The Judge returns! Everyone’s favourite gamer/pro wrestler (seriously) has been looking at beasts of an ovine nature (sheep to you and me) in one of Cranio Creations’ latest releases. Beware – this is a pun-filled extravaganza.
Much of your first impression of Sheepland (the new strategy board game by Cranio Creations) are gained through the bold, cartoony sheep artwork, the cool looking chunky wooden ‘Sheeples’ and an early note in the very clear, full colour instruction manual – under the ‘Set-Up’ section.
“The most recent player to caress a sheep is the First Player and takes the First Player token.”
So this is going to be a light, quick game – suitable for children – but with not ‘enough’ to engage the serious board gamers amongst us, right? WRONG! Sheepland is a proper strategic and tactical challenge with some nice player interaction and a little luck. In fact, this is one of the most thought provoking and fun thirty minutes of gaming I’ve played in ages.
Thematically, the players adopt the role of shepherds coaxing their sheep from pasture to hill to forest, towards the lands that they ‘own’ with the intention of setting up end game scoring. The lands are split up into 5 different terrain types and each player is given a random, secret starting tile related to one of these terrains. Each player will therefore score $1 at end game for each sheep located in that terrain type.
Going round in order from the first player (the now famous sheep caresser), each shepherd spends three action points to move around the board, laying sheep-blocking fences as they go, luring sheep from one adjacent region to another and purchasing additional scoring tiles.
Anything else? Well, the mysterious ‘Black Sheep’ (worth two points at the end of the game) randomly travels around the board via dice roll, but that’s pretty much it rules-wise. So does very simple to understand equate to a simple game? Like the sheep in wolf’s clothing, there is depth in them thar flocks… (too many metaphors? OK, I’ll move on.)
Why is this game really cool? Well, firstly it’s very short. The stack of 20 fence tokens is a timer – so every Shepherd movement (of which there MUST be at least one per turn) counts down towards end-game. This heightens every move you make and allows players to control the pace of play. Should you push the end game? Am I in a winning position? Have I bleaten the competition? Also, as money (including starting money) means victory points, ewe have to make a judgement call every time you pay – either to buy a tile or move your shepherd. Is it worth it?
Components are great – chunky wooden sheep shuffling across the board give an instant overview of which region is doing baaticularly well. The brightly coloured board is also very clear and nicely designed.
Any negatives? Well, perhaps players who suffer from crippling analysis paralysis should be avoided as these seemingly simple decisions have broad ramifications – but that applies to most real life situations beyond sheep-herding board games. Sheepland will be travelling with me to all of my game nights over the next few months as a perfect filler title and it’s also something I would happily play three to four times in a row to explore different strategies.
This has flown somewhat under the radar since its release and the game deserves a big audience. Wool you enjoy it? I certainly think so.
PLEASE NOTE: Puns are the funniest form of comedy and anyone who disagrees is wrong.
Sheepland is a Cranio Creations production and was released in 2012. Designed by Simone Luciani and Daniele Tascini, between two and four players can get involved with games taking around thirty minutes. If you’re after a copy, expect to pay between £25 and £30.