Silver Dagger (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designer: Ted Alspach
  • Publisher: Bezier Games
  • Players: 2 – 4
  • Ages: 14 and Up
  • Time: 45 Minutes
  • Times Played: > 10 (On Review Copy from the Publisher)

Silver Dagger is the fourth game in the hit Silver line of fast-playing card games designed by Ted Alspach.  Silver Dagger was announced today and is planned for an October release.  I received an early copy, and I’ve been playing it over and over with my game group and family.  

Based on the system from Cabo, each game in the Silver series is a hand management and set collection card game with a werewolf-themed twist.  Silver (a.k.a. Silver Amulet) and Silver Bullet were released last year, and Silver Coin was released earlier this year.  The Silver line of games can be combined, so sort of like with Dominion, you can mix different sets to make custom decks.  

Each game in the series features a different namesake relic, and as probably guessed, this one is a silver dagger, fashioned with Bezier’s signature werewolf head at the end of the metal component.  In Dagger, gameplay can change direction for the first time, with players pointing the dagger in the direction the turns are taken.  

Silver Dagger ups the complexity a bit from previous games in the line, but it also ups the strategy and opportunities for clever play.  The art is more striking than ever.  Previous fans of the Silver line will naturally love Dagger.  

About the Series

Ted Alspach has hinted at other forthcoming games in the series.  For the uninitiated, there is a free iOS app available to show you Silver Amulet and, as of a couple of weeks ago, Silver Bullet.  For those interested in the game’s development, I highly recommend Ted Alspach’s Designer Diary over on BGG, which he updated for Silver Bullet.

The Components

The game is a card game at its core, with a deck of cards forming the core of what you need for gameplay. Four of the cards are player aids.  There are also four “private deck” markers, since one of the cards allows players to form private draw piles.  

There is, of course, the silver dagger, which, in an especially nice touch, is plastic and metal.  The dagger is used to point in the direction of play — which, as mentioned above, can be switched in Silver Dagger — so the component is used to direct gameplay for the first time.  

There’s a well-designed box insert from Game Trayz, with slots for each card, plus a little slot that holds the dagger.  

Finally, there’s a scorepad, a rulebook, and a reference guide for the cards.

The Gameplay

At the start of the game, the deck is shuffled, with five cards given facedown to each player.  The deck is put in the middle of the table, and one card is flipped face up to form the discard pile.  Players may then look at — and probably should memorize — two of their cards.

On a player’s turn, he or she has three choices: (a) take a card from the deck, (b) take the top card of the discard pile, or (c) call for a vote.

Most turns involve taking the top card from the deck.  The player looks at it, and then can (1) discard it, and if applicable, use the card’s special power, (2) just discard the card, or (3) exchange it for one or more of his cards, discarding them instead and keeping the drawn card.

Unlike Cabo, which had only three special powers, every card in Silver has a special power, and the cards in Silver Dagger are slightly more advanced (and interactive) than the cards in Silver Amulet and Silver Bullet, but I would say they are on par with Silver Coin. A complete overview of the cards in the game can be found in the reference guide.

Many of those powers — especially on the higher cards — activate when discarding the card, such as the Reverser (the 11s), which allows you to change the direction of play.  The Master Thief (the 12s) is among the most powerful cards in the game, as it allows you to view one facedown card in any village (including your own) and switch for one card in any other village.  Given some of the powerful face-up cards in Silver Dagger, the Master Thief is a great way to pull shenanigans on somebody that has called Silver, since they might be denied one of the cards they were counting on to help save their score.  

One of my favorite new mechanic comes from the Renfield (the 10s), which allow you to add the top card of the deck to the top of your private deck.  Each player has a private deck marker, and they can look at their private deck at any time.  So this is a great way to hold a card in reserve until the moment you need it.  

Like in previous games, some cards give information when discarded.  The Flipper (the 6s) has not only awesome art — it is a dolphin holding hamburgers, of course — but allows you to flip over all of the cards in any village.  This means that not only do you learn information, but you can deactivate some of those powerful face up cards.  The Elusive Seer (the 7s) allows you to see cards until you see one of value 4 or lower, then turn that card faceup.  The Mystic Seer (the 9s) allow you to view any two cards.  

As alluded to above, some of the most powerful cards in Silver Dagger activate when they are face up in your village, such as the Spy (the 1s), which allows you to view one facedown card in any other village every turn, or the Halfling (the 2s) which allow you to round halve the sum of your cards (rounded up) at scoring.  The Sentinel (the 3s) mean that no player may switch, remove, or add cards to your village, which provides a nice protection from Zombies.

