Skull

RRP: £19.99

NOW £13.49
RRP £19.99

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Some of the best games are simple. They play into human traits that fascinate us all, namely lying, bluffing and cheating. We also all think that we know our friends a lot better than we maybe do. Skull takes advantage of these things in a straightforward and elegant fashion. Upon opening the box for Skull you might wonder if you have purchased a set of pub coasters rather than a bo…
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Category Tags , , , , , , SKU ZBG-ASMSKR01N Availability 5+ in stock
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Awards

Fun for Kids
Stunning Artwork
Golden Pear

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • The artwork is amazing.
  • Interaction between players.

Might Not Like

  • The cards can easily soak up liquid, they are effectively like beer mats.
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Description

Some of the best games are simple. They play into human traits that fascinate us all, namely lying, bluffing and cheating. We also all think that we know our friends a lot better than we maybe do. Skull takes advantage of these things in a straightforward and elegant fashion.

Upon opening the box for Skull you might wonder if you have purchased a set of pub coasters rather than a board game, as each player gets one square player mat and four circular cards made of thick, well err... coaster like cardboard. Three of these will have a flower depicted on one side and one skull. On your turn, if there is no card on your player mat you place one of your cards face-down on it. Next time round you have a choice, lay another card face-down or make a bid for how many cards you can turn over without revealing a skull. If you make a bid each other player will get a chance to bid higher or pass.

Once only one bidder remains that person must face the gauntlet and do what they claimed they could. The one rule is that they must start with their own cards first, once through that pile they can go in any order across the other players cards.

Sounds easy right? Only, then you play the game, and you know you have a skull as the second card down, but Sally next to you has just bid ‘2’ and you are sure if you bid a ‘3’ then Keith will definitely go to ‘4’ but if he doesn’t then you are going to draw your own skull - the ultimate embarrassment in this game.

If you draw your own skull then you get to choose one of your cards to discard, but if you draw another player's then they draw one of yours at random and discard it without looking. If you happen to succeed at a bid then you flip your player mat and if you succeed one more time then you win the game! That’s right - you only need two points to win!

Skull represents a lot of fun in a small unassuming package. It’s fun played with family on a night in or taken to the pub to play with friends - just don’t mistake the components for coasters...

Player Count: 3-6
Time: 15-30 minutes
Age: 14+ Review How to play Review

So, you fancy yourself as a bit of a poker player, you’re able to keep a straight face and good at bluffing, then maybe this game is for you. Skull is a great game of bluff, with some of the best designs you’ll come across... in fact I’d go to say this Is probably the best-looking game of bluff you’ll come across.

Game components

The game consists of the basic components of four circular cards and a square base card for each participating player, with each player having an intricate design of a Skull and three beautifully designed flowers. (Please be aware there are different designs of this game, this particular version has flowers)

Gameplay

So, you have your awesome looking game, but how do you play Skull?

Well generally you nominate someone to start, and in doing so that person will place one of their four cards down, be it a flower or the dreaded skull. The idea of the game is to bid how many flowers you think you can find from the placed down cards on the table. So as you go around the circle of players, each will place a card down, and the circle can keep placing cards down until someone decides enough is enough and they fancy trying to bid to find a number of flowers. Skulls are to be avoided, find a skull you’ll lose the round and one of your cards in the process.

So, for example, each player has to place a card down, but when the turn rotates back to the starting player he has to decide whether to place another card, so he has two cards on top of each other, or bid. If he places another card, then it’s onto the next player to make that same choice. If he lays another, it’s up to the next player to do likewise, lay a card or start the bid.

If a player decides it’s time to bid, he will nominate how many flowers he thinks he can find without turning over someone’s skull, when bidding starts, everyone bids or passes, no more cards can be laid. The person who bids the highest, and this will be decided as everyone else will have passed by this time, will take on the challenge.

What happens next in the game is that firstly they turn over both their cards, hopefully he will not have laid a skull himself (this can be done in the hope to get someone else to outbid and take on the challenge), if he does have a skull then he has lost straight away. If he doesn’t and he has flowers, he then nominates someone to turn over their card, he can only ask them to turn a card over one at a time starting with their topmost card first, but you don’t have to ask them to turn over all their cards.

