Phil Walker-Harding is an Australian gentleman known for recent games such as Gizmos, Imhotep, and Bärenpark. Besides an Aussie at the helm, another thing these designs have in common is that I’ve never played them. Silver & Gold is also a PWH joint, but this one is special because it’s one I’ve actually played. And it’s one I want to tell you about.
This little 20 minute filler is described as a flip ‘n write. That means it’s part of the budding roll ‘n write genre, a group of games that’s become increasingly popular as bite-sized casual games. This has the “flip” moniker because you’re revealing cards from a shuffled deck instead of rolling dice. Cute.
These games typically feature scribbling on paper, checking off boxes, and noodling away silently in your own little world. This is part of the appeal as they allow a touch of strategy, brief moments of excitement, and they’re very comfortable. They owe their lineage to that game you know called Yahtzee.
This group of games doesn’t excite me.
They tend to be isolationist featuring little to no interaction between those sitting at the table. They’re often very faint and throwaway, functionally single serving games to be used for a brief time and then parted with. There was a moment where every single person on Twitter was posting screenshots of Ganz Schön Clever and marveling at their own score. Posting a screenshot now would be like leaving your house brandishing a mullet, or perhaps working a Yo-Yo.
Walk the dog
Rarely does one of these leave a lasting impression.
Nope, I’m not here to tell you Silver & Gold is different. It’s still a bit of a throwaway 20 minute filler, sitting quietly on your shelf for those scattered moments where it’s chosen due to circumstance as opposed to desire. But people, let me tell you, this one has a spark.
You have these little treasure map cards with peculiar island shapes. Someone flips the top card of the deck revealing a shape stolen from Tetris. Then you must puzzle out the best way to fit that crooked thing into one of your two islands.
It’s simple. There’s almost no effort involved. But it feels warm.
You need to think just a little. You don’t want to isolate certain sections leaving spaces where these awkward shapes won’t fit. Filling cards completely up scores you the bulk of your points, but there are a couple of alternate paths including marking off tiny coins and palm trees that offer unique supplementary vectors.
There’s something uniquely appealing about manipulating Tetris pieces and filling in empty space. There’s a very direct loop at the heart which imparts a sense of clever. You feel good and you get points for it. Silver & Gold is Ricky, that one friend that everyone likes because they make you feel special.
An effort was put into capturing a particular treasure hunt setting. It doesn’t quite succeed at elevating the experience as you never feel as though you’re discovering buried treasure or charting territory. But none of that matters. It’s just Tetris as smooth as Jameson, y’all.
The best moments are when people express their pain. Every once in awhile Ricky turns into Doug and kicks you in a crevice. You’ve left the perfect space for that one particular shape to land, ready for the card to be drawn. Then it never comes.
You see, only seven of the eight cards are revealed each round. You’re never exactly sure the sequence or even existence of a particular piece. So groan away kids.
Another quirk is that this is best with four. It certainly works with less, but that subtle element of tension is non-existent at lower counts. This is because the race for marking off a set of coins or hate-drafting a particular map is much more prevalent with additional participants.
There are decisions to be had but luck will sometimes screw you. Maybe you’re given a perceived garbage hand of starting cards. Maybe the sequence of shapes comes up in a way that sets you back. Maybe Aaron finishes his map first and then drafts the exact card you wanted from the row, offering a wink but not an apology.
I feel as though this genre has already crested and is now on the far side of its popularity curve. These roll ‘n writes made a name not by standing out, but being content with standing in. They’re the pack of Doublemint you come across in the checkout line and think, “why not?”
Silver & Gold is there, offering yet another small twist which isn’t much at all, but it is enough.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
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