Skull King by Grandpa Beck’s games drops anchor in a small box that holds a heap of swashbuckling hijinks. Like other Grandpa Beck’s games, this game has cheery artwork and is a clever, clever game. The rulebook is straightforward and witty. It will just take a few playthroughs to grasp all the nuances. However, the play is quick to pick up and well worth the time. It has unquestionably stayed on the game table for weeks since our first play. Players are dealt a hand and bet how many tricks they will win in a round. They only score if they match the exact number of tricks they bid. They lose points if their guess is over or under their bet. The highest score of ten rounds is the Skull King of the High Seas!!!
Each round, players are dealt cards equal to the number of the round. First-round, one card each, second-round, two cards each and up to the tenth round, of ten cards. Players look at the cards and bet on of their card win the round, which is called a trick. Secretly, they chose the Bid Reminder card that equates the number of tricks the player believes they win this round. The players chant “Yo, Ho, Ho” three times and, on the third time, reveal the number on the Bid Reminder card. At the end of the round score points. If guessed correctly, you gain points, and if not, you subtract points.
The Trick- the player with the highest value card wins the trick. During a trick, if the first card played is a purple card, the other players must play a purple card if they one. The highest of the suit cards wins that trick. If you do not have a matching color card in your hand, you can play another color card; however, it has zero value. Now, if the Jolly Roger card is played, it will win! If multiple Jolly Roger cards are played, the higher value Jolly Roger wins. The winner of the trick grabs the cards and places the pile in front of them. At the end of the round, the player tallies the tricks they won and compares them to their Bid Reminder card. Scoring a round. If the bid matches the tricks won, you gain 20 points per trick won. If the player bet is higher or lower than the bid, they lose -10 points per trick you were off. If you enjoy high stress and high stakes and bet Zero and manage to pull off zero wins, the player gains the round number multiplied by ten. (Not happened yet, but you just wait- shakes fist at the sky) or if you win a trick (dang) multiply the round by ten and subtract it.
Bonus points are awarded if you capture a suit card 14 and gain 10 points, and if the Skull King captures it, you earn 20 points. If the Skull King captures a pirate, you gain 30 points.
Special cards are the Pirate Cards, and they beat any numbered card and the Jolly Roger. The Pirates have equal value; therefore, if more than one is played during a trick, the first played wins.
Escape Cards (White Flag) are the lowest valued card. They are useful to avoid a win.
The Tigress Card can be played as a pirate or an escape card and must be announced once played.
The Skull King is the highest-ranked card.
Reshuffle the card after each round. The deal goes clockwise and play to ten rounds.
Once you have mastered the tangles and twists of the original game, there is the Legendary Expansion. Kick the sabotage up a notch with the new cards. Mermaid Cards beat all numbered cards, but those pesky pirates except the infamous Skull King. If the Skull king is captured, there is a bonus of 50 points. Loot cards are an Escape card with a bonus. The player who wins the loot card in a trick is now in alliance with the player who played the Loot card. If both bid correctly that round, they score 20 points. The Kraken does what a Kraken always does, destroys. If a Kraken is played, the trick is ruined, and the pile of cards is out the round.
The Pirate cards have special abilities in the Legendary expansion that you can choose to utilize if you when the trick.
Rosie D’Laney allows you to pick the player to lead the next trick.
Bahij, the Bandit, lets discard two cards and draw two cards from the deck.
Rascal of Roatan lets you wager 10 or 20 points, and if you bid correctly, gain the points and bid incorrectly lose the points.
Juanita Jade lets you look through the cards of the draw deck.
Harry, the Giant, can change his bet plus or minus one.
Mechanics That Worked for Us
Being bold with our bids towards the end can psych out opponent and or makeup points if you have fallen negative.
The Escape cards can sabotage an opponent who is close to their bid. Almost as useful as to utilize for avoiding a win.
The Mermaid cards can be a game-changer with tactical planning.
The added ability on the pirate cards is valuable when you remember to use them. The ability to change your bet was effective.
Bits and Bobs
42 Color cards
14 Jolly Roger cards
5 Escape cards
5 Pirate Cards
2 Mermaid cards
I Tigress card
1 Skull King card
2 Loot cards
25 Bid Reminder cards
Skull King is a shrewd game that combines straightforward mechanics with a perfect amount of strategy and a splash of tomfoolery. It pays to bold on the high seas, and that brings on annoyance and giggles. We are sensing a theme in Grandpa Beck’s games, and we are highly entertained by it.
The special cards add a nice twist in the expansion. The Bid Reminder card reveals are continually comical and louder as we race to round ten. Our pirate accents have grown, or as our son stated, “grown annoying.” Win-win for us!
The scoring is a chore, and we have to roll dice to decide who has that duty, and then I read about a fan, Alex Dahl, that created a digital score system! He gets all the booty for that!
Problem solved, except for the silly pirate accents.
We take games with us when we are on the road, and this small box game is aces for travel.
Nerdz Garage is swinging from the sails recommending Skull King & Legendary Expansion.
Published: Grandpa Beck Games
Designer: Brent Beck and Apryl Stott
Playtime: 30 Minutes
Play Type: Trick Taking
Let’s be honest; there is still a bit of drama when we play.
Sit Down -Grab a Drink – Join the Game