If your full time job is ‘cares about board games,’ for the past few years, pretty much since That’s So Clever hit the scene, you’ve probably developed a distaste for the continued and widespread promulgation of the genre of x-and-write. Roll and write, flip and write, draft and write, pass and write. Basically I think that a German developer made a design that meant you could get those cheap marker pens at a price that worked for scale and suddenly the industry was off to the races.
One of these games is Silver & Gold, a 2019 German-made game that was pretty easy to play even if you didn’t speak German. It got popular, then it got translated and exported, then it got even more popular, and I can see why.
I really enjoyed playing it.
Silver and Gold is a game where describing ‘the game’ is largely about describing the gameplay loop. The fiction of it is that you’re exploring islands, and digging up treasures there, and, as you finish on each island, you get to move to another island. It seems a bit piratey – there are gold coins, there’s the vision of the island silhouette with the lone palm tree, and the loot you’re digging up has a certain piratical aesthetic.
You dig up areas in patterns, though, and those patterns match the various polynimo cards the game presents. Every player digs up in the same polynimo pattern, and you already know what’s on the island as you start to dig. It’s not a mystery game, despite the theme – it’s a labour game, it’s a game about maximising your proper use of work and making educated guesses about what will or won’t become available for you, as player moves.
The game is therefore tense as you want to both race to certain targets (so you can collect trophies), you want to maximise moves (so you can get through more islands), you want to postpone some moves (so you can maximise your trees). You want to have the best selection of the islands when you pick a new one, but you want to make sure you’re not stuck picking an island that doesn’t work with the other islands you’ve picked up. It’s a game of making a flexible plan for a different layers of short-term planning.
It’s really engaging, I really liked it.
An element of this game I’d like to recommend is that it’s a game where players can keep their distance? Like you could easily play this game outdoors at the park, with people sitting a suitable distance apart.
The game’s engine is pretty simple and I like that. I feel like the fiction could be improved, and that the basic engine is very approachable for other designs. It could be used as a template for a (for example) archaelogical dig. Or maybe even paleontology – you can make the ‘islands’ into fossils you’re trying to preserve, and the ‘trees’ and ‘coins’ become things like pollen or cohabited small fossils.
Another thing you could do with this is to make it a constructive task – you could have cards that are meant to be components of a machine, or made to an order like blacksmiths or crafters delivering goods. You could also make it so that tasks can be left ‘incomplete’ or that completeness represents a degree of quality.
Anyway, I like Silver & Gold a lot. It’s a great game at its size and scope, and it’s very affordable. It gives me ideas for other games, and its setup and pack down is nice and convenient. It doesn’t do a lot to elevate the flip-and-write genre, but it doesn’t have to. It’s just an excellent execution of its concept.