Silver & Gold (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  • Designer: Phil Walker-Harding
  • Artist: Oliver Feudenreich
  • Publisher: Nurnberger-Spielkarten-Verlag
  • Players: 2-4
  • Time: 20 Minutes
  • Times Played: 5

“I bet you thought I was going to sing that Burl Ives Christmas song, didn’t ya? Well, you were right!”  

          -John 5/4/19

Phil Walker-Harding has to quietly be one of the most prolific and successful designers of board games working today. From Archaeology The Card Game to Barenpark he has been designing and releasing some of the most terrifically designed games around. Always streamlined to a perfect point and adding just enough decision making choices to appeal to the gamer in all of us. His newest offering, Silver & Gold, is no different, and this time we see him dipping into the “Flip & Fill” portion of the “Roll & Write” design market.

In Silver & Gold players have map cards in front of them and these maps represent the islands that you are exploring. On the island are various things, coins, palm trees and X’s. You are going to try to complete as many maps as possible, to score the most points in order to win the game.

To start, each player is dealt a hand of four map cards. These map cards will come in four different colors and will be of varying shapes, with varying rewards on them. Each player is going to select two of those and lay them face up in front of them and put the other two back into the draw deck. When each player has done that, shuffle the draw deck and place four map cards out face up to form the public offering of map cards that can be selected as players finish their current map cards. Players will also have a score card given to them to use for various bookkeeping items throughout the game, and to tally their final score. Plus, each player will receive a dry erase marker. You see, you are going to be marking your map cards, and your score card, with dry erase markers as you play.

The heart of the game is the eight expedition cards. These expedition cards each will show one Tetris-like polyomino shape on them. Each round, there are four rounds in a game, seven of these expedition cards will be flipped over. Each time one of those cards is flipped over, players will mark x’s on one of their maps to create the shape shown on the current expedition card. You may flip it, reverse it, mirror it, but you have to make the shape on one of your maps. If you choose not to, or you cannot make that specific shape, you may simply place one X on a map square.

As players mark off squares on their map cards, they will more than likely cover one or more of the special items on a map. If you cover an X on your island map, simply mark another empty space on either of the two map cards in front of you. If you mark over a coin you will mark off the next available coin on your score sheet. If you reach the end of a row, you will score points based on the next available point total on the round card in the middle of the table. If you are the first to finish a row you will gain six points and then mark out the six on the round card, so the next player knows they will get five, and so on until all are marked off. If you mark over  palm tree on your map, you will gain points equal to the number of palm trees visible in the public offering, plus the one you marked off, note the total on your score card. If you completed a map, you may sit it off to the side to score at the end of the game and pick a new one from the public offering and replace the one taken with a new one from the draw pile.

Silver & Gold plays this way over four rounds, with seven expedition cards revealed each round, and players marking their map cards and scoring points as they progress. After the fourth round is over, players will tally their points. They will gain one point per coin marked off of their score card, plus any coin bonuses earned from finishing a row. They will also add in their palm trees that were scored and the total points of the map cards as noted on the top left of each card. Map cards could also have seal bonuses that can be added to your score. The player with the most points is the winner and best map marker at the table.

Silver & Gold is an interesting game for me. I’ve been playing, and reviewing, a lot of roll and write games lately and one thing that I have wanted from them, is a bit more interactivity, that seems to be my biggest wish. Along comes Silver & Gold and simply put, it’s really as solitary as you can get, minus the race to finish rows of coins, and yet,  I am absolutely enamored by it.

Each map card is a puzzle, and each round you are trying to maximize the amount of X’s that you put on each map card. You have to plan based on knowing what those eight expedition cards are and what shapes have been played already, and which ones could still come out. Of the eight cards, only two shapes are repeated, so you have a better chance to see those, but the fact that there is always one that won’t be used in a round leaves just enough luck of the draw for the players to keep their fingers crossed. So knowing that, there is some randomness in the game, but not enough to hamper or feel like you aren’t in control. It’s a good random, and I think that all games like this, be it roll and write or flip and fill, need that bit of randomness in order to not be solvable. That’s just the nature of the genre.

