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Why can’t they jump over the fences?

April 11, 2013

I only heard about Sheepland a couple of weeks or so ago. It looked cute, so I checked out some reviews and had a look at the rulebook. Simple rules, what looked like the need for a bit of thinking, plus (and this was the clincher) sheeples! (Sheep meeples, right?) So I had an opportunity to pick up a copy at TringCon over the weekend and did so.

The black sheep ambles its random way down from the mountains.

The black sheep ambles its random way down from the mountains.

Basically the game starts with a bunch of sheep distributed evenly around a map and you move shepherds around to build fences and manoeuvre sheep into fields of a terrain type that you favour, until you score points by counting up the terrain tiles that you have collected during play (and the one you had to start with) and the sheep in the different terrains to get your final score.  Oh, and one of the sheep, the wilful black sheep, wanders randomly around the board.

We set up the game and off we went.  Miss B had a little difficulty with the rule that in a two-player game you have two shepherds each but you are only allowed to use one of them on each turn.  Maybe we shouldn’t have bothered with that restriction, but lately we have been almost always been playing with “proper” rules unless they massively complicate things.  We got about two thirds of the way through when Miss B announced that she was fed up and didn’t want to carry on.

So we called off the game and had a chat about this.  What Miss B told me was essentially that she had problems with the theme: if you were a shepherd, surely you would go into the fields to round up the sheep and not just walk up and down on the roads. She has a point here, though in other games we have played similar thematic issues have not proven to be a problem. I suspect this may have been her trying to express a general dissatisfaction with the game and reaching for the first explanation that made sense to her. Either way, though, this is the most surprising failure we have had yet.

For what it’s worth, though, I quite like Sheepland. I’m planning to take it into work as it could be a good little lunchtime game.

The verdict from Miss B (aged 6¼): “I don’t like it because it didn’t make sense as much as other games that I’ve played because the shepherds can’t go into the fields and the sheep can’t go onto the roads and usually the shepherds go into the fields as well as the sheep.”

The game: Sheepland (Cranio Creations), 2 to 4 players, aged 8+.

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