Original Review at: http://www.geeksundergrace.com/gaming/review-skiwampus/
Gamewright, a publisher with a huge catalog of educational games, brings us another from designer Myles Christensen. Myles also published two other games through Gamewright, namely: Toss Your Cookies, and Order’s Up!
Gamewright, as mentioned, is a large educational publisher, but also focuses on other titles for families with a bit more strategy. This includes games like Forbidden Island and the sequel: Forbidden Desert. Sushi Go! (check out our app review) is a familiar entry in the Gamewright catalog, and you can also read our review for the sequel, Sushi Go Party!
Skiwampus (the title is a play on the word “caddywhompus”) is a brainy, tile-laying game, which fits the Gamewright pedigree. Aside from a brief encounter with Gamewright’s Cardventures, and a few teasers with Logic Dots, I haven’t played much from these brain manipulation, pattern-focused games. My familiarity lies with the aforementioned Forbidden Island and Desert, alongside Sushi Go! However, if Skiwampus is at all indicative of the quality and gameplay of the rest of the line, I’m very interested in exploring it more.
At first glance, one might hope to be slaughtering zombies, or properly allocating gold and rice to feed your soldiers, but rest assured, Skiwampus enters the table quickly and leaves its players intrigued and wired.
In Skiwampus, players are given a fat stack of rhombus-shaped tiles, with different colors and numbers printed on each vertex. In addition, and pending player count, a number of multi-colored poker chips are laid out on the table, each a different point value, depicting things like “three colors,” or “all numbers.”
The round begins, and each player simultaneously slops together a mash of tiles, hoping to be the first to grab the most valuable chips. Now, each of these chips will give various points at the end of the game, yet not all of these chips are created equal. The orange colored chips will give a whopping six points, but sometimes players are left to pick up puny one-point chips. Bah.
A player may take a chip once they have fulfilled its requirements. This is done by creating a six-sided mix with colors and numbers that match whatever the chip dictates. Just look at this photo on the side of this text. I think it will explain what I mean.
Once players have taken all chips on the table, the round ends. Players can tally up their points by counting the pips on their victory chits. From here, players retrieve their rhombi, and pass them off to the player on their left. New chips are placed on the table, with new objectives, and a new round begins.
In total, there are three rounds, and the player who has gathered the highest total of pips by the end of the third round is the winner, and declared King Rhombus.
Components and Design
While I’m sure designer Myles Christensen wouldn’t admit King Rhombus is part of the game (I made it up), he surely must admit these components are king.
Everything about Skiwampus is beautiful. From the lovely, eye-catching box art, to the fine to touch rhombus tiles, everything screams “high production quality.” Each color is vibrant and pleasing to look at. Even the victory poker chips look and feel great. These hearken to the wonderfully produced chips from Splendor; Splendor being another beautiful, low weight game I hold dear for new gamers.
Variations and Strategy
The rules are quite simple and don’t leave me confused at all. In fact, Skiwampus ships with a few variants that introduce a turn-by-turn method of playing the game, which features a giant, shared, player-created board of tiles instead of each player’s personal playing area. Now players are trying to get rid of the chips they started with instead of gaining them. The first to play them all will win.
While I appreciate the inclusion of this and the other variants, I’m not sure they do much to change the game. The giant, turn-by-turn game ends up with players easily ruining each other’s chances of playing a chip because you essentially need three turns in a row to set up and execute any moves. I much prefer the zany, simultaneous play of the game.
Another strange bit about the game is the rules include no discretion on how to decide which chips to use in each game. Each color has a different value and degree of difficulty to execute. To this extent, I had to figure out a sort of formula and variation of chips for each game on my own—without the help of the rules. Otherwise you could end up with one round paying out a total of seven points, and another paying out 40.
From this viewpoint, I think Skiwampus missed out on not including some kind of beginner’s setup. How nice would it be to have chip variants, alongside gameplay? Maybe one variant has players working for only chips with one point value each, then in the next round, all chips are worth three each. This would provide some good variability in setup, and overall, give excellent insight into chip choice and distribution.
Why Skiwampus Rocks
Aside from my brief stint with other educational/mind games (Logic Dots, Cardventures), this is my first foray into Gamewright’s dexterity and puzzle line of games. While I wasn’t super convinced Logic Dots has a place in a catalog, I highly recommend Skiwampus.
I’ve played a number of games with my wife at this point. She really likes this game. She loves the quick play style. She loves the screaming and yelling that comes with another player grabbing the chip you were working towards, mere milliseconds before you could reach it. She loves the fun, fast, two-player gameplay. I agree with her, and she’s always clamoring for us to play “Scrampus” as she jokingly calls it in a strange, high-pitched voice. We are a regular couple, I promise. /sarcasm
So with just two players, the game feels fast-paced and competitive, and I don’t think it loses much at six players. As you add more people to the game, it becomes increasingly hectic, as six people frantically piece together their tiles to grab the most valuable chips. You might constantly miss out on a chip because you were just barely too slow. Then you have to reorient yourself to a new chip, scramble your tiles, and start over, only to just barely miss that one as well to another player!
It is this absurd mess of odd and even numbers, alongside big, bright colors that make Skiwampus lovable. The game doesn’t at all take itself seriously, which lends to the attitudes of the players. It’s just fun. It plays easy. It makes you want to play just one more game to see if you can grab more maroon and orange chips, and effectively shut out the rest of the players. I liken the hastiness of Skiwampus to Spot It, or even Dutch Blitz. This game totally relies on dexterity of the mind and the hands, and these things make it quite fun.
Skiwampus seems like an instant hit at family gatherings and groups of friends who don’t care for gaming. The lack of theme makes Skiwampus unassuming, and in my opinion, breaks down all barriers someone might have with playing a tabletop game. You don’t have to convince your parents to be creative with Codenames, and you don’t have to persuade your friend group to slay some zombies with poison-tipped arrows. I would avoid the mere mention of the word “math” when you decide to bring this game out, however.
Overall, I highly recommend Skiwampus. The downsides are few, and don’t do enough to discredit the game. This is a hit with everyone I’ve played with, so I’ll keep bringing it with me.
+ Easy to learn, and can be taught in less than three minutes
+ Gameplay is fast and full of energy
+ Excellent production quality and components
- Not a lot of variety in gameplay
- Could benefit from additional setup instruction
A review copy of Skiwampus was provided by Myles and Gamewright for a fair and honest review.
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