- For ages 8 and up
- For 2 players
- Approximately 40 minutes to complete
- Active Listening & Communication
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Strategy & Tactics
- Hand/Resource Management
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Defend your kingdom from giant magical beasts or rid the land of a small nuisance!
- Gamer Geek approved!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek approved!
The land is awakening. News has reached the ears of the Grizzar that the kingdoms south of their snowy realm are being attacked by giant beasts never seen before. They take these stories as a warning but have no fear. Their use of magic and attunement to the spirit realm has always kept them safe in the past. But something is different. The snow doesn’t fall as it once did, and noises echo in the mountains that none recognize. The Grizzar begin to fear that the stories of fanciful creatures might not be tall tales after all. Taking staff and axe in hand, they face whatever must come with a warrior’s heart.
Maul Peak, designed by Eduardo Baraf, Keith Matejka and published by Pencil First Games, is comprised of 12 Power cubes, 15 Rage cubes, 25 Wound tokens, one Maul Peak map, six Ancient Relic tokens, one Winter Beast figure, six Grizzar Hero figures, one Grizzar player mat, one Grizzar Den board, four Guardian Reference cards, seven Hero Reference cards, six Grizzar Heroes cards, six Winter Beast cards, 16 Order Deck cards, one Saboso pack, one Veblyn pack, one Quagra pack, and one Trovak & Gnarl pack. The “packs” include unique Guardian boards, a player mat, a deck of cards, tokens, and figures representing the game’s Guardians. All the components are of excellent quality, with thick cardboard and sturdy wooden pieces. Illustrations by Dustin Foust, Sebastian Koziner, and Helen Zhu are bright, colorful, and strengthen the game’s theme and narrative brilliantly.
Note: Maul Peak is a standalone game but can be combined with Skulk Hollow. We discuss combining both games in this review.
Preparing the Kingdom of the Grizzar
To set up the game, complete the following steps.
First, place the map board in the middle of the playing area. Unlike other boards players are familiar with, this game’s map board is turned at an angle, so the player’s sitting position is at a corner.
Now determine who will play as the Grizzar Heroes and who will play as the Guardian. The Grizzar Heroes are a group of brave warriors and magic users. The Guardians are gigantic magical constructs made from natural materials (like ice and rock). Both sides will use similar rules and gameplay, but the resolution of actions and objectives are radically different. It’s important to note that both groups are neither good guys nor bad guys. Just opposing forces.
The player who will take on the responsibility of the Guardian selects first. There are four to choose from, and each has a different ability.
- Saboso, a giant snow monster
- Beblyn, a giant snow spider
- Auagra, a giant ice hydra
- Trovak and Gnarl, a snow giant and faithful three-headed hound
Once the player selects their Guardian, they take all the associated components and sit down on their starting side of the game board, completing any additional unique setup requirements for their selected Guardian.
Meanwhile, the other player will take the Grizzar Hero game components and select a Winter Beast. The Winter Beasts are powerful animal spirits that provide special abilities to the Hero player during the game, so take the time to select one that best matches your strategy and tactics. The Winter Beasts are as follows:
- White Mouse spirit that can force the Guardians to move on the map
- Frost Lynx spirit that can force the Guardian player to discard cards
- Snow Hare spirit that grants the Hero additional cards
- Northern Goat spirit that grants the units in the game an additional jump action
- Tundra Wolf spirit that grants the Hero additional movement
- Glacier Owl spirit can be moved to any location on the map
Once the player selects their Winter Beast, they take all the associated components and sit down on their starting side of the game board, completing any additional unique setup requirements.
Second, place the Power cubes, Rage cubes, and Wound tokens off to one side of the game-playing area and within easy reach of all the players.
Third, the Hero player places the Hero cards for the Druid and Winter Beast in their play area and the Den board, placing the remaining Hero cards in their designated areas in the den. When completed, the Hero will shuffle the Order deck, placing it face-down in front of them and drawing their initial hand of cards. Finally, they also take two Rage cubes adding them to their personal Rage bank.
Fourth, the Guardian player shuffles their Guardian deck, places it face-down in front of them, and draws their initial hand of cards.
