Number of Players: 2-4
Year of Publication: 1999
Creator(s): Gunter Baars (designer) and Chris Mitchell (artist)
Can you fathom the riddle of the Sphinx?
Sphinx is a simple game for kids which incorporates the popular mythological creature. The Sphinx is a widely recognize creature; a lion with the head of a man. The most famous Sphinx in the world is the Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt, which stands near the Great Pyramids of Giza on the west bank of the Nile. In popular mythology the Sphinx is a wise being which often demands the answer to a riddle. when this answer is given incorrectly the Sphinx eats the unfortunate person who couldn’t answer. However, the mini Sphinxes in this game are much less vicious.
What’s In The Box:
- Game board
- 3 6-sided dice, one with a double snake image on one side
- 6 Sphinxes with different coloured bases
- 4 player tokens
- 6 coloured Sphinx cards
- 1 Rule book (not in the picture as someone was reading it at the time)
Playing the Game:
Objective: To collect the right coloured Sphinx cards and present them before the Sphinxes to collect the treasure.
Okay, that’s not a hugely clear way of writing the objective, but that’s why we write the rest of the post!
To begin the game each player chooses a token and places it on the square on the board with an arrow on it. The six Sphinxes are then randomly placed on each of the six squares with a Sphinx image on it. If you’re playing with less than four players you should remove the appropriate number of Sphinx cards from the stack by the side of the board so that there is one for each player. In this game the youngest player starts, and play then continues clockwise round the board.
To begin your turn you roll all three dice. In this game you do not total the number shown on the dice, instead you take each die as an independent section of your turn, in whichever order you choose. If you pass another player you can take a Sphinx card that you need from them. However you cannot take a card that you already have, if a player has Sphinx cards, but you already have all of them, they have to return one to the stack and recollect it.
An interesting thing about this game is the flexibility with which you can take each turn, when you move forward with the number on one die, you can then move backwards using the number on the next die.
Note: you cannot move forward an backward on the same number. For example I couldn’t split a five on one die into two three squares forward, one square back, I would have to move either five squares forward or backwards.
Okay, take this picture as an example of how I might take my turn. Say I’m green and I’ve just rolled a 2, 3 and 5. I could then proceed as follows: I could go forward two squares and collect the beige Sphinx card (to collect a card you can either land on, or pass over the correct square), I could then proceed a further five squares along in the same direction as I was previously going. This would pass me over a mummy hand, doing this means that I can look at the base of any one of the six Sphinxes on the board to know which colour it is. In addition to that, I also have to spin the section of board that I’ve landed on. It’s not clear in this picture, but some of the sections of wall in the maze are small 2×2 square turntables. If a player ends one of their moves on one of theses, they have to rotate it 180 degrees; if another player is on the next square, or the other side of the same wall section, they are also rotated. Lastly I have a 3 to use up, I can then go in whichever direction I choose, three either direction takes me to another turntable.
Oaky, so that’s how you would play a turn. Lastly, there’s a double-snake symbol on one of the sides of one of the dice. When this is rolled the player who rolls it has to swap one of the Sphinx from the center of the board with one of those situated down the right-hand side. When doing this they are not allowed to look at the base of either of the Sphinxes; that can only be done when a player passes over, or lands on a mummy hand.
Winning The Game!
To win the game a player must correctly discover (or guess) the colours and order of the three Sphinxes in the center of the board and proceed to the first Sphinx and present the correctly coloured Sphinx cards.
The optimistic player must then announce to all other players which Sphinx they think has each colour. They then look, without showing any other player what the colours are and announce whether they are right or wrong. If they are right they then show the Sphinx bases to all the other players. If they are wrong they remove their playing piece from the board, and stay quiet whilst everyone else keeps playing. The first player to get to the middle with the right Sphinx cards in the right order wins.
This is a pretty simple game, aimed at kids aged 8+. The only thing I really want to say in terms of strategy is that if you roll a double snake, the best thing to do on that turn is to try and pass over a mummy hand with your other two numbers, before swapping any of the Sphinxes. If you do this then you can look at one of the Sphinxes from the edge of the board, and then move that one into a space in the middle. When you do this you’re actually making it easier for you to win the game as you’ve played a Sphinx that you already know the colour of. Don’t forget that you have to collect Sphinx cards though, I generally try and pass over as many Sphinx cards as possible on my way around the board, as I can then proceed very quickly to the treasure in the middle once I’ve worked out the colours of the Sphinxes.
History and Interesting Things:
- The word Sphinx was derived from the Greek word spingein, meaning to bind or squeeze, by Greek grammarians . However, the etymology of the word is unrelated to the legends that surround the creature, and therefore dubious.
- The earliest Greek author to mention the creature was Hesiod, and he called it Phix.
- The most famous Sphinx legend features the Winged Sphinx of Boeotian Thebes. This Sphinx was said to have terrorized people by demanding the answer to the following riddle, “What has one voice, but becomes four-footed, two-footed and three-footed?” and devouring anyone who answered incorrectly. Upon being given the correct answer: a man who crawls on four legs as an infant, walks on two when grown and leans on a staff in old age, she kills herself. Talk about a drama queen.
- It is from this legend that the belief that Sphinxes are omniscient apparently arose.
- The Great Sphinx of Giza is known by the Arabs as “Father of Terror”.
- Although most images of the Sphinx don’t have enough information with them for their function or symbolism to be known it is generally believed that the Sphinx served a protective function.
- Sphinxes were commonly carved with the heads of pharaohs on them.
Okay, I know this is only seven points, but there’s actually so much that can be read about Sphinxes in different parts of the world, in legend and in artistic representation and interpretation that I can’t go through more of it without my brain turning into jelly!
This game is great. It’s complicated enough to be a challenge; the three-section turn means you have to think a little more tactically that if you simply moved the entire dice roll in one go. But simple enough that you can’t really get into any arguments about the rules or anything like that. It’s also a good memory game for children as in discovering the pattern of colours of the central Sphinxes they have to remember which Sphinx had which colour, and they have to be aware when Sphinxes are moved. This is challenging for children (and some adults) and encourages the development of focus, concentration and the short-term memory.
I rated this five because, in addition to the well-structured nature of the game, the box is also great. Every piece has a place and it’s tidy and efficient.