If you read the first preview, you know what sort of components to expect in the Sword & Skull box. Now it's time to see what those components do.
The first thing you do on your turn is roll both dice and add them together. That will give you a number from 0 to 10. One of your figures -- the Navy Officer or the Pirate -- moves that many spaces clockwise around the board.
It sounds simple, but there are complications. First, with two pieces, you have a choice of two different spaces to land in. Some are good, some are bad. Some are good for one type of piece, not as good for another. Second, you might want to get a weak character away from an area where other players' figures are likely to land on it. Third, you don't always have a choice. If the roll is doubles, both of your figures must move the full amount.
It's not all danger, though. If the roll is 0 (double blanks), you get to take either one of your figures and place it anywhere you want on the outer path. That's a great way to get out of, or into, trouble.
Fighting is simple. Each side rolls one die and adds its Might, which is determined by Crew, Item, and some Fortune cards. The winner is whoever gets the highest total, with ties going to the attacker. Losing costs you some gold or Crew cards, while winning earns you some of the same.
Certain Fortune cards even let you prevent a fight from happening if you get into tight spot or reroll a bad result.
With 44 spaces on the board, there's plenty of variety.
Landing on a Cave space lets you fight a random opponent from the Enemy deck. The enemy's strength is based on how many Crew cards your figure has. Because a Crew card can add more than one point to your Might, you should gain Might faster than the enemies -- in theory, anyway. In practice, it doesn't always work out that way. Beating an enemy earns you a reward of gold or Item cards.
Landing on the Trading Post triggers an auction for the top card in the Item deck. Everyone gets to bid only once, and the player who triggered the auction gets to bid last. This can be a nice way to get a bargain on certain items, or to keep a special item out of anyone else's hands -- for a premium price.
The five Settlements offer easy ways to increase your gold and Might. Five settlements are spread across 13 spaces. Each time you land on a settlement space, you can draw one of the two different Crew cards available at that settlement (for as long as the supply lasts).
Each Crew card has Navy Officer, Pirate, or gold icons. Navy Officer and Pirate icons add directly to that figure's Might. Each point of Might equates to a +1 in combat, so those are good to have.
Gold icons give you income. They don't add anything to your treasury when you select the card, but from that point on, whenever another player's figure lands on that settlement, he must pay you gold equal to the number of that settlement's gold icons on your Crew cards. For example, if Bart has 3 Clearwater gold icons, every player whose piece lands in Clearwater must pay Bart 3 gold. If Bart has 3 Clearwater gold icons and Redjack has 2, then landing in Clearwater would cost Drake 5 gold -- 3 for Bart and 2 for Redjack. Lots of gold changes hands in Sword & Skull.
The four Treasure Chests are easy ways to rake in some extra gold. Each time you land on one, however, you add to the gold on the other three, where someone else is likely to snatch it.
The Bridge of Tears is a catch-up space. It lets you directly steal Crew or gold from the player who has the most. The only other way to take Crew or gold from other players is to land on their space and then beat them in combat.
Of the 32 spaces on the outer path, 13 are Settlements. Clearwater is good for Officer Might and gold; Rum Reef is good for Pirate Might and gold; the Mercenary Camp offers Pirate or Navy Officer Might but no gold; Smuggler's Cove offers lots of Pirate Might and gold; and Fort Rock has the best cards of all for Navy Officers and gold icons.
Ultimately, Sword & Skull is all about taking the Volcano Path to the Lair of the Pirate King. There's only one entrance -- pass it by and it could be many turns before you get another chance.
You don't need to confront the Pirate King just because you turned onto the Volcano Path. Good things can happen there, if you land on the right spaces. Plenty of bad things lurk in the Volcano, too, along with some spaces that can be good or bad, depending on the twists of fate. Taking the Volcano Path heightens the danger of your movement dice rolls -- and remember, on doubles, you don't get to choose who moves!
Before confronting the Pirate King, you must deal with his First Mate. This isn't too tough -- as long as you don't roll a blank in combat!
Then comes the Pirate King himself. He can beaten in combat, but with a Might of 10, the Pirate King is a tough opponent. It might be possible, however, to bribe him with gold instead. You won't know his price until you face him in person, and he may ask for anything from 30 to 50 gold -- princely sums. Whether you buy him off or beat him down, if you get the Sea Hammer, you win!
If you missed the first preview, read it here!