Can you master a corrupt market?

Sobek is a card game designed by Bruno Cathala that features some wonderful illustrations by Mathieu Beaulieu. The game is for 2 to 4 players and should take approximately 45 minutes. The recommended player age is 13 or older, but I think that’s a bit high. I think 10 or older is a better guideline. Sobek is published by Game Works.

In the small box, you will a gameboard, 4 scoring markers, 12 event tokens, 4 corruption tiles, 54 goods cards, and 9 character cards. I classify Sobek as a card game because that is the primary component. The gameboard and the tiles are related to scoring, and are not pieces that really impact play.

Players start the game with a set of two goods cards. In Sobek, players try and form sets of the same goods in order to score points. The real challenge is how you acquire those cards.

The game takes place over three rounds. In a round, players will see a group of 9 cards arranged along the length of the gameboard. Those cards that are goods have tan or green backs and will be placed face up. Character cards have an orange back and will be placed face down. Cards are not replaced from the deck until the last card is taken. Once the deck has been depleted, the round is over. Simple right? Not so much.

A player has three possible actions on a turn.

  1. Take a card.
  2. Play a character.
  3. Play a set.

The first four cards are available to a player on his or her turn; however, a player may only take one card. If you choose to skip past any cards that are available to you, you must place those cards that you skipped into your corruption pile. This is usually bad because at the end of the round, when scoring takes place, the player with the most cards in their corruption pile will take a significant penalty. So if you take the third card of the four available to you, then you will place two cards in your corruption pile.

A player may also choose to play a character card. These cards can be used as a particular good, or they can have a special effect, like stealing a card from another player or drawing extra cards from the deck.

A player may also choose to play a set of three or more cards of the same type. These will score points at the end of the round based on the number of scarabs visible times the number of cards in the set. You can also add cards to an already existing set as long as you add three new cards of the same type.  When a player plays a set, they may choose an event token, if any still remain. These event tokens allow players special actions and scoring opportunities, and encourage players to not wait too long to play their sets.

Sobek by Game Works
Can you believe this box insert?

There are a few things that make this game a real winner for me. First of all, I love it when you get a lot of game in a small box and the quality of the cards and components is top notch. In fact, this has one of the best box inserts you will see in a small box game. I also appreciate a game that features a simple game mechanism like set collection, and tweaks it just enough to make it unique. Players have to make some tough decisions when the available cards start to get to the end, or if a goods card with two or three amulets becomes available if you are willing to take some corruption. Finally, the illustrations by Mathieu Beaulieu add a bit of fun. I know they are cartoon-like in style, but they are very expressive and fit the overall tone of play.

I like Sobek a lot, and I play it fairly often. Most of those plays are online at, but I am always happy to get out my physical copy of the game. Find a copy at your local game store, if you have a good one like I do, or you can pick up a copy at (Remember, if you order anything through my affiliate link, then I get a small commission at no additional cost to you. I eventually use that commission to buy more games and write more reviews!)

3 thoughts on “Sobek”

  1. I picked this up a while back based solely on the art. It certainly didn’t hurt that the box had Bruno Cathala’s name on it. At least I took that as pretty good assurance that the game wouldn’t be a complete turd. And hey, I was right!

    Check out Morels if you like Sobek. It’s got a similar card collecting mechanism, and adds some neat twists while cleaning up scoring.

  2. This is a little silly, but now I’ve been paying attention to Game Works because of their box inserts! Not ONLY that, but it shows an attention to detail & quality that I admire. Like Greg Wilzbach recommended elsewhere, Jaipur is another of their hits, and so is Animalia. I wasn’t a fan of Tikal II (or original Tikal), but at least the insert was great. 🙂

    1. I don’t think it’s silly. I just bought Tschak! I haven’t played it yet, but the box insert has a cool tentacle monster built into it. I didn’t realize Animalia was one of theirs. I love that one. I want the deluxe version of that one. I have the regular card box version.

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