Skullbreaker, Dream Maker, Love Taker
Updated: Feb 19, 2022
We have a new one! He’s a beauty. Skullbreaker is just what we’ve come to expect from Godtear releases: something that feels fresh and distinct which somehow fits right in. This game keeps getting better. Hats off to SFG.
Skullbreaker is really well designed. He has all the tools he needs to do his thing, but it’s on the player to use them in the right ways and at the right times in order to set up a massive and satisfying payoff. When Skullbreaker pays off, though, he pays off big. This is definitely a boom or bust champion who makes a huge investment in a single, massive strike.
The sculpt is sick. The game design is thoughtful and feels exciting yet balanced.
I also have to admire SFG’s Ultimate Guide to Skullbreaker. It’s their most detailed and helpful champion guide yet, in my opinion. Definitely read it before reading this any further. I’m going to assume you know the essentials.
Please remember that this is very preliminary. I’m writing this the day after the cards were revealed. Lots of this speculation I’m about to do will end up being wrong. I’ll write a follow up after I get some Skullbreaker games in (delicious).
With that in mind, let’s dive in!
The Payoff Punch
Skullbreaker clearly wants to activate adjacent to an enemy champion so that he can use one of his booster skills before unleashing the Jawblade. We need a term for Jawblade attacks that have been boosted by I Smell Blood or Go for the Belly. I’m going to call them payoff punches.
You want to be getting payoff punches, but let’s also acknowledge that a normal 5/7 Jawblade attack is pretty good also. Rangosh would probably trade Jawbreaker for that, even with the speed blight that comes with it. There’s nothing wrong with moving 3 hexes (through followers) and using Jawblade, especially if the Tooth Bearers have stacked a boon or two on their boss.
Still, a savvy opponent will try to avoid ending their champion’s activation in position to receive a payoff punch. While Rangosh has the luxury of pulling targets towards him from range 2, Skullbreaker has to be strictly toe to toe when he activates in order to unleash his full firepower.
The SFG guide suggests three ways of accomplishing this: using a banner as bait, using the Tooth Bearers' trait, and using the ultimate (kind of rhymes if you reach for it).
Banner as Bait
This method is tried and true, but it has a few loopholes. Planting the banner in the first place is usually good since it creates the dilemma for your opponent between allowing the end phase steps and taking a payoff punch to the face. Using a banner as bait also requires nothing from your warband to set up the payoff punch because your opponent literally does it for you. The Tooth Bearers don’t need to move Skullbreaker in this situation, so they can activate later and use their trait to load the boss up with some tasty boons.
There are some downsides to this tactic, though. The first problem is that fast opponents might be able to run over your banner and out of attack range. The second problem with this tactic is that your opponent may be in a position to simply ignore your banner if doing so allows them to protect more banners elsewhere. The third and most obvious problem with this approach is that you lose your banner.
The Tooth Bearers
Our new champion’s follower unit has a trait called “Set Up the Boss.” Pretty on the nose.
As the SFG guide points out, this can move Skullbreaker up to two hexes because the auto wound on Club Bash triggers this effect before the damage roll potentially triggers it again. Keep in mind that this has no range limit at all.
Club Bash is a really strong follower attack. Rush allows you a long threat range to deliver a trio of orcs swinging at 6/5. On top of that, the crew has access to accuracy and damage boons for this attack as well as a dodge blight. If you have a plan and identify your target early, this attack (and therefore its movement effect for Skullbreaker) can be quite reliable. If the dice work out, (or credibly threaten to) Skullbreaker can come from far away to deliver payoff punches (or credibly threaten to).
The Tooth Bearers are your bread and butter for Setting Up The Boss. It’s right there on the card, silly.
The downside of this approach is that it’s very resource intensive. The Tooth Bearers have to concentrate, receive boons, and get to a multi wound model with soft defensive stats. This makes it harder for the Tooth Bearers to spread out and block access to friendly banners, clear small followers, or encircle enemies. You know, follower stuff.
