers also involve Gathering or Pushing in some way - in two cases as the card’s only effect, in two cases as an addition to some other effect. (One of them lets you Push Quake tokens, which can be important when you’ve wiped out everything in a Quake-riddled land.)

Some of this was part of the initial design; other parts of it came mid-development when tester feedback indicated that ‘dances’ wasn’t coming across strongly enough, whereupon the dev team looped me in and we figured out options.

Timing Adjustment: Growth 3 lets you add or remove 1 Energy from up to two Impending cards, which gives you some ability to adjust timing on the fly. From the earliest days of the Spirit’s design, it was deeply clear that such a thing might be needed, and deeply unclear how much it was needed - if you give too much ability to adjust timing, it undercuts the entire timing game, but if you don’t give any (it turns out), it can be frustrating.

This may be a good place to mention that while the Spirit is Very High complexity, at lower Difficulties the timing game is somewhat forgiving: you can play a bunch of stuff and then figure out how to use it when it comes into play. Even at higher difficulties there’s some of this dynamic: it’s quite rare that you’ll know exactly how you’ll use a Power 4 turns down the road, but it’ll be more worthwhile to set up combos between Powers coming out together on a single turn, and to think about the overall timing of big turns vs down turns. (Plus it’s a trickier balance between short-term survival and long-term impact.) Its Complexity rating is primarily because many players find the additional dimension of “tempo” to be really brain-burning - it can explode the decision-space - and even outside of that, the Spirit has a fair bit going on.

All right - time for some developer notes!

Dev Notes, by Nick Reale

Dances Up Earthquakes was one of the trickiest Spirits to develop, since it had all of the development problems of a normal Spirit on top of having a completely different value for Power Cards, Energy, Plays, and Elements. Rather than attempting to cover the breadth of challenges that we faced, I’m just going to examine the most persistent one: stopping a particular dominant strategy that isn’t fun to play.

The strategy: On each of Turns 1-3, use all of your Plays for making cards Impending, starting with your most expensive Unique Powers, then on Turn 4 resolve 7+ Powers for a monstrously strong single turn. Though the exact details of the strategy changed as we tweaked the Spirit (e.g., there was a while where the most expensive Unique was usually played on Turn 2), the core idea remained remarkably resilient.

There were three reasons we wanted to stop this strategy from being the strongest one (and thus the one that a lot of players would feel compelled to use):
  • It’s basically impossible to balance around. If it’s just strong enough to be viable at high Difficulties, the difference between a blowout victory and losing to Blight is just 1 or 2 Towns in inconvenient locations when Turn 4 rolls around. Also, the strategy would then trivialize lower Difficulties.
  • It bores everyone in the game. The Dances player can write their entire Turns 1-3 on a notecard before wandering off to play video games for half an hour, and then everyone else takes a snack break when that player comes back on Turn 4 to take a turn almost as long as the prior 3 combined.
  • It isn’t fun to play Dances multiple times with this strategy, since it can be played by rote rather than responding to the Invader, Fear, Event, and Power Card decks.

Weakening this strategy by nerfing the Spirit’s Powers directly would hurt other strategies just as much, if not more. And so came the biggest question in this Spirit’s development: how could we incentivize players to have cards in play before Turn 4? It took all of the following changes (listed in roughly the order we started working on them) to get players to get cards into play early.

Make Impending cards arrive more slowly. Impending cards getting +2 Energy/turn made it trivial to get high-value Power Cards into play for an incredibly strong burst turn. We both cut this down to +1 Energy/turn and decreased how many cards the third Growth option could affect. With expensive cards taking longer to arrive, there was more incentive to resolve cheaper cards in the meantime.

Reduce the cost and board impact of Unique Powers. The first version of this Spirit released to playtesters had 6 Unique Powers with an average cost of 3.5 Energy. Getting all of those effects on a single turn was simply too much value, so we steadily cut the costs of the Uniques down to an average of just over 1.5 Energy. We also changed the effects of those Power Cards so that they were all individually useful, but collectively didn’t add up to much progress towards winning the game outright. Playing some of them early for board control would then be stronger than saving them up for a single big turn.

Require playing cards to get Defend via the first Innate Power. Early versions of this Spirit had early on-track Elements that let it Defend with Land Creaks with Tension as early as Turn 2 without playing a single card. Changing Element positions and thresholds encouraged players to get at least one Power Card with Earth into play on both Turn 2 and Turn 3. However, high-experience players would still make the calculated risk of taking extra Blight on those turns to line up their perfect Turn 4, so we needed a more drastic change.

Add Quake Tokens. With the Turn 4 earthquake still having too much value all on its own, even with less game-ending strength in Power Cards and fewer early Dahan counterattacks, we finally took on Earth Shudders, Buildings Fall directly. We needed a way to make its Damage low if rushed without playing cards, but high if used later after playing several cards on prior turns. Adding Quake tokens to Dances Up Earthquakes worked perfectly, since we could use them as an incentive to keep a balance in the early game between cards in play and cards impending. They also made early-game positioning matter quite a bit, since all but one Power that Adds or Moves Quakes does so at Range 0 – even if early turns are simpler than for other Spirits, the player still needs to pay attention to the island.

And that’s how a single degenerate strategy defined the development of Dances Up Earthquakes more than any other single factor.

Major Card: Rumbling Earthquakes

Players have wanted an earthquake Major Power for a while, and Nature Incarnate includes one that Dances Up Earthquakes loves.

Not only can this Power Destroy multiple Cities spread across several lands, but it also gets around the pesky English and Habsburg Health bonuses. Though it’s expensive enough to get played only once or twice a game, even a single use can be decisive, clearing out Cities from multiple lands to win the game outright.

Thank you both again for the updates! And thank you to our backers for supporting us all throughout this campaign. Wednesday brings us our next update to cover the rest of the aspects featured in Nature Incarnate! We’ll see you then, so we hope you’re ready!
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Unique Power Card Reveal for Relentless Gaze of the Sun
5 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Unique Power Card Reveal!
We did it! This project reached this goal!

Goal: 9,000 backersThis goal was reached on Nov 4, 2022 2:12pm PDT

Happy Friday, everyone!

What a week it's been! We keep hitting Achievements and revealing information all week! Here, at the tail end of the week, I'm about to leave the office, but we're only 4 backers away from hitting the achievement, so I'm launching it early!

Let's look at a power card from a spirit we just revealed a few days ago! Here's one of the useful tools of Relentless Gaze of the Sun!

With Focus the Sun's Rays, you do some damage, (hopefully the Dahan are not in that land already), and you can bring your presence directly to where you need it. Also, Relentless Gaze can make the most of the Badlands tokens they've been placing, getting one into a useful spot. There's a lot of utility in this card, not just damage!

Have a great weekend, everyone!
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Spirit Reveal: Towering Roots of the Jungle
5 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Welcome welcome to all 8955 of you! Thank you all for both backing and joining in on the fun! We’re climbing higher and higher on those numbers and achievements, which is fitting given the very botanical nature of this Incarna spirit! R. Eric Reuss, creator, and Emilia Katari, developer, write once again on this long-standing spirit that can be difficult to move. (Hey, it is rooted down.) Please take it away Eric and Emilia before any more puns are attempted.


When the First Reckoning between the Dahan and the Spirits concluded, the Spirits wanted to keep track of the Dahan and what they were doing…

(…an important digression: I say “the Spirits” as if they were some sort of monolithic, united block.That’s completely untrue: they were (and are) an ecosystem, both figuratively and literally. There were plenty of disagreements among them, plenty of Spirits who took unilateral action according to their natures, plenty of other Spirits who acted to check those Spirits according to their natures, and so on. Many local Spirits never got involved in the first place, not even counting the vast numbers of Spirits who weren’t even close enough to be involved, as initial settlement by the ancestors of the Dahan was mostly confined to one part of the island. Much of this was behind the scenes and not super-evident to the humans involved, and time + the nature of stories have altered the tale enough that most such details wouldn’t have survived anyway.)

With that simplification understood - the Spirits had a variety of desires: to keep track of the Dahan and what they were doing, to understand them better, to support them living on the island, to enforce the terms of the First Reckoning, and more. A number of Spirits got involved in this, and one of the more obvious and prominent ones was Towering Roots of the Jungle.

Towering Roots of the Jungle was, at the time, simply the Spirit of a particularly immense tree. “Sheltering” was somewhat in its nature, as it shaded plants and animals beneath it from the full force of the tropical sun; it agreed to be a place where the Dahan could settle as they adapted to the demands of the island. It helped protect the land from damage the Dahan didn’t realize they were doing, helped protect the Dahan from dangerous Spirits and animals, and generally kept watch on things… when it had the attention to spare, which it often didn’t, in those early days.

As has been discussed before, Spirits may change for many reasons, some of which are related to the Dahan: being influenced by their existence on the island, bargains with them or oaths sworn to them, living among them, or reaching for change in order to better understand or interact with them in some way. It was not inevitable that Towering Roots of the Jungle would change due to these factors, but neither is it surprising that it did, particularly given that it was already a bit tangled by nature.

So it grew greater, taller, broader, more complex, and better able to do those things that it focused on: shelter, guard, protect. Until the start of the current conflict, it was not at all clear to the Dahan - perhaps even to most Spirits - that it was an Incarna: it existed entirely as a single (immense) tree already, with no real Presence elsewhere. As it extends itself to fight the Invaders, however, it becomes clear that there is a qualitative difference between its primary area of focus and its other offshoots.


This qualitative difference - Towering Roots of the Jungle having special dominion over a particular area - is represented by what its Incarna can do:

First and foremost, humans and beasts cannot be hurt at its Incarna: it is a Spirit of sanctuary and protection, and does not allow harm to come to those under its branches.

(At the same time, it is a Spirit of and with authority, capable of casting Invaders out of its sanctuary. When it does so, those Invaders generally leave the island altogether, as it has been made viscerally clear to them - in a way they cannot rationally explain, they just know - that they are no longer safe here. This is represented by its right Innate Power, Revoke Sanctuary and Cast Out.)

It gets +1 Range when targeting from its Incarna - it is rooted and spread so strongly in the land with its Incarna that it can more readily affect nearby lands.

Its second Growth option lets it add a Vitality token at its Incarna. Vitality tokens are one-shot “cancel 1 Blight that would be added”, but only work if the land isn’t already Blighted. They’re one of a few Spirit-specific tokens in Nature Incarnate, though they’re also found on the thematic playmat (in lands 1, 5, and 6 of the Northwest board).

Finally, if Towering Roots is able to Empower its Incarna, it can suppress all Build actions where it is.

