This was a new to me game that I got to play last Friday. It’s a fun little bluffing and bidding game that plays pretty fast and can play a high number of players. It offers a few interesting decisions, but no highly strategic decisions. I would consider Skull to be a simple version of poker.
In this game you have a hand of four disks. Three of the disks have flowers on them, and one of them has a skull on it. You go around the table playing your disks face down, until someone bids on how many disks they think they can flip over without getting a skull. Then it goes around until there is a winner of the bid as everyone else has passed. The winner of the bid thing has to flip over all of their discs they’ve played first as well as any selection of other players disks to reach the number of their bid. If they only flip flowers, they flip their play mat to the flower side, and if they win a bid again, they win the game. If they flip a skull, they randomly lose one of their disks, and a new round of playing disks and bidding begins.
Skull is an interesting game that way, pushing your luck as to how high you are going to bid and trying to read players to figure out who has put a skull in their stack of disk and if it is the top disk in the stack. The reading of the players is really where the complexity of the game works best. Did someone bluff a bid, and they actually have a skull in their stack, so should you bid higher knowing that or should you pass and stick the person with that bid? If people play with less bluffing in their game, the game will fall apart as bluffing is the strong point of this game. Bluffing that you haven’t put in a skull so that someone bids higher and flips over your skull, and then trying to determine if that might backfire on you.
The game also looks nice on the table. The disks work well and give it a unique look for a game that is so small. That said, the disks take a game that should be the size of a deck of cards and turns it into something about five times larger or more. That is kind of absurd and takes the game from being a game you’d always bring with you, to a game that you would bring if you have the room. So while the disks look really nice, the game likely would be better served by being a deck of cards so that people could just take it with them or easily leave it in a glove box.
I also think that the game can run into some issues with lower player counts. Technically it’s a three to six player game, but I would really say that four is the minimum and probably five should be the minimum. With fewer people it’s harder to bluff on bids because of there being fewer disks, most likely, to bid on each round. We played at three players a few hands and then two games at four players, and even at four players, and I’d think this would be true at any count, if you have everyone with one win, it can break the game. The penalty for losing a game is losing a disc at random, so theoretically if you’re down to two discs and one is the skull, you could end up losing it so you only have the skull, but when everyone is one away from winning, it generally just ends up that you flip every single disk, because you want to block other people from winning.
Skull is a good simple poker alternative. I don’t think that it’s much more than that, but it’s probably more accessible than teaching someone the full rules to Texas Hold’em. The game can get a little bit weird at times, as I talk about in the above scenario that we had happen. Even with it getting weird though, I think that will be fairly rare, and the game says it plays in 45 minutes, and maybe with the upper end player counts it might, but it should play faster than that. Overall, it’s not a bad game, and it offers some interesting chances to bluff.
Overall Grade: B
Gamer Grade: B
Casual Grade: B
Have you played Skull, if so, what are your thoughts? Are there other bluffing games that you like?
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