TableTopTakes: Skulk Hollow
If you’ve read my previous reviews on Root and Cry Havoc, you can see that I really like asymmetrical games. Skulk Hollow, when it came on kickstarter last year, was a game that caught my attention right away. The look had a bit of that cute woodland creature feel that you get from Root. It was also from the same company that made a silly light game that I have enjoyed, Planet Liftoff!. Based off of that, I decided to take the plunge into the world of Skulk Hollow.
Skulk Hollow is an asymmetrical strategic game where one player takes on the role of foxes who live in the area and the other player ancient guardians that have awoken. The Foxen are trying to disable the guardians while avoiding having their leader perish. To do this, they have to get close enough to the guardian and either shoot them or leap onto them and hack away with their swords. The Guardian, on the other hand is trying to take out to Foxen leader, but they’ll also have some additional objective. It might be getting a certain number of tentacles into play or just taking out a certain number of the foxen heroes. Whomever completes their objective first wins the game.
The game play is pretty simple. Each player has a certain number of cards in their hand and they can play a number, this varies for the Guardians as there are several different ones out of the box that can have varying numbers. These all you to move, attack, maybe heal, leap onto the guardian, or whatever it might be. What’s impressive is that while the Foxen always have the same decks, each Guardian has their own unique deck, and that’s because all the guardians have their own unique ability. Raptra can fly whereas Grak can stomp, so those abilities show up uniquely on the Guardians own deck. Some of the Guardians, and some of the Foxen folk can augment their turn by having spent cards to collect what basically amounts to energy, which can allow them to take various free actions as well by spending the cubes. The game really gets down into a game play where you are trying to guess what your opponent has in their hand and using your cards as efficiently as possible.
I’ve talked some about what makes the two sides asymmetrical and how the guardians all play differently and have different objectives, but it isn’t just them. The Foxen also have the ability to change up their faction. With the Foxen you have the ability to change out your leader. In the base game, they suggest that you go with the Foxen King who has more health than the other Foxen leaders but no special abilities. The abilities of the Foxen leaders can be healing or giving additional moves or pulling cards back from the discard pile. That can change up how the Foxen play as well, and really adds to the replayability of the game. Just out of the box, you have four guardians and four leaders, so you have 32 unique plays of the game with playing both sides once in each combo, which should be plenty to allow you to go back and try a set-up again with it feeling different.
Thus far it’s mainly been about the game play. But I’d be remiss not to talk about the quality of the game. I’ve been very impressed with the quality of Pencil First games and this game definitely keep the standard high. The Foxen meeples are nice, the cards a great, and the boards for the different Guardians are really nice as is the board of the Foxen lands. But what brings the quality level up a lot is the production quality of the guardians. This could have been a game where they created plastic molds and we ended up with impressively detailed minis, but they didn’t do that, because that wouldn’t have matched the aesthetic of the rest of the game, instead we got wood meeples for each guardian. But they aren’t your classic meeple sculpt, they are amazing and fairly large cut outs that match the shape of the monster board. So it’s a very unique cut that makes each Guardian feel unique, and some of them come with extra wooden pieces as well, such as Raptra with a cloud for when they are flying. This really makes the game pop on the table and gives it a similar aesthetic feel to Root.
Now, the game isn’t perfect. You can get into situations where one or the other side will just slowly bleed until they are gone, but they can prolong the game. This happened in a play that I had and while 40 minutes seems generally accurate for the game, that play took over an hour. There was a bit of teaching to that time, but it reached a point where I was pretty sure I was going to lose as the Guardian, but , not being familiar enough with the game, we just didn’t want to scoop. I think especially with the more basic Foxen leader and Guardian this is more apt to happen because of how the winning condition is combat. So I’d be healing to not be able to do something to then have it taken away to heal again, and repeated for a while. This isn’t a massive negative to me, mainly because, I haven’t found this to be the normal for the game. And maybe with a bit better luck in terms of card draw I could have gotten out of it, but it didn’t happen. Just know that it is possible that sometimes one side could be in a position that it’s nearly impossible for them to come back from but not quite dead and that last little bit can be slow.
Overall, this is a really fun game. I think the rules are simple enough and the strategy/tactics are high enough that it is a good game for both more casual players are board gamers. The look of the game also helps a ton because of how cute the artwork is. One of the artists has worked on Disney projects before, and this has an animated Robin Hood feel to it’s look. I think that’ll help sell people getting the game to the table. Skulk Hollow is a good two player game that has an appeal for most people, I’d think.
Overall Grade: B+
Gamer Grade: B+
Casual Grade: B
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