Towering Roots of the Jungle has the least mobile Incarna of all: it’s a very rooted Spirit, and changing where its Incarna is takes effort. Unlike most Spirits with Incarna, it doesn’t roam across the land; instead, it outright Replaces one of its existing Presence with its Incarna: the tree-system of its Presence in the chosen land grows even vaster and more tall as the locus of Tower Roots’ power twines its way over. Where its Incarna previously stood is still a vast tree, but it loses the almost supernatural dominion it had over that land - and possibly its connection to that land altogether, if it didn’t have other Presence there!

While Towering Roots is somewhat geographically constrained, it’s more generally very good at growing and changing (due to long practice, and being a growing, Plant-oriented tree-Spirit): it gains a new Power Card every turn except when Reclaiming. At the same time, it’s steadfast and constant - like many Earth and Sun-oriented Spirits, it can place Presence even when Reclaiming.

Dev Notes, by Emilia Katari

Towering Roots started out as one of the potential spirits for Horizons of Spirit Island, with a Gathering innate power, and a Heart-Tree that wasn’t an Incarna, but instead could be “placed” at one of your Sacred Sites each turn. There was nothing wrong with it, but we thought that it would work well thematically with an Incarna, and that it might benefit from a little more complexity than was ideal for the Horizons spirits. Also, we were really happy with all the Spirits that ended up in Horizons right out the gate, so it ended up being moved to Nature Incarnate for a little extra dev time, and access to having an Incarna, which would contribute to the massive, stationary feel of the Tree. 

The Incarna has gone through a lot of changes over the course of time. At one point, it prevented all damage and Blight where it was, and at one point it doubled all Invader removal and Gathering at its location. These effects ended up being somewhat overcentralizingly powerful, so it changed to its current form, where it’s always useful to extend the range of powers, but also doesn’t totally lock down the land it’s in. In compensation, moving the Tree is a little easier than it used to be - some versions even had it trade off against placing Presence!

The other notable change to Roots is the introduction to Vitality tokens. We’ve been trying to get Vitality to work as a mechanic for a while, given that it’s printed on the thematic board, but in Jagged Earth the mechanics hadn’t solidified enough that it could be reasonably costed in Minor Powers, and at this point, adding extra Minor Powers while preserving the density of various effects, maintaining the elemental balance, and still allowing the deck to be easily shuffled is very difficult. However, while we were working on Towering Roots, we thought we needed something to allow the Spirit to feel like it was making forward progress on the board, even if it was thematically a very defensive Spirit, and the physicality of adding tokens on the board fit the bill, alongside Vitality being very thematically appropriate for Towering Roots. So we introduced Vitality as a Towering Roots-specific token, both to help with its play feel, and to finally answer the question of what those funny-looking tokens on the thematic map are. 

Fear Card: Distracted by Local Troubles

Today’s bonus card is a defensive Fear Card with a twist! 

Distracted By Local Troubles rewards players for having damaged Invaders around, making it a particular favorite of Shroud of Silent Mist!

Thank you both once again for your wonderful insight on this protective spirit. Definitely one of my favorites both thematically and in terms of gameplay. Let us know below what your favorite is so far! 

We’ll see you all again next week with yet another spirit reveal! See you soon!
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Game Development Team Interview
5 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Greetings to all 8787 of you! (Seriously, it blows me away how many of you there are and how fast you’re getting through those achievements.) For today’s update, I was able to have a lovely interview with the development team for Spirit Island: Nature Incarnate. They brought some excellent insights on how game development, some excitement, and some teasers for later revealing… Find out more in our interview with Ted, Emilia, Nick, and Christopher below!

Hello, everyone! Please introduce yourselves with your name, pronouns, and role on the dev team.

Ted: I’m Ted! Pronouns are he/him. I’m lead dev for the team. I kind of view a lead as having a couple of roles. One of them is building a consensus — making sure whatever we’re doing, we’re doing as a team. Another important aspect is making sure when there’s a problem that the right person is working towards it. The third thing is bit of a “the buck stops here” thing. We’re making sure Eric’s vision is being met, and that we’re making a game that’s balanced, fun, and approachable by players.

Emilia: I’m Emilia. I use she/her pronouns. It’s sort of hard to say what particular role I play. Everyone is sort of involved in every part of the process. One thing I’ll say that I do more than others is the broader, more conceptual reworks. Sometimes Spirits need changes that are tweeks, and sometimes Spirits need changes where it’s completely different. I like doing that a lot.

Nick: Nick! Pronouns: he/him. In terms of what I do, like Emilia said, we all kind of touch on a lot of things. But what’s kind of distinctive to me? I prepare the test files for the playtesters. I’m also the one who has to tell everyone, “No, we can’t do that. The rules can’t handle it.” 

Christopher: Hi, I’m Christopher. My pronouns are he/him. I’m just a simple member of the dev team. I have less encyclopedic knowledge of the rules than Nick does, and less complete/overall of the mechanics than Emilia does, and less concrete idea of Eric’s vision than Ted does. I’m the caboose! But, what I do have is direct communication with Rae (lead graphic designer for Greater Than Games). I have some good ideas for naming things! I’m here for the product design side of Spirit Island, which has been my role with Spirit Island since the beginning.

What drew you all to Spirit Island in the first place?

Ted: I obviously first heard about it when it was a prototype when it was at one of Eric’s game nights. Spirit Island had a lot of the things I like. And I told him, “Y’know what I want more from this game? More powers, and cool effects, and stuff that you can get that other people might not have.” It was just fascinating and kept giving him more feedback.

Emilia: I actually got into Spirit Island indirectly through Sentinels of the Multiverse. After about y’know, two-thousand hours of Sentinels of the Multiverse, I thought, “This is great! What other games do Greater Than Games make?” I found Spirit Island and really loved it. A lot of the same thoughts as Ted, but obviously I came way later. Branch & Claw had already been released for a little bit. But, I liked the diversity of gameplay experiences. Games of Spirit Island are very different from each other in a way that a lot of other board games aren’t. And I thought it was great that there was a board game that was anti-colonialist! 

Nick: I suppose that puts me in the middle of the timeline. I randomly stumbled upon the original Kickstarter. Completely at random! I don’t even remember why I was on Kickstarter that day. I saw one of the Spirit panels. I had no idea what it was doing… but I wanted it. There were a lot of co-op games at the time, but they were all played from a generic player standpoint where later in development there might be one special ability the rest of the table doesn’t have. That’s great and easy for players to switch it up, but I had been kinda getting over it. But these two panels are wildly different from each other! Then I backed it and forgot about it for two years until I received it.

Can you explain the process of developing a Spirit in general? 

Ted: I would say the very first thing I do when I look at a Spirit is say, “could this even work in the first place?” Sometimes you have this initial idea of what the Spirit is trying to be, but the actual attempted implementation just doesn’t work at all. At that point I have to go back to Eric and ask what the vibe is he’s going for. Assuming it’s functional, there’s a three step process.

Step one is to make sure that there’s a good and engaging mechanical hook that people are excited about. A good example of this would be like if you’re playing as Ocean’s Hungry Deeps? You want to start drowning invaders. That’s the schtick of the game plan and you want to do that. You want to make sure that’s good and enjoyable for players regardless of whatever else is going on.

Step two of design is taking all the pieces that make sure they can contribute to the overall gameplay experience.

The third step is about making sure all of the numbers match. How strong and weak it is at different points of the game are going to provide a good arc throughout the game. And that there’s going to be different kinds of play experience.

Christopher: That’s so interesting to me because I come at a Spirit completely differently. I look at it and say, “Okay, what is the thing that is going to entice people? What’s the initial ‘ooh! This is what I’m excited about’?” That thing that Nick first ran into when he saw that Spirit panel. That’s the structure we’re going to build the whole scaffolding around.

Emilia: To go into more specific detail, sometimes we get handed off a Spirit with everything already figured out and sometimes it’s “Here’s a Spirit that does these things! This one does fear… somehow.” The exact details are always different. We take it, fill it out, test it among the four of us, and reiterate it to a point where we think we can get playtesting feedback. And then we iterate it again, and so on and so on. The first step - and maybe even first two steps that Ted mentioned - will all be internal to the devs. Sometimes the playtesters find things and we have to go back.

Does that process look different for aspects, major/minor powers, events, etc.?

Christopher: It really only looks differently in that you have to approach things completely differently. You have to approach a Spirit differently than an event, but all of them have the same thousand yard thing of Ted’s three steps. Sometimes playtesters break things. Sometimes playtesters find a thing and they say, “here’s a thing! We think this is great!”

Ted: There is one important caveat here. Aspects and Spirits need a hook, whereas most things don’t. Major and minor powers can have a hook, but not all of them do. Event cards are role players, but don't have to be as exciting. There’s a little more flexibility there.

Emilia: Compared to Spirits, parts of the game that are a little smaller are more likely to change radically. It’s hard to sort of express that idea in a way that resonates with players. With things like event cards and fear cards, they can just be totally different if they’re not working out.

Nick: One of those things with the smaller items is that sometimes the right answer is to just cut them. Whereas with a Spirit we probably have enough that we can make the balance and the polish work. Sometimes the answer is just to cut them.

Ted: I’ll also say that Eric gave us about 40 aspects for this expansion. To which I said to most of them, “Very cool, not for this expansion.”

Yeah, but I’m surprised and satisfied with how much we didn’t cut.

Are you all working together at once?

Ted: We have weekly meetings. The vibe that ended up working best though was us working in pairs! We’d split up all the different issues and every week we choose a different pairing of two devs. You two take a look at these three Spirits and these aspects and so on. We have a list of what we’re trying to get done. It was super helpful to be able to mix and match and change perspectives. Someone could be running with an idea for a while. Nick, I know you worked on the adversary for a while, but when you got burnt out you were able to take a break. 

Christopher: It was fun to break into the duos, not just for the utility but also for the different strengths. Like Ted was saying, Nick would be working with Emilia but then next week working on the same thing with Ted. The dynamic is so different. Any two of us are a very different creative thing. Someone’s feeling burnt out on this thing? Swap it out. There are certain things other people have paid more attention to, but overall it’s great.

How long does the development question process generally take?

Ted: How long can Paul give us? It takes that much time.
(That’s Paul Bender - President of Greater Than Games)

Christopher: We’ll take as much time as we have, but some things we work on and it’s like: boom! We’re done! Okay great! Some things… are not…

Ted: The trade off is that we want this to be balanced and complete and well rounded, but we also want people to have it. If you gave us a year, there are probably things that we could do to make Nature Incarnate better. But better enough for people to go another year without playing it? What I can say if you’re looking for rough estimates! Adversaries take approximately 12 months. A very high complexity Spirit is also 9-12 months. High difficulty is probably 6 or so.

