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kickstarter Game Preview: Skulldug!

Posted by Account Deletion {Family Gamer} | 14-Apr-15 | 3 comments

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So many monsters… and so many unscrupulous explorers. You’ll have your hands full trying to extract treasure in this pulp adventure!

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The following is a preview of a prototype copy of Skulldug!. The artwork, components and rules may not be in their final form.


A group of highly sketchy explorers – cultists, thiefs and brigands all – race feverishly through a dangerous cave system in search of treasure… but find enough time to forget about the monsters that lurk around every corner to shove, trip and otherwise impair each other. It’s every shady figure for themselves in a mad dash to collect three treasures and bounce… before the darkness eats you alive.


Skulldug! Wide

Skulldug! has you exploring a very dank, very dangerous cave via tile placement. On your turn you have three action points; you must choose between the following means to expend them:

  • Move: your explorer may move from its current passage to an adjacent passage – or discover a new passage. When discovering a new passage, you pull the top card of the Passage Deck and place it with an opening next to your current tile’s opening. You are forced to move to the new passage, which may be good or very bad – passages can contain loot to power you up or treasures necessary to win (drawn from the Fortune Deck)… but they’re just as likely to contain monsters (from the Hazard Deck). And now you’re forced to fight them.
  • Skulldug! Passage Cards

  • Dash: you may move your explorer two passages rather than one, but the passages it travels through must be monster-free and already discovered.
  • Pick Up: take an item card from your current passage into your hand.
  • Drop: remove from your hand any item card and place it in any passage your explorer can currently draw line of sight to. This action costs no AP.
  • Shove: force an opponent’s explorer into an adjacent passage. This is a great way to cause an opponent to waste a turn fighting rather than exploring, however this action is limited to once per turn.
  • Throw: throw an item from your hand at an opponent within your line of sight with the hope of causing them to take damage. This follows the rules of combat explained below.
  • Focus: spend AP to add to your combat dice roll. You can spend as much of your available AP as you wish in this manner.
  • Destroy: eliminate a passage adjacent to your explorer. The targeted passage tile must not contain an opponent’s explorer. This action is limited to once per turn.

As you weave your way through this dark labyrinth you’ll fight many an evil creature and fend off attacks from your opponents (and you’ll probably be doing some of that attacking, won’t you?) Monster cards have a printed life value on them; when encountered you’ll need to roll the D6 and meet or exceed it. Should you win, the monster is vanquished and you’re free to continue exploring (provided you have AP remaining… and provided there’s not another monster at your current location). Should you lose, you’re knocked back to the passage you came from and lose one or more life gems. You have a mere five… when they’re gone, you re-spawn at the entry to the cave – but without all of your previously acquired loot, which you graciously left in the passage you died in, ripe for the picking by your opponents.

Skulldug! Hazard Cards

Attacking an opponent works much the same way. If you spend AP to throw an item, you’ll pick the item you wish to chuck in your hand and place it in the passage of the target. The defending player first rolls the D6, setting the number you’ll need to hit or exceed for a successful attack. You decide if you’d like to spend additional AP to add to your die roll (you do this before the offensive roll) and let ’em fly. Note that the defending player can never add to their roll via AP – it’s not their turn, so they have no AP to spend.

If you wish to attack an opponent that happens to be in a passage adjacent to a difficult monster, it’s usually a better tactic to shove them into that monster. The monster won’t damage them until it’s their turn – and they may have a better chance of escaping damage than had you just thrown something at them – but they will waste precious AP fighting the monster that could have otherwise been spent digging for loot.

The cave can shift around you, whether you intend it to or not. While you can always take matters into your own hands and spend AP to destroy passages, there are also cards that force passages to rotate, possibly blocking your escape route or forcing you into an encounter you’d rather avoid.

Skulldug! Fortune Cards

To win you’ve got to track down three pieces of treasure and make it back to the entry of the cave. While your task is daunting, as every player will target you the second you pick up that third treasure, it’s made much worse by the penalties of the treasures. Holding treasure causes you to suffer some negative effect – for instance, rendering you unable to throw items or heal, or causing you to lose life down to just one when you pick it up – that could seriously hinder your chances of making it out alive. And if you’re running for that cave entrance but die just a few passages short of your goal, you’re leaving all of those treasures right by the entryway for a lucky opponent.

Who would enjoy this game?

Family Gamer {maybe}
Skulldug! is easy to learn and has a very Indiana Jones vibe going for it that should appeal to families… but there is a heavy “take that” element that could easily perturb a pre-teen.

Strategy Gamer {no}
The dice rolling is surprisingly one of the less-random features of Skulldug! The shuffle of the Passage and Fortune decks will heavily define your game (more on this in Final Thoughts) while combat rolls are designed to benefit the active player, so you’ll be successful more often than not.

Casual Gamer {yes}
We mentioned this was easy to learn, right? For a game packing this much excitement, it’s amazing that you can have the rules mastered from one 15-minute read through the rulebook.

Avid Gamer {yes}
Every game is very different, owing to the ever-changing dungeon layouts and changing difficulty of tracking treasure. You can play Skulldug! again and again without the same experience, and you’ll have an easy time recruiting players with the simple-to-explain rules.

Power Gamer {no}
Skulldug! could be a nice diversion for a Power Gamer who dabbles in other areas, but not the game they’d build their weekend plans around.

Final Thoughts

Skulldug! gives you one of the most authentic “exploration” feelings in board gaming. Many of your decisions are completely blind – you could be walking to your doom as easily as walking to victory, and you just won’t know until the cards flip. It makes for an exhilarating and tense environment as you hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

Skulldug! Explorer Cards
Skulldug! Explorers

When we say that each game is different we mean it – if the cards come up just right for one player in a five-player game that lucky soul can walk to victory in a handful of turns in under 45 minutes. On the other hand, when most of the treasure cards are stuck at the bottom of the Fortune deck Skulldug! becomes an epic sprawl across the table top with explorers spread far and wide desperately searching… and these games can eclipse an hour with only two players.

Regardless of how the game plays out, it’s always tense and exciting.

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{Backing ends May 14th, 10:00pm PST}
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Comments (3)

Gamer Avatar
El Dorado
Professional Advisor

Owning the Cave and Gem Rush (plus I backed Lost Wood), I don’t think I need another tile exploration game.

So I think I’ll pass on this one. However, I put the game in my Starred project…who knows maybe the rewards will make me change my mind…..

I’m so easily influenced…

Gamer Avatar
Movie Lover
Book Lover
I play blue

This looks like a sweet game with Raiders of The Lost Ark vibe. It’s certainly a game I would consider.

Gamer Avatar
I Am What I Am

This honestly looks like a pretty interesting game.

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