What’s In the Box?: Silk by Devir

January 23, 2019 by cassn

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Devir are a company known for their quirky games and quality design - in fact, they've produced some of my favourite games such as Picnic, Checkpoint Charlie and Papua.

What's In the Box?: Silk by Devir

I take a look inside their strategic game offering, Silk, to see if these tiny silkworms can deliver a big game experience!

The Game

Near the peaks of the Akaishi mountains dwell the imomushi silkworms, who can only survive in that unique environment. Here they produce a silk of exceptional quality in order to protect their eggs from the harsh cold of those altitudes.

Become a silkworm shepherd, and with the help of your faithful mastiff, collect the finest silk in the world!

Unboxing-Silk-6

Silk is a self-described ‘gateway’ game into area control and worker placement dynamics. Players must expand their silkworm flock as far as possible while avoiding other shepherds, their mastiffs, and the fearsome ookami which prowls the land looking for silkworms to drag into her den.

Only by directing the silkworms to the most fertile plots of land, and through building improvements to their nursery, can you claim the most Silk points and watch your flock thrive!

Unboxing-Silk-5

Silk has a pretty simple set of movement mechanics but they are well-designed, and this means a range of effective strategic options exist for players. On their turn, a player rolls two dice, and the result of these dice determine the player's two actions for that round on the action board.

silk-unboxing

For example, if the player rolls a two and a six, on that round the player must move either their shepherd or mastiff, and must move the ookami. Dice rolls can be changed by spending Silk points to more favourable movements.

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Silk also has a really interesting ‘bumping’ mechanic. Since certain workers can’t share a tile with others, by moving onto a tile where those workers already exist, the previous occupants are ‘bumped’ to wherever the active player chooses (for example, the mastiff can bump the ookami and silkworms from a tile). This means players can drive their opponent's silkworms straight into the jaws of the ookami, while clearing room for their own flock to thrive.

Unboxing-Silk-1

The game is over when any of three conditions have been met - one player achieves the designated Silk point score (this changes depending on the number of players), a player constructs the last wall, or all tiles are barren after a grazing action is completed.

Players gain points for the placements of their silkworms and the improvements they have constructed and lose points for the number of silkworms in the ookami’s den.

What’s In The Box?

This is not a large game, but good things come in little packages, and Silk is no exception!

Each player has fifteen silkworms, one shepherd, one mastiff, four nurseries, and a silk counter (to keep track of score). There are also 30 double-sided tiles of various terrain, twenty wall segments, four different improvement cards, a scoreboard, an action board, dice, and an ookami meeple who, quite frankly, is adorably terrifying.

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While the pedant in me finds a few faults in this game (why is the shepherd the same size as the silkworms? Are they massive silkworms? Are you a tiny shepherd?), quality isn’t one of them. The components are wooden and durable and the card is thick. I absolutely love the artwork from Roc Espinet, and I think that the meeples design and colour tie-in to that art to create a game which feels cohesively structured.

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In fact, the more I look at Silk, the more I come to appreciate the attention to detail in this game, from the double-sided printing on the components to the red eyes staring out from the ookami meeple.

My one critique of these components would be that I don’t like the plain wood-coloured dice, but that is simply a matter of personal preference. Silk is a game which doesn’t disappoint on design.

Final Thoughts

I was a bit wary about unboxing Silk - although Devir produce quality games, the theme and art left me worried that I was about to endure what I would class as a ‘Barbie’ board game - very pretty, but ultimately devoid of substance. I could not have been more wrong.

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Silk is a game which utilizes the fundamentals of movement mechanics to create a game which is both easy-to-learn and strategic to play.

Everything from the artwork, to the components, to the mechanics and scoring system combine to give you an immersive experience of worker placement and area control without having to scour a rulebook each time a move is cast and an unexpected mechanic appears to confound new players.

While all gateway games should aim for a good standard of quality and design, Devir have set a high bar with Silk. 

I look forward to seeing which future games try to match it.

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