Christopher: That’s obviously not 6-12 months of us doing only this thing, of course.

Ted: And also sometimes you need to have an idea rest in the back of your head for a couple of months or weeks.

What item (Spirit, Aspect, etc.) gave you the most trouble in terms of development? Why? And by contract, the least resistant!

Christopher: Well there was that one power where we changed nothing.

Nick: There was a tie where we considered changing something about an aspect, didn’t, and put it in.

Ted: I’ll put this to a vote, but I definitely think that the adversary and one of the Incarna Spirits.

(Vigorous nodding from everyone.)

Emilia: One of the Spirits took a while but when it was good, it was good. There was a gradual iterative process. It took ages to get it right just because of the amount of things, but by and large there was gradual progress over time. My vote is for most trouble in terms of development is a different Spirit. The story with that Spirit is basically we had an iteration that was fairly different from the current iteration. Innate powers were the same, but the tracks were different. The rules were different. One of their special rules worked in a totally different way. It was good enough where it was fairly balanced, but it was a little more complicated than we wanted. We thought we could go back to the drawing board and get a little more into this.

Ted: More precisely, Eric said, “Please rework this.” He was right!

Emilia: This was a couple of months ago, though, so this was pretty close to the end of the process. It was a very rapid process. That said, I’m really happy with where it ended up!

Nick: That last sprint was definitely the most stressful. In terms of effort overall? Only just barely that Spirit over the adversary. We completely rebuilt that Spirit three times. Where we had a week at the end!

Can you give examples of what it’s like feeling out something? Do you have any examples of knowing when something is too hard or not hard enough or things like that? Are there any hard metrics used?

Nick: The most effective objective metric you have is: did you win? One of the problems we have when people do testing is when people are playing something too hard or too easy for them, they want to compare the Spirits. “Oh with this Spirit I added two blight, but not this one!” Yeah, but you easily won with both of them. Those Spirits might both be equally good at a good challenge. That’s the most objective thing we have, I think.

Ted: I feel one of the games needs to have to be fun is a moment of tension. You feel like there’s a chance you could win or lose. If you win, it feels fair. If you lose, you’re good with that and ah well, maybe you got some bad luck. You should always feel like it could go either way. Does it feel like I credibly could have lost? If not, then there’s a chance it’s probably too easy.

Christopher: Most people play a game because of how it makes them feel when they play that game. So how a Spirit feels is probably the most important thing. If you have a strong character who feels passive and a passive character who hits hard, it doesn’t work.

Were there any unique challenges to Incarna that came about in game development, if any?

Nick: Oh yeah. A really, really big one was figuring out how much mobility to give the Incarna. The entire point of the piece is that it’s special in what it can do. If that piece can be anywhere at any point, then it shouldn’t exist. Just have it be tied to a power or something like that. The fact that it’s one piece, it’s constrained. How mobile should these Incarna be? Some of them you’re supposed to be running them all over the board. The other half… are deliberately difficult to move. Moving them is supposed to require distinct effort. There were constant conversations with playtesters about “can we just move this just a little bit more?”

Christopher: And we tested it! What if there is 1.1% more movement, is that okay? Nooo

Ted: I love how we have the same mechanic for both ends of the spectrum of hypermobility and being stationary! 

Nick: The second one on my list was empowering for all the Spirits. What do they get for the power, how do they get power, how often do they want to empower? The Spirits have a pretty big range for how much we think they ought to be empowered. On the one hand you have Behemoth where empowering is easily available and we expect everyone to do it by about the middle of the game. The Spirit is balanced around that. But then we have other Spirits where only a particular strategy empowers because powers are gated behind certain other things beforehand. There were several where the empowering and benefits changed several times. Let’s make sure we power it enough and often enough and it doesn’t feel mandatory.

Ted: I think that was the overall goal. We wanted it to feel like it was a tactical option that you could take but you were not obligated to take it. The one exception was Behemoth because it’s fun and easy. And if it’s something that’s fun, people are going to want to do it.

What aspects are you most excited about for the previous Spirits and why?

Ted: I’m personally really excited about Deeps, the very first bit of content that I tested. When I saw Deeps, I could see players saying, “I want this expansion for Deeps.” It’s rare in a game to see an aspect that’s that enticing to play. We needed to get this in this expansion.

Emilia: One of the things that I really like in Spirit Island is the support effects. Because of that I’m really excited for one of the expansion aspects.

Nick: Weirdly enough that I’m most excited about are two that I’m never going to play once they exist. These are both of what I think of as accessibility aspects. They take spirits that are really hard to get into and make it a little bit easier to get to as a Spirit. I think they’ll give people a chance at these Spirits if they bounced off it the first time. I play both those Spirits normally!

Christopher: People said all the good ones! Thunderspeaker’s Warrior, too, though. I like going on the warpath with that Aspect, and I also like being a cult leader with another Incarna Aspect.

What makes expansion stand out for you?

Christopher: We worked on it! But seriously, Incarna. I think when people start understanding how it changes how Spirits play, it’s pretty notable. It’s like the difference between tactics and strategy. People who really like positional games or Thunderspeaker from the core game are gonna like some of that. People that don’t like that? Don’t worry, there’s Spirits in there for you!

Emilia: I think there’s a wide variety of stuff in it! Incarna as a mechanic is something new. There’s a bunch of Incarna Spirits that interact with it in a bunch of different ways. All of the non-Incarna Spirits are also really distinctive in how they’re played. There are a bunch of major powers that do a lot of really cool things. Lots of stuff, very different!

Ted: I really want to echo the major powers. We’ve gotten a lot better at balancing these things. Every one of these major powers I’m excited about. I think we’ve done a really good job of finding just the right point where it’s not overpowered but it’s really exciting and compelling. And I want to give a shoutout to blight cards! There are so many interesting blight cards. I’ve set aside the base game blight cards and only use these because they’re so fun. I think players are going to be really excited to see these in a way they were not anticipating.

Nick: I’m actually going to give a shout out to the event deck! I’m a little biased, I worked on the events a lot. I really like what we did with the more complicated events. I think we have a few choice events where people are seriously torn between the choice they take. 


Thank you so much everyone for both the fun interview and the excellent insight!

You may have noticed a few names have been italicized, indicating redaction, or conveniently avoided. Will we reveal them at the end of the campaign?! Who can say… It’s me. I can say, and the answer is yes. In our last update, we’ll have a little reveal as a reward for everyone who’s read everything all the way through.

But, you obviously want things revealed now. Here is the revealed card for this update.

Major Power: Fragments of Yesteryear

This Major Power lets the Spirits rewind time in one land:

Return the land to the way it originally was. Or with the help of the Moon threshold, the way the Spirits wish it originally was! And yes, this Power can remove an unlimited number of Invaders and Blight.

That’s all for now! We’ll see you all on Friday with a brand new Spirit reveal!
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Spirit Reveal: Relentless Gaze of the Sun
5 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Hello again to the many thousands of you and welcome to our new 337 since our last update! You all are making our day every day by how much you’re exceeding our expectations. But now we are moving on from the bright and cheerful to the far too bright and not terrible cheerful Relentless Gaze of the Sun. Creator R. Eric Reuss and dev team member Nick Reale talk about the story, design, and some of the development notes behind this burning spirit. Oh, and of course, we have our bonus card at the end. Gentlemen, take it away!


There are many Spirits of the sun and sun's light - some are gently beautiful, some are nourishing, some are aloof and barely touch the island at all. Relentless Gaze of the Sun is none of these things: it is a blazingly imperious Spirit that blasts the land with relentless heat. The tropical sun is something to respect and even fear.

The Spirit was not always like this - long ago, something happened that swelled its pride, turning its satisfaction at shining with bright and brilliant constancy into more and more of an obsession. It came to see the wilting of the land beneath as evidence of how amazing and powerful and important it was, rather than a sign of growing excess. It required rest between these bouts of intense activity, but the number of decades - and, eventually, years - between scorching bouts grew shorter and shorter, and the duration of the scorching-times grew longer and longer.

Some seaside Dahan villages figured a way to distract it, buying respite: every year before and during the dry season, they would send well-crewed boats out with shards of obsidian or reflective shell to flash the sun's brilliance back upwards, pulling the Spirit's attention slightly offshore with the apparent signs of an upstart contender for its brilliance. This held off disaster for a couple hundred years - and even after the growing hunger of the Ocean made such trips more dangerous, several Spirits of sky and heavens managed to keep the Sun's attention elsewhere... for a time.

But when its attention did return to the island, it was full of the wrath and built-up power of centuries. So began the Years of the Relentless Sun, when the Sun shone such power down on the island that it came near to devastating immense swaths of it. Several Spirits of moon and night tried to oppose it, but withered beneath the uncompromising assault; it was not until Shadows Flicker Like Flame took an interest that the Sun was effectively checked. Both Spirits came out of that confrontation somewhat the worse for wear, and are not nearly so powerful now as they were then - though perhaps this is a blessing in disguise. If they were as great in might and scale as they used to be, they would likely not be fast and nimble enough now to fight the Invaders effectively.

While it is still destructive, Relentless Gaze of the Sun has been at least somewhat tempered, and its motivations seem to be in the midst of a change. It used to act out of a sort of impersonal contemptuous fury, scourging low all who came under its gaze as an affirmation and manifestation of its power - not in an insecure way, or out of hatred, as a human might, but simply because that was its nature: to strike down those who dared raise themselves before it. But even Spirits with the constancy of Sun or Earth can change, over time, and grappling with a Spirit as shifting and protean as Shadows Flicker Like Flame may have accelerated that process. It is still a destructive Spirit, breaking down and burning up those upon whom it focuses its gaze, but it seems to be exploring the idea that 'those outside of itself' are not some homogenous mass, and that perhaps it ought to focus its contempt and fury on those actively opposing it? It is once again willing to communicate with other Spirits, and given that it's not actually trying to rule anything or boss anyone around, most Spirits are content to shrug and speak to it respectfully (if they speak to it at all), or just work around it - it is not a Spirit of great subtlety or connivance.


The general concept for Relentless Gaze of the Sun has existed for a long time - during my initial reading for the game, I saw multiple references to how harsh the tropical sun can be. It was a candidate Spirit for Jagged Earth, but it never quite came together: it had a few different iterations, most of which revolved around “concentrating your Presence makes you more powerful but also adds Blight”. This could be an interesting minigame, but ran into some real trouble scaling between different island sizes: it was much easier to stay spread out in a 3-4 player game than it is in solo. Fixing this would have layered even more complexity onto a Spirit that was already both complex and fraught (any Spirit which adds Blight can be a bit nerve wracking for some players), so instead it got postponed for later work, with a bunch of brainstormed notes.

