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Sam the Snowman, the cheerful, banjo-playing narrator of Rankin and Bass' Christmas classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, tells his audience each year of how silver and gold means more to him while adorning Christmas trees than the raw precious minerals mined and searched for by prospectors and those trying to hawk their jewelry at the local pawnshops. As I am a resident of central Texas where snow is about as common as getting a good, working cart at the local Walmart, I am not sure whether or not I can take the opinion of a stop-motion snowman puppet seriously. That song is infectious, though.
Silver and Gold is a flip-and-write (or flip-and-fill, if you prefer) game by master of family games Phil Walker-Harding. Players will be exploring islands by marking off spaces, numbering palm trees, and discovering the all-important gold pieces. Silver is mysteriously absent from a game whose very title begins with it, but I guess those metal detector-using guys on the beaches and at local parks, who always seem to be wearing a sun-faded fanny pack, aren't interested in silver, only gold.
Set up is very quick and simple. Each player will receive four island cards of which they are allowed to keep two. The others are discarded. Four additional islands will be placed in the center. As soon as a player completely fills up one of his island cards, he will be able to choose one from the center which will be immediately replaced. Players will also have a score card where they will mark located palm trees, found gold coins and any bonuses attained by finding coins, as well as icons to help with end-game scoring. A round marker which also displays the shapes on the back of the eight cards which will be flipped to tell players how to navigate one of their islands. This round marker also shows, well which round it is (there are four), and the six coin bonuses possible.
Once set up is complete and each player has a nifty dry-erase marker, one of eight cards will be turned over. Those relying on a certain shape showing up might end up disappointed, however, as only seven of the cards will be flipped. When seven cards have been turned over leaving only a single card face down, the round is over.
If you cross off a palm tree during play, count how many palm trees exist on the four island cards in the center and add the one you just marked off. If there were three islands in the center with palm trees, for instance, you would get to write a four on your score card next to the palm trees- three for the number of palm trees in the center plus the one marked on your own island. This provides a quick way to score points.
Finding gold is another way to earn points for end-game scoring. Each time a player marks off a gold piece on their island, he will also cross off a gold piece on his player card. As soon as a player marks off his fourth gold shilling, doubloon, cursed pirate treasure, whatever, that player will take the first bonus on the round card. The first gold bonus is worth six points. The second is worth five. These bonuses continue to diminish by one point until all bonuses have been exhausted. Then, if you meet the requirements for a bonus, you're out of luck. It is possible to get three different bonuses, as you reach one every time you have unearthed four coins, but after you have amassed twelve coins total, coins stop being worth points, proving that money stops being valuable at some point.
The islands come with a banner in four different colors: grey, green, orange, and purple. Grey islands are worth eight points while green is worth ten, orange earns twelve, and purple gives fourteen. Players should beware of sticking to only high-point islands as these also have more spaces and will take longer to explore.
Islands might also have a circular emblem at the top in one of the four colors with either a one or a two inside. These give bonus points to completed islands of that color. This is probably my favorite strategy- pick an island that has a bonus to another color island in my hand and try to stick to those color islands. Bonuses can also be stacked, meaning that if I have a card that gives two bonus points to my orange islands and then get another island filled up that grants a two point bonus to orange islands, I will get four bonus points for each orange island I complete.
Once all four rounds are over, players will accumulate their scores by adding up all coins found and any coin bonuses and placing it in the provided square. They will also add up all palm trees seen during the game and place it in the designated space. Next will require adding up the total of all island cards and putting it in the area that matches the look of the island banner, and then calculating any island bonuses and putting the number in the circular icon that corresponds to the look of the island bonus. To determine final score simply add these four numbers together. This sounds difficult, but it's fairly straight forward- especially when looking at your player card.
Silver and Gold is a quick game, only lasting about fifteen minutes once players are confident in how to play. It seems to require repeat play-throughs each time it hits the table at our house. If I was looking for a fun, fast-paced family game for all to enjoy, I'd go ahead and get this one. It is readily available on Amazon and Target for between $15 and $20. The components are great, but some of my cards have darkened a bit after being erased multiple times. This isn't a big issue at all as it doesn't interfere with the game.
Sam the Snowman was on to something when he told us that silver and gold is more valuable as Christmas ornaments than as an heirloom-quality necklace or bracelet, but as much as I enjoy seeing this one on the shelf, I prefer seeing it on the table and it didn't cost me too much silver or gold.
4 out of 5