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Awards

Rating

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

You Might Like

  • Variety of gameplay
  • High component quality
  • Tactical play
  • Simple to understand

Might Not Like

  • Drawing bad cards can derail plans
  • Games can be 'swingy'

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Skulk Hollow Review

SkHo Featured

Skulk Hollow is the setting for an epic showdown between a band of plucky Foxen Heroes and a hulking Forest Guardian. The foxes must use their numbers, cunning and guile to prevent the Guardians achieving their goal. The giant Guardians meanwhile attempt to stomp, swing and smash their way to victory.

Skulk Hollow is a two-player asymmetric game which plays out in around forty minutes. One player takes charge of the foxes, and the other chooses one of four Guardians. Each character comes with its own unique deck, abilities and meeples to scatter across a small map. The Foxen Heroes also aim to climb upon the guardians, represented by a second board, and hack away at the giant’s health and abilities.

Skulk Hollow feels like a condensed version of the modern classic Root, capturing the evocative setting and characters and honing the gameplay into a tactical ‘David vs Goliath’ style showdown.

How it Plays

On each turn, the players will draw from their unique deck and then use these cards to move, attack, heal, use special abilities or leap onto the Guardian. Players also have the option to ‘prepare’ (cycle through their deck) or gain and spend ‘power’ tokens for free actions.

Clever positioning, timing and use of free actions make up the tactical elements of each turn. With different win conditions for each character, players will also need to plan ahead and try to anticipate the other character’s moves. Skulk Hollow is a game that encourages players to adapt, make sacrifices and take risks.

The ability of the Foxen heroes to leap upon the Guardian and start to remove its abilities makes the game shift continuously. One daring fox risking getting close to the giant can change the dynamic fast. The limit of cards available can also force players into tough decisions. Wins and losses almost always feel balanced on a knife edge, and the potential rewards of a well-placed gamble is where Skulk Hollow shines.

The Foxen Heroes & The Forest Guardians

Players on the side of the Foxen Heroes first choose from one of four leaders with differing abilities. As they play, they can add more troops to their Skulk (the collective noun for a group of foxes – clever!). Archers, sentinels, rogues, and knights help to form the fox side. The player will need to use the unique abilities of each, and their superior numbers to bring down the big bad on the other side of the titular Hollow.

The rulebook recommends new players start out with Grak, the giant bear. Grak’s winning condition is to defeat eight of the Foxen Heroes using a range of basic abilities. Grak is essential for the new player, but those more experienced may find its lack of variety frustrating.

Next is the moderate difficulty Apoda, a burrowing insect Guardian. When playing with Apoda there are four runes placed in the corners of the board, and it must collect all four. Apoda brings a sense of 'capture-the-flag' to a game and changes the foxes' tactical style.

Tanthos is one of two Guardians rated as difficult by the rulebook. It takes the form of a giant octopus and can spring tentacles on different parts of the map. They can then pull foxes in or deal damage. Playing as Tanthos is all about area control and feels chess-like.

Raptra – the bird guardian – represents the greatest challenge. Its aim is to defeat all but the Foxen leader. Its abilities vary, but particularly effective is its 'launch'. Raptra can take flight and prevent the foxes from leaping while also dealing area damage. Only the bravest and cleverest foxes take on Raptra and live to tell the tale...

In the Box

The production of Pencil First Games’ Skulk Hollow is exceptional, much like their previous title ‘Herbaceous’. Each character has its own deck box, containing its unique cards and meeples to match. Guardians have large wooden meeples along with any extra parts they need. Foxes come in the form of tiny wooden pieces, dwarfed by their Guardian rival. This all combines to give a scale and drama to every playthrough.

The box also includes a map of the world, showing exactly where Skulk Hollow fits (and eluding to a sequel). Flip the map to find an explanation of the tumultuous land it is set in. Few board games offer this kind of scene-setting, and transport the player into the world so well.

Final Thoughts

Skulk Hollow’s strength lies in the world and the story that it creates. The gameplay is simple, but with variety and tough decisions. Introducing someone to gaming through Skulk Hollow is sure to capture their imagination. Children will love its scale, imagery and drama. Board game veterans will relish the tactical swing of each encounter.

Zatu Score

Rating

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

You might like

  • Variety of gameplay
  • High component quality
  • Tactical play
  • Simple to understand

Might not like

  • Drawing bad cards can derail plans
  • Games can be 'swingy'

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