Disclaimer: This preview is from a prototype copy of the game that was provided by Button Shy to Open Seat Gaming, but opinions are our own based on several plays of the game.
Game: Skulls of Sedlec
Publisher: Button Shy
Design: Dustin Dobson
Art: Martin Cobb
Mechanisms: Pattern building, Set collection
Number of Players: 2 – 3 (solo play with expansion included in Kickstarter)
Game Time: 15 – 30 minutes
Description: The Bone Collector of the Sedlec Ossuary needs help! Collect and arrange skulls in a pyramid arrangement, putting the skulls where they want to be in order to score points. The player with the best arrangement, and thus the most points, at the end of the game wins!
Begin by shuffling the 18 cards, making 6 stacks of 3 face-down cards, and flipping over the top card of any of the stacks. The player that most recently visited a graveyard or cemetery gets to go first. Players take 1 action per turn from the following options:
- Dig: Select 2 face-down piles (or 1 if it’s the only face-down pile) and flip the top card of both face-up, then take one of the 2 cards you just revealed into your hand. You cannot do this if there are no face-down stacks or if your hand already has 2 cards.
- Collect: Select any face-up card to add to your hand. You cannot do this if there are already 2 cards in your hand.
- Stack: Play a card from your hand into your tableau following placement rules.
Each card has 2 skulls, upper and lower. Skulls come in 5 varieties that all score differently. Peasants don’t care where they are and always score 1 point each. Romantics want to be paired together and score if adjacent to another Romantic. Priests score for being in different levels of your tableau, a single Priest from each level scores and additional ones in the same level are worth nothing. Criminals score for being adjacent to a Priest. Royals want to be above Peasants and other Royals, scoring for each of those that are below it in the tableau.
Players take turns drafting and playing cards until all players have finished their tableau with 6 cards (or 9 at 2 players). Scoring then takes place, and the player with the most points wins, with the tie breaker being the player with the highest scoring single type of skulls.
The solo mode uses only 4 piles instead of 6, and you are building both your personal tableau as well as a second tableau with a special shape, called a feature, determined by drawing a random solo card. The copy OSG received to preview had 3 shapes available: Coat of Arms, Arch, and Monstrance (which looks like a priest’s staff, and is the name of the solo expansion). On the backs of the solo cards are conditions that affect the solo game (such as Romantics in your tableau not scoring so you have to put them in the feature if you want to score them, or Royals not scoring if adjacent to 2 or more criminals). Each game uses a shape and a condition from separate cards.
You never put cards into your hand in solo mode, so there is no Stack action. When you Dig or Collect, you immediately play the card to your tableau or the feature per placement rules (the features have unique placement rules due to their shape differing from the default tableau). The tableau and feature will both have 9 cards in the end, and then you score them per normal scoring rules. Add the scores of both together to get your final score, and compare it to the ranking in the rulebook.
Review: I continue to be amazed at the unique and clever games coming out of Button Shy’s wallet game series. It’s pretty incredible how much you can do with only 18 cards. Skulls of Sedlec continues that tradition with an interesting game that is a completely different experience from any of the other wallet games I’ve played.
I love puzzles, so trying to fit your cards such that they score but within the confines of the pyramid shape of your tableau is something I find myself really enjoying. It can be frustrating when a bad draw causes you to be stuck with 2 cards you don’t want to place based on your current tableau, but when you get something that works and everything clicks into place it’s SO satisfying. And even in the case where you don’t have a good round, just shuffle and play again. Romantics ended up really far apart? No worries, try again next game!
It’s a fairly light and quick game, which means you can usually play multiple rounds in between heavier games or as a intro/outro game for your game night. I was only able to play it at 1 and 3 players prior to this review but I think 2 player would make it a nice tug of war game for a pair or couple (especially when it comes to, hilariously ironically, the Romantics).
I’m normally not a huge fan of “beat your high score” style solo games as they’re usually about figuring out the optimal engine for the game and then just mitigating randomness to get as high a score as you can, which I don’t personally find that fun. Skulls of Sedlec, however, has a twist on that with the different conditions and shapes of the features. It’s a different puzzle every time that you have to figure out how to fit the pieces into. Even using the same feature shape twice can yield a different experience by using a different condition.
The theme is somewhat macabre, but the art is not done in a dark fashion. The skulls are very stylized, and while I wouldn’t call them “cutesy” they are nice to look at. Sarah doesn’t like skulls/dark themes, and she was okay with playing this (and even asked to play a second game right after the first).
Kickstarter Info: Skulls of Sedlec will be coming to Kickstarter on March 17th. We will update this space with a link once the project goes live!
Scott – The Solitary Meeple