Skull

One of the most lightweight and accessible party games around and a great introduction to the genre in general.

A game of taking risks, and regret.

You’ll each start the game with four discs of a single colour, three of these are perfectly safe flower cards and the forth is a deadly skull. Each player takes it in turn to play one of their disks face down on their own play mat. It’s here the player is presented with the choice of placing one of their flowers, or using their skull. This continues around the table with each player adding until a player decides to challenge.

Challengers must declare how many discs they think they can reveal from the piles on the table without revealing a skull. Each other player can then either pass and exclude themselves from this round, or raise the bid. Once all players bar one have passed, then it’s up to the highest bidder to reveal a number of discs equal to their bid – importantly always revealing the top card in a players pile first.

If the challenger manages to reveal the number they bid without a skull then they flip over their player mat, marking they are half way to winning the game. If they were unsuccessful, then they lose one of their discs at random; this disc isn’t returned for the entirety of the game, even if it’s that players skull card.

Go on, one more won't hurt...

On first impressions you’d be forgiven for thinking Skull is a game of random luck over any player driven choice; there is absolutely an element of random chance here but the risks and odds you face are by your own creation. Skull is a game which pushes you to go beyond what you consider safe. With only two wins leading to a victory, you can’t let someone get an easy win by bidding too low, but equally the risk in putting up your own bid is something that causes your heart rate to start escalating. You’re stuck in this constant internal debate of what is too much risk and when you should back out and watch someone either crash and burn or walk away with a glorious victory.

The requirement of turning your own discs over first gives Skull an element of bluffing. Though someone may put in a bid that is relatively high you can’t assume that they don’t have a Skull in their pile – they could be trying to force you into making a fatal mistake.

Because you’re making the decisions of what to do based on the visibility of only your own cards, your forced to try to understand and read the people on the table around you.

Are the other players likely to play it safe, or are they the type that is going to risk it all under the assumption they might get luckily? Do they still have their Skull card, or did they lose it three turns ago?

Skull isn’t a game about the cards – they are just a resource to facilities the actual game of trying to get into the headsof the other players, something which will have you examining every move, twitch and eye roll.

Bright, Vivid Cards

Visually Skull oozes the Day of the Dead style containing rich colours with simple geometric patterns. For a lot of games it might be too simplistic but for a game where all you really need from the cards is to easily identify two different types, Skull pulls it off. The box itself is small enough to make it something you could take with you to the pub or during lunch break at work, which being the relatively short round times is incredibly useful. Speaking of taking it to the pub – the discs are thick card stock with a good level of moisture resistance, similar to a beer coaster. Certainly an entire beer over them would cause a bit of damage but the odd spill here and there isn’t going to cause much of an issue making it an excellent party game in terms of durability.

A lot packed into a small box

Although the base game is for 3-6 players there is ample chance to combine sets to raise the player count and due to the fast-paced nature of these games adding more players doesn’t mean too much waiting – although the ability to really read large groups of players may be too much for some.

Skull manages to bring a lot to the table with a relatively simple game. It’s not going to the focus of a gaming night but for a starter course it ticks all the right boxes: You can learn the rules in a few minutes, you can carry and play it anywhere you like and there’s no fear of the cards getting destroyed

Final Thoughts

Conclusion: Skull is light on mechanics but full of fun moments where you reach too far – or not far enough. It’s one of the most lightweight and accessible party games around and a great introduction to the genre in general.