We have a few games that feature sheep now, though none yet have really caught Miss B’s imagination. Here’s another one, though: Te Kuiti is brand new and shiny, comes in a smallish box, and was sent to us by one of the designers, who thought we might like to take a look at it. Miss B was at first a little sceptical, but gave it a go anyway.
The game is a straight two-player game (though there are rules for a solitaire variant), but is interesting in that it involves the two players playing in completely different ways. The game is set up with a set of twenty-five tiles arranged face-down in a five-by-five square. One of the players, taking the part of the sheep, plays the classic game of “memory”, turning over two tiles at a time, and if both depict the same sheep, that pair is claimed into a scoring pile. What makes it interesting is that the other player is the shepherd, and lays wooden “fence” sections between the tiles and, if one or more tiles become completely surrounded by fences, the sheep player may no longer turn them over, and instead they score points for the shepherd. There are a few special tiles that allow for extra adding and removal of fences, and that’s it. The idea is that you play two rounds, so each player plays each role once, and then add scores up across the two rounds to find a winner.
On a personal level, I love the concept of this game: mashing together a couple of ancient games that most “gamers” would find dull (memory and boxes) and making something new from them. I’m also pleased to report that we both enjoyed the game rather more than we expected. After completing our first play, Miss B’s initial reaction was, “That was fun, can we play again?” I think it helped that she wiped the floor with me first time, but apart from that the game plays smoothly, and both players can see clearly what they are trying to do. The “ram” and “shepherd” tiles, which allow removing and adding extra fences respectively, are just enough chaos to mix things up and give you something to hope for if things are going badly for you.
So, we have another winner here. And if we take the game out of its box, the tiles and fences will fit into a small bag, so I think it will make it into this summer’s Compact Travelling Games Cupboard of Doom and maybe get some extra plays while we are on the move.
Incidentally, in case you are as uninformed as I was, Te Kuiti is a place in New Zealand, where they have a lot of sheep.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 8½): “It’s obviously a thumbs up from me because we’ve played it more times since it came than we often play games that we’ve had a longer time. I’d recommend it to people who like memory games.”
The game: Te Kuiti (Ludically), 1 to 2 players aged 6+.