The pacing in Silver & Gold is quick, you flip an expedition card, everyone marks their map cards, scores their points, replaces their map cards as necessary and you move to the next expedition card. Twenty-eight card flips, that’s all there is to this one.

Choosing when to score those palm trees is important as your score could in theory fluctuate anywhere between one to five points depending on what is out in the public offer, but most of the time you aren’t going to be able to hold out for that perfect score, you’ll have to take it when you have the opportunity.

Coins are the one way to kind of influence what your opponents are going to want to do. The depreciating value of completing rows of coins can be a big push for others to join you in trying to get as many coins as quickly as possible, especially in a game with three to four players as there won’t be enough bonus points to go around. Once that final one point trophy is marked off, no one gets bonuses for finishing coin rows. Rest assured though, the coins are still valuable, one point per coin is nothing to sneeze at, it’s just that they are a bit more valuable early on in the game.

I love the production choice here, making the cards dry erase friendly — although I don’t really think that there is any other way to do a game like this. Card stock is solid, and the dry erase markers are probably the best that have ever been in a board game box. I realize that’s a really silly thing to call out as a positive, but half the time my dry erase markers from other titles quit working two or three games in. So I figured a positive comment was warranted here.

As I said early on, I am absolutely enamored with Silver & Gold, and I am not 100% sure why that is. It firmly feels like most other roll and write — or flip and fill — games. You are simply trying to be as efficient as you possibly can each and every flip. Sometimes you have to take that single X since you cannot use the expedition card flipped, and you don’t want that. You want to be taking the single X’s at your choosing, not when the game dictates it. The choices you make are quite simple really, the maps aren’t that large and the expedition card shapes fit together nicely in most, but it still manages to make you feel like each decision is meaningful.

I know I have mentioned the Spiel des Jahres Award a couple times in recent reviews of games that I feel that may be deserving, L.A.M.A. & Dizzle most recently, and Silver & Gold fits right in that discussion as well. The jury has some good competition this year to judge, moreso I think than in the past couple years, and nothing really stands out as a sure fire winner like last year’s Azul. We’ll find out who the jury awards with nominations and recommendations on May 20th, 2019. If I were a betting man though, and usually I am not, I’d put money on Silver & Gold getting Phil Walker-Harding and NSV a nomination. Once again though, I have no inside knowledge, I just think that Silver & Gold is a bit of treasure, among those islands of sand.

Thoughts from The Opinionated Gamers

Joe Huber (1 play): I’m not convinced that the challenge the jury faces in 2019 is so much more good choices, as it’s a matter of there being less obviously a stand-out title.  But – I don’t particularly expect Silver & Gold to receive a nomination, though I won’t be surprised if it’s recommended by the jury. It’s a fine game – writing on the cards is a nice twist on the genre, and helps the game stand out some in a crowded field.  But while I’d be fine with playing it more, my one play hasn’t led to me seeking out more.

Dan Blum (4 plays): Polyominoes are the new hotness in roll/flip-and-write games, with Brikks, Bloxx, Second Chance, and Patchwork Doodle all having come out recently, plus probably others I am forgetting. I have played all of those except Bloxx and while they are all fine, I would honestly rather play FITS than any of them. (Why Knizia hasn’t retooled and resold FITS and BITS as roll-and-writes I don’t know.) Silver & Gold I find more interesting as it actually provides several things to think about instead of just filling space as efficiently as possible. I won’t replace FITS with it but I may well get a copy and play both of them.

My only problem with the game is that you need to track who is the first player each turn – it matters if players complete coin rows and/or cards – but the game doesn’t provide any way to track it and the obvious solution (passing around the box top or some other handy object) is a bit of a pain since the turns are so short.

Ratings from The Opinionated Gamers:

I love it. Brandon K, Dan Blum

I like it.  John P

Neutral Joe H.

Not for Me…

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