Featuring fangs, fur, and ferocious Guardians, Skulk Hollow's stylish battles are well worth an audience.
Who would you rather face: a band of wily foxes or a towering behemoth of stone, risen from years of slumber to reclaim its land? Yeah, we reckon we’d pick the foxes, too. But as the two-player duels of Skulk Hollow show, they’re closer in martial skill than you might expect. What can we say; those foxes are smart. The outcome of a clash between these two competitors may be no certain thing, but as we’ll hopefully show in this edition of Art Board, every scuffle in Skulk Hollow is guaranteed to deliver a joyous spectacle of motion and color.
Skulk Hollow is a rare treat on the table, in that it’s a game that delights before you even get down to playing. Opening new board games typically entails a frenzied attempt to organize components, baggies, and boards as one player desperately rifles through the rulebook. Skulk Hollow, by comparison, is a dream to unbox.
Slide off the lid, and you’ll discover one of the tidiest and most tempting inlays of any game we’ve seen. Five monstrous guardians and the Foxen heroes they’ll be battling come in their own sealed packages, neatly tucked into slots on the plastic board. All you need to do is grab the boxes for the battle you want. Sure, art and gameplay are great, but a clear and space efficient inlay? That’s the real way to our board gaming heart.
Each little parcel packs in wonderfully designed custom wooden meeples and tokens, as well as a unique deck of cards. Diving in is as satisfying as ripping open a trading card booster pack -- that’s roughly equivalent to cracking open a cold beer for you non-card players -- meaning when you’re finished with one, you’ll struggle to resist moving straight on to the next. There’s a box for each Guardian, granting your first four games that same dose of gratification.
We’ve talked cards, decks, and secret satchels, but it's through the board that the real glint of Skulk Hollow’s cunning comes to the fore. Throwing out strategy conventions, Skulk Hollow tears the map in two, framing the guardian’s entire body as half the play area. As the foxes dash toward the gigantic monster meeple, they hurl themselves on to it, quite literally leaping from one board to the other. The guardian player in turn will spend time tearing off these miniature pests before tossing them back across to the map. It’s a touch of genius that brings out the physicality of actions far more than a simple placement of a card can convey.
That’s not to say the cards or art are lacking, either; Skulk Hollow is practically brimming with bold and colorful character. Behemoths crackle with energy, green light bursting forth from a body wrought of stone and nature. They’re immediately cool and terrifying. Are you a Grak, standing firm with your hammer as the furry horde swarm in? Or a ferocious Raptra, lurching up and down from the skies to deliver devastating blows across the map? Oh who are we kidding -- you'll want to play them all, and that’s before we even consider their Foxen foes.
Now we don’t know if you’ve ever seen Disney’s Robin Hood, but we’re betting Skulk Hollow’s art designers certainly have. The warriors and leaders of this vulpine world are like that 1973 animation brought to cardboard life, presumably after several hundred years of fox dominance wiped out the other endemic species. In those years, the foxes seem to have gotten just a little mean; there’s an edge to their designs that’ll have you questioning whether they’re really the goodies in this fight. Then again, when your enemy is capable of melting you with its eyes alone, it pays to fight a little dirty.
The personality conveyed by the art smartly ties directly into their in-game strengths. Beefy knights are fearless tanks, capable of surviving a direct hit from the guardian but struggling to move far; while skulking rogues can store up power to unleash a flurry of actions in a single turn. In a lovely touch, every single hero card is unique, differentiated by sex or fur/clothing color. Represented on the board by meeples with unique iconography, it adds a flash of personality to each minion the Foxen player deploys. A shame, then, that so many will end up under the stony boot of a giant.
Skulk Hollow is somehow cartoonishly cute yet heroically grand at the same time. Nailing that balance, it creates an art style appealing to both kids and adults, and matches perfectly with the game itself. Effective as both a silly, monster-slaying romp or a serious, strategic test of wits, Skulk Hollow earns a welcome place on our shelf, and one look at its box is usually enough to have us sliding it out for a game. This guardian is ready for you, little foxes!
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Art Board is a series in which we highlight board games that are more than just great to play; they’re also a delight to look at -- the kind of games that draw players to the table regardless of your snack supply. Whether it’s through distinct art styles, detailed components or clever design, these are the games that deserve to be admired.
When he’s not losing himself as a mercenary in Gloomhaven, Henry Stenhouse can be found gobbling up all the latest and greatest party games, then wondering why he can never find the time to actually play them with friends. Share your love of deck builders with him on Twitter @Fernoface or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.