Portions of that handoff version were very different from what you’ll see below - Gaze was hyper focused in a way that proved to not actually work so well, requiring a mid-development redesign - but I’ll let the developers talk more about that journey.

One important part of Relentless Gaze’s story is that it is considering change; it has a choice to make about whether to continue being an overbearing, catastrophically antisocial force or whether to temper itself and sacrifice some offense in exchange for the good of others.

This ended up represented by an innate that makes use of elements that Gaze doesn’t have on its Unique Powers - something I’ve had in multiple Spirits before (it’s an interesting way of representing a path along which a Spirit could shift its nature) but aside from Starlight Seeks Its Form, it’s always been cut for complexity reasons. Here, however, it fulfills a core thematic need.

Sun is an element of constancy, so it can always place Presence. Unlike other Blight-using Spirits, it’s not immune to Presence destruction (even from its own Powers), nor does it gain benefit for doing so - but it can add its Destroyed presence back to the board without too much trouble. It’s the Sun, it always rises again (and if it couldn’t it would have scorched its own connection to the Island out of existence long ago).

Many other areas of the design reflect its nature of focus and concentration - its Special Rule requires having lands with 3 Presence, more than a normal Sacred Site; its opening Plays track isn’t great (it’s better at dealing with single big problems than lots of little ones), and its rightmost Growth option rewards it for focusing on Energy. (Which also solved the problem of “the Sun should be awesome at gaining Energy, but putting a huge absolute Energy boost in Growth gives it too much during the opening game” - particularly important because Gaze’s special rule means it can make use of huge amounts of Energy even if using Minor Powers.)

Dev Notes, by Nick Reale

Relentless Gaze of the Sun was one of the original candidate Spirits for Nature Incarnate, and a high-priority one at that. Not only was the game’s Spirit roster a little light on the Sun Element in general, but there had long been player desire for a Spirit of the sun itself. The main challenge of development was finding good ways to represent the themes of relentlessness, focus, and constancy. Across the early versions of this Spirit, we tried three mechanics; while none of them worked out as originally presented, fixed versions of all three found their way into the final version.

The first mechanic was reusing Power Cards on back-to-back turns. This turned out to be terrible for gameplay; players would reuse their favorite defensive card to stall out the first 4-ish Turns, only getting to the earth-scorching in the second half of the game. The improved version of this is Repeating Power Cards instead of re-playing them. With Repeats, players feel focused within a turn, but still have a lot of variety from turn to turn.

The second mechanic was adding about 1 Badlands per turn. This … was totally busted. Oh, Gaze could be balanced by itself, but if another Spirit came along with lots of ways to do 1 Damage, like A Spread of Rampant Green or a yet-to-be-previewed Spirit from this set, they’d trivialize the game. This swing in strength was so dramatic that it caused us to reevaluate the relative value of Badlands vs 1 Damage in general! The correction here was giving Gaze only one Unique Power that Adds Badlands and one Unique Power that repositions them once they’ve served their original purpose.

The final mechanic was Powers that scaled with Gaze’s Presence in origin or target land. This turned out to be a bit more skill-testing than we liked. While experienced players realized that only 3-4 Presence were needed in a land to get most of the useful bonuses, newer players would make one giant Presence stack and get frustrated by their targeting difficulties. Since 3 Presence in one land was distinctive compared to other Spirits and usually good enough to get relevant bonuses, we just made 3 Presence the amount that represents Gaze’s focus. This 3 Presence theme rippled throughout the design, becoming a “3” theme in general. See how many 3’s you can find on the panel -- and don’t forget to check the Spirit art!

Blight Card: Slow Dissolution of Will

The final preview today is a Blight Card that causes Spirits to lose Presence every turn, yet only has 3 Blight per player on it!

Even though the Spirits get weaker, what they shed helps the island itself repel the Invaders. This is one of the few Blight Cards to put pressure on both Presence and Blight, challenging the Spirits to hold themselves and the island’s ecosystem together, even as the island gets dangerous to a degree rarely seen in Spirit Island.

Thank you to both Eric and Nick for telling us all about this burning spirit and Slow Dissolution of Will. A unique take on a sun spirit and yet familiar sentiment for anyone who’s suffered through a tough summer!  We’ll be back on Wednesday, November 2nd for a special interview with the whole development team on the development and playtesting process, what they’re looking forward to in Nature Incarnate, and more! Stick around and we’ll see you then!
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Achievement Unlocked! A SpooOOooky Power Revealed!
5 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Unique Power Card Reveal!
We did it! This project reached this goal!

Goal: 8,500 backersThis goal was reached on Oct 30, 2022 9:34pm PDT

Happy Halloween to all you spooky spirits out there!

We passed the 8500 mark last night, and that is amazing and fantastic! The fact that we keep hitting these at a regular rate is mind-boggling to us. Thank you all so much!

Since I've revealed one Unique Power card for each of the three announced-so-far Spirits, I was going to double-back with this reveal and show off another Unique Power card for our first Spirit: Behemoth. However! Today is, as noted, the spookiest of days! Thus, we must turn to the spookiest Spirit...

Fear and Strife, indeed! Note that you may choose for your Incarna to count as a Beast, so you almost always have a Beast in a useful position for making this most of this Power, but it's especially juicy if you have a Invaders and a Beast (who might just be your Incarna) in the Endless Dark.

Since you must let pieces Escape the Endless Dark with some regularity, many times, some Invaders Escape who you weren't quite done with yet. A little Terror of the Hunted makes sure that those Invaders are thoroughly Strifed, keeping them from returning to the island and dealing damage during Ravage. 

We'll have a regularly scheduled update in a couple hours here, featuring an intensely focused Spirit! See you then!
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Special Dev Feature: Aspects for Core Game Spirits
5 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Good morning, to our 8,189 backers! Thank you again for helping us to reach such a wonderful number and bring us that much closer to our next achievement. Today, we bring you something a little different than everything we’ve done so far. You’ve gotten different card types. You’ve gotten Spirits, individual cards of various kinds, but nothing about Aspects! Those of you wondering about all the Aspects mentioned on the main page of the campaign — get excited! We’ve got three of them here for you, all Spirits from the core Spirit Island game, each one with a write-up from different members of the dev team! Let’s hear what they have to say about the Aspects for Ocean’s Hungry Grasp, River Surges in Sunlight, and Thunderspeaker (but with a few tasteful redactions to the cards, so as to not spoil everything).

Ocean’s Hungry Grasp - Deeps 

Notes by Emilia Katari

Most of the time, we expect Spirits to be the most exciting parts of expansions. Aspects are nice, and offer some much-needed play variety, but it’s rare for an Aspect to be so splashy and novel that people will get excited about an expansion just for that Aspect. Deeps is a notable exception: from the first time we saw this Aspect, we knew it would be extremely exciting, and that we needed to get started with iterating on it immediately, since it was so radically different from what’s currently in the game. The core concept of Deeps was that, instead of drowning individual Invaders with its Innate, this aspect of Ocean would drown whole lands, gradually eroding them over time before collapsing them into the sea. If you got far enough into the game, you could sink a whole board, or even more. In return it was a little harder to deal with Invaders quickly popping up on the coast, since sinking a whole land takes time.  

The top half of the first Deeps Aspect card

Most of the second Deeps Aspect card

Initially, that was all the Aspect did: you put down Deeps tokens, and any land with 3 or more Deeps tokens Drowned everything. The issue with this was that it was both too slow and too powerful: the first few turns, your Innate did nothing, but after that you had a huge spike in power that let you wipe out even the most entrenched lands. We experimented with a bunch of different ways to curb this, with Deeps tokens giving permanent Defends or Isolates, but ultimately settled on splitting the Innate into two different powers, one of which added Deeps, and one of which capitalized on Deeps (sometimes in ways other than just sinking the whole land). And at the same time, we made it replace both Innate Powers, to let us make the land-sinking more powerful and frequent. 

All-in-all, Deeps is a very different take on Ocean that’s a blast to play. If you’ve ever wanted to build your own Cast Down Into the Briny Deep, Deeps is the Aspect for you. 

River Surges in Sunlight - Haven

Notes by Nick Reale

When we make Spirits, we try to avoid giving them a hand of Unique Powers that is laser-focused on their core strategy. Unique Powers that aren’t perfect mechanical matches have a few benefits. From a theme perspective, they let us show off a different side of the Spirit. From a gameplay perspective, they serve as a bit of a break from performing the main strategy with every single action. And from a design perspective, they let us make Aspects that shine a spotlight on that card as part of a new core strategy.

So what if River’s Bounty were the most important card in River’s hand?

The Haven Aspect card, minus the final threshold

Haven presents a side of River Surges in Sunlight that is focused on protecting Dahan. Every version of this Aspect had some way to move Dahan and Defend multiple lands, most of them were way too strong. We tied the focus to a single haven each turn, with limited ability to protect other lands, and that brought strength down to a reasonable level.

Between Energy track scaling and low thresholds, this Aspect also gives River a lot more options for how to grow off its Presence tracks. Focusing on Energy lets River play a Major Power every turn and strengthens the haven, but you’ll usually only hit one or maybe two of the thresholds that require secondary Elements - you have to carefully plan around which one you want that turn. Focusing on Plays, on the other hand, lets you use most or all of the thresholds every turn, but the individual effects will be weaker. Which strategy suits Haven better will change from Adversary to Adversary, and sometimes even from turn to turn!

Thunderspeaker - Warrior 

Notes by Ted Vessenes

When it became clear that Incarna Spirits were a big part of this expansion, we decided to include Incarna aspects. Incarna is the kind of mechanic that could come back in the future, but definitely won’t be in every expansion. So we wanted to take advantage of that opportunity.

We reviewed each of the 24 published spirits (obviously excluding Horizons of Spirit Island) to decide which ones would be most likely to have an Incarna, thematically speaking. And Thunderspeaker was at the top of that list. Thunderspeaker literally manifests in a form that looks similar to individual people it has fought alongside or worked closely with in the past. The original idea was to mix up the standard Thunderspeaker gameplan of steamrolling invaders with a huge stack of Dahan and presence via Manifestation of Power and Glory. Instead, the Warrior aspect for Thunderspeaker focuses on the Incarna itself and powers up the Dahan in its land with quick tactical damage strikes.