Damn. I mean… just wow. It’s… sweet mother of… yikes.
You get to move two hexes and then do a 9/9? Wait, if the Tooth Bearers succeeded on a damage roll, it can be a 10/10? With an auto wound? And you move the target two hexes before the damage roll? So if you get the KO, it’s 4 hexes?
“Finisher” is right, people.
The only downside is that it’s once per game.
You can also combine Skullbreaker with other crews who can serve him meals. Landslide, Rhodri, Helena, the Froglodytes, Rangosh, Peet, Maxen, Raith, and the Splashlings can all reposition enemy champions in the clash phase. This is great because it can be combined with any of the three approaches mentioned above. If the Tooth Bearers move Skullbreaker adjacent to a target which subsequently runs away, no problem. Landslide can just put that target right back in line for the payoff punch.
The downside of this tactic is that it constrains your warband construction and pulls resources from other areas of the board. It’s also somewhat situational because there are real limits on how far or in what direction these effects can move their targets. How often will Helena be able to Shield Push someone into just the right spot? Dunno. Some of the more flexible options like Landslide and the Splashings tempt me, though. Have the Froglodytes found their calling? Only table time will tell.
As the SFG guide points out, positioning Skullbreaker for a payoff punch forces the potential target to activate immediately or suffer. Of course, if they have already activated, you may inflict suffering at your leisure. This makes Skullbreaker a good late activator. I don’t think he minds when your opponent loses a turn and opts to go first.
There is a tense game of chicken, then, that you can play with your opponent as you each try to wait each other out. As long as Skullbreaker and the Tooth Bearers remain unactivated, the threat if a payoff punch is alive. As long as the target champion remains unactivated, it’s potential to escape is alive. And so we play our mini game.
If this plays out in a vacuum, there will be no payoff punch. The Tooth Bearers will eventually be forced to activate before the prey does. They’ll move Skullbreaker into position. The prey will then activate and move away. Skullbreaker will then activate when they are not adjacent.
Fortunately, this is not playing out in a vacuum.
Consider this position:
The Tooth Bearers can really do some harm themselves. Club Bash is no joke. If it does enough damage , Skullbreaker may not even need his payoff punch. Let’s say that our orcy assistants target Kailinn and have no boons. They’re going to average 3.06 damage. That auto wound does work.
If the Tooth Bearers use Set Up the Boss to give Skullbreaker a damage boon instead of moving him the extra hex, he’ll have an expected damage of 4.03 on his Jawblade. Combined, the Club Bash and damage booned Jawblade can expect to KO a full health Kailinn even without Smelling Blood or Going for the Belly. No extra two hex push, but still.
This means that Kailinn needs to activate sooner in order to suppress the threat of the Tooth Bearers. If she comes into Skullbreaker's lines, though… payoff punch. Without boons, Kailinn has only an 18.16% chance of KOing all three Tooth Bearers. With only Go For the Belly to improve it, the retaliatory Jawblade has a 26.8% chance to KO a full health Kailinn with 4.74 expected damage and a two hex push. Remember that this will stack with whatever the surviving Tooth Bearers can offer.
This is just one way to force the opponent to activate early. There will be numerous other ways to force your opponent’s hand. Can you threaten them or their banner from another vector? Can you set up a fork elsewhere on the board? Can you punish patience?
Sure you can.
Possible Ways to Counter Skullbreaker
KO the Tooth Bearers. He relies on them for set up.
Reposition him. His whole act depends on position control. If someone pulls him even a little bit out of striking distance, recovery may not be possible.
Strike from afar with high accuracy. Lorsann, Morrigan, Maxen, and others can do this. Even someone like Halftusk can use the hit effect from Two Punch to move out of payoff punch range after resolving the attack.
Simply ignore him and protect more banners across the board than your opponent can.
Bubble wrap your champions in a screen of followers. Skullbreaker can move through them, but he cannot land on them.
This is my kind of champion. I love to roll dice. I love to play games with activation sequencing. I love to knock enemy champions around.