Swords & Skulls

Swords & Skulls

From: Avalon Hill

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Swords & Skulls Board Game is a new Board Game from Avalon Hill.

There was a time that I would see a game by Avalon Hill (AH) and buy it right away. I have an extensive collection of post-Hasbro AH games because they were good games. Most of them. This is what I did with Swords & Skulls. What I can say is gone is the day of the quality games of AH – the challenging and well-thought-out games that I knew I would enjoy. I was not a huge fan of AH prior to Hasbro because you had to have a PHD to read the rules, but I did play a few of them. I had hopes that Hasbro would keep Avalon Hill a brand for the more cerebral and challenging game lines, but after Risk Godstorm, I had a feeling that was changing. With the release of Swords and Skulls, the decline has reached a new low.

From page #1:

“The nefarious Pirate King has stolen Her Majesty’s Ship, the ‘Sea Hammer’, pride of the Royal Navy. Furious, the Queen has offered a great reward to the person who can retrieve it. ”

Content: The game includes a game board, four-page rules booklet, five Officers and five Pirates playing pieces, two 6-sided dice, a bunch of plastic gold pieces, five Player cards, a deck of Enemy cards, Crew cards, Item cards and Fortune cards. The overall layout and look of the game is very attractive, which is part of the reason I bought it. Once again, I learn the age old lesson about buying something based on the cover.

The Game: Simply put, this game plays like a dumbed-down version of Games Workshop’s Talisman combined with Monopoly. Players pick a color, and their pieces are a Pirate and a Naval Officer. The goal is to gather enough Might or Gold to get back the Sea Hammer from the Pirate King (can anyone say “Crown of Command from the Dragon King”?). There are two areas on the board for players to traverse – the outer region and the inner region where the Pirate King is.

The players can go only one way along the board. The majority of the board is made up of Fortune card spots or Settlements. There are also spots like the Tax Collector ( Monopoly’s Luxury Tax ) and places where you fight enemies as well as the Castle that acts like Go in Monopoly (collect money if you pass it). You also must fight your fellow players if you land on the same space as them. Fighting is done by rolling a die and adding each participant’s Might (a la Talisman ).

Players build Might by recruiting Crew, which are obtained in Settlements. Some Crew have gold coins on their card, and when a player lands on the Settlements the crew with coins are from, that player must pay all other players that amount (a la Rent from Monopoly ). No explanation is given for this, you just do it.

There are also Treasure Chests that grow in amount as players land on them and each corner is occupied by a special location (Castle, Trading Post, Bridge of Tears, and Mercenary camp).

The inner region represents the ascension into a volcano to face the Pirate King. Along this path there are several spaces a player travels along, facing challenges along the way. These are a little more challenging then the outer regions and could be devastating to a player. Life in this pirate world is, as one could guess, Gold. You lose gold when you lose a fight or pay for something. There are items one could buy or sell, including weapons and equipment that help them along their way.

From website:

“As one of the advisors to the Queen, you have chosen an officer of the Royal Navy to pursue the Pirate King. Of course, it might take a thief to catch a thief, so you’ve also conscripted a vicious pirate from the Queen’s dungeons.”

Movement is determined through dice. Interestingly, you have a choice of which piece to move, unless you roll doubles. When you roll doubles, you have to move both the total amount. The dice have 1 through 5 on them and a blank that usually represents zero.

In conclusion, if you have never played Talisman and do not mind the brain-numbing repetitiveness of this game, you might like it. I truly did not like this game. It had very little originality to it and played like games I played when I was younger than 10 years old. I could not believe the Avalon Hill name was put on this game. I would expect to see this game in a Toys ‘R Us and not a gaming store. It was so linear and boring that we quit playing it after 5 rounds. We went off to play something else a little more challenging. In the end, I was left with a board game I wished I could have returned and gotten a refund for. I am sorry to the designer, I simply could not bring myself to like this game. I had been-there-done-that with Talisman, and the Monopoly aspects just annoyed me. I do not know a gamer that would truly enjoy this game.

For more details on Avalon Hill and their new Board Game “ Swords & Skulls Board Game ” check them out at their website http://www.avalonhill.com and at all of your local game stores.

Swords & Skulls Board Game

From: Avalon Hill

Type of Game: Board Game

Written by: Mike Elliott

Contributing Authors: Type Name(s)

Game Design by: Type Name(s)

Developed by: Bill McQuillan

Cover Art by: William O’Connor

Additional Art by: Kate Irwin

Number of Pages: 4

Game Components Included: Game board, 4-page rules booklet, 5 Officers, 5 Pirates, 2 Dice, 80 Plastic gold pieces, 5 Player cards, 16 Enemy cards, 36 Crew cards, 20 Item cards, 33 Fortune cards

Retail Price: $ 25.00 (US)

Number of Players: 2 to 5

Player Ages: 10+

Play Time: 60 minutes

Item Number: 968790000

ISBN: 0-7869-3713-0

Website: www.avalonhill.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung