When Skull & Roses first released, I had to wonder, as many did, how much of a game could be made out of… coasters. The game then went on to win the As D’Or (Golden Ace) award in France and it also received a recommendation by the Spiel des Jahres (German Game of the Year) jury. I randomly bought a copy to use as a prize for one of our game nights, and the winner of the game subsequently taught me to play. Is the game worth the extra money over a regular set of coasters? Here’s a reminder of my scoring categories:
Components – Does the game look nice? Are the bits worth the money? Do they add to the game?
Accessibility – How easy is the game to teach, or to feel like you know what you are doing?
Depth – Does the gameplay allow for deeper strategies, or does the game play itself?
Theme – Does the game give a sense of immersion? Can you imagine the setting described in the game?
Fun – Is the game actually enjoyable? Do you find yourself smiling, laughing, or having some sense of satisfaction when it’s over?
Components: Well, the box contains 30 coasters and a rulebook. What else is there to say? They’re very nice coasters… Kidding aside, the discs are very thick card stock and very clear – you have the player’s “gang” on one side and a very large skull or rose on the back, along with a player mat (i.e. a square coaster) for each player. The game comes in a delightfully small box as well. The MSRP is $20 which sounds high, but when you think about how many tiny card games retail for $15… the components here are considerably larger and very well done. I don’t have any complaints.
Accessibility: I think that anyone has played this game could subsequently explain it to others with no problem at all. To begin a round, each player places one of his four discs (rose, rose, rose, skull) face down on his mat. Then beginning with a random player (later, the previous high bidder), each player in turn either adds another disc to his mat or begins a bidding war. Once the bidding war has begun, you can only overbid or pass permanently. The winner of the bid is betting how many roses he can reveal without revealing a skull, and he must begin by revealingall of his own played discs. Then he continues to flip discs (from top to bottom) on other players’ mats until he hits his bid or a skull. If you hit a skull, you lose one of your discs. If you win your bid, you get a point – and the winner is the first to two points.
The only tiny thing to remember is when, on a failed bid, you may choose what disc to lose (when you reveal your own skull) or when you lose it at random (when you flip someone else’s skull). Other than that, it’s such a simple game that it could easily be passed down for generations by word of mouth with no need for written rules or published games.
Depth: I remember an episode of the show Heroes (before it really went south) where a professor explained that the next step in evolution would be discarding the “junk” in our DNA, like your pinky toes and appendix. That’s what I think of when I think of Skull & Roses - somehow, someone took classic bluffing games like Poker and Liar’s Dice and removed everything but the bluffing. The result is a game that no longer depends on any kind of probability factors of dice or a deck of cards – just a came of bluffing and nothing but. It’s a brilliant move, and while the game takes fewer kinds of skill, I don’t necessarily think it takes less skill. It’s a tough and interesting game for how short and simple it is.
Theme: Well, there is a “theme” that the game is being played by rival biker gangs, because, you know, biker gangs love to bluff. It’s a “theme” about as much as “Coca-Cola Yahtzee” and the like are “themes”. However, it’s certainly better than just having playing pieces with boring abstract symbols, and you can envision typical poker players surrounded by beer and smoke playing this game, but who says they have to have motorcycles?
Fun: This game only takes about thirty minutes, even with six players. It requires tough decisions and a good poker face. Most of all, though, it’s hilarious to play. Nothing’s better than heckling someone on a ridiculous bid or the wowed silence when a snap judgment turns out to be perfect. I can’t see playing this game over and over all night, but I’ve never played just one game at a time and it’s always been a blast.
The only way I could see someone not liking Skull & Roses is if they don’t like to bluff, or if they turn up their nose at such simple games. For the rest of us fun-loving folk, this game is an easy recommendation.
Originally posted on http://meepletown.com
- Last edited Thu Aug 28, 2014 7:17 pm (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Wed Nov 28, 2012 6:20 pm
Don't fall in love with me yet, we only recently met
Re: Review: Skull & Roses
Great review Derek, I've had a great time with this game.