Quick Look: Silver Coin: Age of Monster Hunters
Designer: Lan Krajnčič
Artists: Marko Ilić, Rok Malovrh
Publisher: Bona Fide Games
Year Published: Currently on Kickstarter for 69 more hours at the time of this posting until Thu, August 11 2022 2:59 PM PDT
Silver Coin: Age of Monster Hunters is a solo, cooperative, or competitive game for 1-5 players who will travel the map in search of missions to slay the monsters that are troubling the people of six kingdoms.
The game is set in the fantasy realm of Atosia, a great continent that spans across the known world. It is divided into six big kingdoms, each carrying its own history, culture, and mysteries. The world has survived a great calamity that struck the land eighty years ago. Ever since things have changed and the continent has seen a sudden spike of creatures old and new that plague the land and are troubling the local populace. Amongst all of that, individuals have appeared who took advantage of this situation and will do anything, including slaying these so-called monsters, if it means they get a bag of coins in return.
In Silver Coin: Age of Monster Hunters, you are playing as one of these monster hunters. You travel the land in search of missions that will, if successfully completed, grant you rewards in the form of coins. But to successfully tackle all the challenges thrown your way, you will need to learn some magic, gather the knowledge about the very things you need to kill and equip yourself with items and skills that will help you on your journey.
Each turn players will draft cards, play cards, and buy special action cards or dice, then they will use their tokens to choose the actions they will take each turn in an attempt to optimize their way through the game.
Be resourceful, be strong, take the long path or the quick, the easy way or the hard, but most of all, make sure that when the game comes to an end, you are the one with the biggest bag of those silver coins…
You may recall that within the past few years, I was able to interview the design team behind Silver Coin : Age of Monster Hunters (Henceforth referred to as SC for short). It has been a long wait, but after a long hiatus of development, the prototype for SC has arrived at my door, finally netting me the opportunity to play the game. The Kickstarter for SC is live now with just a few days left at the time of this review, so let’s fast forward through most of the boring details and talk about what this game is all about :
Monster Hunting! (Competitive, Cooperative or Solo mode hunters may all apply).
Now I do need to be honest that a few years ago, I wasn’t necessarily feelingly overly compelled to review this game when asked to look into it by Lan at Bona Fide games. The map and presentation looked a bit plain at the time (I remember seeing the map back then, it stands out in my head!) and in a certain sense it seems that nothing has changed, aesthetically speaking (having the play mat now in my possession for trial, the map STILL looks the same , but more on this later…).
So I did put SC on a distant place on my radar and tracked its development over time.
What did manage to capture my interest was watching the rule set evolve. It went from a design that could have been any old generic system and somehow metamorphosed into a huge yet somehow cohesive game structure, incorporating so many elements at once that I wondered how in the world they could even attempt to pull something of this nature off?
And having the game in my hands now, it still seems daunting!
Yet it is so well organized that I am finding it is not so bad after all at attempting to pull off so much.
Now for those of you expecting a grandiose dungeon crawl type of vibe and combat system similar to DnD or Gloomhaven , etc, it pains me (or not!) to say that you need to look elsewhere. This is most definitely not what SC is about!
Rather, Silver Coin is all about being drawn into the world of Atosia in its entirety. It is not so much concerned with the fine details and intricacies of its place in universe, but rather a grand birds-eye view of the landscape that lets your imagination fill in the details between various points in your adventure. It is not campaign style game, but rather is designed to be a game night one-off that can still pull off that sense of giving gamers an adventure that spans a grand duration. And it works!
There are so many great things to talk about in this games’ design. But first, let me state right off the bat, you WILL need a large table. Even at 4×6 feet, we were feeling the crunch of space.
While some of our more expansive games end up having a bunch of pieces that we “might” need at some point littered all over our table, in SC, virtually every bit, piece, and board that the game comes with needs its own place at the table. You WILL need to delegate responsibilities for some areas of the game to the person who is closest to the aforementioned pieces and boards!
You start by choosing a character. Except , in a perhaps unusual counterpoint, you don’t actually choose your monster hunter—you bid on them!
That’s right, before you even start the game, you are already pitted in a competition for the hunter you want. A randomized group of unique hunters is placed on the bidding board (meaning you won’t necessarily bring your “favorite” hunter to the board every game night) , and then players bid for the one that they want. Rather than using in-game coins, however, players may place their action token on one of four tiers for each character that is available. Placing your token on a lower tier may grant you a larger bonus cache of coins when starting the game if you win, but you may easily be outbid by another player—they can place their token on a higher tier for the character and suffer the consequence of getting less money to start with for gaining the character they want.
