Trading is hard to do. Sometimes you buy cheap, and still lose money in the end. Either you are bargained by customers or goods, which you thought is cheap, gets even cheaper. You will be left with eyes full of tears and unsold stocks. And it was the same even in ancient Egypt, although a little bit more complex. Fellucas brought the merchandise and whoever comes first, buys for best price. And there was enough room for a villain to come and put a price lower than all his competitors. And this board game tells such story about a master villain named Sobek.
Sobek is the second of a series of board game from the Swiss company GameWorks, which we will bring to you in our review. The first game in line was nice and simple heroic Tschak (review). Sobek is game by another author, namely the well-known Bruno Cathala (Cyclades) and well themed Egyptian illustrations prepared for the audience Mathieu Beaulieu.
Like Tschak, also Sobek hides in a small oblong box, that displays traders in the market. Thants to the elegant design of the plastic insert, you can found all components carefully established in their designated place. Whether it is a deck of cards with materials, scarab chips of corruption, event tokens hidden underneath, and everything covered by the game board.
On the side of the box, you will find four standing wooden figures. They also get with accessories -sticky paper, which you stick on figures and give them personality. In addition, all openings in the bottom of the box are accompanied by moldings, that enhance the thematic description – for example scarab tokens have “illustrated” legs.
This time the game board creates an unusual lenghty shape, that consists of three foldable parts. You will find route there, that winds from the market point scale with zero up to the palace with a hundred. Point values are written only in multiples of five and the other fields contain egyptian labels, which will also have important implications in the game, when it comes to penalization.
Game board shows also eight positions on the shore, where you will attach cards at the beginning of each turn. We are talking about game plan, but we exaggerate a little, because in fact the game is mostly card. Board itself fulfills only a minor function here, for sorting things and counting points. Yet you certainly also be interested in the other side, where you will find a nice illustrations of the main characters.
Cards can easily be divided according to the back to three types: characters with special abilities, the starting cards and especially the remaining 45 cards of goods. The materials you will find here are: cattle, ivory, amulets, grain, fish, marble and ebony. Thus, the same luxuries, that you could find in Egypt.
Individual cards of the goods may vary, even if they are of the same kind. Above the image, you will find card value written in gold scarab, which is our currency. It indicates how successful delivery was – for example, with three ivory scarab, the merchandise is perfect, but without the numbers (only with wavy line), the goods suffered most certainly some damage during the transport. Points, however, are awarded for both, although in slightly different way, than we are used to.
At the end of each round, players add up the value of the cards of the same goods and multiply it by the number of cards, that you were able to buy from this kind. Such is the value of your entire collection and allows you to move your pawn forward on a plan for corresponding number of fields.
But before you get to calculating these numbers, you must first prepare a game board and everything else. Shuffle the entire package of goods and lay them individually on the shore places, where ancient fellucas board. Each place is designated for one of goods cards, so you will have a total of nine cards of goods there.
However you should take the card with its back side up. If it is an ordinary beige back for goods, you can turn it with image up, so everybody sees, what is available in that spot. But if you draw a card with an orange background, you must leave it face down. A special character, who has arrived on the felluca, hides on that card.
You will choose five event tokens of the total number of twelve and build a column from them. Each player now chooses one color, takes a piece in that color and places it on the start of a scoring scale. Players will also get two random cards with a green background – these are two goods cards, which will they hold at the start of the round. According to chosen color, you take also corruption scarab token, and lay it in front of you.
In their turn, players choose from three actions – they either take a card, play the set of three cards or use a character skill. The basic and most used is the first one, at least in the beginning. We are talking about selection of cards from fellucas (nine cards in offer). You can always choose from the first four cards, but you will get only the first one for free and instantly add it to your hand. If you skip some cards, you take all of them and you lay the skipped ones under your corruption counter. They will not be important until it get to scoring.
The round comprises of a total of six phases, in which players have always nine new cards ready for buying. In total, all 45 cards cycle through the port at random order and it is up to you, what type of goods you focus. There will be same amount of them every time.
