What word begins with an S, ends with an X, has three letters, the middle of which is a vowel and it's better when there are two? Exactly, SOX! Alas, when I suggested this to inventor/publisher Günter Cornett this game had already gone to print and it was too late. That's too bad because "Sox in the City" is a 2-player game about connecting up sundered socks via the rail stations of Berlin.
When you have played TransAmerica as many times as I have (over two hundred at last count), you may find yourself contemplating the rail network players have built and wondering whether it is anything like the most efficient possible. Of course, because of the differing player goals, it never is, but its that exact problem that is at the heart of this design. On a hexagonal, modular board which is different every time, 6 pairs of socks are distributed and players race to link each of them. The fact that only one player controls each link makes it more difficult, but the fact that several stations are already connected by neutral links lightens the task.
While play looks simple, this is deceptive as good play requires considerable board analysis to determine the likeliest possible, as well as re-usable, paths. Once play begins, the strategic gives way somewhat to the tactical as there are corner cases when it's a good idea to block the opponent, although often this can at best merely delay. It's better to play positively in general. Identifying the important already connected stations and linking to them is recommended and after that, it's often a good idea to build out from end points as these are the most likely chokepoints. Socks themselves constitute barriers against joining other socks and so must also be reckoned with.
Often games seem to end with each player having connected three pairs, victory going to the one with the most widely separated ones. For this reason players might want to give these socks first priority. Of course, ambiguous plays that could serve multiple purposes as well as keep the opponent guessing are always a good idea. The ability to count well and determine whether a project is still worth pursuing or constitutes a lost cause is also important. It does seem slightly advantageous to go first and the evenly-matched might consider a switchback start as variant.
Production is fine, though rather unusual. Rather than a box, everything comes in a red felt sock, such as one might hang on the mantle at yuletide. The board pieces are not single hexagons, but four joined together in that same sock-like shape. The only complaint here might be that the sock tokens are a little bit hard to see sometimes and three-dimensional cubes or pawns might have been easier to use, if less atmospheric.
The hexes all feature photos from around Berlin and this is kind of a love letter to the home city of publisher Bambusspiele. It's strange though that one station is called "Under the Lime Trees" when its German name is one of a handful of German expressions actually recognized by most foreigners: "Under den Linden". Several of the station namess seem to be inside jokes appreciable only by Berliners.
There is no luck here. Players who don't mind a strongly abstract feel and like to try out their intuition should find this a worthy test.
Strategy: High; Theme: Low; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Medium"
Review by Rick Heli: spotlightongames.com/list/nights/sk.html#socks at spotlightongames.com
Bambus Spieleverlag Günter Cornett | Kopfstraße 43 | D-12053 Berlin
Phone/Fax: +49-30-6121884 firstname.lastname@example.org