All in all, this already gave a fresh start to an otherwise stale process of obtaining a character to use—virtually every other game out there perhaps gives too much choice in this regard. It is really invigorating seeing a design where you might not get exactly what you want straight out of the door, as it forces you to get to know another character and how to use them. That is an excellent start to getting a good amount of replay , if you were to ask me!
Next , players will bid for their starting locations and magic cards, each of which also present unique advantages, so they have to be considered carefully!
Because this game map is huuuuuuuuge!
Getting back to when I was stating that I initially found the pictures of the map for SC to be a bit uninspiring, let me say that I take it back. Pictures cannot do it justice in the slightest!
And this is due the immense size and scope of it. And I would not reduce it in the least.
Because part of the thematic immersion of this game comes from the sense that you are somehow a real monster hunter, making plans around your table with your team mates (or plotting against your competitors!) It literally feels like I am in my personal drawing room too, when I have to physically get up out of my chair to check the other side of table to see what locations have active monsters and rewards / penalties, and then move around to plot my course of action. A very nice immersive touch , if I must say so.
It evokes late night tales of mystery of the dangers that lurk in the woods about you as you prepared to journey into the next kingdom.
It feels genuine.
And the game setup itself is something to marvel at.
That is, after partaking in a bout or two of sheer intimidation. Again, there is a LOT going on in this game right from the get go.
Each of the games color-coded kingdoms has something going on in it that affects you. One Kingdom might be offering extra bounties for monster heads , while another may not believe in such nonsense as monsters and actually offer less of a reward!
Likewise, another Monarchy may tax you immediately upon entering the kingdom, while another is beset with a plague that can poison you for entering.
Each Kingdom may also have unique townspeople that affect gameplay — Some kingdoms have cities where a bard will compose a song about your exploits for a one-time gold bonus based on the number of monsters you’ve slain, while another town is so filled to the brim with other NPCs adventurers that new mission are scarce.
And this is all before any player has even taken a turn!
Now the following stages of gameplay will need to be broken down for the sake of brevity , but most of the actions that can be performed come in one of two stages.
Actions can be performed with cards during the Preparation phase (moving, gaining exp , reputation or magic) until all players have gone.
Action tokens can be used one at a time until all players have used their 2-3 action tokens to do more of the above actions, plus a few more, including but not limited to :
—Taking town actions (buying items, gaining quests, turning in rewards, etc)
—Taking other specialized location actions (gathering herbs or knowledge tokens, engaging a monster).
—Changing Player Turn order
—Buying more damage dice
The object of the game is to have the most gold at the end of two game years. After each player exhausts their action tokens , the day / month shifts to a new one with new conditions, and the preparation and action phases begin again.
During the game, time will progress from month to month and season to season. Some days will be shiny and make for easy traveling, while others will be wrought with storms that impede progress or even do damage to your health if caught in a blizzard!
In addition to seasonal effects, the time of day you are facing will be critical, because some types of monsters will only reveal themselves under the light of the full moon , and never during a regular night. So timing and planning is critical!
Even the process of obtaining a quest can be quite tricky. While doing so requires the visit to a regional capital, not every vicinity has a monster (you need to be aware of the monster boards that show where sightings have been). Even then, you are never sure what you are up against until you take the quest and pay money to gain valuable insights as to what the monster is—it is quite possible to end up blindly fighting a foe several times stronger than you if you do not invest capital in learning as much as you can about the foul beasts that infest the land!
Combat is dice based, but not overly dependent on luck. As a very broad generalization, you spend several rounds comparing player strength to monster strength. The higher number of modified dice rolls wins each round until either the player or monster meets their demise. You may end up circumstantially boosting your power with strength potions, special colored dice, magic cards or even better make use of a monsters’ weakness (such as daylight or season) to even out the odds, but again , gaining an advantage is more the result of careful planning rather than dumb luck, which is definitely something to be lauded.
While players will not level up in the traditional sense with XP, they can gain what is called Kingdom Knowledge to learn more about their environs. Again, knowing your foes and their territory imparts wisdom that serves to give you a competitive edge, which reflects in the game’s unique Kingdom Knowledge chart on each player board. If you manage to completely fill in a row or column on this, you can gain bonuses and features such as legendary swords, the ability to ignore the effects of monsters on their native land, extra magic, increased hand size and more. But you are limited to just six Kingdom Knowledge tokens. So choose your application of knowledge wisely!
