A Spotlight on Terrier Games

The California sun streams through the driver side window warming Earl Silva's arm. He is in the midst of the two-hour commute between his home in Sacramento and his place of employment in the Bay area. Such a great drive provides ample opportunity to ponder life's great mysteries. Occupants of the cars that share the road with Earl have no idea they are driving alongside an inventor and a future company president, but to be fair, neither does he at this point. It took a world-wide pandemic and an unforeseen furlough for Earl to finally sit down and take a chance at creating a company- Terrier Games.

Roll 'Em In is the debut release from Terrier Games

A card player by preference, it would come as no surprise that his first thought of game design was simply to create a unique deck of cards to celebrate the craft beer blog he belonged to amassing thousands of followers. And while the miles to his job passed, it was then that he began to think larger. Why stop at a deck of cards? Why not design different games around a deck of cards?

"It kind of snowballed, and I ended up with a handful of games," Earl tells me. While he had designed and developed games of his very own, it was mostly a hobby- an interest. The time just wasn't right. Those first games would need to sit for a while, almost as if fermenting- not quite mature enough, so to speak.

Earl found himself moving fairly regularly. Every time he would move, he'd be in need of a new group of friends to play games with. But everyone's tastes are different, and he had little idea of which games to bring. It was cumbersome to haul around a half-dozen or so weighty game boxes while trying to accommodate interests and predict which games would be most enjoyed. Earl began realizing that it would be much simpler to carry a large variety of games if they came in small packages.

Inspired by the games he enjoyed playing, Earl decided to take a "big box" experience and concentrate it inside a small mint tin. With what I have seen, it feels like he's squeezed a whole Northern Californian vineyard into one small glass of wine, if you'll allow the metaphor. 

Still, the question had to be asked- why a tin?

"It was an exploration in design, really," Earl tells me when asked why he chose a tin instead of the more standard small cardboard box.

"It wears a lot better than a tuck box," Earl states. Then he continues, "It's a good means of getting a cheaper price tag with a high-quality box and components. It's a win-win."

His debut release, Roll 'Em In, is a fishing game that uses cards, pawns, and dice to simulate the feel of tournament fishing. In a way it an homage to a childhood past time.

"That was kind of a childhood thing. We'd always go fishing," Earl reminisces.

But it was not only fond memories that inspired the theme of the game. It was also a friend with pond memories.

"An older co-worker of mine, he's a sponsored fisherman. And so, I was playing games with him, and he was using me for some shirt graphics, and I was wondering if there [were] any fishing games."

After searching on BGG (boardgamegeek.com), Earl noticed that there were a few, but they were all older or needlessly complicated, in his opinion. He decided to fix that, so he re-themed an old design of his that seemed to fit the fishing motif.

Making a travel-sized game that utilizes dice to move and to catch fish seems like a stretch- not unlike the arms of a fisherman embellishing the size of his catch. It seems that Earl has heard that before.

"When you're sitting there trying to roll it in," Earl says, "roll the dice and get your points before everyone else, there's that tension that kind of builds."

"To me that's the same thing as, 'Uh, I got it! I got it!' You're in a fishing tournament, and you're like 'I gotta' get it in!' It does have that kind of feel to it, even if it doesn't look like much."

While it might not look like much, a modular-appearing series of cards splayed out on the table in a rectangle, Earl has developed a catch that should definitely not be thrown back. Don't let the roll-and-move aspect turn you away. There is depth to be found here. Not the Californian Pacific depth, but certainly no puddle, either.

In the midst of the great sea and a great game

Each player's board tracks four areas: reel, lures, boat, and money. Players will strategize to decide which of the first three to upgrade to help them amass the most of the latter. Upgrading the reel allows players additional chances to catch a fish by giving more rolls of the dice. As the lure is improved, so is the player's opportunity to catch fish with a greater point value. As the boat advances in level, it allows the player to roll more dice for movement which helps players avoid getting stuck in certain spots on the map.

What's the best strategy? Not even Earl knows for certain.

"Basically, you get these three options. Everybody plays different. There [are] times where I'd even do one of these and I'd upgrade this one all the way, and this one halfway, and I'd end up winning. There's this customization element that I like about it. The majority of the people like the tension of the game."

Earl Silva doesn't drive nearly as far to work anymore. The world we're living in isn't quite the same either. But the work he has done in cramming an engaging gaming experience in such a tiny package proves that the great drive he once took has been surpassed by an even greater drive- the one inside of him. Roll 'Em In is only the beginning. He has been working on other games as well, including a first-person dice rolling game.

Social media has taken notice and the people are interested. What began as a simple idea to put a self-designed image on a deck of cards has become a large vision for Earl Silva and his Terrier Games. Ironic that such a large vision fits in such a wonderfully small tin. 

Roll 'Em In may be purchased here.

You can follow Terrier Games on Instagram. Listen out for Earl Silva on an upcoming Desks and Dorks podcast.


  1. Sometimes those simple designs turn out to be small jewels. I love the "tin" games, like the Mint series from Five24 games. Small games you can take anywhere and get a good kick out of it. Great post buddy!! It's good to see new designers bringing more of these games to the hobbie.


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