Published on April 8th, 2015 | by Luke Turpeinen1
Obtainer of Rare Antiquities
Skulldug! Game Review
Action! Adventure! Stealing artifacts from their subterranean home for fun and profit! Skulldug is an indy dungeon delving game set in a pulp world, coming to Kickstarter April 14th. Unlike many other dungeon delving games, which are about heroes taking down monsters and leveling up their cool spells, Skulldug is more about deception and survival. With its fun pulp theme, cartoony art and engaging mechanics, Skulldug is a great fit for virtually any game group or family.
The box art for Skulldug immediately draws you into the mood of the game- a real Indiana Jones vibe. I like that it’s textured like a vintage pulp book and looks a little worn around the edges, I’m a sucker for making things look artificially weathered for effect. Speaking of the art, I love the cartoony caricatures used for the player cards. Like Cargo Noir, Skulldug proves that going with a bold color scheme and exaggerated drawing style can push the feel of a setting just as much as a more realistic rendition would. In fact, it can be even more fun!
Skulldug is a dungeon delve, meaning that you (and other interested parties) are going to be exploring some ancient ruins in hopes of finding important cultural artifacts. What you do with those artifacts is up to you (sell them to a museum, use them to take over the world, the usual) but you win the game if you get three of them to the front door tile. You have a character pawn and move it from tile to tile, opening up new areas to explore while encountering challenges on every new tile, on your search for treasure. Once you have three treasure cards and get to the first tile, you win.
Grabbing treasure cards and running around with them isn’t easy though, there are a lot of ways that you can get tripped up during play. It’s like the myth of the mummy’s curse, if you’re a grave robber be prepared to face the consequences! Holding a treasure can make certain actions not available to you while some do damage to you when you pick them up. Either way, you’re probably not picking up the first one that you see to take it further into the cave with you.
So if you’re leaving victory points lying around where anyone can take them, that’s bad right? Well, maybe not as much as you’d think. There are traps that you can encounter, things like bear traps and buckets of grease, which if you have successfully navigated them let you pick them up and place them in other rooms. Disarming traps and placing them in strategic locations was one of the most fun parts of Skulldug. Watching an opponent slide on a grease smear into the maw of a cave denizen is priceless!
The other danger of the caves are the things that live in ruined temples. We mainly ran into monkeys, spiders and half naked men covered in grease, but your mileage may vary.
— Across the Board (@Board_Crossing) April 4, 2015
While the encounters are great, really what you need to worry about more are your fellow players. In addition to running around looking for treasure you can: trap rooms, throw items at others’ to get them to drop items they’re carrying, you can run into rooms and pick up treasure before other people, push people into undiscovered rooms, push people into rooms with traps and monsters in them.
Basically, you get to mess with other people a lot. In addition to these more basic actions, there are also special items you can get in the game that allow you to destroy rooms (letting you re-discover the spot), change the way a room connects or otherwise alter the arrangement of tiles on the board. I loved the amount of interaction I had in Skulldug, there was always an opportunity to do an action that felt meaningful and often that action was messing with other players.
That’s the thing though- messing with other players is actually a meaningful action within the context of the game. Some games assume that just adding rules for interrupting or hampering other players is fun, but it can actually just make the game drag out (I’m looking at you, Munchkin). Skulldug doesn’t fall into this trap, and the gameplay proceeds in a fast, steady rate.
While playing Skulldug I was actually reminded a lot of the video game Bomberman. My turns consisted of a lot of running around, picking things up, putting things down, trapping people and blowing up tunnels. Like playing Bomberman, the action in Skulldug was quick and the in-game attacks caused laughter, not frustration (it helps that you can’t eliminate a player from the game). The quirky setting and art really add to that part of the experience, and help keep the tone light-hearted and casual.
I fully recommend Skulldug, it was a fantastic game and I had a great time playing it. Skulldug’s mechanics are polished, fun to play and easy to learn. It’s deep enough to be fun for adults, while straight forward enough to be a family game. It won’t scratch your spreadsheet itch, but for a fun evening with friends it’s perfect.
Skulldug! will be made by Ruddy Games, and is slated for Kickstarter later this month.