Most of the Warrior Aspect card

There’s a lot going on here. First, because the focus is on the Warrior Incarna, this version of Thunderspeaker no longer gets the Unique Power card Manifestation of Power and Glory. Instead, it starts with the Call to Bloodshed minor power. Most importantly, it gets to deal 1 Damage each time it moves Dahan into its Incarna’s land. And this includes when using Ally of the Dahan to have a moving Dahan bring Thunderspeaker’s Incarna along with it. This means the Warrior provides a lot of broad tactical offense, as Thunderspeaker has multiple ways to move Dahan every turn.

To help you really lean into this, we gave an additional Dahan push every turn. That’s a lot of strength in this aspect, even when accounting for losing Manifestation of Power and Glory. So to compensate, the Aspect thematically has a bargain-like effect where the spirit has -1 energy and -1 card play per turn, meaning it technically starts at 0 Energy and 0 card plays. Viewed another way, you can think of the Energy and card play loss like this: every turn you get to play a 1 cost Minor Power that Pushes one Dahan.

If you enjoy Thunderspeaker but wish its early game was even more aggressive like Sharp Fangs Behind the Leaves or Heart of the Wildfire, this is the Aspect for you.

Thank you again, dev team, for your amazing work on this game and this update on Aspects! There are even more Aspects for both core game Spirits AND expansion Spirits, but we’ll get into those another day. To make today even more special, we bring to you not one but two bonus cards for the day.

Major Power Card: Transformative Sacrifice + Minor Power Card: Roiling Bog and Snagging Thorn

We knew for Nature Incarnate that we wanted to retire exactly one Power Card, Growth Through Sacrifice, and print a replacement Minor. Eric designed this Minor Power with the same elements, cost, and speed, but totally different effects:

Eric also wanted to include a Major Power as an homage to Growth Through Sacrifice, with the same concept of destroying Presence to get a benefit. This turned into Transformative Sacrifice:

This Power lets a Spirit Destroy 3 of their Presence to grab and play the top 3 cards of the Minor Power Deck for free (as well as keeping the Powers). The threshold gives a fourth free Power in “exchange” for removing a Presence from their tracks, which strengthens the Spirit. Now everyone can pretend they’re Grinning Trickster!


There you have it for today! We’ll see you on our next update on the spookiest day of the year for another spirit reveal! Bye for now!

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Achievement Unlocked! A Unique Power Card for Breath of Darkness!
5 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Unique Power Card Reveal!
We did it! This project reached this goal!

Goal: 8,000 backersThis goal was reached on Oct 26, 2022 7:00pm PDT

Good morning, everyone!

We blew through the 8000 backers mark last night, so it's time to see a new card!

Breath of Darkness down the spines of your fellow spirits?! That's right, even your friends' presence can go on spooky trips to the Endless Dark. But this is not just for cool repositioning and also having pieces in the Endless Dark that you don't mind escaping! For the rest of this turn, every Spirit who has any presence in the Endless Dark gets +1 Range with all their powers! Reach from the Infinite Darkness, indeed!

See you tomorrow morning for some more delightful content! What could it be? Time will tell!
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Spirit Reveal: Breath of Darkness Down Your Spine
5 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Welcome back, everyone! To continue our regularly scheduled updates, we’re going to talk about our next Incarna Spirit: Breath of Darkness Down your Spine. This spirit really lives up to a name so impactful. We’ve got creator R. Eric Reuss giving you everything you need to know about this unnerving spirit, featuring notes by development team member Emilia Katari. 


Fear of the dark - and of being alone in the dark - is something really primal. On Spirit Island, it’s also really sensible: not just because there are things in the dark that might hurt you, but because the dark itself might swallow you, never to return. It is not a mere absence of light, but an actual thing unto itself.

Or, perhaps, multiple things, but here we’re discussing just one: Breath of Darkness Down Your Spine.

Breath of Darkness is an Incarna Spirit, its tangled locus a fearsome creature of living shadow that is not exactly physical, but not exactly intangible - it can rend and tear, but also slip through tiny openings, suddenly unfurl itself to a vaster shape, or evaporate away altogether. This may be because it is not entirely here - there is a realm of shadows that may exist inside of it, or on the other side of it, or which it partially exists in, or to which it is connected?… even the Dahan aren’t sure, and have little desire to try and find out.  What they do know is that some of those trapped by darkness return - eventually - while others never do.

(The Dahan have few troubles with Breath of Darkness these days. Perhaps this is because the Dahan are correct in their beliefs about certain patterns the Spirit is thought to dislike, allowing travelers caught out alone a much better chance of avoiding an encounter with it. Perhaps it is because the Dahan are correct in other beliefs about the nature of the island, and have resided there long enough to be better-anchored against being pulled into another realm against their will. Perhaps it is simply because Breath of Darkness has some agenda of its own, or because some other Spirit is intervening in one fashion or another, or because it is actually an alternate form of Shadows Flicker Like Flame. Regardless, most Dahan remain cautious - though if it started speaking to them, they’d hear what it had to say; part of their deep wariness is that it doesn’t communicate with them much.)


Breath of Darkness Down Your Spine was the very first Incarna Spirit, but its origins lie long before this expansion.

A tiny bit of its concept came about during the very very early designs of 2012-2013; there was a Major Power where some hard-to-perceive creature mysteriously destroyed/disappeared Invaders in two different lands. It was before Fear existed as a concept, but the card’s feel lingered with me, and since it hasn’t become a published Major Power I’ve always vaguely wanted something with that vibe.

The idea started more firmly during Jagged Earth design: there was a Spirit of Living Darkness which was really good at dealing with lightly populated lands, but couldn’t even target lands with too many Invaders. It didn’t work out well enough to include, largely because it had a very lopsided set of Growth choices that over-encouraged spamming Presence and gaining no Power Cards - when the time came to narrow down which Spirits were making the cut, it clearly wasn’t one of them, it was still way too wonky. (In hindsight, I suspect the weird Growth choices might have been workable, but would have required vastly more internal structural support to make the dynamic work - like how Lightning’s Plays track is counterbalanced by its poor access to Energy and Power Cards.)

Despite it having some really neat dynamics, I hadn’t originally planned on pulling it back in for this expansion, but when Ted asked for additional designs, I decided to revisit it. I overhauled its Growth to be more straightforward, tweaked a couple of its Power Cards, and gave it a special rule called Incarna Stalks the Land - it wasn’t just Living Darkness everywhere, but a creature of living darkness, with a unique piece that could count as Presence and/or a Beast token. It wasn’t really a Beasts-centered Spirit per se - only one of its Uniques cared about Beasts tokens at all, and it only checked “is a Beasts present?” - it’s more that it was a Beast. (And as a result could pivot to Beasts powers a little more easily than most, particularly since Animal was one of its elements.)

Ted thought the Incarna was a really neat concept (which could also work with other Spirits/Aspects) but that this Spirit wasn’t likely to make it to Moderate complexity without shaving off a lot of what made it interesting, and asked about a more straightforward stompy Incarna Spirit. That did get designed before too long (Ember-Eyed Behemoth), with a detour for a Control-focused Incarna first; we’ll talk about that more in a future update.

Unsurprisingly for a Spirit of Darkness that has a somewhat loose relationship with normal physical space, Breath of Darkness Down Your Spine has vastly more Incarna mobility than Behemoth does: one Growth choice lets its Incarna move to any land with Presence (or return to the board if it’s been destroyed), another lets its Incarna move anywhere, and every level of its first innate moves it (usually Pushing it). One of its Uniques lets its Incarna move, and since Incarna can count as Presence, the “move a Presence 1” on its Plays track can be used to move its Incara every Spirit phase. Lots of mobility.

Its core gameplay revolves around abducting Invaders into the Endless Dark - in initial handoff, this was something that just one of its Unique Powers did (moved one or more Invaders from the board onto the Power Card, they returned to the board when the Power Card left play), but players liked that so much that the developers decided to make it central to the Spirit, and it works great. It’s still a Spirit that cares a lot about catching people/pieces alone: when it would Damage/Destroy the only Invader in a land, it instead moves it to The Endless Dark:

…and the more Invaders it holds in the Endless Dark, the more Fear it can earn with its second innate, Lost in the Endless Dark:

Lost in the Endless Dark can also Downgrade pieces - some of the Invaders just never return at all. Others come back eventually: during Growth, 1, 2, or all pieces will escape, depending on your Growth choice. But when only 1 or 2 escape, you get to pick which ones, so if you have a non-Invader piece (say, a Beasts token), you can choose it and keep more Invaders wrapped up in your shadow-realm.

Dev Notes by Emilia Katari

From handoff, this spirit had a mechanical focus similar to what it is now - it ran around the island with its extremely mobile Incarna, went after lone Invaders, and generated a ton of Fear while doing so - but a lot of its exact details changed. Initially, the Endless Dark was just a single power card called Swallowed By The Endless Dark, which took an Explorer or Town off the island, but brought them back at the end of the turn. Players loved using this card, and wanted more of this effect, so it eventually gained a threshold that let it grab Cities, too, but it still felt more infrequent than a lot of players wanted. At the same time, we were trying to figure out how to incentivize this Spirit to go after lone Invaders especially - we tried a bunch of different effects, and they all ended up being problematic for either power level or game feel reasons. Ultimately, we decided that leaning farther into the “Swallowed effect” - which became Abduct - would be a great way to kill two birds with one stone, and it wound up working great! 

Different iterations of the Endless Dark had different rules; sometimes it would just store Invaders and they would all be dumped out at the end of the turn, and sometimes it would generate Fear and Downgrade them. Still, we were trying to figure out how we could encourage people to Abduct Explorers instead of just killing them. Even if you were getting an extra Fear, why just move an Explorer instead of destroying it? From there, we came up with the idea of keeping pieces in the Endless Dark for multiple turns and having only a few escape - that way, an extra piece abducted can be Fear over multiple turns, plus letting an Explorer escape could stop a City from escaping. Shortly after then, we replaced Darkness’s second Innate Power - which let it split off lone pieces from large stacks - with something that interacted directly with the Endless Dark, and at that point, we started brainstorming all sorts of things the Endless Dark could do. Could you target it with Dire Metamorphosis, and let the Blight and Tokens out instead of Invaders? Could you Abduct Dahan to protect them from Ravages? What about Beasts, or Presence, or your own Incarna? Some of these ended up working out, and others didn’t (for instance, Dahan would not take kindly to being Abducted), but the end result is a Spirit where the idea of the Endless Dark is intricately linked with its core gameplan much in the same way that Drowning is linked to Ocean. 