This completes the game setup. Time to save a kingdom or destroy one!
Maul Peak is played in rounds and turns with no set number of rounds per game. On a player’s turn, they complete two phases, the same for both players. The phases are summarized here.
Main Phase: Take Actions
Each player has a limited number of actions they can take. The Guardian player will spend Power, and the Hero player will spend Rage. The available actions are as follows:
All Players – Play a Card: Each player will have a deck of cards specifically built to support their selected faction (Grizzars or Guardians). They can choose one to play for one action from the cards in the player’s hand. A card will have two possible actions to take. These are most commonly focused on movement, attacks, or gaining Power/Rage which is used to pay for additional special abilities and actions. When the player selects the card they want to play, they place it before them, define what it does, and then resolve the chosen card action. The card is then placed in the player’s discard pile.
Gudian Player – Prepare: Not all the cards in the player’s hand might be helpful or what the player is looking for. The Prepare action allows the Guardian player (and only the Guardian player) to discard one card from their hand without resolving it. Then the player draws two cards from their draw deck, adding them to their hand. These cards can be played this turn. If the player’s draw deck is depleted, they shuffle their discard pile to create a new draw deck. This action is available if their hand is empty.
Hero Player – Intensify: The Hero player (and only the Hero player) can elect to discard one of the cards in their hand, ignoring its abilities and actions. They then add one Rage cube to their supply, or they can draw one card from their deck. This action is available if their hand is empty.
Cleanup Phase: Reset and Regroup
After the player takes all the actions they want or are limited to (players are never forced to take actions), they indicate their turn is over to their opponent and do a little maintenance on their available units or Guardian.
Gaurdian Player – Allocate Power: The Gurdian player moves all other Power cubes from their Power pool and places them on free spaces on their Player mat. Any extra is returned to the Power pool.
Hero Player – Allocate Rage: The Hero player moves all the Rage cubes from their Rage pool into their Rage bank. There is no limit to the number of Rage cubes the Hero player may have. The Grizzars are an angry bunch!
Finally, the active player will refill their hand, taking the number of cards needed as determined by their Player mat. If the number of cards in the active player’s hand is already at the maximum, they only draw one card. If the deck is depleted, shuffle the discard pile and place it face-down to create a new draw deck.
Attacking and Wounds
Grizzar units can attack a Guardian either on the ground or will need to climb on the Guardian to attack critical points on the Guardian’s massive body.
The Guardian player has a significant advantage over the Grizzar units if they don’t climb aboard. Once the Grizzar units climb on the Guardian, they are relatively safe. However, there is only so much space on the Guardian, limiting the number of Grizzar units on the Guardian’s body and specific areas. While able to avoid most of the Guardian’s basic combat moves, the Grizzar units can be shaken off or worse if the Guardian player has the cards.
Damage is dealt with when an attack is resolved as a player’s action. The Grizzar are tough and can take more than one point of damage (Wounds), but this is not the case for the Winter Beasts. Once a Grizzar unit receives its maximum number of Wounds – as indicated by their reference cards – they are removed from the map board and placed in the Den mat’s “Graveyard”. Sadly, when a Grizzar perishes, it’s out for the game’s duration. Winter Beasts, however, can be summoned again and again.
The Guardian also takes Wounds in specific areas of their body. Once they collect enough Wounds, that particular area is considered “damaged” and restricts the Guardian player’s ability to access particular actions and combat maneuvers. In this way, the Grizzar heroes can climb and cripple specific attacks and maneuvers available to the Guardian.
Healing Wounds is as simple as removing them from units and the Guardian board. Removing wounds is possible through cards.
The Final Outcome
The game continues until one of the two players achieves their victory condition.