The player searching for flowers, continues to get players to turn their cards over until he has successfully found the number of flowers he was looking for... success job done... you win that round, at this point you take your square card and turn it over indicating a victory. Do all this again and turn your square card over again, you win the game.

This is where others will try to spoil your fun, and get you to find their skull. The consequence of trying to get those flowers is that someone may have placed a skull to thwart someone. If you find another player's skull, then you lose a card, that card is randomly chosen by the player whose skull you found. At this point it’s wise to ensure no-one sat next to you can see your cards, so place them on the table face down, get the player choosing your card to select one, and you pick up your remaining cards hoping that you have that skull still.

Note: If you unfortunately overbid, and you had placed a skull as one of your cards, so of course you reveal it, you can choose which of your own cards you want to get rid of.

The next starting player will be the person who’s either won the hand by finding the flowers, the person whose skull was discovered, or the last starter should the bidding player turn over his own skull. The gameplay will get harder of course as player's cards in hand are reduced, memory of what other players have left in their hand when they have to turn over cards from time to time, will go a long way of working out who has what left.

Final thoughts on Skull

So, I have to apologise now for the above description of gameplay. Describing this type of gameplay is complicated and it just looks a bit gibberish, but believe me when I say that once you get the game, you get your friends and start playing it, all will make sense!

But to be honest for the first five minutes you’ll probably be all admiring the set of cards in your hands, I know I have said it before but they truly are a work of art in themselves. This game is truly a great time filler.

Skull is a 1-6 player game, but if you have another set of either the same, or maybe another set with a different design, then you can easily increase the number of players giving it a go at the same time.

Skull is a 10-30-minute bluffing card game by designer Hervé Marly. The artwork might suggest tattoos and Hell’s Angels biker gangs, but you don’t need to wear a sleeveless leather jacket to play. Happily, the rules are really simple, and the gameplay has an abundance of interactivity. Skull is a perfect party game, or the kind of ‘filler’ card game you might play to start or end a game night.

Between three and six players can play Skull (I’d recommend four players and up). Think of it like a game of poker – it will thrive best at a higher player count. So, are you wearing your best poker face? Ready to read your opponents’ minds in a game of raising antes? Let’s learn how to play Skull…

Set-Up

It's rather quick and easy to set-up a game of Skull:

  • Inside the box you’ll find what appear to be a bunch of beer mats. Do not mistake these as coasters! These are the playing cards, themselves. There are six square mats, and 24 circular mats.
  • Deal each player one of the square mats, so the colourful side is facing up. Each colour has four associated circular mats to go with it – these consist of three flower cards, and one skull card. Deal these out, too.
  • Pick a start player using your preferred method – I like using the smartphone app, Chwazi.

Easy! Remember to explain to players at this point what they should be doing to try and win Skull: The winner will be the first player to win two rounds. How does a player win a round? Let’s move onto the rules…

Rules Breakdown

Each player starts with four cards that they keep secret: three of them are flowers; one is a skull. Everyone simultaneously picks one of their cards and places it face-down onto their square mat. Let’s imagine a five-player game is taking place. There will now be five cards sitting face-down around the table. The start player now has a choice. They can either:

  1. Play another card face-down on top of their first card, or…
  2. Open the bidding, by vocally stating how many flower cards they think they can turn over in a row among those that have been collectively played so far (as in, uninterrupted, without revealing a skull card).

In the case of option one, play resumes to the player to their left, who now has the same choices: play another card face-down, or start the bidding. Once a player decides to open the bidding, no more cards can be added face-down – now the players’ only option is option two.

In the case of option two, the player has opened the bidding. Play resumes to the player on their left, who now has two options. They can either:

  • Raise the bid, if they think they can turn over more flower cards without seeing a skull, or…
  • Pass, in which case they sit out the remainder of the round.

Play resumes in a clockwise nature, where the ante is constantly raised until all other players but one has passed, which leaves one player – now known as The Challenger – with the highest bid.

Now comes the fun part! Whenever a player has outbid everyone with a number, it’s now time for them to start turning over cards they think are flowers. As soon as this Challenger turns over a skull in this process, they have failed and the round ends. No more cards are revealed.

If the Challenger reveals a skull, they fail. They’ll probably shake their fist at the person that played that skull, and that person will then, blindly, remove one of the Challenger’s cards. It’s returned to the box and not revealed to anyone. Everyone takes back their cards and play repeats (go back to Step 1). The Challenger that just failed with their attempt is now the start player.

