Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Space Sheep!

Space Sheep!
Designed by Anthony Rubbo
Published by Stronghold Games
1 to 8 Players
20 to 30 Minutes
A Cooperative (w/ Traitor Variant) Puzzle Game

Background / Introduction
Like most people, I really enjoy Star Wars. So, when I see a game like Space Sheep for the first time, I'm already intrigued. A really smart move by either the game designer or the game's publisher, the parody on Star Wars really is an eye catcher. The artwork is even really cool. The actual game however is at its heart an abstract puzzle game. If you enjoy doing some sort of puzzle (let that be Sudoku, KENKEN, Rubik's Cube, or a good old fashioned riddle) I think that you will enjoy Space Sheep! Now, that isn't to say that if you don't like any of those puzzles, you won't like this game at all - you still may enjoy Space Sheep! But, if you enjoy those puzzles, I really think you will enjoy this interesting take on a cooperative puzzle game.

Components / Rule Book
Stronghold Games does a fantastic job with the components of this game. My only experience with Stronghold Games up until this point was with Little Devils and Crazy Creatures of Doctor Gloom. Not much to judge component wise as those are both light card games. With Space Sheep - an entirely different saga. This game is chalk full of great quality stuff. The game includes 8 sets of giant sized meeples in the shape of sheep and ships (a Millennium Falcon sort of shape) and a wolf silhouette meeple too. The game has 9 home planet mats and 23 different instruction tiles with 32 different colored chits to vary each instruction tile every time. The game also includes a cloth bag for randomization, a one-minute sandtimer, an eight-sided die, 90 tactics cards, 4 wolf strength tiles, and a few other cards and of course the rule book.

That is a lot of good stuff and all of it really contributes to the variability and customization of the game. The rule book is OK. There are some pictures included that help with visually learning the game and in all honesty, the game is pretty straight forward to learn. Now, that being said, there may be some confusion when first trying to grasp the game. This is easily remedied by reading the Strategic Space Sheep Commander Training Manual or watching a few of the videos on Board Game Geek (or my video found below). This will present the material to you so that you may understand it a bit better. If you are like me, it is really nice to see something played first before trying it yourself.

Gameplay and Thoughts
Swapping pieces around strategically to get all of the colors matching may sound like an easy task, but that can readily become very challenging when you have the wolf at your heels! I highly recommend playing the game at least once or twice through without the timing element of the attacking wolf. This allows players to get a feel of the mechanics of the game. Not too difficult: play a tactics card and move the ship of that color clockwise one space (swapping ships with that mat), play a tactics card and utilize the Instruction Tile on that colored mat/planet, or discard a card. The player then draws a new tactics card. What makes the game challenging is the different combinations of Instruction Tiles used in the game. This is the only way you can move your sheep around the board. If you have the same colored sheep and ship together you can move both of them using the Instruction Tile or you pick either the ship or the sheep and move them accordingly.

It is really interesting because in a lot of cases, these instructions will change how you can move pieces around the board depending on where the pieces are (or where they are in relationship to the other pieces). There is a lot of strategy to how you move everything around, and once you add the timing element of the wolf, you loose your precious time to think out 10 steps ahead and you must try and figure out what will work best for you with only a few steps in mind. You will also need to communicate with your partners so that you can work well as a unified flock of amazingness. Only then will you escape the grasp of the wolf and be victorious. Players win when all the sheep/ships of each color match on the corresponding color. The players lose when all the tactics cards run out.

Space Sheep is built such that it provides players many different ways to customize the game to their liking and change the difficulty. You can start of easy peasy with just a few colors, basic Instruction Tiles, lots of tactics cards, and a wolf with a little bit...then you can move up adding more colors, more intricate Instructions, remove some tactics cards, and make it so that just one attack from the wolf ends the game! I think Space Sheep successfully provides easy difficulty levels (especially without the timer) to extremely difficult and challenging. You can even add in a traitor element where you hand out secret roles and you play with some players actually trying to help the wolf and keep you from winning.

I am just amazed by how this game can be so different each time with the same game mechanics. Huge variability and customization - that is what makes this game great. Is it dripping with theme and related to Star Wars at all - not really, but it provides the players with a unique gaming experience that I have never experienced before and it provides ways to constantly change the game and continually challenge yourself. This game will stretch your mind and thought process. Space Sheep is an enjoyable game that will help you stretch and improve your thought process and decision making skills and with customization/variability out of this world, I think Space Sheep will provide you with a fun and unique puzzle solving experience and that is How Lou Sees It!

A big SHOUT OUT to Stronghold Games for providing this review copy of Space Sheep and making this review possible.

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