Sunday, 24 February 2013

SereneJ's Review of Skull & Roses

So a review of Skull and Roses, a game that I was introduced to in a pub and found it to play really well; admittedly I first thought we were getting some expensive coasters for our drinks but I was quickly corrected. The rules were simple and easy to digest, probably less than a minute and we were away trying to out bluff each other.

However, it’s a more recent play of the game of Skull and Roses that I want to talk about here. It begins by my wife trying to get the extended family seeing each other more regularly, since they live close by. To do this she invites my three cousins and their partners for a meal and drinks at ours, this ultimately means I’m going to be doing the cooking but fortunately lasagne is a quick meal to prepare.

Going slightly further off track, a little bit of info about my family, they aren’t board-gamers, they are muggles to magic wielders to coin a phrase. You would normally find them playing games including the likes of Trivial Pursuits, Logo & oddly enough Texas Holdem Poker (with poker chips & normally for money). My wife’s plan for the evening involves drinks, sharing a meal and lots of conversation; I felt we were obligated to provide entertainment.

The meal concluded, coffee and mints provided (I like to think we offer a proper sit down meal, thank you), Skull & Roses was brought to the table. Immediately a hush falls, then the question of what’s being brought out since the Box art is quite striking to say it’s so small. Now I know all those present can play poker so I tell them that this is like poker, just more refined, with no actual playing cards or poker chips – guffaws are audible.

Once the box is opened the coasters decks are displayed, showing each rival gangs colours. There’s almost a gleeful mischief in the air, disbelief that a deck of four cards and a square mat can be used to play a game. Each of the eight takes a look at the decks that have been layed out & slowly one by one they choose their colours. For this game both the Skull and Roses Black (original) and Red (expansion) box-sets were being used since there were eight people playing.

The game started slowly, everyone being cautious about how to bid, the order of laying down cards - after the first turn’s completed it’s understood. Next round, they eagerly want to lay down cards, who starts? 

This game of skull and Roses goes on for an hour, we’re having fun, drinks are going down and the conversation is flowing equally as well. Each turn you know at least one person is looking round at the number of cards on the table, counting (they’re not even necessarily doing it quietly), calculating their magic number, their bid, which could win for them or could lead them to losing yet another precious card from their deck.

The end comes quickly, the teacher doesn’t win (I have a solitary card left and it’s a skull), everyone’s smiling, more so the winner. I’m told en-mass that they would play again, another of my family asks if next time we gather to play poker if I would bring Skull and Roses along too. They’re already planning on playing it prior to the game of poker like an aperitif and there planning on playing it using money; could be an expensive evening!

Skull and Roses is a brilliant game, I’ll be honest I loved the artwork on the cards as soon as I first layed eyes on them. That said, I didn’t understand initially how so few material items could be used to play a game that was comparable to poker? What no deck of cards, no poker chips, no dealer button?  After playing my second game (my first game teaching the rules), I’m a believer!  Regardless of whom you invite to play this game, your board-gaming buddies, your friends or your family –  I believe they will love this game too!

Skull & Roses is not complicated to learn but will get your heart pumping faster and you will find yourself getting competitive, you will want to be first to turn your square mat over twice; a nice touch for a scoring mechanism. 

This (I believe) is a must have game, it needs to be in your collection!

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