Updated: Oct 24, 2020
The constant rise in production values in board games these days often means that good doesn't stand out; well, in the case of Skulk Hollow, good really is exceptional. From the box cover and materials, to the insert, to the rule book, boards and cards, and to the lovely wooden pieces, there is the feel of a game that is professionally and, indeed lovingly, put together.
So, how does it play? Pretty well, in fact. Skulk Hollow's only flimsiness comes in its premise, which is that Ye Olde Guardians have awoken and Ye Younge Foxen Folke must prove themselves by defeating them: hmmm. This gives the reason for the highly asymmetric one-on-one gameplay of lots of little folk versus one big dude: Ogre (Steve Jackson Games) is the obvious reference here; but I felt Skulk Hollow was more like the game Attack On Titan (Cryptozoic), replete with a highly simplified board, multiple areas to attack on the big guys and different characters flitting about.
Skulk Hollow is designed by Eduardo Baraf, Seth Johnson and Keith Matejka, with art by Dustin Foust, Sebastian Koziner, Keith Matejka and Helen Zhu. The game's 'good guys' are the Foxen, with a choice of four leaders and a squad of several units made up of four different classes - Rogue, Knight, Archer, Sentinel - all of which have their own benefits. The 'bad guys' (according to the way the art is drawn) are the Guardians: a giant rock octopus, a giant rock centipede, a giant rock giant, and a giant rock roc. Again, each has a slightly different set of stats, but more diverse strategies and tactics to employ. Also, they have different win conditions, which is a nice touch.
Both players' turns are simple: play a card per action; and/or use a power cube to take extra actions with that character; refresh, usually to hand size. Each card has two options: Movement and Attack being the most prevalent, but with sufficient variety to allow for solid tactical play. The Guardians have smaller decks so their skills rotate quite quickly. By contrast, the Foxen deck is relatively large with the potential to see an awkward shuffle make, for instance, the Missile attacks disappear for an uncomfortable amount of time. Foxen troops can return after being squished and you will want to get them in play (or discard for more cards) otherwise they'll clog up your hand.
As with all asymmetric games, you hope that there was enough play-testing to make the sides balanced. And, with the high production value from publishers Pencil First and Thunderworks as a guide, one feels there probably was. But if you deem disparate player skill to be an issue, up to six 'bonus action' relics can be imparted on a single-use basis. The amount of heals/recruits seems about right, so each play should not outstay its welcome.
At the time of writing, honours have been even, with the Foxen being more complex to play but the Guardians harder to play well. Overall there is a lot to commend and the urge to try out all the Guardians at least once is a strong one. In fact, probably the game's only notable drawback is that it plays just two, whereas the aforementioned Attack On Titan (which we reviewed on Board's Eye View in November 2017) took up to five players in a one-versus-many format. Skulk Hollow does have one huge advantage over Attack On Titan, though: no Eren Yeager.
(Review by David Fox)