Once the core idea of all the Powers and Special Rules were solidified, this Spirit took an above-average amount of time to tune for balance. Because of Darkness’s Reclaim releasing all Abducted invaders, it naturally has somewhat cyclic strength: you Abduct a ton of pieces and can make the island almost empty - way more effectively than usual for Spirits that make this much Fear, but once you Reclaim you have to find somewhere to put them all, and lose some progress. Thus, it was really important to strike a very careful balance about how much you could Abduct in the early game. Too much Abduct and canny players could clear their entire board extremely early; too little Abduct and players would feel like everything they Abducted would just immediately be released. All the exact details of Innate thresholds and Presence track positioning are based on a lot of iteration and feedback from a wide variety of playtesters. Ultimately, I feel it ended up in a great place, with a unique feel and play style that fits well with the thematic idea of this shadow beast.

Event Card: Terror Spikes Upwards

Terror Spikes Upwards will be welcome to Spirits that focus on Fear, giving the opportunity to resolve a powerful Terror Level 2 or 3 effect very early, and Final Harvest can help remove the last few Cities from the board in Terror Level 3. But be careful - unlike most events, the Beast and Dahan Events won’t necessarily help you here.

Postscript from Eric: A Note on Terminology

We’re aware that there’s a minority of players - from what we’ve seen, we estimate around 5-15% - who associate “abduct” almost entirely with UFOs, rather than the broader meaning of the word.

Please don’t comment about this. We’re aware of this viewpoint, and tried out other terms during playtesting, but none had the right resonance or really described what was happening.  For those of you who have that super-strong association: we realize the term will seem incongruous - at least at first - but we have faith that you’ll find the Spirit fun nonetheless.

Thank you to Eric and Emilia! We’ll be back on Friday with an update all about aspects for core game spirits! See you then. 

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Interview with R. Eric Reuss, Spirit Island's designer
5 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Hello to all 7599 of you!

Thank you again so much for all of you who keep coming in to back our project. You’ve gotten a little bit of a taste of Incarna and how it works from last weeks' updates, so now we bring you more details on the creation and development of Spirit Island: Nature Incarnate! Our Customer Service & Community Manager Bailey was lucky enough to sit down with Spirit Island designer R. Eric Reuss to ask for more details. Here is their interview!

Bailey: I’m sure you need no introduction, but for our first time backers, tell us who you are!

Eric: Sure! My name is Eric Reuss. I’m a father of two, I love games, and I designed Spirit Island. I also enjoy reading, RPGs, Dance Dance Revolution, LARPing, and a whole bunch of other stuff, though between the pandemic, parenting, and Spirit Island work, many of them have fallen off. For the moment.

B: What was the inspiration specifically for Nature Incarnate? How did you get the idea for Incarna?

E: For Incarna spirits in particular? The concept of “a Spirit that’s incarnated in a single form in one place” is a thing a fair number of folks come into Spirit Island expecting. The idea of “this Spirit is spread through the land existing simultaneously in many places at once” may be the less intuitive one of the two, really. But that spread-out nature is how most Spirits work, though exactly what it represents in-game can vary. Say River Surges in Sunlight adds presence to a Sands: that might represent that the river which River Surges in Sunlight is is now also flowing through that Sands; or it might represent a growth in scope to include sunlight and/or water that was already there in that Sands; or it might represent something else altogether if River has enlarged and changed its nature by gaining new Power Cards, particularly any which interact with Sands.

But getting back to Incarna: the idea of a Spirit that had a “primary form” is one that’s been around since the fairly early days, certainly since before the base game was released in 2017. That being said, it wasn’t something I’d specifically planned on being in this expansion, or for that matter any expansion at all! I have a lot of “hey, a Spirit could do this thing, or that thing!” ideas, and most of them never go anywhere for one reason or another.

The first set of Spirits for Nature Incarnate didn’t have any Incarna Spirits. At that point, the plan was still for this to be a small 4-Spirit expansion, and Ted had some concerns about the composition of the handed-off Spirits for filling those four slots: there were either 0 or 1 Spirits that I estimated around Moderate complexity, the others were split 50-50 between High complexity and Very High. Ted felt we should have at least two Moderate-complexity options in the mix, and asked if I could do some more designs.

One Spirit in that second set was a moderate-sized rework of a Spirit that hadn’t made it into Jagged Earth, and part of the reworking I did was giving it an Incarna - it felt right, for reasons I’ll get into in its update, which I think is not too long after this interview. The developers really liked the Incarna concept, and noted that “how does an Incarna work?” could just be part of the expansion’s rules rather than something on the Spirit panel, especially if the expansion had more than one of them. Ted floated the idea of a big stompy Incarna Spirit, which sounded fun, but the thematic-and-elemental details didn’t come together quickly in my head, plus the expansion already had a bunch of very offense-heavy candidates. So the second Incarna Spirit was more about board control and defense of a sort. But after I finished that design, the stompy-concept finally clicked, and we got Ember-Eyed Behemoth, which is not just stompy but pleasantly straightforward all-around.

“This Spirit or Aspect could or should be an Incarna” cropped up another few times over the development process, and when it came time to name the expansion, it was really clear that the name should reflect the presence of the Incarna, what with half the new Spirits using the mechanic.

B: Were there any other spirits that were old shelved ideas or any spirits that got pieced together from other concepts?

E: Oh, sure. Half the Spirits had some sort of origin prior to the start of design for Nature Incarnate, anything from “just a name + thematic concept” to “this was a candidate for Jagged Earth that was dropped from testing once we decided what the 12 published Spirits would be”. And Ember-Eyed Behemoth shares part of its name and concept with a pre-publication playtest Spirit from 2012-2013, though not much mechanically.

This isn’t all that surprising; while making Jagged Earth, I never really stopped designing new Spirits. I slowed down over time, because I was running the development for Jagged Earth, and because past a certain point it became clear that we had enough viable candidates, but sometimes my headspace would be better suited to new designs than to iterating on existing ones. I think I ended up with about 27 designs that had a panel + Unique Powers roughed out? Which, to be clear, is still the very early stages of design, the Spirit might not even ever have been played, but they’d gone beyond “concept” to some sort of initial implementation. So if you go by that metric, Jagged Earth produced more unpublished designs than published ones.

I don’t think any of the Spirits in Nature Incarnate can really be said to be two prior concepts merged together, nor split apart, for that matter. There’s definitely been evolutions, though: the first Incarna Spirit had this one piece of its design - just a single Unique power card - that testers really found appealing, and the dev team said, “well, why don’t we lean into that and make it the center of the Spirit’s gameplay?” So it ended up metamorphosing in a really interesting and thematically-appropriate way, it’s great!

B: Where do you get your inspiration for spirits that aren’t reworks of unused spirits?

E: All over the place. Sometimes I’ll think of a natural thing - or observe one, or be reminded of one - and run with that. But not every spirit is a tangible hill or river or storm, some are more subtle or abstract concepts. I mean, I try to give a distinctive and unique viewpoint to the Spirits that are tangible things like hills or rivers or storms, but, for instance, Bringer of Dreams and Nightmares is not a bit of the physical world you can point to in the way you can “the ocean” or “a volcano”.

So there’s also Spirits like Bringer of Dreams and Nightmares, or Finder of Paths Unseen, maybe even Grinning Trickster Stirs Up Trouble, which you can sort of think of as action or task or happening-based Spirits? A Spirit defined more by what it does than by it being a particular thing, though that’s kind of a human-viewed distinction to make, Spirits would see both as expressions of fundamental nature. But even from the human point of view, it’s not a sharp dividing line. Fractured Days Split the Sky is both a Spirit of the sun + moon + heavens (things you can point to) and the eclipse (a happening) and a number of things intertwined with the concept of fractured time (recurrence, disjunctions, stasis, might-have-beens).

And then there’s also Spirits which are harder to pin down, it’s less easy for a human to point to what they “are”, because Spirits are beings and can be complicated, or simple along lines that aren’t readily visible to humans. Thunderspeaker is like this. It used to be Bright Thunder Roars, a specific thing in nature, but it’s grown and changed from that starting-point. It still partakes of its former nature, but it’s not quite that anymore. Just like other beings, Spirits can grow and change over time. Shifting Memory of Ages can be thought of as a Spirit of memory, but it’s also much more than that: it’s a being with a long and complex history, and that history has shaped what it is now. This is also true of more directly representative Spirits, I should add!

In Western culture, we tend to draw this very strong line between what is the landscape and what is sapient. In Spirit Island, that’s just not true - the Spirits are the land, and Spirits are sapient. But Spirits are not only the land - they are many other things as well, richer and more diverse.

Not all Spirit concepts first spring from that “what is this Spirit?” direction, though - the seed of a design might come from something elemental, or mechanical, or play dynamics, or play experience, or the setting’s lore, or the game’s themes, or even “what Spirit might consider this Major Power as an ‘ultimate’ of sorts, at least for its starting nature?”

B: Getting more into that, which does come first - lore or gameplay? Is there ever anything that you have to redesign for lore over gameplay? Is there a priority?

E: Lore in the sense of “the text on the back of a Spirit’s panel” can come at any point in the process - sometimes as a part of the initial concept, sometimes not until a good ways through development - but that’s different than the thematic concept of a Spirit. I can know “this is a lightning Spirit, also of swiftness and wind and storms; it is sparking and bursty and dangerous to buildings, but gets along decently well with the Dahan, though it’s more of a ‘swoop in, swoop out’ sort than living side-by-side with them” without knowing the Spirit’s exact appearance or the full text of its lore blurb.

It rarely matters whether a Spirit’s thematic concept or mechanics or something else entirely forms the initial seed of an idea, because whichever arises first then gets used to fill in the other very early on. If a Spirit’s theme suggests certain mechanics, those mechanics will absolutely then loop back and influence the theme. Often it’s more of a three-way dance between thematic concept, elements, and mechanics, sometimes including other things, too. All the things that can prompt Spirit ideas can also be parts of a Spirit to fill in during design, and once filled in they may exert force on the other parts of the design. There’s a lot of ping-ponging back and forth early on, elaborating more on one facet for a while then circling back to see what those elaborations imply about the rest of it.

One of the challenges we tackled with Nature Incarnate was that since I wasn’t running development, there was more opportunity for changes to drift a Spirit away from what I considered its core thematic nature. I could only braindump so much about a Spirit’s theming to the devs (there’s always little details and feelings that are tricky to convey) and since I wasn’t running playtesting I didn’t have as strong a sense of the mechanical pressures on a design as they did. But the devs were great about pinging me when they weren’t sure on theming, and I did periodic reviews to be a touchstone on thematic elements. When we did find any drift, it usually wasn’t hard to address.

