Review: Skulls and Roses / Designer: Hervé Marly / Publisher: Asmodee / Release Date: Out Now
Skulls and Roses is an incredibly simple bluffing-based card game. Players pick a set of cards, each one apparently representing a biker gang. Each card is double sided: on one side is the symbol of the gang, on the other is either a skull or a rose. Players then lay out their cards face down, working out when and where to hide their skull cards. Bidding then begins, each player betting on how many cards they reckon they can turn over without revealing a skull. If the player turns over a skull, they lose a card from their deck. Play continues until someone wins two bids without penalty.
The game itself is a lot of fun; a straightforward game that involves a touch of fibbing and a poker face. Laughs are fast and frequent, usually at the expense of a fellow player who has miscounted and it’s all gone terribly wrong for them.
Theme can often be everything when it comes to a good board game. For example, the enduring (and slightly bizarre) appeal of Monopoly comes from the notion that it’s a game of becoming very rich very quickly; who doesn’t want to be a wealthy land-owning millionaire? This touch of fantasy can often make up for poor mechanics or something that’s maybe a bit dull (such as the gameplay of Monopoly). Sadly, the reverse is also true. Skulls and Roses suffers from a poor theme; despite rather nice gang style art on the cards, it doesn’t feel very ‘biker gang’. The accompanying rule book desperately tries to add a touch of spice to the affair, giving silly (but macho) sounding names to various aspects of game play and implying a level of danger and violence. This just makes the whole affair feel even less convincing and takes away from the fun.
Skulls and Roses is a fun little game for up to six players that can easily kill some time, perhaps whilst waiting for others to turn up to game session. It’s just a pity that it’s spoilt by a theme that doesn’t suit the game.