Sindbad:  review

Published by Flying Turtle Games, 1989 (first available in USA in 1992).
Designed by E. Duchatel, J.P. Postel & J.H. Vanaise.
These notes Copyright 1992, 1997 by Steffan O'Sullivan.
Article published at Steffan O'Sullivan's Home Page


Sindbad is a fun game for families that like to play together, kids and adults. While the youngest age listed on the box is 10, children as young as six can also play if coached by parents. The game does a good job with the family market, but can even withstand repeated playing purely among adults, if you pull it out only once in a while. It's for two to five players.

 The components range from the beautifully done board and cards to rather cheap plastic pieces used for diamonds, pearls, and so on. The cards are especially nice, and lend themselves well to a storytelling variant for parents who wish to encourage creativity and expression in their children.

 The setting is a mythical Arabia of roughly a thousand years ago. The players are merchant sea captains, setting off into unknown lands to win fame and fortune. There are unexplored islands, where you can win or lose treasure - or even your life! - and safe ports where you can buy amber, diamonds and ivory cheap. You can also recount your adventures at these far-off ports, being rewarded with more treasure. Occasionally you will encounter monsters and pirates, and will have to fight them. The penalty for poor fighting is severe, but the reward for doing well is great: 250,000 miskhals, one quarter of the amount needed to win the game - if you can get them back home to claim the reward . . .

 You also can find the hidden pirate treasure trove, or thieves' cavern, where you can collect whatever loot may have been stolen from any of the players earlier in the game. Finally, you journey through the known lands on the way back to your home port, where you can bank your loot before setting off again.

 The game mechanics are very well done: each time you land on a space, you draw a green card (in the Unknown lands) or a yellow card (in the Known lands). A picture of an event is shown, plus a pictograph telling the result of the encounter. This can range from finding treasure, to risking your life to gain treasure, to being blown off course, to losing treasure, to trading, to getting or losing another turn, etc., etc. Young children can especially enjoy a dramatic explanation of the picture on the card, and will imitate however their parents react to the cards. (I've heard one parent do a boring, "Oh, I get a free diamond," while another, getting the same card in a different game, came out with, "While exploring some wild and remote hills, I stumbled across the nest of a giant Roc! Carefully looking around to be sure the enormous, man-eating bird was gone, I looked in the nest and, to my amazement, found a diamond! I quickly grabbed it and ran back to my ship before the bird could return.")

 You keep green cards that you draw, and each one has a number on it. These can later be used to move exactly where you want to go, or played in an encounter instead of rolling a die, or used to pirate loot away from other players! Card play is the heart of the game for adults - the rest of the game is primarily luck.

 The earlier part of the game is one of great risk-taking, when you have little to lose. ("Death" in this game means you lose all your money, treasure and cards and start over as a different merchant.) Later in the game, most players have a large hand built up to get them through dangerous situations. Of course, someone may use their cards to steal your treasure, but they have to discard any cards so played, and become vulnerable to other piratical actions themselves . . .

 All in all, a fun family game. Adults will pick up the nuances of the card play quickly, while children take a while to learn that part of the game. It's okay - adults can play cards against each other, and go easier on their younger counterparts until they see enough card play in action to do it themselves. I've found that an adult can also act as a game master instead of player, and take the role of whatever it is the sea merchants encounter. I've acted out the Roc swooping down on the unfortunate adventurer, played the appreciative audience at the bazaar, and assumed the part of the pickpocket who stole their purse - and the players loved it!

 Recommended, especially if you have children. 


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