You can’t really say “X is more important than Y” as any sort of blanket rule about lore, theme, mechanics, or anything else, it’s all tradeoffs and balancing-acts. Whether a particular bit of mechanical complexity is worth the thematic boost it gives isn’t something you can reduce to mathematics, not just because how do you quantify theme?,, but also because it depends so much on other factors: how complex is the Spirit already, in what ways? Does this bit of theme come through through other parts of the design? What does this set of Spirits need in terms of complexity and play experience? Etc. The truism in game design is “experience is paramount”, but even the experience of a specific Spirit may need to flex in service to more holistic considerations of the game as a whole.

B: Any other final comments for our dear backers?

E: Thank you to all of you to all of the people who are excited about Spirit Island! Seeing people being happy about the game online is immensely gratifying and makes it even more fun to work on.

Thanks to Eric for sitting down with Bailey to give us a little more information about the creation and inspiration of Incarna. We’re going to round off this update with another card preview!

Blight Card: Shattered Fragments of Power

Spirit Island is great at creating moments where players work as a team to decide what to do. Here’s a blight card that does just that:

Like the Aid from Lesser Spirits Blight card, the players must divide a set of Power cards. And since they each gain a Major Power, players also get a burst of energy to help play their new power. But! This leaves only 2 Blight per player, so you've gotta either act fast, or have a solid plan for defense and/or recovery.

There we have it! Some fantastic insight to the creative and practical process of putting together Spirit Island from creator R. Eric Reuss, and a glimpse at one of the new Blight cards for Nature Incarnate! We look forward to bringing you more content on Wednesday! See you then!
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A Unique Power Card for Hearth-Vigil
5 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Unique Power Card Reveal!
We did it! This project reached this goal!

Goal: 7,500 backersThis goal was reached on Oct 23, 2022 11:57am PDT

Good morning, folks!

We will have another update in a couple hours here, but we reached the Achievement of 7500 backers over the weekend, and have brought in almost 100 more since then! Wow!

As promised, here's a power card for the recently revealed Hearth-Vigil!

Hearkening back to Hearth-Vigil's panel and their ability to move Dahan AND move themselves with Dahan, getting to range zero with a bunch of Dahan and a few Invaders is not particularly challenging for Hearth-Vigil. Isolating the land where you've got your Dahan set up for success? Fantastic. You're calling the shots on what happens here, and it's not looking good for the Invaders.

See you in a bit with the first scheduled update of the week!
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Spirit Reveal: Hearth-Vigil
5 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Second Spirit Annoucement
When we reach this goal, we'll reveal another Spirit from Nature Incarnate!
We did it! This project reached this goal!

Goal: 6,800 backersThis goal was reached on Oct 20, 2022 11:55am PDT

Update number two for today! As promised, we’re continuing with a Spirit reveal for Hearth-Vigil with writing by R. Eric Reuss and member of the development team Nick Raele. They’ve got a lot to tell you about Hearth-Vigil, plus our bonus card at the end of the post! Here is R. Eric Ruess on the story and design of our first non-Incarna spirit feature: Hearth-Vigil.


Long long ago, before Hearth-Vigil associated with humans, it was a watching-Spirit, small but not tiny, somewhat territorial. Nearby Dahan knew of its existence, and generally steered clear of it - why take the chance? That changed some time after the Second Reckoning: the institution of spirit-speakers had resulted in an expanding body of understanding and lore about Spirits, the changed relationship between Dahan and Spirits had led to higher confidence among the Dahan, and that confidence plus increasing Dahan population led to a higher absolute number of people willing to take possibly-stupid chances on contacting possibly-hostile Spirits.

In this case, the chance paid off: some brave and observant Dahan who lived nearby figured out what patterns, stories, actions, and offerings this watching-Spirit found pleasing, and over time gained its trust. It allowed them to pass rather than chasing them off. Over time, it grew a bit in complexity and strength trying to better understand these likable beings; eventually it became able to communicate with them tolerably well.

This pattern of arriving at mutual understanding (and perhaps a bit of Spirit growth) isn’t remotely unique to Hearth-Vigil, but when it happens, it usually ends there: a lesser Spirit and the Dahan in the area come to be on decent terms, can communicate tolerably well, and keep a bit of a neighborly eye on what’s going on with each other.

Hearth-Vigil veered off of this path when the conflicts of the Servant Cults erupted, sending the Dahan into a period of bloodshed unprecedented on the island. Raiding (unannounced strikes, purposeful slaughter/destruction, treating targets as not worthy of the consideration extended to people) became more and more common, supplanting the usual systems of warfare (ritualized, low-casualty, embedded in structures of diplomacy and negotiation). 

As word spread of communities devastated by ambush-raids or poison snuck into communal food, those who knew Hearth-Vigil approached it, asking, “Would you come to our common-hearths and help protect us? Your senses are keen in ways that ours are not; would you come and make a home among us, so your watchfulness might benefit us as well as you?”

This was not mere supplication, of course: these Dahan made a carefully thought out and balanced bargain with pleasing offerings, judicious agreements for the future, and - as is the Dahan custom - a finite duration. This was partly to better appeal to Hearth-Vigil (though the spirit-speakers among them thought its nature would incline it to the agreement), but just as much to pin down that they did not owe it any form of obedience or worship - while most of the families involved had not yet joined in the conflict, they already had a strong distrust of the Servants, tempered only by fear of how much unseen power the Servants might have.

Hearth-Vigil is not sworn to the Dahan in quite the same way that Thunderspeaker is - its initial agreements have long since expired, but after generations of living among the Dahan, it finds it comfortable to continue doing so… which has proved fortunate since first contact with the Invaders.

A game of Spirit Island does not open at the very instant the Invaders show up: the first tall ship landed at the island around 8 to 10 years before game start, the first colonists arrived maybe 4 to 6 years back. The opening acts of the eventual conflict are presumed to play out similarly each time, so are left invisible: the initial settlements, the Dahan reaching out to the colonizers, the Invaders failing to heed Dahan warnings about proper behavior, the first Blight, larger Spirits being caught by surprise at the speed of the Invaders… and Invader-borne diseases ripping through the interconnected Dahan population.

It is horrifying that the mortality rate among the Dahan - around 20 to 30 percent - is substantially less than what was historically suffered by many Indigenous communities in the face of such pathogenic onslaughts. Most Dahan communities benefited from close relationships with some smaller Spirits able to provide quick palliative assistance, and perhaps blunt the severity of an illness.

However, most Spirits capable of more dramatic aid were unable to react in time or to bring their full power to bear - events unfolded extremely quickly, from their perspective, and these illnesses were novel, unfamiliar. 

Hearth-Vigil, however, was able to help a great deal more, being a Spirit both of vigilance and of health, already existing among the Dahan. Communities with a close relationship to Hearth-Vigil are accustomed to bringing their ill or poisoned to it for aid, and this allowed many to survive who otherwise would not have.

(A side note on language: Spirit names attempt to capture feel in addition to literal meaning. “Hearth” is the closest English word in meaning + connotation to the Dahan word for the shared communal space around common pit ovens over which Hearth-Vigil watches - just like Shroud of Silent Mist uses “shroud” due to its connotations in the English language, even though the Dahan don’t generally use burial-shrouds and their name for the Spirit doesn’t reference fabric at all.)


I’ve known for a long time that I wanted more Spirits than just Thunderspeaker whose primary focus was the Dahan, and known for almost as long that I wanted a Spirit whose setup included extra surviving Dahan on the board to call attention to the otherwise-invisible ordeal the Dahan have just survived at the game’s start.

(And while on the surface of things it might make sense to defer Hearth-Vigil to a Dahan-centric expansion, there were a few good reasons not to - the most decisive being that there were no Dahan-centric Spirits in Jagged Earth, and it’d be nice if folks who really like that sort of thing didn’t have to wait.)

Let’s take a look at Hearth-Vigil’s panel:

There are several things here which feed into each other, and some trends that may not be obvious at first glance:

One of Hearth-Vigil’s special rules relies heavily on another: “Dahan have +4 Health in your lands” (Fortify Heart and Hearth) needs “Your Presence isn’t destroyed by Blight if Dahan are present” (Rooted in the Community), because otherwise Ravages can remove the Health buff by destroying your Presence.

That pair of rules means that Hearth-Vigil is really good at enabling Dahan counterattacks - but at the cost of taking Blight. However, its first Innate Power (Warn of Impending Conflict) warns and wards the Dahan, letting them strike first when the Invaders get violent.

Its second Innate Power (Keep Watch For New Incursions) is also reactive, but in a different way. It lets the Dahan react to new Invaders arriving, allowing an attack before they gain a foothold - but doesn’t work against already-entrenched colonists.

Both of these Innate Powers reflect the thematic fact that while Hearth-Vigil is very attentive and alert, that it’s fundamentally a somewhat reactive Spirit. With such reactive Innates, Hearth-Vigil has to rely on Power Cards if it wants to be proactive. A couple of its Unique Powers do give it a bit of damage & Invader control, but it’s likely to be keeping an eye (or several eyes) out for more.

Those Uniques are like its second Innate in that they must target from a land with Dahan. You’d probably already guessed that Hearth-Vigil likes hanging out in lands with Dahan, but it’s worth taking a look at some parts of that dynamic which make it play very differently than a Spirit like Thunderspeaker.

Faced with a situation involving existential threat and lots of new diseases, Dahan would - unsurprisingly - much rather move into Hearth-Vigil’s lands than out of them. It gets a bonus “Gather 1 Dahan into one of your lands” action every Spirit phase, but the only way it has to move Dahan away from its Presence is Keep Watch For New Incursions (its second Innate).

In addition, Hearth-Vigil isn’t as mobile as Thunderspeaker - it can only move its Presence with Dahan when all the Dahan in a land leave; if any stay behind, Hearth-Vigil stays steadfastly with them.

So that first part of Keep Watch For New Incursions is important even when not hitting the later thresholds, because it’s Hearth-Vigil’s only way of moving Dahan to someplace it isn’t.

Dev Notes, by Nick Reale

The initial version of Hearth-Vigil that Eric handed off to us had a fairly simple core strategy: move Dahan into its lands, use its first Innate Power to grant them bonus Health so that they could survive a Ravage and counterattack, and then Push them to the next Ravage. The concept seemed simple and clear enough that it didn’t appear to require much development. Oh were we wrong! Testers found the gameplay to be quite monotonous. Moving Dahan wasn’t even an interesting choice in most board states, since the right place to be was whichever lands were going to Ravage next. We asked Eric to go back to the drawing board and give Hearth-Vigil something more interesting to do.

