Project Update: Spirit Reveal: Ember-Eyed Behemoth
Good morning, everyone! You just keep on delivering and we can’t be more thankful for it! We’ve reached our first achievement of 5,300 backers to bring on the first update! You continue to shock and humble us and we cannot be more grateful.
To answer some questions about how things are working with updates, Achievements, and more, here is some explanation.
Though BackerKit has been around in the world of crowdfunding for many years (Greater Than Games has been using them since 2016, in fact), they just got into the front-end business, with a select few campaigns going live on their platform this year. We have always been excited about innovation in this field, and we're eager to make Spirit Island: Nature Incarnate happen here rather than any other platform. BackerKit is hard at work extending and improving upon the framework they’ve set up here, and we’re excited to be a part of it! When they asked us if we’d be interested in helping them test out their new Achievements feature, we incorporated it into the scheduled update structure. So! We still have all the same updates planned and written; there will be a lot of exciting reveals over the course of this campaign, we promise!
Achievements are set by BackerKit, based on the rate of people backing this campaign. Achievements cannot automatically post updates, so our plan is to post an update between 10 and 10:30 AM Central time the weekday after an Achievement has been reached. Like this update, in fact!
Finally, as promised by the most recent Achievement, here are the details on the first Incarna Spirit: Ember-Eyed Behemoth. Most of this was written by our beloved R. Eric Reuss, but the development team has also provided great notes as well! You’ll see a team member credited with their section after Eric’s wonderful words. Oh, and stick around to the end to learn about an Event card, as well!
Spirit Island has innumerable hills, crags, ridges, and mountains. A fair number of them have Spirits - or more precisely, are Spirits: the natural feature and the Spirit are the same thing. And over time, some of those Spirits have grown to encompass more places than the natural feature from which they first arose, just as the Spirits you play in Spirit Island spread Presence across the land, growing greater than they began.
However, most of those innumerable hills, crags, and mountains - even the ones with Spirits - don’t get up and walk around.
Ember-Eyed Behemoth is one of the exceptions, and one to be careful of. Most of the time, it chills out in the wetlands, letting the water wash over it and nourish the plants that grow upon it. But if it’s angered, it rouses and goes on a rampage across the land, smashing anything that annoys it.
(The Dahan term translated as “Behemoth” means something like “Moving-Mountain”, though with “Mountain” specifically referring to “verdant rise supporting plant life”, not “lifeless crag of rock”. While Dahan will often use longer names for dangerous Spirits in order to be more formal and avoid antagonizing them, they don’t bother here: when it’s relaxed, it doesn’t really care if you’re formal, and when it’s rampaging, it’s not even listening to you anyway.)
Devouring Teeth Lurk Underfoot (from Horizons of Spirit Island) is a partial child of Ember-Eyed Behemoth, as referenced in its lore - which may seem something of a trick, given that Devouring Teeth is on a different islet from where Behemoth’s Incarna currently resides! But any Spirit with long enough reach can usually find a way to cross such a stretch of distance, so long as there are no metaphysical obstacles, and Ember-Eyed Behemoth certainly isn’t one to be stopped by a bit of ocean. (In game terms, either Spirit could cross to another islet in an Archipelago, as all playable Spirits can.)
Ember-Eyed Behemoth is an Incarna Spirit - one of four in this expansion. What does that mean?
Thematically: While most Spirits have (or can manifest) physical forms, these are most often transient (existing only for as long as is convenient for the Spirit) or embodiments of nature (a physical feature of the land, such as a river, mountain, or leaf). Some Spirits, however, have an unusually tangled locus of attention and power called an Incarna. An Incarna Spirit may exist (i.e., have Presence) across a wide stretch of physical space, but it is more focused around a single fragment of itself than most Spirits of similar size and scope tend to be.
Mechanically: an Incarna is a new sort of piece, a punchboard piece specific to that Spirit. While on the island, it may always count as that Spirit’s Presence – though you may choose otherwise, for instance, to avoid being destroyed by added Blight (Incarna are very resilient). If your Incarna leaves the island, it is set to the side of your Spirit Panel and can only be re-added by something that specifically adds your Incarna back to the island. (This is easier for some Spirits than others.)
Some Incarna - including Behemoth’s - can be Empowered (made permanently more powerful), indicated by flipping the piece over. Exactly what this does will depend on the Spirit! Whether to aim for Empowering an Incarna is intended to be an interesting strategic choice: against some Adversaries and in some board situations it may be amazingly useful, but in others it may not be worth bothering with.
