Work to Save the Sea Creatures and Stop The Spill! | Casual Game Revolution

Work to Save the Sea Creatures and Stop The Spill!

The Spill

There's been a rupture and oil is spilling into the ocean. Players must race to rescue the wildlife in the area and prevent the oil from causing a major disaster!

A cooperative, 50-minute game from Smirk & Dagger Games, The Spill is designed for 1-4 players.


The game board shows a circle divided into four quadrants. Each quadrant is in turn divided into six sectors. An oil rig dice tower is placed in the center of the board. When dice roll through it, it funnels them at random into different quadrants and the number on the dice determines which sectors they are placed in. Each sector is divided into three wedges, and each wedge can only hold one die. You always place a die on the first available wedge that is closest to the center of the board.

At the start of the game, you place the marine animal tiles, healthy side up, around the board at indicated spaces. There are six types of each of the six animals in the game. You also take eight oil dice and send them through the oil rig, placing them in the indicated quadrants and sectors.

The situation board is set to the side of the main game board and players choose which of the spill trackers to use (this affects difficulty), placing the spill token at the start of the chosen tracker. Players then choose a win condition difficulty level and randomly select one win condition card from that level.

There are always four specialists in play, which are distributed among the players. Each specialist has a unique ability. Each specialist’s boat starts the game in a different quadrant as each other, using a die to determine which sector they begin on. Finally, each specialist is dealt two resource cards, returns one to the deck and places the other on the situation board.

Specialists take turns. On your specialist’s turn, you start with the spill phase. You take a certain number of dice out of the dice bag. The number depends on the current position of the spill token on the spill tracker. At the start of the game, it is always three. You then drop these dice through the dice tower and place them on the board appropriately. If an oil die is placed on a wedge that holds a healthy animal token, the token is flipped over to its contaminated side. If it is placed on a wedge with an already contaminated animal, then the animal tile is removed from the board and placed in sickbay.

If any sector ever has three dice, a spill out occurs and the spill token advances one space on its track. If a die would be placed in a sector and it is already full, then it moves over to the next sector in clockwise order. While you can remove dice so that sectors are no longer having a spill out, this does not cause the spill token to move backwards — the same sector will be able to spill out again.

There are four weather dice in the dice bag. When one of these is drawn and rolled during the spill phase, it is not placed on the board. Rather, its effect comes into play for each player and is then removed from the game. These weather effects are typically negative, such as making actions more expensive or limiting movement. The effect only ends for each player at the end of their respective turns.

Next is the action phase. During this phase, you may spend four action points. Different actions cost a different amount of points and you may perform the same action more than once. Actions can also only affect animals and dice in your current sector.

For one point, you may move your ship 1-2 sectors. For the same cost, you can also remove one die from a wedge in your sector and return it to the die bag or rescue one healthy animal tile, removing it from the main board and placing it on the situation board. For two points, you can rescue a contaminated animal. Finally, for three points you can remove an oil die completely from the game and place it on the situation board.

You may choose to spend 1-2 extra action points, but if you do, an additional 1-2 dice will be pulled from the dice bag during the spill phase next turn.

Each time a set of three oil dice has been removed from the game, you earn one resource token. You also earn one each time one animal of each type has been saved. When you earn a resource token, you must choose which resource card to place it on. Once a card has enough tokens, anyone may choose to use it on their turn. These cards have helpful abilities that will give you an advantage, such as allowing you to use another specialist’s special ability or setting the spill token back several spaces on the tracker. Once a resource card is used, it is discarded and a new one is drawn from the deck to replace it.

The final phase of a turn is the clean up phase. If any contaminated animals still share a wedge with an oil die, they move to sick bay. If any loss conditions are met at this time, everyone loses the game. Loss conditions are having one of each animal in sickbay, having at least three of a single animal type in sick bay, or having six spill outs currently on the board. If, however, there are no loss conditions at this time, and you have met all the win conditions on the win condition card, you have won the game! These frequently require you to have a certain number of animals saved and oil dice removed from the game. If there are no more dice in the dice bag, and you complete the current turn without losing, players also win the game.

The Spill components


The Spill is a tough, tight cooperative experience, where each game is going to come down to the wire. It’s one of those games where there will always be more things you need to get done on your turn than you have actions to do them in. Making that choice to pull extra dice next turn for extra actions now, is always tempting and always risky.

Win conditions can become unachievable, leaving as your only option to hang on until you deplete the dice bag. Players need to plan, but you’re also constantly adapting those plans to the changing board as spills pile up or different animals become at risk.

It’s a nice mechanism that, even if a loss condition is met, you still have until the end of the turn to try to fix it. This means that even with a bad roll you have a chance to clean things up, although luck of the roll can turn things sharply against you.

The resource cards are often key as they provide helpful abilities at clutch moments if used wisely. We also liked the range of abilities for the specialists, although they didn’t always seem equally useful.

There are a lot of ways to adapt the difficulty of the game, making it easier or harder (although the game will never be too easy), from different spill tracks to different win conditions. This allows you to get to grips with the game and slowly figure out strategies.

Rules are fairly easy to teach, but setup does take a bit of time, and you have to put the oil rig dice tower together each time you play. We found it a bit annoying to assemble and wish there’d been a way to leave it at least partially assembled in the box. However, it does have a great table presence and provides an actual mechanical purpose to the game, determining which quadrants the dice fall into, and isn’t just there for aesthetics.

Overall, the components are quite nice, with attractive artwork, information readily accessible, and nice wooden tokens for the ships and enjoyable dice to play with. The game does take up a fair bit of table space, so you do want a nice sized playing area. We also appreciated the fact that The Spill manages to have an environmental based theme that serves the gameplay itself first and foremost, rather than feeling as if its main goal is to teach a lesson.

For players who enjoy cooperative challenges where you’re constantly feeling on the back foot, The Spill is sure to be a winner. It’s tough and suspenseful. Even on the easiest settings that the rules recommend you begin with, we lost our first game. If you want a cooperative game to take center stage for game night, and you don’t mind ending the evening on a loss, The Spill is well worth playing.

Pros: Challenging, great component quality, great execution of the theme

Cons: Long set up, slightly heavier gameplay than we normally prefer

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.