The result was an Innate Power that targeted from a land with Dahan and did Damage based on the Dahan count there to Invaders added or moved into the target land. Thematically, the Dahan sent out brief raids to handle the new arrivals, but returned to the homes protected by Hearth-Vigil. This solved our problem, since it gave interesting choices without compromising Hearth-Vigil’s inherently reactive nature. However, this led to making giant stacks of Dahan, dubbed “archery towers” or “Dahan artillery” by testers, that would utterly destroy any Invaders that showed up near them. Fixing the theme here clearly involved moving Dahan into target land to represent the raid, but getting the correct variation of that took oh… so… many iterations before we embraced the relative simplicity of the current version. Checking for Dahan in the origin land worked out so well for distinguishing Hearth-Vigil from Thunderspeaker that we expanded that theme into the Unique Powers as well.

While working on that, we also had to fix the first Innate Power. Variable Health bonuses were hard to remember and caused all sorts of Blight on a Spirit that didn’t have a great thematic reason to start the game with a way to clean it up. We tried swapping all sorts of other defensive effects in place of the higher Health bonuses, but the combination made the Power feel a bit unfocused. Ultimately, the simplest version was focusing the Innate Power entirely on Dahan striking first, with the other defensive benefits being Special Rules. The original gameplay of trading Blight for board control remains an option for aggressive players who lean into the Special Rules, while more Blight-averse players can focus on the Innate Powers instead.

Postscript: A Note on ‘More Dahan on the board’

“More Dahan survived the Invaders’ diseases” isn’t the only reason more Dahan could start on an island board.

Spirit Island only uses pieces for things that are relevant to the conflict. E.g., when an Invader piece is Destroyed, there are nearly always survivors - sometimes many! - but since they no longer affect the course of the conflict they aren’t represented. Ditto for Removing Invaders - maybe some remain on the island, but they are few enough in number and/or wary enough in their actions to not affect the large-scale course of the game; whatever negative impact they might add with their numbers is counterbalanced by the stories they tell other Invaders, the caution they counsel.

The same is true for Dahan: there are some Dahan cautious enough about the Invaders that they are unwilling to take - or assist in - hostile action, choosing instead to just stay out of the way and focus entirely on survival. These aren’t represented by pieces, but if they changed their stance for some reason, they could be. (Note: their unwillingness to fight may be inconvenient from the Spirits’ perspective, but it is neither bad nor wrong in an absolute sense: survival is a form of resistance, important and impressive both in-game and IRL.)

Bonus Card — Bargain of Coursing Paths (Major)

Like Jagged Earth before it, this expansion includes a new Bargain that Spirits can make with Dahan, a Bargain that Hearth-Vigil is all too happy to make.

By teaming up with two groups of Dahan, the Spirits are able to redirect Invaders out of their lands to wherever the Spirits want them to go. But it’s not just the Invaders that get moved – there are all sorts of tricks the Spirits can pull to get Dahan, Presence, Incarna, and tokens to wherever they want on the island, even if the original groups of Dahan have moved on! Even though this Bargain only affects two lands, choosing those lands carefully will make it well worth the cost.

Finally, Some Clarifying Information about Incarna

In the update for Ember-Eyed Behemoth, I didn’t include every single thing from the Nature Incarnate rulebook on Incarna (both for flow reasons and because going into ultra-detail might imply that nothing could possibly change). But I’ve been seeing a few questions repeatedly - a few answers are below! (All of these are in the rulebook.)

(Also: I can confirm that all 6 of the Incarna shown are specific to one individual Spirit or Aspect - there’s no “generic Incarna”, each one is individually crafted. While they all use the same core Incarna rules, what you do with them varies considerably.)

Destroyed Incarna

A destroyed Incarna is just an Incarna - it only counts as the other things printed on it while it’s on the island. So you can’t add it back with an “add Presence” or “add destroyed Presence” effect; the only thing that can bring it back to the island is an Add Incarna effect. This is easier for some Incarna than others.

If an Empowered Incarna is destroyed, it remains Empowered when you bring it back.

Incarna are Presence?

Anything interacting with normal Presence on the board can be done with an Incarna: you can target Powers from it, add Presence from it, move it with a “Move Presence” effect, choose it as the Presence to destroy for added Blight or Downward Spiral or a Blighted Island Event, etc. How good an idea some of these things are will vary wildly depending on game state and how easy it is to re-add your Incarna.

While your Incarna is on the island, you don’t lose to Presence destruction, even if you’re temporarily not counting it as Presence for some reason (like, say, it’s in a Ravaging land and you don’t want it destroyed by Blight). The rule of  “players lose when a Spirit has no Presence” exists because normally “a Spirit has no Presence” means they’re basically out of the game - a player has been eliminated - but so long as you have an Incarna you’ve got someplace from which to add more Presence and target Powers, so that Spirit hasn’t been knocked out of the fight.

An Incarna is a special type of Presence. How is that different from a Sacred Site?

It’s not a difference of magnitude, but of nature. To draw a comparison, if Presence is like a pool and a Sacred Site like a larger lake, an Incarna is like a brook or a deep, deep well. Or for a more modern Western metaphor, if Presence is like a small shack and a Sacred Site like a larger house, an Incarna is like a power plant, or an M1 Abrams tank.

Note: While “Incarna” derives from a Latin term meaning “made flesh”, it’s just the closest English word for the Dahan concept of “Spirit with a particular sort of physical form”. Most Incarna are not flesh and blood.

Thank you so much to Eric and Nick for those in-depth write-ups on all sorts of things! We look forward to sharing even more information with you next week!
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The Path Going Forward
5 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Good morning, everyone!

There have been wrinkles and hiccups, but what a fantastic first week we've had overall! Thank you to each and every one of you for being a part of this, and also for sharing your feedback — we want this experience to be the best it can be for as many people as possible! Let's get into it!


First, let's talk about what the rest of this campaign will look like. We're going to go to our tried-and-true method of regular Monday-Wednesday-Friday updates with planned content. Here's what you can look forward to in the coming weeks:

  • October 21st — Spirit Reveal: H_____-V____
  • October 24th — Interview with R. Eric Reuss, designer of Spirit Island
  • October 26th — Spirit Reveal: B_____ O_ D_______ D___ Y___ S____
  • October 28th — Aspects for Spirits from the Core Game
  • October 31st — Spirit Reveal: R_________ G___ O_ T__ S__
  • November 2nd — Interview with Nature Incarnate Development Team
  • November 4th — Spirit Reveal: T_______ R____ O_ T__ J_____
  • November 7th — Spirit Reveal: D_____ U_ E__________
  • November 9th — Aspects for Spirits from Expansions
  • November 11th — Spirit Reveal: W________ V____ K____ D_______
  • November 14th — Adversary, Scenarios, and More!
  • November 16th — Spirit Reveal: W______ W_____ B_______
  • November 17th — Wrap-Up Update for End of Campaign

I've lightly redacted the names of the Spirits so you can have SOME guesses as to what is coming, but still have plenty of content to look forward to. Trust me: there will be plenty of surprises along the way. Speaking of which...


The Achievement system isn't going away! It's just majorly changing. From now on, every 500 backers will unlock an Achievement that reveals a Unique Power card from an already revealed Spirit. In our original plan, we weren't going to be revealing any of the Unique Power cards from this set until after the campaign was over, so don't think of these Achievements as gating anything away — they're revealing information that you wouldn't get otherwise! Over the course of this campaign, we won't show off more than 2 Unique Power cards for each Spirit, so you'll get to see a wide variety of Unique Power cards as the campaign progresses!

To kick us off, we passed the 7000 backers count last night, so here's one of the Unique Power cards for Ember-Eyed Behemoth:

As you've figured out from Behemoth's Spirit panel, they're all about stompy destruction, but they have some other tools, as well. Terrifying Rampage uses their stomping to keep some Invaders out of the fight, and also to make Dahan flee, but in potentially useful ways! 

Let's see how many more Achievements we reach by the end of the campaign!

Foil Spirit Panels

One of the things we've heard from some of you is that you do not want the Foil Spirit Panels at all. On the other hand, many folks DO want the Foil Spirit Panels and are excited about them! We already have a plan to produce them (and we are also working with a new printer on making them lighter, brighter, and more easy to read and use), so we WILL be making them as part of this campaign, but we are also offering a way to opt out of receiving them if you absolutely do not want them. There is an Add-On for $0 named "No Foils, Please" which you can select as part of the backing process. Doing so (and then confirming it during the post-campaign pledge manager later on) will mean that when we ship you your Nature Incarnate rewards, we will NOT ship any Foil Cards with it. Entirely up to you! This will be an additional logistics puzzle for us to solve during our packing and shipping process, but we're willing to take that on and make this work in order to give people the options they want. We hope this helps!

As for making thin, non-foil Spirit Panels, which is a thing some people have requested — we're looking into it, and it's a thing we might do some day in a big bundle with potential art or graphic design tweaks, but it's not something we're doing as part of this campaign, and it will take a good deal more consideration on how we'd want to make that as a product. But know that we do hear your requests and we are looking into the best way to make such things available!

Finally, a bit of Nature Incarnate Content Information

Not to leave you hanging here with mostly business and very little fun, we wanted to also use this update to share information on a largely lambasted Blight Card: Tipping Point.

As part of Nature Incarnate rules, we're officially retiring the Blight card Tipping Point. Tipping Point had the unfortunate effect of particularly punishing Spirits that might be low on presence for some reason (eg. Volcano, Sharp Fangs, Fractured Days) while having almost no effect on most other Spirits.  When there were fairly few Blight Cards, Presence-low Spirits would need to play around it, but as more Blight Cards are added, that stops making any sense, turning it into a low-odds 'you just lose' effect. This constrained our ability to make more Spirits without much presence on the board, and those Spirits are more fun than Tipping Point is. Plus, there have been a number of "unfun" feelings about Tipping Point since its release, so we are taking this opportunity to give some new, better options that still keeps the danger high while not constraining design space or game enjoyment. We'll be sharing a few of the new Nature Incarnate Blight cards in future updates.

I believe that's everything! Whew! I'll be posting another update with today's Spirit Reveal in under an hour here, as I didn't want all this information to clog up the Spirit reveal update, so stay tuned for that!
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A quick update about achievements!
5 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Hello, everyone!

We've heard you that this system isn't quite working for you, so we're going to change it! We're still getting all the details together, but tomorrow morning's update will include a bunch of new information on how things are going to work for the rest of this campaign. We just hit the next achievement level, but there won't immediately be another achievement posted until tomorrow morning, alongside the update explaining how things work now.

Thank you for bearing with us as we try out this new system and explore the ways it can be used. We're eager to get back to giving you information the way we like best, and still using Achievements for something interesting but less load bearing. All in all, we're very happy with Nature Incarnate, and we want to get to a place where we're equally happy with how this crowdfunding campaign is going.

Thanks, everyone! See you tomorrow morning!
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