Exploit the market to earn your riches and win the game!
Catch Up Games
Note: Hachette Board Games sent us a copy of Sobek so that we could write this unbiased review
Work has begun on a temple dedicated to Sobek. A nearby market is supplied with a variety of goods which you and the other player must take advantage of. Beware of becoming too greedy though, as too much corruption will see you punished at the end of the game.
Sobek: 2 players is a new version of the original 4 player game that came out in 2010, and as a couple who love two player games, we were super excited to give this a try! It involves travelling through the market selecting goods tiles which will later be traded for points. Take advantage of wild goods tiles and the various characters who can aid you along the way and become the richest player and win the game.
How the game works
The aim of the game is to score the most points, which are earned in a variety of ways. Most of your points will come through selling goods from the marketplace, but you can earn them in other ways too. The marketplace is full of goods tiles of various commodities (such as fish, gems, cattle and charcoal) and characters, which players collect into their hand and later sell the goods and activate the characters to earn points.
Players take it in turns taking one of three actions:
- Move the Ankh and take a goods tile from the market. Most of your actions will involve moving the Ankh in the direction it is pointing to an available tile and taking that tile into your hand. You can take any tile that the Ankh is pointing at, but if you want to pass over tiles to get a better one, this can cost you later on. There is no hand limit for the number of tiles you collect.
- Sell a set of tiles. When you take the sell action, you place 3 or more tiles of the same commodity in front of you. At the end of the game, for each commodity you’ll score points for the number of tiles multiplied by the number of scarab symbols across all tiles in the group. For example if i had traded 6 fish tiles with a total of 4 scarab symbols, that set would earn me 24 points at the end of the game. The first five times anybody sells goods they earn a special token which gifts them an extra bonus (e.g. extra points or another turn).
- Activate a character. Not all of the tiles in the market are goods tiles. There are face-down character tiles, each of which have a special ability and belong to one of the commodities. You can choose to use the character as part of the commodity when trading it (e.g. you could use Scribe instead of a fish tile), but most of the time you would use the characters’ abilities. Some allow you to trade more tiles, take more tiles, gain more points etc., and they can really swing the game in your favour if you use them wisely.
Once the Ankh is not facing any tiles in the market, it is refilled and play begins again. This will happen until there are no more tiles to replenish the market, which triggers the end of the game.
Every tile you pass over with the Ankh to grab the one you want will be removed from the market and placed in your corruption pile. Whoever is the least corrupt at the end of the game will gain a bonus, so try and pick tiles close to you if possible, or if it benefits you to remove a tile that your opponent wants by passing over it, it may be worth it!
Once the game is over, players calculate their score by adding up their points from sold goods, plus any points tokens accumulated and the winner is declared. I have played Jess four times now and lost every time!
I think Sobek will become an incredibly popular 2 player game. Just as Jaipur, 7 Wonders Duel, Patchwork and Star Realms are raved about as perfect head-to-head games, Sobek is right up there in my opinion, for very simple reasons.
It’s so easy to learn, meaning it’s super accessible to new gamers, but there’s also easily enough strategy for the experienced gamers to get their teeth into. So much is determined by the position and direction of the Ankh that you can end up sacrificing your own points to protect the more valuable tiles from your opponent’s reach. That mechanism reminded me a lot of Game of Thrones: Hand of the King which is another quick game I love (Jess hates it because I always win).
There’s also some tricky decisions to be made with regards to the character tiles. It can be so tempting to use them as a goods tile because it can be tricky to get 3 of the same to sell, but then their effects as characters can be so telling on the game that you’ll want to avoid that if at all possible. Also, some of the commodity tokens have coin symbols on, which allow the player to discard the tile in exchange for a Deben token which can is worth anything between 3 and 9 points (3 knowing my luck and 9 knowing Jess’s).
It’s got plenty of replayability since the market layout will be different every time you play, some goods and characters won’t be reached at all throughout the game and remember every tile you pass over with the Ankh will be taken into your own stash face down so you won’t even get to use those.
It’s very very quick as well, especially once you’ve played it a few times. The first few times you’re still getting used to what options you have available but after that you should be able to get through a game in 20 minutes. Like I said, perfect for the speedy two player game. There is however a bit of set up required as the market tiles are set up in a specific order.
Looks are important to us too and whilst it’s not the most spectacular game to look at, the artwork fits beautifully with the theme and all the components are very well made. My one small gripe would be that they’ve opted to make each of the goods tiles unique, for example all the marble tiles look slightly different, all of the fish tiles are slightly different etc., which can be quite confusing to new players who may not immediately notice they’re part of the same commodity (I’m looking at you Dad).
Overall though it’s a fantastic game. Simple, quick, really fun and lots of replayability. One we have found ourselves reaching for many times already.
So there you have it, Sobek for two players. I’d say if you enjoy playing simple yet strategic 2 player games that look good and play in under half an hour, this is a must-have.
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