Touch the Cloth!

counterpoint: it's about as daring as the Holy Roman Empire is aptly named

As any would-be casino thief can tell you, there are ideas and then there are executions. Hit the Silk!, from the same publisher that brought us Stop the Train!, opens with a sterling idea. Desperate to pay off a major debt, you and a few friends have decided to rob a MONEY PLANE. The heist goes about as well as any MONEY PLANE heist can go, which is to say the engines have been shot out, the pilot is dead, there are bags of money bouncing through the air like startled chickens, and there aren’t enough parachutes for everybody.

And then there’s the execution.

Turbulence sometimes happens, but that feels like an afterthought, and honestly didn't need to be in the game at all.

The plane is gently gliding downward.

There’s something to be said for a game that tinkers with interaction without defaulting to social deduction. There have been a few perfect examples over the years, games like Jim Felli’s Bemused and Dûhr: The Lesser Houses, loaded with baroque surrealism driving players to madness or ruin. Games are about interactions. If the odd designer decides to push those interactions in new directions, I appreciate the attempt.

Right out of the gate, Hit the Silk! puts in the effort. Turns are largely freeform. It isn’t uncommon, especially in the early stages when a strong opening hand has made someone eager but cagey, to witness players passing entirely. Others, less burdened with the necessary cash — or a life-saving parachute — can string together robust turns, exchanging cards for draws from the deck, using some kung-fu to manhandle rivals into revealing any hidden weapons, unlocking the lifebox for a peek at its contents, or perhaps unleashing an attack bird like in that one episode of Magnum P.I. In every case, the principal limiting factor is the MONEY PLANE‘s altitude, ticking ever downward, 500 feet per pass, exchange, or assault.

And then there's me, playing Hit the Silk.

Some folks are born lucky.

The tools at your disposal feed into the impression that this will be a no-holds-barred contest of diplomacy and brute force, Mad Max versus Adam Sandler’s fast-talker from Uncut Gems, both so adept with their tools of choice that they leave the other unsure of how to proceed. Your goal is to leap from the plane with enough money to pay off your debt, while also avoiding the sudden stop at the end of the fall. Nobody can carry enough money on their own, forcing some minor degree of cooperation. Did I say minor? I meant major, but with the caveat that you can’t quite trust anybody. When somebody declares possession of a decent wad of cash but dire need of a parachute, are they really somebody you can work with, or are they fishing for time? Perhaps they’ll up the ante by handcuffing themselves to a briefcase containing £40,000. Or maybe, instead, they’ll handcuff themselves to you. Hope you have a spare key. Or else an extra parachute in your back pocket.

In theory, all these firearms and loose bullets and knives and vials of poison are the beginnings of a crisis, a Coen-esque farce in which nobody proves as good as their stated faith in one another, and so everybody drowns together. Crud, I’d settle for a lukewarm heist flick. Instead, Hit the Silk! has all the energy of a business meeting during the post-lunch hour.

they might as well be lovecuffs

The tools are there. The incentive to use them is not.

The biggest problem is that there’s very little problem with the situation you’ve discovered yourself in. Oh, sure, the plane is falling, but it’s falling with style, a gentle glide that affords more than enough time to scrounge through the cabin for enough cash and parachutes. The number of available parachutes varies with the player count, but there are always enough for all but one player, which transforms the game’s central question from “Oh no, am I going to live?” into “Oh no, which one of our buddies won’t be jumping off the MONEY PLANE with us?”

Okay, so perhaps that one thief will be desperate to find a bullet, load it into a revolver, and shoot somebody? I guess so. That definitely sounds like a Coen-esque twist. Or, hear me out, how about they don’t do any of that because they aren’t facing actual imminent death? Once everybody has jumped off the plane, the remaining thieves can try to land the MONEY PLANE, a task that magically becomes easier once one of them finds the pilot’s license, and rather than paying off your shared debt, these players get to keep all their money. The entire game is built around hitting the silk, a euphemism for a billionaire shitting themselves using a parachute, except landing the plane via a slightly testy system of die rolls might let you win the game instead of the dopes who did the very thing the game asked of them.

As the altimeter hits certain milestones, everybody votes on whether it’s time to jump from the MONEY PLANE. My group tended to agree on a jump before the MONEY PLANE had shed half its altitude. There simply wasn’t enough time for most of the hijinks under consideration. Poisoning? Shooting? Why bother when we could spend a few rounds gathering the proper cards? When I say “a few rounds,” I’m being generous. In some cases, the jump happened before everybody had taken two turns. Which certainly made for a short play. Given the removal of certain cards during setup, and their subsequent shuffling back into the deck, we weren’t exactly hankering for another attempt.

Now to spend 19 months dividing into cannibalistic tribes over high school drama.

Well. We did it.

Hit the Silk! manages one paradox, being too fast to realize its best ambitions but too slow to demand another play. I found myself hankering for Jeff Siadek’s Lifeboat, that vicious little game that never fails to get somebody howling. Hit the Silk! was interrupted so we could watch clips from MONEY PLANE, yet it still couldn’t reproduce the glee of watching Kelsey Grammer pour his entire soul into the role of Darius Grouch III “The Rumble.”

The lesson is clear: this is one heist that requires its hijackers to bring their own enjoyment. Snacks will not be served.


(If what I’m doing at Space-Biff! is valuable to you in some way, please consider dropping by my Patreon campaign or Ko-fi.)

A complimentary copy was provided.

Posted on March 28, 2022, in Board Game and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. This is possibly an unreasonable objection, but do you really move that altimeter needle clockwise as the plane goes down?

    Whether that was the (uncredited!) designers not knowing/caring how it works in real life, or their making a conscious decision that clockwise would be better for gameplay, it sits badly with me.

  2. Thanks for the laughs. I hadn’t seen that Magnum clip before, and I’ll just say that Kelsey is a fine comedic actor and leave it at that.

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