To play a set of cards and get points for it, you must have at least three cards of that type in your hands. But if you play a set, your turn is finished and you lose an opportunity to take card from the offer for a while, until your time comes again. As a member of your card set, you can also play a joker – amulet – or a character card, that contains an icon in its upper right corner, specifying to which type of goods person belongs.
But you can person cards for their abilities instead of playing them in a set. They offer lots of cool things like take any a card from offer without penalty, steal other players cards, add cards to already played set from your hand and so on.
You can expand each set later, but again you must play at least three new cards of this kind. You probably will have several piles of cards from each commodity one in front of you, until the end of the round.
Once the supply of cards runs out and you play the last sixth stage, the first of three rounds ends and your first scoring awaits. Now you can finally point each set: you always first add up numbers of golden scarabs in a group of goods and multiply it by the number of cards, that this group has. Here it is clear, that you need at least on scarab for some points, and the more scarabs you have, the greatest value you will get.
You move your pawn forward on the scoring scale for value of each set of goods. But then you must evaluate also corruption deck – if you ever had skipped cards order and bribed the ferryman, you will now be losing victory points. Your pawn must return to the nearest box with the same symbol on which it stands now for each card, you have under your corruption token. Usually you lose from five to ten points for each corrupted card. So you must beware gaining more of them or try to lose them before the scoring commences.
At the beginning of each round, you also prepare a set of five event tokens, which further influence the course of the game – you will get the bonus tokens for playing a set, and they allow your scoring pawn to go forward to the next same icon, or get rid of all cards under corruption token.
Another round is prepared in the same way. Thoroughly shuffle the goods cards, give two starting green background cards to players and draw five new random events. Pawns stay of course on the scoring scale in the same place, where they arrived in the previous round.Rivalry continues, until the round three is over. At the end, the player who managed to gather the most prestige wins.
Sobek is an elegant card game of Egyptian commerce, which offers many interesting options and decision for this simple and little game. Three rounds are just that quick, that you do not have a change to get bored and retain same chances for everybody, when it comes to dealt initial cards.
Players own decisions affect what cards they take and when to play the set instead. Of course, if two players fight for the same goods at the same time, interesting and exciting situations arise from this conflict.
Scoring system is very elegant and can be described simply as “every card counts.” It is still necessary to have priorities in mind and try to get the most valuable cards at the expense of less valuable. You can alter the course of taking cards, when taking another action – this is crucial. All players are also significantly affected by playing characters and evaluating events. You can seek certain events, because you can see the top of them, thus hasten playing your set. On the contrary, when it comes to characters, you never know, who will you get. On the other hand, even the not-so-good character can be used in two ways.
According to box, the game is designed for players at least thirteen years old. We recognize that it is quite hard in tactics, but we had no problem playing a game with eleven-year child. Although it takes some time before they get to know all options of play, finally everything is logical and simple, so you will learn them the game without much effort. And children enjoy it.
Sobek offers beautiful processing from the card illustrations, very attractive game board and interesting shapes of corruption tokens. Everything revolves around the golden scarab, and everything in the box is suited to this detail. It is obvious, that the authors of the game are perfectionists.
The game is interesting in two, three and four players, although it is always necessary to apply a different strategy. With two you know, that you have a chance to get more cards, while in four, every decision is really important for the outcome. To learn Sobek, we recommend to play it in two player mode, where you get better familiar with the whole tactic.
Sobek is a great card game, that offers plenty of interesting and difficult decisions. There is no round, without tough conclusions, whether to play a card set or draw new card into your hand instead and wait for you rival move. It gets even more difficult, when it comes to corruption and peculiar events and characters. Bottom line is, that the card game Sobek is surprisingly complex and entertaining. That is the precise reason, why we really like it.
+ simple rules
+ three rounds to cope with the chance
+ need to plan ahead
+ beautiful processing of components and box
+ golden scarabs are currency
+ original awarding of victory points
- variability is only through different card draws every turn