Game Review: Silver River
Posted On March 25, 2020
This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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# of Players: 4
Time: 1-2 hours
Gamer Type: Cause to Hardcore
Game Type: Resource Management, Wargame, Exploration
Silver River Review Had a Challenge
Every once in a while, a game comes along that really screws up the playtesting schedule. Not because it is a bad game or because it takes too long, but because my playtesters say “Let’s play that game one more time.” This was the case with the review for “Silver River” by Rob Burke Games! The playtesters loved the game so much, they were not playing anything else. This game is a big-box, high-strategy game which allows players to play their style all around the board. This massive game lets you run your empire however you want. This makes it a great game for helping all kinds of gamers get into the hobby.
Let’s start out with the story. As you play the game, you are the leader of a blossoming space empire. The goal of the game is to lead your empire to be King of the Silver River (the name of space in this game). The story in this game is amazing as you have several different races. Each race is with their own stories. How you play the game is determined by whether you play to strengths of the race you get, or whether you play to your own play style. Some people can even do a combination of the two. This depth of the story allows you to write the story of your race each time you play, which gives Silver River a score of 8.5 out of 10 for story.
Next, we take a look at artwork. As with all Rob Burke Games, this is something they took a lot of time to develop. Let’s start with the one bad element, which are the tokens for fleets and stations. With the amazing quality of the artwork throughout the rest of the game, these tokens (which are well done) do not fit in with the amazing artwork and minis. That being said, when something that would normally earn a 6 out of 10 is your worst feature, you know the rest are going to be good.
The board is an enhanced hex board with great graphics for space and planets. The addition of the home planets being able to be placed at different locations is also an excellent feature. The art on the tile cards is also exceptional, which helps you really visualize the race that you are playing. The minis and the translucent markets, along with the die-cut fleet boards are the icing on the cake of this game that is a work of art on its own. The only thing that I would have liked to see are minis for the fleets (on the board) and space stations). This earns Silver River a 9 out of 10 for Artwork.
The mechanics of this game are impressive. This is a movement game where your movement determines your ability to explore, battle, or generate resource. During the first few rounds of the game, you feel like the one hex per turn is a bit limiting. However, this is a needed mechanic to keep the game balance. Once you get certain upgrades, you will be able to move further anyway. The mechanics are the basic move, battle, explore or gather mechanics that you see in high level games. The fascinating thing about Silver River is that it has all of them. This gives you amazing depth in what you can do.
There is also a population mechanics which helps with the resource gathering and the battle mechanics. The gem of the mechanics is a “civilization” board. It allows you enhance your military or your colonization efforts. Cap this off with a five-mode bifurcated action board and you have an amazing set of mechanics. But wait, there is more. When you chose to do the explore option, you bring a card element into the game that can have widespread changes across all the races playing the game. With this many mechanics that work well together (with a massive rule book), we feel confident giving Silver River a 10 out of 10 for mechanics.
Not to be outdone by mechanics, this game also has a 8.5 out of 10 for strategy. This game lets you play all four of the big strategies: Offense, Defense, Engine Building and Zerg Rush to the fullest. The only knock is the engine building portion of the game is not as well developed as some of the other elements. An expansion could clear this up with cards that play off of other cards in the tactics deck or the exploration deck. Offense in this game lets you use your tactic cards to hamper your opponents while you build your empire. Defense allows you to set a perimeter, max out your colonies, and try to buy your way into the winning circle. Finally, you can Zerg Rush and control as many planets as possible gaining more resources than your opponents.
The novelty of this game is also a great feature. I have not seen any space games (outside of computer games) with this level of civilization depth. Here is where I want to bring in the part that I have been saving up. In this game, your empire can actually battle Space Monsters! So we have a full scare civilization game that lets you battle monsters when you get your empire strong enough, and they lend towards resources and victory points. Sign me up! This earns the game a score of 8.5 out of 10 for novelty.
Epic Space Opera Game
This game is an epic space opera every time that you play through. It is a game that I recommend for any gamer who is ready to read the rule book. If you are going to play with your friends, have a QuickStart ready (it can take a while to explain it on your own). With a total score of 44.5 — yeah, you read that right! Silver River deserves a hallowed spot on your game shelf. This is a game that you should snatch up as quickly as possible to have this amazing experience in your collection.
Dr. Christopher Smithmyer is a writer for NRN, the Vice President of International Affairs at Brav Online Conflict Management, and an Adjunct Professor of MBA Business at Doane University. He is also part of the founding team at BlackWalletLTD, one of the leaders in stable coin 2.0 ecosystem maintenance. Dr. Smithmyer’s focus is international business and finance, along with reviews of board games, weapons platforms, and survival items.