From my very first play of Silk, I knew I had to take a shot at some rules for an automated Ookami.
Silk, by Louis Ranedo, is a lovely game of worm farming in a Miazake inspired fantasy world (thanks, especially, to art by Roc Espinet) from the publisher Denvir Games. The players toil in competition to raise their worms, expand their farms, and fortify themselves against the game’s monster, the “Ookami,” who stalks around board munching the players’ worm babies.
The game has lovely components, tight competitive gameplay, and a deceptively cute theme. I say ‘deceptively cute’ because all the while the games aesthetic implies that since the players have a common enemy they would, in some measure, be forced to work together. The reality can be quite the contrary. The Ookami only moves around the board as prompted by the players themselves. This is my least favorite part of the game. Rather than having a personality of her own, the Ookami simply becomes the instrument of player strategy. Whenever the Ookami munches my worms, it doesn’t draw me into the game’s world. I usually just feel annoyed at whoever made her do it.
After my first few games of Silk I started imagining what an automated Ookami might look like, and a set of solo rules seemed like the obvious way to experiment. These rules don’t give the Ookami a lot of character or dimension, but they do give her a chance to move and munch by her own volition, and they give the player a chance to explore the game’s puzzle in a solitaire environment.
My goals for these rules are to preserve as much of the game’s out-of-box mechanics while giving the Ookami a life of her own, adding as few rules as possible. I will only bother noting what is different from normal gameplay. All other rules follow those in the box. Keep reading below to see my own thoughts about these rules play.
- Arrange a 3×4 grid of 12 tiles (including the Ookami tile).
- Set aside 8 fences, leaving the rest in the box.
- Put the player’s counter on the victory point track at 5 and place another for the Ookami at 1.
- Before taking the first turn, place 7 silkworms, the shepherd, mastiff, and 1 nursery on the board following the guidelines for set up of a normal game.
- Leave the “bonus objectives” in the box.
- When moving the shepherd or mastiff move 2 spaces instead of 1.
- Do not place a silkworm at the start of every turn.
- When a 1 is rolled, place two silkworms instead of 1 (or save 2 from the Ookami den, or 1 of each).
The Automated Ookami
- After each player turn, the Ookami takes an automated turn.
- The Ookami moves spaces equal to the value of one die role divide by 2, rounded down.
- For example, if the Ookami roles a 2 it moves 1 tile, if it rolls a 5, it moves 2, etc.
- The Ookami always moves towards the nearest tile with the most silkworms (in the case of a tie, the player choose which the Ookami pursues).
- The Ookami always stops moving when she arrives at a space occupied by silkworms.
- The distance of the movement is calculated according to the actual number of tiles it would take for her to arrive on a tile (e.g. if there is a fence in the way and she would have to move around it).
- When the Ookami moves into a space containing silkworms, they are moved to her den, just like the normal game.
- On each Ookami turn, she scores points equal to the actual value her die role (from 1 to 6) plus the number of silkworms captured that turn (e.g., if she rolled a 5 and captured 2 worms, she would earn 7 points).
- The Game ends either when the Ookami has 10 captured silkworms in her den, or when either she or the player reaches 60 points.
- Following either event, game-end points are counted as usual (points for pastures, uneaten grass, points lost for the number of worms in the Ookami den, etc.).
- The player looses if the Ookami ever has 10 or more silkworms in her den or if at games end the Ookami has more points.
- It is possible to scale the game’s difficulty by changing the size of the play area. Adding tiles makes the game easier to win.
- For a very difficult game, let the Ookami take her full movement capturing all worms passed through on the way (rather than stopping at the first worms she captures).
- Players can also increase or decrees the number of captured worms that triggers a game-end and player failure for an easier or more difficult game.
I think the strengths of this ruleset are its simplicity, it’s quick playtime, and the flexibility it offers to the player. There are lots of ways to win. Players can try (with difficulty) to capture the Ookami within a fenced area, alternately, one can try to protect sheep within a fenced area and use nurseries to refresh the pastures within (which is also difficult on account of the many actions required to achieve that end).
The greatest weakness is the randomness of the die rolls on Ookami turns. After a series of 1s or 6s, the Oookami can either fall too far behind for continued contest or so quickly win that the Player has no chance at all. This difficulty is mitigated by how quick it is to set up again and play another round, but it does make it very hard to determine if a player is really developing effective strategies or just getting lucky with the die.
If you give these rules a try, please let me know how it goes!
The next step might be moving on to the competitive game itself. I love the idea of Silk with a fully automated monster (hopefully one with enough spirit personality to command the board) and a semi-cooperative spirit shared among players. Perhaps more on that in the future.