Starting from 2005 Fragor release Sheer Panic down to Agricola sheep seems to be of great interest for game designers. Many small publishers but also big publishers like LEGO and Fantasy Flight Games released sheep themed games: Shave a Sheep, published in 2010 and Reiner Knizia’s Black Sheep, published in 2008.
Cranio Creations have used us to fairly unusual games with something “partish” from their first hit Horse Fever down to last year superbus Dungeon Fighter. So, what will be in Sheepland box painted with the usual mastery of Giulia Ghigini ?
Sheepland is actually a really good, solid and classical Euro games for 2-4 player that can be easily played in 30-45 minutes and, as far as I can say after my first 4 sessions, a good replaybility.
The designers, Simone Luciani and Danliele Tascini, are gamers deeply absorbed in the Italian gamers world and are also responsible for one of Czech Games Edition‘s new Essen games, Tzolkin: The Mayan Calendar (formerly known as Mayan Ages), that seems to have caught the attention of several gamers so far.
While inexplicably working in the same field, two to four shepherds try to move sheep into the right areas to score points. Players don’t own specific area on the map but, during the game, will buy terrain tiles (something really close to company shares) that will score according to the number of sheep ending in that terrain. That means that if you want to score with the forests you have to try to buy as much forests tiles as possible and move as many sheep as possible on forest: one point for tile for each sheep on the right terrain. Six different terrain types are available, with five tiles of each type with increasing costs (from 0 to 4 dinars) on those tiles. 18 regions on the map: 3 for each of the 6 terrain type.
During a turn, you must take three actions, chosen from these possibilities:
• Move your shepherd
• Move one sheep
• Buy one terrain tile
You must move your shepherd at least once during your turn, and you can’t take the same action twice in a row without moving the shepherd between. Numbered spaces lie along the roads, with each space between exactly two regions. Shepherds move from one to another. Moving from one numbered space to the next one is free. Moving to any other space will cost 1 coin. You will start with 20 coins and since coins are points in the end jumping too much could be expensive.
When you move a sheep, you move one sheep from a region adjacent to your shepherd to the other region adjacent to that piece.
When you buy a terrain, you can purchase the top tile of either of the two terrain types next to your shepherd.
Everything will happen only close to your shepherd.
The great idea of this game is that each time you move the shepherd, you place a fence in the numbered space from which started moving, making it inaccessible for everyone (including you) for the rest of the game. Fences are anonymous. What actually will happen is that during the game some regions become inaccessible, and if they are full of sheep, naturally there’s a rush for the tiles of this kind of terrain that will bring certain points.
The lone black sheep in the game, which is worth two points, serves as a semi-random element, possibly moving to an adjacent region each turn while still being movable by shepherds. In the beginning of the turn you have to roll a single die and move the black sheep to the region on the other side of the corresponding numbered space if it is not fenced.
After twenty fences have been placed, you end the round so that all players have the same number of turns (using special “final fences”), then you count up the points.
What I really liked of this game is how the value of the different terrain type will change during the game. The game start with 1 sheep in every region and the black sheep in the central town. Every player also take a secret tile (there are 6 secret tiles, one for each terrain) that will provide the usual secret final scoring. This introduce a little bluff component trying to keep your plans secret.
According to my preview sessions the game is funny and tense, playable in no more than 40 minutes and really challenging. It is better to rush for a single type of terrain or try to be balanced ? It depends what other players are doing. Running alone against all the other is not easy but of course you have to look what other players are scoring and remember which tiles other players have bought (once bought the tiles are placed face down in front of you).
The two player game is slightly different: you will use 2 shepherds each and during your turn you have to decide which one move and use. The game is much more tactical since you can really know which tiles your opponent have and what he/she is scoring (apart for the secret initial tile).
I think this game will be well appreciated both by gamers used to like euro games and by occasional/families.
Ratings Summary from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it!…
I like it… Andrea “Liga” Ligabue
Not for me…