Snugglepot & Cuddlepie. The Magic Pudding. Blinky Bill. These are the stories so many Australians grew up reading and loving, all with a love for the Australian bush and the creatures living in it. It was these stories and the devastation of Australia’s bushfires in 2020 that lead hobbyist board game designer Jeff Pearce to create Silverwood Grove, a tabletop game featuring the Aussie bush and its mythology.
“I was born in Australia, and I’ve lived here all my life,” Pearce told Kotaku Australia over the phone in the lead up to the game launching on Kickstarter. “I grew up on many stories [about] the bush. Things like Blinky Bill, Ferngully, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. I’ve always loved that part of Australian culture.”
The beauty of the Australian bush and the concept of animals working together is what led to the creation of Silverwood Grove. In it, 1-6 players choose from 12 ‘heroes’ (a rainbow lorikeet, a water dragon and an emu supervisor are just a few of the available characters) as they establish a woodland village, collect resources, manage their towns and create a thriving economy.
It’s backed by some absolutely gorgeous art from Sam Milham, who’s also the founder of the game’s Australian publisher, Great Games.
“As more people are trying to escape screen time, it’s important that we have our own country represented and celebrated at the table – especially for families and younger ones that have the entire world at the tips of their fingers with US/UK shows and games,” Milham told Kotaku Australia via email.
The aim for Silverwood Grove is to inspire kids and adults of all ages to get more excited about Australia’s local stories and worlds. “Building your own woodland village in a secret hidden grove brings about a childish nostalgia of romping through the bush building forts and using your imagination,” Milham said. It was this spirit of adventure that drew him to the game and his partnership with Pearce.
But the path towards publication wasn’t easy.
The idea for the game originally started with a ’54-card contest’ on BoardGameGeek where hobby designers were invited to create their own game using only 54 cards with no tokens or accessories. Pearce knew he wanted to create a game around his love for the Australian bush and its animals, and began working on Silverwood Grove for the competition.
The first draft wasn’t well received, but Pearce continued to work on it and learn from the initial design process. Eventually, he decided he wanted to make a strategy game with city-building elements, and the process snowballed from there.
After various experiments and ditching the 54-card limit (the final game uses tokens and player boards to track progress), Pearce created a game he was happy with and wanted to share with others. From there, he reached out to the team at Great Games, a Melbourne-based publisher, and the formal design process kicked off. After artwork and rules were laid out, the game found its way to Kickstarter for funding.
In 2021, new board games face major challenges brought about by shipping delays and the lack of in-person events. Missing conventions like PAX and Supanova means the internet has become the primary marketing mechanic. It’s also one of the few ways to connect with board game fans.
Still, Silverwood Grove has managed to overcome these obstacles and thrive.
The Kickstarter for the game hit its funding goal within a single day. As of writing, $54,444 has been pledged by eager fans from around the world, 500% more than the game needed to be put into production. Every day one stretch goal has been unlocked, with more hidden goals recently unlocked and more to come.
The success of Silverwood Grove proves there’s a rampant appetite for Australian games despite board games often being overlooked as an important part of the arts. Australians make great board games, and the country has a long history of creating them, too. In the bowels of the National Library of Australia, for example, you’ll find countless examples of historic Australian board games like Adventures of a Mailman, an 1800s game which sees a mailman crossing cities and avoiding bushrangers and 1905’s Courtship and Marriage, where you can play the game of love.
Simply put, Aussies love a good board game.
Silverwood Grove is just the latest in a long line of great Aussie adventures which show off the beauty and history of our country. If you’re looking for your next big adventure, you might just find it here.
The game is now available on Kickstarter, with a planned launch in November 2021. If you want to read more about the game, you can check out all the latest updates on its Kickstarter hub page.