The Spill Preview: Thrilling Reverse Tower-Defense With An Ecological Message

Board games with an environmental message are few and far between. The Spill is one such game that manages to balance ecological awareness with the fun and excitement of a cooperative board game. It also happens to be one of our most anticipated board games for 2022.

The game puts players in the middle of an ecological catastrophe. A deep-sea oil drill platform has sprung a leak and is spilling thousands of barrels of oil into the ocean. It’s up to the players to work together to stop the contamination and mitigate the incident from further harming the marine environment.

How to Play The Spill Board Game

The Goal

The coop objectives are divided into three stages:

  1. Stop the further flow of oil from spilling into the ocean
  2. Remove as much of the oil slick as possible from the seas
  3. Rescue the surrounding marine wildlife from the effects of the oil spill

The Mechanics

The game includes the playing board, an oil rig model, 64 dice, 11 resource cards, and tokens representing marine life and ships.

The oil rig model acts as a dice tower. It randomly drops dice into the game board, which represents the oil spill. The roll indicates where the oil goes onto the four quadrants of the game board.

As the oil spill travels around the ocean, players must work together to deal with the biggest threats and contain the spill from further contaminating the play area. During each player’s turn, it’s their individual responsibility to solve the problem plaguing their quadrant of the game board.

To do this, the team chooses communal resource cards at the start of the round. Each card is activated by either removing 3 oil dice, or saving a set of 6 marine animals.

Taking too long in the game can result in many species of marine wildlife being lost to the contamination, or the oil spill covering much of the playing area, making for a good campaign game.

The game ends when all 60 dice have been used, or the team is unable to accomplish one of the three objectives (Stop the oil leak, contain the oil slick, and save the marine animals).

The Fun

In order to win, players have two responsibilities:

Solve the oil problem in their area of the board
Work together as a team to push back the oil spill and stop it from taking over the board.

The fun comes in coordination: everyone must identify their individual threats and use the finite communal resource cards to solve the biggest problem first. Should we save a certain species of dolphin first, or use the resources to stop the spill from overflowing into the next quadrant?

There’s also a sense of thrill as the oil flow increases and each turn grows more frantic. The number of oil dice dropped from the tower increases over the course of the round, representing the expanding gush of oil from the ruptured pipeline.

To further complicate matters, another factor can affect the game: weather. The weather dice represents the challenges of working in the ocean. It can restrict player movements, increase operational costs, or increase or decrease the rate of the oil spill.

Players who were able to sample a prototype version of the game have compared it favorably with Pandemic and Flash Point in terms of game mechanics.

About the Game

The Spill is the brainchild of Andy Kim, who has designed 6 other board games, with The Spill being his first published game. According to Kim, the game was inspired by real-world oil spill incidents such as the Deepwater Horizon fiasco.

The artwork meanwhile is penned by noted illustrator Kwanchai Moriya, who also designed the art for other RPG board games like Overlight and Jiangshi: Blood in the Banquet Hall, as well Dinosaur Island.

The game is published by Smirk & Dagger Games, who also gave us the Cutthroat Caverns series, Dead Last, Dread Curse, and Nevermore. It went live on Kickstarter last September 2021, managing to raise over $89,000 from 1,643 backers over 17 days. 

Early reviews from GenCon, Origins, and PAX Unplugged 2021 are mostly positive. The game has a 7/10 rating on Boardgamegeek.

The Spill was originally due to ship in April 2022 with an MSRP of $50, but has been delayed due to port closure issues. 

  • Natalie is a single mother of two, who has discovered a passion writing articles that actually help other parents out there, she is currently working on building up her name as a writer in the children niche - oh and she has a heavy caffeine addiction!

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