I have a penchant for asymmetrical powers in two player games. When executed in a balanced way there is nothing better than dancing around the board utilising unique skills. So when the awesome looking Skulk Hollow box was taken from the cardboard packaging, I was excited. This was amplified because I am a box art tart and the lid was pretty special!
So first impressions were good, both the premise and the box had already started to win me over, but we don’t just look at our board games, we like to play them! So let me tell you about Skulk Hollow…
Getting this game to the table is a delight. Place the board between the two players and set health tokens and power cubes nearby. One player takes the Foxen warrior box and chooses their leader. While their opponent chooses the guardian they wish to play as and takes the relevant box, wooden character token and Guardian board.
Pass your quick reference fact sheet to the opponent, shuffle your deck, draw some cards and you are ready to play.
The game varies depending on which side of the table you are sat. If you are the Foxen warriors you are trying to rid your kingdom of the horrific beast that roams the land and it is a fight to the death. If you are the Guardian however, you are looking to rid the land of the pesky foxes who keep building ugly castles and houses on this sacred land. To win as a Guardian you will either want to exterminate the vermin from the realm or complete a unique Guardian objective that varies from beast to beast.
Both players have a card limit and an action limit dictated by their leader or Guardian. So for example Grak has a hand limit of five cards and two actions. You will play cards and use their abilities. Alternatively you might prepare, by cycling through your cards a little quicker, or spend power which grants additional actions. If you are below your hand size you then draw back up to your limit.
By playing cards, you will navigate around the 3 x 3 board looking to attack your opponent. The foxen heroes will leap onto the gargantuan beast and attack it, disabling some of its powers. While the Guardian will heal any damage and kill off as many of the pests as possible only to see them reappear when the discard pile gets reshuffled.
What it’s like
With four Guardians and four Foxen leaders there is sixteen possible match ups, flip it around so you play with both sides and you have THIRTY-TWO ways to play. Now I have to caveat this by saying I haven’t done that for this review. I would’ve liked to, but I also want to play other games! I have however, played with both sides and a good selection of leaders and monsters. Certainly enough to offer a balanced overview. If further plays change something I won’t be afraid of editing my opinion or maybe adding an update below.
Despite the asymmetry it was fairly quick to learn with the Foxen/Guardian match up that is recommended in the rulebook. Henceforth the Guardians have a difficulty rating on them to determine how easy or hard they are to control. The Foxen heroes play the same regardless of their leader, however a leader ability may grant a special power instead. Power cubes are definitely the Foxen Heroes best buddy!
The occasional match-up has felt a little unbalanced. In the game’s defence, this may be my fault as I haven’t played with the same characters consistently enough to get to know them in that way. I was too swayed with trying to play with as many of the different cool characters that I could. For me, playing as the Guardian is the better experience, although arguably slightly harder to win.
A few of the battles have felt like a real tug-of-war, full of healing and respawning. I’m not dwelling on that as a negative. The tactics of the game pretty much dictate this, and if it didn’t it wouldn’t feel as balanced, as often. For me, the game doesn’t drag when playing it, but if you are on a painful decline in health with no obvious way to victory, that slow demise may be disheartening. Generally though, turns are quick and you have normally decided what you are hoping to do during your opponents turn. This means down time is at a minimum.
In terms of replayability, Skulk Hollow delivers in oodles, and moreover, I think it will get better and better with each play as you learn more about your powers and your opponents tactics the more it hits the table. That said, the hand management could become repetitive after a while and playing as the Foxen Heroes is not that different from game to game.
I get pleasure as a box art tart staring at the magnificence of the lid. But my ogling continues when the compartmentalised insert is revealed. Along with the individual boxes for each character. The artwork throughout is impressive, with the card art, iconography and boards all being tremendous. Art is subjective, and it may not be for everyone, but I like how the Foxen cards are reminiscent of Disney’s 1970s Robin Hood. The wooden Guardian playing tokens are monumentally good, in fact all the playing tokens are terrific.
The rulebook is a joy to navigate and gets you up and running fairly quickly. So in terms of components I can’t think of any negatives at all. Skulk Hollow is a jaw-droppingly fantastic production.
Final thoughts on Skulk Hollow
The quality of the components goes a long way in making this game easy to like and enjoy. Fortunately, Skulk Hollow has quality battling gameplay to match. Players will attempt to find chinks in their opponents armour for the tactical win.
I would note that the game suffers slightly if played overly defensively. Skulk Hollow doesn’t offer much to mitigate this sort of tactic. I therefore enjoy it more as a two player slobber knocker with the occasional defensive manoeuvre.
The replayability certainly makes this game more enticing, especially when playing with the Guardian. It feels like the equilibrium of match ups is pretty good. An important trait in an asymmetric board game. I’m happy either side of the table. I prefer the variety of the Guardians, but I probably find it easier to win as the Foxen Heroes.
I like how the simplicity of the hand-management and gameplay makes it accessible for older children too. Via the artwork and components, the kingdom that will sit before them should capture their imagination. By no means is this a kid’s game, it’s just nice that they can be included.
My wife likes playing Skulk Hollow and appreciates the quality but she isn’t as fond of Skulk Hollow as me. Fortunately, my eldest son is a big fan, and at 13 offers a very worthy adversary.
All in all, I have thoroughly enjoyed playing Skulk Hollow and look forward to more match-ups in the future! I’m also excited for the next instalment, Maul Peak too!
Number of players: 2
Board Game Review Recommended Age: 10+
Publisher’s Recommended Age: 8+
Playing Time: 60 minutes
Setting Up and Take Down Time: 2 minutes
Designers: Eduardo Baraf, Seth Johnson, and Keith Matejka
Publisher: Pencil First Games
This is a fantastic production! Skulk Hollow is certainly worthy of a shortlist if you are looking for a 2 player only asymmetric duel. However, since this game first came out there has been some brilliant games added to this genre. Other options may fit the bill better for you at a more affordable price.
Artwork and Components
Value for Money
- The fantastic components and art
- Fairly balanced asymmetry
- Very good replayability
- Great tactical duel
- The tug of war gameplay
- The repetitiveness of the hand management
- Can go stale if played too defensively
Need more games?
If you already own Skulk Hollow and enjoy it, or are looking for other inspiration, you might also like these similar games:
- Maul Peak
- Unmatched: Cobble and Fog
- King and Assasins
- Dice Throne
Buy Skulk Hollow
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