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Wish you could play Dragon’s Dogma 2 with friends? Take on massive monsters as a party of adventurers in this multiplayer board game

Skulk Hollow offers a lot of the same thrills as the creature-climbing, pawn-commanding video game.

Image credit: Pencil First Games

Recent video game Dragon’s Dogma 2 is one of the most memorable fantasy adventures in years, offering a vast open world to explore, dozens of quests and characters to discover, and the thrill of taking down towering monsters like griffins, manticores and, yes, dragons as a brave party of warriors, wizards, rangers and rogues.

While questing as a band of adventurers is the kind of epic experience that would make for the perfect game to play with friends, Dragon’s Dogma 2 doesn’t have any kind of multiplayer. In many ways, that’s the very point of the game, as you bond with your loyal computer-controlled companions - ‘pawns’ created by other players that are summoned from the online rift - and listen to their conversations over hours of adventures.

Even so, you might come away from the fantasy epic eager to share the excitement of its monster-slaying combat with your real-life pals. Lucky for you, there’s a board game that scratches many of the same itches and can be played around a table with other human beings when you’re looking to take a break for a bit.

Watch us play Skulk Hollow!Watch on YouTube

Skulk Hollow is a two-player board game that pits one player’s party of heroes against their rival, who controls a legendary creature known as a guardian. Those guardians combine together aspects of animals like bears, birds and sea creatures with the very rock and terrain of the land itself, looming like living mountains over the anthropomorphic stature of the Foxen heroes. While each game of Skulk Hollow only features a battle against a single guardian, multiple are included in the box, each with their own unique strengths, weaknesses and ways of claiming victory.

The board game's battles manage to feel epic without requiring the players to clamber their own way up a mountain of rules.

The David-and-Goliath matchup between the comparatively miniscule warriors and their gigantic foe captures the same imposing challenge of encountering a monstrous dragon or ogre in Dragon’s Dogma 2 - with both games having their roots in the breathtaking battles of PlayStation 2 classic Shadow of the Colossus. As in Dragon’s Dogma and Shadow of Colossus, the Foxen player in Skulk Hollow can scale the body of the guardian itself, leaping from the ground onto the creature - represented by a separate game board from the main map - before clambering their way up to different body parts in order to weaken and ultimately fell their foe.

Being able to ascend your opponent and target its individual limbs offers a similar feel to hacking away to sever a foe’s dangerous tail or wailing on their feet to bring them crashing to the ground in Dragon’s Dogma (as well as other video games like Monster Hunter). With each guardian having a different layout of limbs and distinct movesets - the bear-like Grak can throw pesky heroes back to the ground, while the insectoid Apoda burrows underground - figuring out how to best hinder your enemy and halt their attacks by dealing enough damage to particular points feels brilliantly strategic and suitably Herculean.

Skulk Hollow sequel Maul Peak adds new guardians to battle - and the chance to play with up to four people with two guardians and both Foxen and bear heroes! | Image credit: Pencil First Games

Best of all, the board game's battles manage to feel epic without requiring the players to clamber their own way up a mountain of rules. Each turn, players perform actions by playing cards from their hand to perform a variety of different moves, and potentially spend power cubes assigned to some of their cards to activate extra effects and abilities. It’s a tight core that keeps the action moving quickly, preserving the swift momentum of a back-and-forth fight without so simple that it loses the feel of needing to scrap with tooth-and-claw for victory.

While the other human player may not be helping you, you won’t be alone in your battle. The Foxen player can summon a band of units by playing their cards, bringing in the likes of sturdy sentinels, ranged archers and even royal rulers to inspire your other fighters. Having a varied crew of companions to command imbues Skulk Hollow with the sense you get from ordering your pawns around in Dragon’s Dogma 2 - and, occasionally, feeling a pang of regret and loss when they get squished by a giant foot/fist/tentacle.

Having a crew of companions to command imbues Skulk Hollow with the sense you get from ordering your pawns around in Dragon’s Dogma 2 - and feeling a pang of regret and loss when they get squished by a giant foot/fist/tentacle.

Though the guardian may be alone in their fight, playing as the monster is just as fun. Rather than having separate units with different abilities, each monster has a wide array of attacks at their disposal, providing plenty of ways to chuck your irritating attackers around, evade their blows and progress your way to victory - whether that’s by simply eliminating the heroes or working your way towards another objective.

As you’d expect, most of the action takes place on the monster itself as the heroes climb around to stab at its weak points. But Skulk Hollow also features a wider map board that allows for tactical use of its environment, with rangers working best from afar and different terrain types influencing how effective both the Foxen heroes and guardians’ attacks are. It’s obviously not quite as in-depth as Dragon’s Dogma 2’s complex environmental interactions, but you still get a great sense of being able to use the environment to your advantage as you push and throw foes around the map, position yourself for a more powerful attack and dodge around incoming threats.

Wondering if Skulk Hollow is for you? Hear Johnny and Wheels' thoughts. Watch on YouTube

Whether you play as Foxen heroes or guardian, learning how to use the abilities and unique units at your disposal is key - and provides plenty of room to try out different approaches and experiment with the varied options on offer. Skulk Hollow shares Dragon’s Dogma 2’s wonderful sense of discovery the first time you encounter a new foe and work out how to fell (or master) it, but has enough variation to keep things exciting even if you’ve fought or controlled the same monster before, keeping you on your toes (or, er, paws) with the possible combinations and shifting approaches.

While it may not have the flashy 3D visuals and soaring soundtrack of a video game to help add to the immersion, Skulk Hollow still has the power to suck you into its cardboard world of breathtaking beasts and hardy heroes - helped by the beautiful illustrations of Dustin Foust and charming meeple designs by Helen Zhu, which include unique pieces for each guardian.

If you’re intrigued, but wish you could play with even more people, Skulk Hollow also has a sequel, Maul Peak, which opens up its head-to-head showdown to allow for four players to throw together two guardians, Skulk Hollow’s Foxen heroes and Maul Peak’s bear tribe members for even more variety and multiplayer action.

So, the next time you’re looking to kick back with friends in person but are itching for the thrill of Dragon’s Dogma 2’s monumental monster clashes, consider giving Skulk Hollow or Maul Peak a go. With rich fantasy worlds as the arena for exhilarating encounters with fearsome behemoths, the board games stand tall next to their video game cousins.

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