Normally we dive into talking about game mechanics and game play...except with Skulls of Sedlec. This theme is cool.
Skulls of Sedlec was created by Dustin Dobson for Button Shy's 2019 contest based upon real locations. And yes...there is a real chapel in the Czech Republic that is decorated with the bones and skulls of more than 40,000 bodies.
It is well worth your time to read up on the Sedlec Ossuary. Very memorable!
Now for the game!
Skulls of Sedlec is an 18 card game where you dig up skulls from a graveyard and arrange them in stacks. In a 1 or 2 player game your stack is 9 cards. In the 3 player version you stack 6 cards. Each of the 5 types of skulls (Royals, Romantics, Peasants, Priests and Criminals) have their own scoring mechanism. Once all players have completed their stacks of skulls the player with the most points wins!
Button Shy creates 18 card games that are stored in a plastic wallet. They are known for high quality games that pack a ton of fun into those 18 cards. Skulls of Sedlec will become a classic Button Shy game.
Even though the theme seems a little gruesome the art of the cards is bright. We played this game with our grandkids and everyone had fun stacking skulls.
Every card shows two skulls.
Each of the five skull types has a unique emblem (Cross for Priests, Crown for Royals etc). This emblem makes it super easy to identify skull type.
Also below each skull is it's scoring mechanism. This reduces the need to check the rule book and increases the pace of play.
Skulls of Sedlec's rule book is one the best that I have seen. Even though it is a simple game there are several key concepts and 5 scoring mechanisms. The Terminology and Game Play are crisply defined. Each scoring method is described with a set of examples. Really nice job.
Setup is quick and simple.
Shuffle the cards.
Deal them into 6 piles of 3 face down cards. Turn one of the top cards faceup. Done!
You have created a graveyard where players can dig for skulls.
You take one of three actions:
Dig - flip the top card of any 2 facedown piles faceup and put one of those two cards into your hand.
Collect - choose an already faceup card and put it into your hand.
Stack - place a card from your hand onto your stack of skulls.
Hand limit is 2 cards so if you already have 2 cards you must take the Stack action.
Stacks of skulls are built from the bottom up (duh!). Upper level cards straddle a base of two cards.
Each row of cards creates two levels of skulls.
Beware of analysis paralysis as you play...each card placement is critical to maximizing your score. A simple game doesn't mean that it is easy!
In the 3 player version, your skull stack has 6 cards arranged in a 123 layout (as shown here).
The 1 and 2 player versions use 9 cards per player stack in a 234 layout. Two cards in top row. Then 3 cards in the middle and 4 cards on the bottom.
In addition, when playing solo you also create a feature of 9 cards. Each feature is just a predefined layout of 9 cards.
Creating a 6 card stack felt a bit too small after creating 9 card stacks. But it is still a fun play with 3 players.
The game is over after all players have completed their stack of skulls.
Each of your actions effect your ability to score.
Should you Collect that Royal skull now to save for your top row? But it will take up 1 of the 2 spots in your hand greatly limiting your options. But if you don't take it now someone else might.
Is it better to place a card to make the Romantic skulls happy and score 6 and ruin my pattern of Priests?
Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.
We had a blast playing Skulls of Sedlec.
Normally, we play a game 3 or 4 times before writing a review. We have played Skulls of Sedlec at least 10 times. It was especially fun playing in a bar when people kept stopping by to ask about all the skulls!
The solo expansion was challenging and well designed. We will likely design some of our own Feature layouts to add in for increased replayability and challenge.
Skulls of Sedlec is a fun game for 1-3 players and takes less than 10 minutes.
Just because Skulls of Sedlec is easy to learn doesn't mean that it is easy to master. It is full of decisions. Also...you can see your opponent's stack of skulls and sometimes it is better to prevent them from scoring a bunch than to score a couple points yourself.
Skulls of Sedlec earned a spot in my backpack for gaming with friends and also while travelling.
The Good, The Bad and The Dastardy
The Good: A fun, fun game.
The Bad: A couple people mentioned that luck of the draw played a large a role in the game. Well...that is kinda true in all games when you draw cards. But here you have 2 options on how to draw the cards which offset blind luck. And changing your strategy to fit the available skulls is a core piece of the game.
The Dastardly: I want to combine two decks for 36 cards total and try playing with 4 players. I think it would play well. We could have a bigger graveyard in 2 or 3 player games and even bigger stacks of skulls! I'm getting an extra deck!
And yes...theme is occasionally very cool as it is with Skulls of Sedlec. Be sure to Google Sedlec Ossuary!