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Skull

Skull has been around since 2011 as Skull & Roses, and even received a 2011 Spiel des Jahres Recommended mention. Brought back in a brand new edition, with brand new artwork and some alternate rules, how does the game stack up, so many years later?

Bluffing, deduction, and push-your-luck all come together to present a light, tense game, that’s all about trying to push your opponents a step too far, while never going overboard yourself.

Gameplay

Each player takes a set of four discs. Three of these show flowers on one side and one shows a skull. You also take a player mat.

Every round, you must choose whether to add a disc to your mat or to challenge. When adding to your mat, you place one of your discs face down on it. When a player challenges, they announce a number of discs they will turn over. When turning over discs you always turn them over one at a time, you must always start with all the discs on your own mat, and then may turn over discs from other players’ mats (though you can jump between players when selecting discs).

Once you announce the number of discs you will turn over, each other player may choose to either increase the number (saying that’s how many they will turn over) or pass. Once all players but one have passed, the player who wins the bid turns over the discs. If you ever flip a skull, the challenge fails and you stop immediately, then you discard at random one of your discs (it could be the skull or it could be a flower). If you run out of discs, you are out of the game. If you manage to flip over all the discs you numbered in your bid, you win the challenge. Win two challenges and you win the game.

After the challenge is resolved, a new round begins.

Skull Components

Review

Skull is a very simple bluffing game. There is an elegance in the design that ensures while it’s simple, it is still quite engaging. There is plenty of player interaction, as players attempt to read each other, and try to mislead when bidding during the challenge phase. There’s also a certain element of pushing your luck as you raise the bid and compete with other players for the challenge.

The game’s presentation is lovely. The art style is bold and colorful, the cardboard discs are sturdy, and the game itself takes up minimal room. You could easily play it at a restaurant or somewhere with limited space.

It can play up to six and the rules suggest combining two boxes to make it playable with even more people, but the sweet spot is really around the four player mark. Any more than that, and the game length is simply too unpredictable and the game can end up wearing out its welcome. Couple that with the fact there is player elimination, and it’s better to play with a smaller group.

Skull is exceptionally easy to teach, is good for parties, or when you want something light to play. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but it is delightful. If you enjoy a good bluff, check it out.

Pros: Good art and presentation, light, simple, good bluffing

Cons: Too many players can make the game time too long, player elimination

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.