Review – Skull Canyon: Ski Fest
SkiFree meets Ticket to Ride
|Designer||Jason Klinke, Kip Noschese|
Welcome to Skull Canyon! Think you have what it takes to get your flow on and shred some gnarly powder? In this set-collection game from Pandasaurus, players will claim runs and score points with sets of cards, all while trying to be crowned the new legend of Skull Canyon! I’m sure the rumors of yeti sightings are just talk…
The goal of Skull Canyon: Ski Fest is to prove that you’re the best skier or snowboarder by skiing different runs, collecting gear, and ultimately, scoring the most points. Players are awarded points for any run they go down but can only steal the claim on it if they pay +1 card for each other claim already on that run. Gameplay itself is broken up into 2 separate phases.
Phase 1 is Skiing, where players can Ride Lifts, Train, or Ski a run. Riding a lift means moving your meeple up one of the red ski lifts. This action can also be done on later turns for free with a lift ticket. Training is the process of getting more cards. When you train you can take up to 2 slope cards. Yeti cards count as wild, and if you take one that’s faceup it counts for your whole action. There is no hand limit, but if 3 yetis ever appear in the faceup row, it immediately gets scrubbed and 4 new faceup cards come out. Playing a yeti while claiming a run causes him to move, blocking a ski run of your choice; playing 2 yeti cards or more causes an avalanche, making players slide down the mountain 1 run. Skiing a run has a few more steps (see image below) but is the main way to score points. After 4 turns, Phase 1 is over, and anyone ending their last turn going down a run to the bottom of the mountain gets +1 fame token.
Phase 2 is Après-Ski, or After-skiing. Players line up their meeples based on who finished Phase 1 in a lower position, or in cases of a tie who arrived first. Then, each player takes a turn moving to different locations at the ski village, earning new fame, cards, lift tickets and other tokens. After everyone has gone once, play continues in this phase with the left-most player until everyone ends up at the Hotel, where players get new Slope cards based on tomorrow’s weather conditions. Movement down the path is always left to right, but players may skip over any locations they want. After everyone has reached the Hotel and gotten slope cards and bought gear for tomorrow, pass the first player token to the left and get ready for the next round! Each game is 3 days long.
If you’re of a certain age, you might remember a little built-in game from Windows 3.0 called SkiFree, where your skier would go down the mountain and try to hit jumps and get style points, trying not to crash but ultimately getting eaten by the yeti at the bottom of the hill (this was how they made you start a new level). Skull Canyon gives some solid SkiFree vibes, and does a good job of capturing the feel of spending the weekend on the mountain, in board game form. The biggest problems I had with it is that it wasn’t great at 2 players, even with a dedicated side of the board for that mode – it just felt like we were shredding on opposite sides of the mountain, barely interacting. At 3 players, you start having to steal runs to stay ahead, and the game really starts to shine. Also a problem worth mentioning is that the slope cards came very warped, enough to show daylight if a card was sitting on the table. Not a huge problem, but disappointing still.
Any tabletop gamer or winter sports fan looking to play a board game instead of hitting the slopes in real life could find a lot to like in Skull Canyon: Ski Fest. In fact, I’d probably suggest that if you or the person you’re getting Skull Canyon for is an avid skier or snowboarder, feel free to add a point on to the score I’ve given it below. But even if you don’t know your heel edge from a goofy stance, it’s still a solid set-collection game with fun art and chill vibes.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
The Bottom Line
Even if you don’t know your heel edge from a goofy stance, Skull Canyon is a solid set-collection game with fun art and chill vibes.