Ember-Eyed Behemoth is a Spirit whose Incarna stomps across the land and smashes stuff - it can use all its Power Cards from any Presence, as usual, but its Innate Power is a big hammer that can only be targeted from its Incarna. It has one of the easiest-to-hit City-destroying thresholds in the game.
The limitation is that its Incarna isn’t highly mobile - normally it can only move once per turn, either to an adjacent land or to one of Behemoth’s Sacred Sites. If it stomps off into a corner land #8 to take out a bunch of Invaders, it may take it a few turns to get to another great target. It does have two ways of moving faster if it needs to, but it can’t overuse them:
- If it doesn’t use its Innate Power, it can move a second time, sacrificing smashing stuff for getting to a new part of the island faster.
- It has a once-per-game Growth option which Empowers and moves its Incarna, as well as granting a partial Reclaim - but like many Reclaim options, this comes at the cost of adding Presence.
Ember-Eyed Behemoth wasn’t the first Incarna Spirit to be designed, but it is the simplest of them: if it weren’t for its Incarna rules, it would almost be Low complexity; and while it has plenty of room for skillful play, the heart of its game plan is pretty straightforward.
Its Unique powers involve a variety of effects, all fairly simple, and elementally mostly match the elements needed for its innate: heavy fire, modest earth + plant, plus some splash elements. Thematically, Ember-Eyed Behemoth’s primary element is Fire but not because it’s made of fire or literally setting things on fire, but because Fire is an element of anger, strong passions, and spreading destruction, and when Behemoth rouses to anger, it becomes resonant with Fire. (This is also responsible for the embers kindled in its eyes.) While relaxed, it would retain its association with Earth and Plant but be more attuned to Water than Fire - however, in that state, it also wouldn’t do much to hinder the Invaders.
Dev Notes, by Ted Vessenes
The initial design hand-off for this expansion included six spirits, none of which were Incarna spirits. Of these, three appeared to be at the High complexity rating and three looked Very High. I immediately made the case to Eric that we needed two Moderate complexity spirits in a four spirit expansion, to make sure every fan had something they were excited about. A few weeks later, Eric came back with two new designs, one of which (not Behemoth) had this Incarna mechanic. The concept was great but the Spirit itself was still solidly High complexity.
I told Eric, “What I really want is a Moderate complexity Incarna spirit. Think Godzilla, the spirit! You push your Incarna all over the board, leaving a wake of destruction behind you.” Eric declined, because that wasn’t the vibe he wanted for that spirit, so we set it aside. Not three weeks later, Eric gives us the design for a different Incarna spirit, Ember-Eyed Behemoth, and says, “I kept thinking about this. Once I realized it was 80% done, I did the last 20% just to get it out of my head.”
And that was that! Ember-Eyed Behemoth changed shockingly little from the original design, and it was exactly what I had hoped for: a giant spirit monster that literally tramples over the invaders! The main dev challenge was figuring out how to best Empower the incarna. Originally the spirit Empowered through an innate threshold that also required some Energy. Energy strategies had to work to get enough Elements to trigger it while Plays strategies had more trouble paying the Energy cost. What we learned was that many players would focus their entire game on Empowering as soon as possible, even when it didn’t actually matter. For most Incarna spirits, we want Empowerment to be a strategic decision: it’s an option that matters sometimes, but it’s never mandatory. Yet for Behemoth, players would always try to Empower the incarna even when the strategic payoff wasn’t worth the resource cost to make it happen.
Eventually we solved this by switching Empowering to a one-use growth option that also reclaimed power cards. This strongly discourages players from taking it on the first turn, which is clearly a mistake, while guaranteeing every player will have it by the mid-game. Empowering earlier provides more early tempo by doubling the innate’s effect, but forgoes presence placement, which makes the spirit weaker later. The Behemoth Empowerment decision is no longer whether to do it, but instead about when.
As for that first Incarna spirit design, don’t worry; we made room for it later. You’ll hear more about that spirit in a future update.
Bonus Card — Influx of Settlers (Event)
Nature Incarnate includes a handful of events, with new takes on some familiar effects. Did you know the sands of Spirit Island are home to sandstalkers? The Dahan did, and the invaders are about to find out.
That is all for now! We look forward to sharing our next update with you!