- The Grizzar player wins if they can destroy the Guardian
- The Guardian player wins if they defeat all the Grizzar units or complete the Guardian’s unique victory condition
Game Variant: Combining Skulk Hollow and Maul Peak
Both Skulk Hollow and Maul Peak can be played as separate games. They can also be combined to create an epic battle called “Battle of the Børe,” bringing the two-player games to a four-player game in a two-versus-two gameplay. Two players will take on the Heros (playing as both the Foxen and the Grizzar), while the other two players will take on two Guardians of their choice. Turn sequence alternates between Hero and Guardian. Victory is awarded to the Heroes if they defeat one of the two Guardians. The Guardians win when a Foxen leader is eliminated, all the Grizzar have perished, or either of the two Guardians completes their unique victory condition. Team communication and cooperation are encouraged during gameplay, and resource sharing is permissible. For the most part, the gameplay is similar, but a few streamlined rules are provided that help build a bridge between the two Hero groups and their unique abilities.
To learn more bout Maul Peak, visit the game’s web page.
Being familiar with Skulk Hollow, the Child Geeks had no problems understanding the game’s objectives. They were surprised – and pleased – to learn that the two games, while similar in many respects, played differently. This made the game feel not only recognizable but new. According to one Child Geek, “I like this game a lot. I think I like it better or the same as the first game, but they are also different enough to be two separate games. I want to play it again!” Another Child Geek said, “The bears are the best! The big snow monsters and the special ghost animals were a lot of fun to play with and against.” When the last “snow monster” fell at the feet of the brave Grizzar, the Child Geeks took a vote, and all agreed that Maul Peak was a wonderful game.
The Parent Geeks, familiar with Skaulk Hollow, jumped right into the game. They quickly learned the new rules, finding them intriguing approaches to combat and strategic play. One Parent Geek said, “This is an updated and improved version of the first game we played. I liked the previous one a lot. I like this one better because it has more going on when it is your turn. Still the same paths to victory, but the gameplay is more interesting.” Another Parent Geek said, “A solid game I liked playing with my kids and wife. We cannot decide if it is more fun playing as the Guardians or the Grizzar. Either way, it was a great time.” When the Guardians were finally defeated, the Parent Geeks found that Maul Peak was a true victory at their family gaming table.
The Gamer Geeks approach Maul Peak like they would an expansion. This is to say, they saw the game as an extension of the first and didn’t think to find anything new. They were not only wrong but very pleasantly surprised. One Gamer Geek said, “Yes, this is what I hoped for in the original game. The gameplay is more tactical, the strategies are more entertaining, and the entire game feels more engaging. I am pleased with it.” Another Gamer Geek said, “A more brutal version of the first game. I found combat much more interesting with the magic and the spirit animals. I liked how the game gave you tools; you had to be smart about using them best. A great game I’d play again.” When the victory flag once again flew over the den of the Grizzar’s home, the Gamer Geeks shouted “huzzah!” for Maul Peak.
Oh, goodness, yes. Maul Peak seems to have addressed all of our concerns and what we believed to be shortcomings of Skulk Hollow. This should not suggest that Skulk Hollow was a bad game. Far, far from it! It just felt incomplete. Or better put, not fully realized. Maul Peak has built off the original’s foundation and improved the gameplay. This is, in many ways, the game I wanted the first to be, but I am pleased that it came out later as the gameplay is more intense and – as a result – more complicated. It remains casual, but for many of our players, it felt more “rough and tough” than a casual player would normally be drawn to and prefer. Not enough, thank goodness, to turn anyone away or leave them feeling beat up.
We combined the two games and found the gameplay very much what you’d want at a gaming convention. This is to say, an engaging game full of twists and turns that left us satisfied but not necessarily wanting more. Combining games allowed us to play with more players, which was ultimately unnecessary. Two players, one-against-one, always felt best and remained the favorite approach. Worth owning both games? Not if you want to play with more people at the same table. They are different enough, however, to warrant both on your shelf if you like the system, theme, and narrative. Pencil First has always done a great job developing their games and providing their players with a terrific mix of gameplay and style. They outdid themselves with Maul Peak when they designed it as a standalone and a companion to Skulk Hollow.
Overall, I loved it. Best of all, it left me wanting to refresh the internet every 30 or so seconds, hoping that some news will be provided to reveal another game in this fascinating world of animal heroes and giant monster guardians. The world where the game is being set gets richer and more interesting. I am most eager to learn more and to play the game again. Do try Maul Peak, even if you are unfamiliar with Skulk Hollow. It is a game that will not leave you cold.
This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.