Depending on your inclination, SKÅL! can be a fun family weight filler game, or an increasingly challenging drinking game.
In spite of the wild talent of my various D&D characters, my dexterity leaves a lot to be desired, meaning that I’m not one to leap onto dexterity-based board games terribly often. Other than the hugely enjoyable Beasts of Balance, I tend to avoid them altogether, in fact. I am, however, something of a fan of the upcoming Merchants of Infinity from Rogue Artist Creations, and I’m more than willing to take a look at anything Andrew Prowse has worked on. So with that in mind, I flexed my fingers and steadied the shakes to take a look at SKÅL!, their latest game that will soon be coming to Kickstarter.
SKÅL! Is really more of a filler game when compared to the larger scale Merchants of Infinity, but is much easier to explain and far faster to get into. Thematically, you are playing as one of six Norse gods playing a drinking game. Should they win a round, they raise their glass and shout “SKÅL!”, meaning “Cheers!” and claim a point. The theming only fits into the actual game in a limited way, but I did enjoy it. Due to it being based around drinking and reminiscing over victories, it’s really quite fitting, and the artwork from Janette Ramos (Cult of the Deep, The Pirate Republic) is really quite excellent.
The game takes place over a number of rounds, each lasting literally seconds depending on how good you are. Each player selects their god and takes four dice of the matching colour. One player then turns over a card from the centre of the table, and everyone races to stack their dice in the same formation as those on the card. Your four dice won’t be enough to complete the pattern, so once you’ve got yours in position, you’ll need to take more from a central pool of black dice, taking one a time to keep from players hording, to continue and complete your stack. The first person to complete it, raise their cup and shout “SKÅL!” wins the round and takes the card. Dice then go back, another card is drawn, and you go again. First player to a set number of cards wins!
It’s a very simple concept, but it’s also a lot of fun. You’ll be eager to get your structure finished first, but rushing will lead to mistakes, and there’s a genuine moment of enjoyable frustration as your stack comes tumbling down as you reach for another black dice. There are yells of annoyance and triumph around the table, and each round tends to come down to a handful of seconds when deciding a winner. There are a good number of different designs to build too, with some having additional rules, such as having to have a certain god’s rune — meaning the number on their player card — facing outwards, or needing to complete your build with your eyes closed. The groups I played with especially enjoyed the latter, and I just wish there were more cards with that stipulation in the game. Other special cards have you work with a player next to you to complete a horizontal rather than vertical layout with each of you taking it in turns to place a dice, or cards where you can steal dice from other players. There’s a solid bit of variety here, but I still would have liked more cards in each category.
Each god has a specific once-per-game power to try and tip the game in their favour, but no one really used them. None of them felt especially powerful, but this also doesn’t feel like a spiteful take that style of game. Forcing the other players to keep one of their hands on their cup for a round, or being allowed to have your rune facing out rather than another god’s didn’t really feel all that useful, nor like something you’d especially want to do. It was more fun to just play the game as intended. It’s nice to have the option, but they felt a little superfluous.
What was a nice inclusion though, was the solo mode. Taking cards from the deck, you lay them out face down in the shape of one of three monsters which is given in the manual. You then get a five minute time to turn over the cards one at a time before trying to complete them before the timer runs out. This was a lot of fun, although the inclusion of the two-player cards is a little odd. What made this even more enjoyable was doing this as a co-op mode, as suggested by one of my friends. Halving the time limit and having everyone work together was tremendous, and it made the inclusion of the two-player cards make a lot more sense. I’m hoping this is included in the final game as it does offer a nice twist.
Each round, whether solo, co-op, or competitive, was fun and fast paced, and I could see this being a great filler game for a game night, or a light-hearted game to play with family members. If you are so inclined though, this could easily be played as a drinking game, as suggested in the manual. Each player fills their cup each round, and takes a drink before shouting “SKÅL!” upon winning a round. Whilst I didn’t play in this way with any groups I introduced the game to, I expect this would be a fun drinking game with board gaming friends.
There’s a nice inclusion of six metal shot glasses which I believe can be used for drinking from. It’s a simple thing to include, but it adds to the theme and gameplay nicely. The dice are all of good quality, with rounded edges to make those balancing challenges all the more tricky, and the cards are of solid stock, which should stand up to some spillages at least. Again, the artwork is lovely on all the cards with lots of detail, particularly on the god cards.
SKÅL! is a very enjoyable lightweight game that would be an easy inclusion in any board game collection. I feel this would be a solid gateway game as well due to the easy to follow rules and quick play time. With this being due to Kickstarter soon, there’s plenty of time to add more content to it as well, so I expect there will be even more content included upon release. As it stands, I still feel this is a pretty solid recommendation.