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Anomia and Skull: two perfect board game appetizers

Yelling or bluffing, take your pick

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Clayton Ashley , senior video editor, has been producing and editing videos for Polygon since 2016. He is the lead producer of the tabletop gaming series Overboard.

Continuing our streak of short but sweet games, the Overboard crew played two more quick games with Special guest Brennan Lee Mulligan of College Humor. These are the prefect games to pull out when you’re waiting on some stragglers on your board game day or need a quick and easy game you can play with your buddies at a bar.

Anomia challenges your ability to think fast. Players flip cards with a symbol and a category on them like “Oscar Winner,” “Edible Plant,” or “German City.” If the symbol matches with another players card, they face off and rush to yell out something, anything, from their opponents category. Of course, what often happens instead is the grunting and stuttering sounds of a brain trying to think of a “Baby Sound” on the spot and failing.

It gets even trickier when, after a player wins a face off, the loser hands their card over and reveals a different card underneath. Should this card match with another player, you get another face off. This can and often does lead to a cascading chain reaction of face offs and frustrated brain sounds. It sounds simple, and it is super easy to learn, but it’s also the loudest we’ve laughed playing a game on Overboard. You can also make the game a little trickier by banning people for repeating a word someone else has already used.

After the giddy excitement of Anomia, we moved on to a quieter, but still very intense game: Skull, the purest bluffing game around. Each players starts with a hand of 4 cards: 3 roses and 1 skull. Player take turns placing cards, one at a time, until someone makes a bet. They name the number of roses they believe they can flip over without revealing a single skull. After a challenge is made, players can choose to pass (which is like folding in poker) or raise the challenger by naming a higher number.

Once every player but one has folded, the remaining challenger must flip over all of their own cards before they start flipping over any others. If they meet their challenge without flipping over a skull, they win the round. But should they flip over a skull, they not only lose the round but lose one of their cards.

Like any bluffing game, you have to take risks if you want to win but the game makes it extremely clear what’s at stake. Each time another player places down a card you have to wonder... is that card a skull? Did they start the challenge just a little too enthusiastically? You don’t have to worry about hands and suits, just whether or not you can trust the face your friend is making.

If you enjoyed this episode of Overboard, be sure to check out part 1, where we play the maniacal hidden role/bluffing game Coup. You can also check out previous episodes of Overboard here. Make sure you subscribe to Polygon’s channel for more great videos.

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