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Skull: Head Games Never Looked So Good

Skull Cover

Skull, 2013 edition
(All photos of Asmodee product were taken and edited by KristaG)

October is finally here which, for me, means it’s time to start pulling out all of my favorite spooky things both as a gamer and in general! As I get my house decorated and begin my usual, month long baking and brewing festivities, I will, of course, be taking some time to play some games. To get the month started off with some light-hearted fun, I’ve chosen to bring Hervé Marly’s Skull to the table this week. The copy I own and will be reviewing is the 2013 version, which is honestly my favorite version of the game.

Vikings and Thistles

Each player gets 4 discs and a square play mat. The Vikings set is my personal favorite of the six.

Skull, also known as Gringo or Skull and Roses (with both a Red and a Black edition), is published by Lui-même and distributed by Asmodee. The game is playable for 3-6 players and can be played in 10-45 minutes depending on the number of players. When it came to our group, the games played rather quickly (some of the 3-player games not even taking 10 minutes!), though we did notice that each additional player we added definitely changed the amount of time it would take to play through a game. The game uses 4 double-sided, drink coaster-like discs and 1 double-sided, square play mat per player.

When setting up the game, each player chooses a design set that depicts their chosen “tribe” in the game. Each of the 6 tribe choices is derived from different cultures around the world. My personal favorites are the Viking (green) tribe with the thistle and the Hoodoo/Voodoo (purple) tribe with the orchid. There is also a Japanese (red) tribe with a lotus flower, a Mexican (orange) tribe with a rose, a Pacific Island (blue) tribe with a plumeria flower, and an African (brown) tribe with what appears to be either a type of protea flower or a coneflower. For the purposes of game play, however, there is no difference between the 6 designs.

Flower Types

There are 6 different types of flowers, which are what you want to uncover when doing challenges.

Each player begins by placing their square mat in front of them with the light side up. They then take their 4 discs into their hand. Once a first player is chosen, each player will place one of their discs face down on their mat. After all players have placed their first disc and it comes back around to the first player, said player has a choice to make: they can either place another disc to their mat or they can issue a challenge. Should they choose to add another disc to their pile, each consecutive player has the same choice to make until someone decides to issue a challenge. Once a challenge is issued (either by choice or because a player can no longer add discs to their mat), the player that issued the challenge then announces how many total discs they intend to reveal out of those currently in play. Going in clockwise order, each player must either increase the bid by announcing a greater number or pass. After all players but one have passed, the challenge commences.

Skull Types

The 6 possible skull discs that can be flipped during a challenge. Finding any one of these is an instant defeat!

When executing a challenge, the challenger must first flip all of their own discs before they can begin flipping those of other players. If there are no skulls in the challenger’s pile, they can choose to flip any disc of any of the other players. Discs must be flipped one by one and in hopes of not coming across a skull. Should a skull ever be flipped during a challenge, the challenge ends immediately with the challenger having failed. When said challenger fails, all players pick up their 4 discs and place them in their hand. The failing player must shuffle and put their discs face down so the player whose Skull was shown can choose a disc to permanently eliminate from the player’s hand. Should a player lose all of their discs, they are eliminated from the game. If the challenge is successful, however, the challenger gets to flip their mat over to the darker (flower) side. Play continues in this way until a player is able to successfully complete 2 challenges.

While I don’t normally care for bluffing games much (maybe I’m just picky?), Skull might just be one to change my opinion on the genre entirely. I love that it is a game that drastically changes its dynamics as you add or subtract players to the game, yet never changes in difficulty. I feel this is a game I could literally play anywhere and with pretty much anything. For example, I could pick up a few drink coasters from work or at a bar, put some marks on 4 of them to indicate they’re the “skull” cards and I’m ready to play. There’s no reading or language dependencies, which makes this an excellent game for all ages. The artwork on this version is probably my favorite out of all of the ones I’ve ever seen and played with. It “pops” with it’s vibrancy and the different “tribes” make it a great conversation piece, which is how I usually find my players. Though I tend to bring this game out more often in October, it is a great one to play year round and even makes a great ice breaker (many classify it as a “party game” and while I can see that, I’m not sure I would limit Skull to being just another party game) that can be played in mere minutes!

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