Bringing your office together through board games at lunch.
Jan. 17, 2022

Skulls of Sedlec (2020)

Skulls of Sedlec (2020)

When I set out to play every game on my Shelf of Shame, I did not count all the print and play games on my hard drive. I tried to stick to games that I owned a hard physical copy of. Then, as I was going through the list of games, I noticed I had a few print and play games that I already had printed but haven’t played. I also noticed on the list of games "on the shelf," a lot of PnP games have been played and counted. This did create a little conundrum in my mind. While I still do not intend to print them all and play all the ones that have yet to make it to the table (many are Kickstarters that I backed to show my support for the creator), I will from time to time play one and blog about it.

This weekend, The Son and I played Skulls of Sedlec designed by Dustin Dobson, with art by Marty Cobb and Marianne Waage, and published by Button Shy Games. I have not hidden my love for Button Shy Games. Universal Rule and In Vino Morte are some of my favorites. I realized that I had the base game of Skulls and all the expansions. I was one of the 1027 people who backed the original campaign back in March of 2020, and one of the 2028 backers of its expansion pack in October of 2021. I figured I had all these files, I should give the game a try.

Oh man, is Skulls of Sedlec really fun. In the game, you are stacking skulls in the Sedlec Ossuary. This is a real chapel in the Czech Republic. I was not aware of its actual existence until writing this review. You can read about it here. It is an interesting place for sure. I went down a small rabbit hole learning about the place and what an ossuary is. It never ceases to amaze me what I learn because of board games.

Skulls of Sedlec plays 2 or 3 players; takes about 20 minutes to play; suitable for ages 8+ (for the mechanics, the theme might be a bit more mature). On Board Game Geek is has a 7.5 rating with 714 ratings.

The object of the game is to build a pyramid of skulls maximizing the skulls on each of your cards. In a 2-player game, each player is building a pyramid of 9 cards: 4-3-2; in a 3-player a 6-card pyramid of 3-2-1. To set up, shuffle the 18 cards and make six stacks of three cards each. Then, randomly flip the top card of one of the stacks. The first player is the last person to have visited a cemetery. On a turn, the active player has three options: Dig (flip a card face-up), Collect (take a face-up card into hand), Stack (place a card). If you Dig, you flip one card from one pile face up. If all stacks have a face-up card on top, you cannot Dig. To collect, you take any face-up card into your hand. However, there is a hand limit of two cards. So, if you have two cards, you cannot collect no matter how desperately you want that face-up card mocking you from the pile. Also, if no piles have a face-up card, you cannot collect. Finally, you can choose to Stack. Place a card from your hand into your pyramid. You must start on the bottom of your pyramid, but you can stack upwards if a card would be supported by two cards below it. You can never build outside the parameters of the pyramids, and once a card is placed, it cannot be moved. The game ends when everyone has completed the required pyramid.

The cards have five different types of skulls on them, and each one scores differently. The Royalty (purple) skulls want to be above peasants and other royalty, and they score one point for each they are above. If they are on the same level, that does not count. The Peasants (yellow) are just happy to be displayed. They are one point each no matter their placement. The Priests (blue) want to be spread throughout, and 2 points are scored for each level they are displayed in. If you have two priests in the same level, it still only counts for 2 points. The Criminals (grey) want to repent, and they score 2 points if they are adjacent to a priest. Lastly, the Romantics (red) want to be buried next to their loved one. Three points per pair of Romantics adjacent lovers. The highest score wins.

I am not going to lie, that’s not my style. The Son won the first three games. I finally bested my offspring in the 4th game. What makes these games hilarious though? The first two games had the exact same score: 21-27. Then, in the third game, I scored 30 points! Sadly, he scored 31. The fourth game saw me set a new high score of 34, and I won. The nerve-racking decision-making makes Skulls of Sedlec stand out. During the second game onward, I would constantly be bombarded with tough choices. I would Dig and flip a card that completely benefited The Son. Or, I would need to Collect but already had two cards in my hand! I was forced to Place though a better option has not presented itself.

I am telling you, Skulls of Sedlec is well worth the $3 price on PnP Arcade. I have also purchased and printed off all six six-card expansions. Each of the expansions adds a new type of skull that scores in a new way. These new skulls are Castle Guards, Zealots, Champions, Poets, Executioners, and Merchants. It also offers a way for playing 4 players. If playing with 4 players, everyone builds a 3-2-1 pyramid. If playing with 2 or 3 players, cards are leftover. There are also two expansions that offer a solo variant for the game. I have not had the opportunity to play the expansions yet, but I will do so soon and do a full episode on the podcast. I am also going to reach out to the creator. GO GET THIS GAME!