Can you dig it?

Setting in games has become increasingly diverse. From the cultural juggernaut that is Wingspan with its bird theme, to the cats and blankets of Calico, and even the complexity of relationships in Fog of Love. We have left behind the idea that every game needs by sci-fi or fantasy and moved into a bold new era of setting, theme and design. Why on earth then have we waited so long for a skull stacking game to come along in Skulls of Sedlec. Disgraceful.

Skulls of Sedlec from designer Dustin Dobson and publisher Button Shy Games sees you emptying graveyards overcrowded by plague and war and stacking the results, skulls, in crypts. The art is from Marty Cobb and Dustin Dobson and the game is for 2 to 3 players.

Start of the game with 6 piles of cards all face down except 1 card which is revealed with a Royal and a Priest skull on it.
What lies beneath?

You start with no skulls, a bunch of, mostly, undisturbed graves, and a twinkle in your eye. As you dig up potential cranial candidates, you reveal cards from the graves (stacks of cards). Each card is split in half to give you two skulls, one on each level of the card. You stack these cards in pyramid giving you 6 levels, in a 3 player game. You can’t just stack skulls wherever you like though. Societal structures exist even when dead.

Criminals want to be adjacent to Priests to be redeemed. Priests want to be spread out through society, only scoring one priest per level. Romantics want to be next to each other. Royals want to be above all the other royals and peasants. The Peasants are just happy to be included. Well maybe not happy. They are dead after all.

Into this palette of point scoring possibilities come your actions. You can Dig up a couple of graves to reveal some new cards, taking one for yourself. Maybe you will scour the graveyard and collect a card just lying around face-up. And finally you can start your stacking adventure. You don’t have to complete your bottom row before moving onto the next, but skulls need support. They can’t teeter. Each skull on the upper levels needs two skulls below it to support it. As you build you consider the combinations to get the most points. In a lovely accessibility touch, the points conditions of each skull are written on them as a reminder.

A pyramid of skulls at the end of the game.
Ain’t no skull stack high enough

Having only two hands, you can only carry so many skulls. 2 is precisely the number of cards you can have in hand, so I guess you are juggling 4 skulls? This pushes play forward as players have to start stacking long before they have collected all the skulls they will need. This means you have to plan a little. The game forces you to look ahead to what you might be able to get and how you can use it to your advantage. It adds a frisson of strategy to the points puzzle.

Skulls of Sedlec is a light puzzle game that I’ve enjoyed but doesn’t have me clamouring to revisit. The pocket sized nature of the Button Shy games makes it easy to take on trips. However, I can’t see it having the longevity, and definitely not the replayability, of something like Sprawlopolis. It’s a fine game that I would play with you if you asked, but for the most part I think it will lie quiet and forgotten in the ground.

A copy of Skulls of Sedlec was provided by Button Shy Games

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Iain McAllister

Tabletop games reviewer and podcaster based in Dalkeith, Scotland.

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