Wait… did I mention Zombies?  The coolest card — and the most controversial in my game group — is the Zombie (the 4s).  The biggest trick to the Zombie is that they can’t be placed faceup on the top of the discard pile.  That means if you go to discard a Zombie, you end up keeping it instead.  But you can shift it to other players, because when faceup, you can flip it over and give it to the village of the previous player.  What a nice gift, I guess? 

Also, thanks to the Approximator (the 5s), it is possible to discard a Zombie.  If you draw and keep the Approximator, you can discard two other cards in your village, and as long as the Zombie isn’t the top card on the discard pile, it can be tossed aside.    

The 0s and 13s in Silver are always interesting, and Silver Dagger is no exception.  The Debt Collectors (the 0s), if faceup at scoring, allow you to subtract 1 point for each card in all other villages.  So, for the first time, your score can go negative.  The Furry (the 13s) introduce into Silver one of my favorite rules from Cabo.  If the sum of your cards at scoring is exactly 50, you score 0 for your cards, and all other players add 50 to their sum.  It is a high-risk, high-reward strategy, one that makes for a great hail-mary if you’re down on the final hand.  

Returning to what you can do during the turn, if a player takes the top card of the discard pile, he or she can do the exchange action. When exchanging cards, there are rules about which card spots (i.e. the order of cards in your village) that you can place them.  If exchanging, you nominate one or more of your cards, and you can discard several as long as they match.  If they don’t match, you have to keep all of the cards (including the one you drew) and take a penalty card.  

Finally, a player may call for a vote.  This triggers the end of the round: every other player gets one more turn.  Alternatively, as discussed above, the end of the round is triggered if the deck runs out. 

Because the direction of play can change in Silver Dagger, there can be some shenanigans where players change the direction of play to keep the game from ending when a player calls for a vote.  

For scoring, players get points equal to the face value of the cards, unless they called for a vote and have the lowest score, in which case they get 0 points.  (If they don’t have the lowest score, they also get a 10 point penalty.) The player who correctly calls for a vote and has the lowest score earns the silver dagger token, which they can use on a future turn.  

The game ends after four rounds, and the player with the lowest score wins.

My thoughts on the game…

As I’ve said before, the Silver series is tremendous, fast-paced fun with a high degree of replayability.  Silver Dagger, like its predecessors, is an addictive, engaging card game that has been a big hit with me, my family, and my game group.  We eagerly await each new Silver release.

Silver Dagger is probably the most complex of the four games, but it is the most intricate in terms of card interactions.  Here is how I would explain the series so far: Silver Amulet was the introduction to the series, and Silver Bullet ramped up the interactivity.  Silver Coin introduced some clever combinations that make it feel almost like engine-building.  Silver Dagger took all of that and showed the true potential of the series.  Silver Dagger forces changes on the previously-developed strategies — thanks to the Zombie, it is more dangerous than ever to blindly discard cards — and it is a fresh twist on the series.  

I talked about the individual cards above, but it is worth noting that a couple of additional ones really change how the game is played.  The presence of the Furry (the 13s) means that if you see somebody collecting high cards, you should be on the lookout, as everybody but them might be earning 50 points.  And the private deck means that somebody, right after you call Silver, might use a Flipper (the 6s) to suddenly flip up a powerful face-up card (such as the Debt Collector or the Halflings).  

As I’ve recounted before, the real joy is in combining the decks.  Everybody in my family loves picking the best cards from each series.  And in the end, while we love each base games deck, our favorite games have been the ones where we matched the preferences of our group.  And on that front, more cards have been getting picked from Silver Coin and Silver Dagger these days than from Amulet and Bullet.  

The Silver games are each especially well produced: the art is attractive, and the cards are of decent quality.  I like the inclusion of a player aid: you probably won’t need it after you’ve played a game or two, but it is helpful for teaching the game. But the best additions are the metal tokens and the insert for the game, both of which are nice additions.

The game plays well at 2, 3, or 4 players, and I don’t know that any particular player count is better than others.  We’ve been playing this slightly less than the advertised time — 20 minutes on average, I’d say — but groups will vary, since a lot of it comes down to the group dynamic of when somebody is going to call for a vote and familiarity with the cards.

Overall, I’m very impressed.  I can’t wait to play more Silver, and see what those hinted at future decks hold.  

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Chris Wray
  • I like it.  
  • Neutral. 
  • Not for me…
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