It’s worth noting that a player can be eliminated from the game if they lose their fourth and final card.

If, however, the Challenger manages to turn over their stated number of cards and they’re all flowers, they win the round. They turn their square mat over (it’s got black borders and darker patterns to show the difference) as a visual reminder that they are now 50% of the way to winning! Everyone takes back their cards and play repeats (go back to Step one). The Challenger that just won the round with their attempt is now the start player.

Therefore, the first player to achieve the above twice is the winner.

However! There is a wonderful twist in this tale. In Step 6, the Challenger with the highest bid has to turn over x number of flowers (x being their bid). They can decide which order they wish to turn over cards, but they must always start by turning over their own cards, first. If one of these was a skull (because they might have been bluffing/baiting another player into bidding higher), they instantly fail. Cue bashful face as their own skull card is reluctantly flipped over!

Once the Challenger has (successfully) revealed their own cards, they can then start turning over the other players’ cards, hoping to reveal flowers. In the occurrence that other players have played more than one card face-down, if the Challenger wants to turn over one of their cards, they have to turn over the top-placed card first, before those played underneath it. They can opt to only turn over the top card and leave the rest if they wish, perhaps returning to them later.

There is one final thing to remember, but it’s not always likely to occur in games of Skull. In rare occasions, no player is able to triumph by winning two rounds, due to copious numbers of skulls thwarting attempts. It is possible to instead win by being the last player standing, because everyone else has lost their cards… But like we say, this is rare!

In some circumstances, a player might find themselves with only one card left. If it is a skull, then if they later become the Challenger, they have no choice but to turn it over and eliminate themselves. The only way they can win in this situation is via the rare point made above, in which they are the last player standing. It’s extremely unlikely they would make it this far without getting caught out, but it’s worth noting, should it arise!

So, in a nutshell: players try to bluff each other by secretly playing cards – a skull or one of their flowers. They’ll then bet on how many flowers they think they can turn over. The winner is the first player to successfully win two rounds, in which they indeed reveal their predicted number of flowers.

Skull Tips and Tricks

The first rule of Skull (don’t worry, this isn’t like Fight Club) is trust no one (so, it’s more like The X-Files). Every single person at the table is a mischievous little so-and-so! People will play skulls a fair amount, with the intent of tripping up other players. It’s a huge part of the game, and why it’s such a lot of fun!

Therefore, much like poker where you’re gambling on the hidden information that only you know, Skull is about reading your opponents. Some players may start to show patterns in the way they play, particularly when it’s their turn to either bid or fold, which could give you some insight into what cards they’ve played. Also, like in poker, sometimes it's worth turning over a player’s card, to see if they were bluffing or not so you can read them better, later on in the game. Remember, once a skull is revealed, players take back their remaining cards without having to show them, meaning you’ll never know what card they played.

The more cards you play face-down in front of you, the more of an advantage you’ll have. Why? Because you’re that little bit more in control of knowing how many flowers there are, when applying a successful bid! If you’ve played, say, two flower cards and challenged with a bid total of five, you know you only have to find three more. A player that has only played one flower card and bid five, on the other hand, must find four. Therefore, the first player and those in sequential turn order have an edge, because they have the first option as to whether to add another card or to open with a bid.

The skull card in your hand is the most powerful one. You can, however, by (one in four) chance lose it early on if you fail a challenge. Real skill comes in convincing everyone else at the table you still have a skull card! Perhaps you could sacrifice a round at some point and ‘fold’ in an easy bidding situation, to convince people you’ve played a skull (because you don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot and turn it over yourself).

On a similar note, once you are down to two cards, you might not want to place both of them in a round. Why? The reason is that if both of them are revealed, then everyone else at the table will now know your entire hand – and this puts you at a severe bluffing disadvantage, especially if you are left with only flowers.

Finally, Skull is a game that really comes to life when people around the table chat a bit. There is nothing like a bit of friendly banter or egging players on to raise their bid to create buckets of laughter. This isn’t the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas where people play in hushed silence. This is a fun card game you’ll play at the pub with your pals – just don’t put your pint down on the wrong beer mat…

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • The artwork is amazing.
  • Interaction between players.

Might not like

  • The cards can easily soak up liquid, they are effectively like beer mats.