Skull King Review

Skull King

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  • Designer: Brent Beck
  • Publisher: Grandpa Beck Games
  • Players: 2-6 Players
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time to play: 30 Minutes

Ahoy there folks! I’m back again with another review copy from Grandpa Beck’s Games. This time, we’re traveling the seven seas, following maps, finding treasure, keeping parrots, flying the jolly roger, and talkin’ like pirates! Skull King is a trick taking card game.  It’s for 2-6 players and plays in about 30 minutes. This game was provided to me by Grandpa Beck Games to review.

Components

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  • 56 “suit” cards.
    • 4 different “suits” are Parrots, Treasure, Maps, and Jolly Roger and number 1-14.
  • 21 Bid Cards
  • 6 Reference Cards
  • 5 Pirate Cards
  • 5 Escape Cards
  • 2 Mermaid Cards
  • 2 Loot Cards
  • 1 Skull King
  • 1 Tigress
  • 1 Kraken Card

Standard Suits – Parrots, Treasure, and Maps. These are standard suits. The highest card that follows the lead is the winner.

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Jolly Roger – Pirate Flag suit. These cards will always beat a standard suit.

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Pirates – These scurvy dogs will always trump a number card. The first pirate played will win the trick even if other pirates are played.

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Escape Cards – These card nearly always lose. The only time it wins is if all the cards played in the trick are escape cards. Then the first escape played is the winner.

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Tigress – This card when played can be played as either a pirate or escape card. Chose when played, and it can’t change.

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Skull King – The Skull King beats all number and pirate cards. Each pirate played in a trick with the Skull King will earn 30 bonus points.

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Mermaids – Beat all number and jolly roger cards. They lose to pirates. The beat the Skull King and earn a bonus 50 points.

Loot Cards – These are escape cards. The winner of the trick and the player who played the loot card will earn a bonus 20 points each if both players get their bid correct.

Kraken – This card destroys the trick.  No one wins this trick. The leader of the next trick is the player who would have won have the kraken not been released.

Set Up

  1. Decide on if you want to play the regular game or the expansions.
        1. Add or remove the expansion cards if you’re playing with them or not.
  2. Shuffle the deck.
  3. Give a 0-5 bid card to each player. Set the 6-9 cards near the deck. These are used to keep track of the bids each round.
  4. Set up the score sheet and add a name for each player.

Game play

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The game consists of 10 rounds. The first round, each player only gets dealt one card. The 2nd round, each player gets two cards, and so on until the 10th and final round where each player is dealt 10 cards. The player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner!

Bidding

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After each player receives their hand of cards, there will be a bidding phase. This bid will earn or lose players points at the end of the round.

Based on the bid, you can earn or lose points.

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Zero Bid – Round # times 10.  It’s positive points if you don’t win any tricks. It’s negative points if you win any tricks.

Bid of 1-10

  • Correct – 20 Points per each trick won.
  • Incorrect – -10 Points for each trick away from your number of bids.

Example – If you bid 4, and only won 3 tricks you would get -10 points for the round. If you bid 4, and only won 1 trick, you would get -30 points.

Bonus Points – Only apply if you are correct with your bid.

  • 14s – Earn a bonus 10 points for the standard suits, earn 20 points for the jolly roger suit.
  • Skull King – Earn 30 bonus points per pirate in the winning trick the skull king was played in.

Tricks

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After everyone reveals their bid for the round, the player to the left of the dealer will lead and play a card from their hand.

  • Leading with a number card.
    • All other players must follow suit if they have it or play a special card. If they don’t have that suit, they can play any card.
  • Leading with a pirate card.
    • When a pirate or skull king is lead then there is no suit to follow in this trick.
  • Leading with an escape card.
    • When a escape card is lead, the next card played sets to suit to follow.

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The winner of the trick plays the first card for the next trick for the round. This goes on until all the tricks for the round has been played. After scores are calculated for the round, shuffle all the cards back into the deck. The dealer spot passes to the left, and the next round begins by adding another card to each players starting hand.

This goes on for 10 rounds. At the end of the 10 rounds, the player with the highest points becomes the winner!

Final Thoughts

The cards are of nice quality. The art is nice and piratey. You can easily tell the different suits and cards apart from each other. The reference cards are good to give to each player. It’s nice how it reminds how many points each bid and bonus will earn. The score sheet is nice and only uses one per game.

I really enjoyed the game play. I like trick taking games and it takes me back to family parties and Eucher. I was familiar with trick taking games, suits, and trumps for these type of games. What I wasn’t expecting was just how fun this take on trick taking would be. I like the strategy of trying to get your bid correct.  There’s moments of certainty when you have 3 escape cards. Ok, you think, I can probably get 0 out of 5 tricks this round. Then the first lead card is a suit you have. It’s lower than yours, but you’re confident of not having the highest. I mean 6 isn’t too bad. Then a 3 is played, followed by a 5, and an escape. . . . Well, there goes 50 points down the drain!

Points seemed all over the place during the first play through. I think it was getting used to the game and figuring out how to best bid and play. Then it was trying to figure out what tricks you could win or lose. And that’s another aspect of the game that was intriguing to me.  Purposefully trying to lose a trick. Usually, you want to win the majority of the tricks played, or win certain cards. This game you pick what you’re trying to win and trying to manage that by purposefully losing other tricks. I like that about this game.  You’re trying to read the table, decided on what you think you can win, and then go all in when you’re certain. That is only to find out the other players also received escape cards as well. So that planned 0 tricks has now turned into negative points for being incorrect with my bid.

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Overall, Skull King is a fun take on trick taking games. From the art, the bidding, and then the different cards and how they intricately act with each other this is a fresh feeling game. I can see playing this one over and over again with new players to share the experience. Grandpa Beck’s Games has really impressed me with the games they have out and how easy they are to jump into with new gamers. It’s not your regular grandparents games, but a breathe of fresh air for a get together.  Skull King is one of those games that I can see at a family gathering. Sitting around the table, laughing, and playing. I can recommend this to anyone that enjoys a nice trick taking game.

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