Each character is distinct in their abilities as a tracker, hunter & expert monster slayer. I know this may sound cliché, but nevertheless, I have played many games where so-called “different” characters have only mildly varying abilities. In SC, this is not the case. While they don’t exactly have what could be construed a large pool of skills to draw upon (usually just 2 or 3), what they CAN do is sufficiently unique enough that you really do have to look carefully to assess what they can do when you end up bidding on a character you are unfamiliar with—it will have drastically different abilities than what you played before, I guarantee it!
For example, the Seeker will be able to navigate secret paths and trails through mountains, swamps and deserts that mean it can arrive at coveted destinations much more adeptly and quickly than the rest of the competition. They can also exhibit more control of the time of day to better suit the monster they are hunting.
The Shapeshifter may start out with relatively weak battle prowess, and have limited potion intake ability, but as they defeat foes, they gain the ability to transform into each type of beast they have previously slain—getting incrementally much stronger throughout the course of the game! Chronomancers can control the fabric of time itself, and create a sort of time-delayed effect that can trigger long after you have left a kingdom.
Another character can make half a dozen of portals to easily and instantly travel anywhere where they’ve laid these magical doorways, which gives a supreme advantage in maneuverability.
While I was only about to take a look at 5 or so characters, when talking to the devs, SC may in fact have some 15 characters when the game is complete! Wow!
This really is the tip of the iceberg , there is just so much going on simultaneously that it really can give you pause before you consider learning the game fully. And that is not to say that the game is impossible to learn, or an entirely uphill process.
But this does bring me to my main criticism thus far, and one that is bound to change over the course of time.
The biggest “negative” I have about SC thus far is one that is easily rectifiable , and without a doubt going to be improved for its final release, but as is, the rules need to be reorganized to be less confusing in setup and its layout of the actions that can be taken.
Part of this is likely due to some localization efforts that will be tidied up by the games’ end for sure, and yes , due to the fact that this is prototype it is of course, not going to be in perfect shape now. Once things are in order, I would imagine the learning process would be much easier (even if still visually daunting!)
Another issue for me was the combat, again due to a little confusion in the descriptions in the rules. As written now, I was a bit confused about the use of the colored dice in combat and was way off in my interpretation of the rules, but thankfully was able to get this straightened out of Gal from Bona Fide. Once implemented and done correctly, things all locked into place and made the battles mode appropriately difficult as needed.
Furthermore, some of the types of tokens and what they represent are still being worked out. The manual depicts 4 types of cubes, for example, but I only received 3 types for the purposes of tracking various resources, but again, being that the game is still in development, I expect these kinks to be worked out in due time.
What I have gleaned from my experience with the game is that it is indeed something new and to be marvel at for all that it is trying to accomplish. Not every monster game that I have tried has been met with success. I am quite literally thinking of one just right now that I ended up selling precisely because of poor implementation (not necessarily the rules themselves that put me off), having such a small map that pieces become so overly crowded on the board that players could not tell where they were located when their next turn came!
Silver Coin suffers no such maladies. In fact, as much as one would normally bemoan having a game take up too much space, having Silver Coin exhibit a smaller profile would ultimately lessen the experience in my eyes ; for my play through , I literally felt like a Seeker / Tracker, constantly checking my map for the best routes and opportunities. No, I didn’t just feel like a Seeker —I WAS a seeker for my game night.
Given that this is not a role playing game at all, I was impressed at the sense of identity I was able to assume given that I had zero back story, just a relatively small player card scattered with resources.
All in all, I must commend the Bona Fide team for their excellent work ; Silver Coin is shaping up to be an ultimate one-off competitive Monster Hunting experience for game night —and I haven’t even had a chance to see the other modes of play such as co-op yet, either!
Highly recommended. Even though combat may not feature as prominently as one might think Silver Coin nevertheless requires careful insight and planning to come out on top of the monster hunting world.
For more information, check it out on their Kickstarter, and if it so happens that you are reading this after the KS, do not panic, I hear that they will be allowing late pledges!
Find out more at BGG.
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Jazz Paladin- Reviewer
Jazz Paladin is an eccentric at heart — When he is not learning to make exotic new foods at home, such as Queso Fresco cheese and Oaxacan molé, he is busy collecting vintage saxophones, harps, and other music-related paraphernalia. An avid music enthusiast, when he is not pining over the latest board games that are yet-to-be-released, his is probably hard at work making jazzy renditions of classic/retro video game music tunes as Jazz Paladin on Spotify and other digital music services.