Title: Maul Peak
Designed By: Eduardo Baraf and Keith Matejka
Art by: Dustin Foust, Sebastian Koziner, Helen Zhu
Published By: Pencil First Games
Released: Coming to Kickstarter April 5, 2022
Player Count: 2
Time to Play: 40 Minutes
Maul Peak is the new standalone sequel to Skulk Hollow. In this exclusively two player game, players will face off head to head. Player's will either take on the role of the Grizzar (a group of heroic bears), or of one of the Guardians who are trying to drive the Grizzar away from the Crystal Fist.
How to Play:
To get started, players will need to decide who is going to be the hero and who is going to be the guardian. The hero's goal is to eliminate the guardian. The guardian's goal is to either eliminate all the Grizzar heroes, or win by their special win condition. Each guardian has it's own win condition.
The guardian player takes their matching tuckbox and guardian mat. Follow specific setup instructions based on the guardian chosen. The hero player takes the Grizzar tuckbox and play mat and selects a Winter Beast. Player's exchange reference cards.
Set the main Maul Peak map in the middle of the two players, so that it looks like a diamond, not a square. Place the matching guardian board above the Maul Peak Map. Place power cubes, rage cubes, and wound tokens within reach of players. Place the hero cards onto the hero mat. The hero player places their Druid card and hero meeple and their winter beast in the play area next to their player mat. Give the hero player two rage cubes to start.
Have both players shuffle their decks and place them facedown in their player area. Players then draw up to their max hand limit as indicated by their player mat.
You are now ready to begin. The Grizzar always goes first.
On their turn players will take a series of actions in two phases. The first phase is the Main Phase and the second is the Cleanup Phase. During the first phase, the active player can take any combination of actions in any order. The player can take actions based on the action limit shown on their player board. Actions are things like playing a card or preparing/ intensifying. Actions on cards allow players to do things like move, attack, use magic, or use special abilities.
During the second phase, the active player allocates power or rage, and refills their hand (or if their hand is already full, draws one more card). Once a player has finished their turn, the next player becomes the active player. Players continue taking turns until someone secures a victory!
What's purr-ty cool:
Maul Peak is yet another hit for us. We have had the pleasure of reviewing several Pencil First Games games and have really enjoyed all of our experiences. Having never tried Skulk Hollow, we were intrigued by the concept of Maul Peak. I never realized from the cover art, just how cool the art for these games would be (though the box does look very nice). They are colorful and fun, with super cool components like giant boards for each guardian or supersized guardian meeples. We had a prototype copy and were still super impressed with the component quality. Each character has it's own tuckbox for easy setup. It makes grabbing what you need really simple. The giant guardian boards are for a lack of a better word, awesome! We love that the Grizzar pieces actually move around them during the game, just as if thee tiny bears were actually trying to scale the gigantic monster and attack it a little at time together. Multiple enemies with different skill levels.
Like I said, we have never seen Skulk Hollow, so boy was I surprised when I opened the guardian boxes and saw those guardian meeples. I think they actually took my breath away. We had a blast photographing the meeples. As you can see we even took them out in the snow. Fun side-note, one of the Grizzar almost ran away from us in the snow and I had dig through a log covered in snow to retrieve him. The production quality is top notch!
Regarding gameplay, we don't get to cover a lot of two player only games and we are super happy to have had a chance to play this one. We loved the asymmetry of the game, along with the multiple options for different guardians. Even though the heroes are always the Grizzar, the hero player needs to adjust how they play based on the unique guardian they are facing. There are quite a few options, with varying degrees of difficulty s player's can get a lot of unique plays out of the game.
We also really liked the tension and how close games were with both sides being equally close to winning toward the end. I think in asymmetric games, balance is a difficult thing to achieve, however in our play's the winner was only a turn or two off for being the opposite player. We found that initially the Guardian's seemed to be in the lead, but as the game picked up the the Grizzar found their stride in battle, they began to gain momentum. It sees important for the Guardians to work quickly, while the Grizzar need to focus on survival for slowly racking up the damage.
One last thing that is really cool about Maul Peak, is that it can actually be combined with Skulk Hollow in a special play mode called The Battle of Bore which an be played with 3-4 people. We haven't tried this mode out, but love the concept of connecting the two stand alone games.
Maul Peak is definitely a win for us. If you are interested in finding out more, check out their Kickstarter page!
The cat's meow:
"The box is the purrfect size for me, the game has cardboard to chew on, and it had things to knock over. This game really has it all" - Pudgy Cat.
Update 2023: Maul Peak is now out for retail release! Check out our unboxing video.
Disclosure: Pudgy Cat Games was provided a copy of this game in exchange for a review, however, this review reflects the honest thoughts of the author.