Battle Sheep is a fun abstract game of adorable sheep in a cutthroat situation to control of the pasture.
Total Game Time: 15-30 minutes
Designer(s): Francesco Rotta
Artist(s): Andrea Femerstrand
Publisher: Blue Orange Games
After making this game out of cookies, it seems only right to give Battle Sheep a board game spotlight! Battle Sheep is a great abstract game that has a cute theme and can be absolutely brutal in it’s playstyle. Stacks of sheep roam the fields and take over the pasture, spreading out as far as they can while blocking in their opponents. This game is fast paced, easy to learn and play, and great for gamers of any experience!
This is a general overview to provide context for the review, not an in-depth how to play. Some rules may be glossed over or missing.
Battle Sheep is an abstract game for 2 to 4 players. In this competitive game, the players will control the field to conquer the most and come out on top.
I adore player driven games and Battle Sheep absolutely falls into that category. After setting up the game, battle sheep looks like a sweet game. But then the bloodshed begins. And it’s not obvious. Which makes it worse. But the game only lasts 15 to 30 minutes so multiple games can be played!
The game flows around the table with every player taking a turn in a clockwise order. The only randomized part of this game is deciding on who goes first.
Even the setup for Battle Sheep has decisions! Every player will receive four tiles of four hexes to begin the game. Starting with the first player, each player will place one board and attach it to at least one edge of another board. This will create the field of play and is an extremely important step. A player might be able to make an island which can be a massive benefit to them so it’s important to make sure no one player is at a great advantage from the original placements.
Each player will then place their stack of 16 sheep along one spot on the edge of the board. The only rule for the initial placement is that it needs to be on the outside perimeter. A hole that was created on the inside of the map does not count as an outside perimeter.
A player will make one move on their turn. The first part of their move is splitting one of the stacks of sheep into two stacks. Each stack can contain as many sheep as long as each stack contain one sheep. The new stack is moved in one direction across the board as far as it possibly can move.
And that’s it! Your stack of sheep will split and zig zag across the board spreading out and taking over as much space as possible. It’s interesting to think that once you place a stack into a space, one sheep from that stack will always stay there. Moving stacks can also block in other stacks which will be important when it comes to end game scoring.
The game will end when all players can no longer move any of their sheep. Either they’ve been blocked in or they have spread out completely. The winner will be whoever occupies the most pasture spaces. Or, the way I like to think about it. Remove pieces that are in a stack over one, leaving one piece behind. The player with the lowest score is the winner!
But in a game like this, it can be easy to tie if two players didn’t interact heavily with each other. The winner in this situation is whoever has the longest chain of connect spaces, or largest herd of adjacent sheep.
Who Will Like it?
Battle Sheep is great for those who love spatial puzzles and interactive games. This is a game about managing negative space in a way that won’t hurt your head. Well, not too much anyway. Battle Sheep is very light in rules and is a great for gamers of any experience.
What I Think
Battle Sheep is a game that fits right up my alley because it is player driven and has nothing but meaningful choices.
What did I Like?
I love how aggressive this game is despites it’s cute, almost child oriented, imagery. You can find yourself trapped with one wrong move or regretting taking sheep that you now wish had been left behind. I love games with meaningful decisions and those decisions start right from set-up.
What didn’t I Like?
One bad move can end your game. You can very quickly get a large stack locked up in a corner if you’re not careful. The first game can be a hard learning curve because even though the rules are simple, working in negative space doesn’t show the obvious moves or strategy.
I love games that take advantage of the negative space and make player think about the domino effects of their actions. It’s always important to think can one player block me in? What if two players work together? And will that benefit both players? There are so many questions to ask when playing which make the game go to the next level.
Rulebook/Learning the Game
The rulebook is relatively simple and offers good examples of how the game is played. It’s easy to learn and easy to read. Learning the game takes only a few minute which scales well with the time it takes to play the game.
The first play I did was disastrous for me because I did not see the ramifications of my own actions. And I quickly became trapped, but it was a great learning experience. And I didn’t have to sit there too long in a losing position because the game was so short!
I found the subsequent plays to be more interesting because I kept finding surprises in strategies. There is no plan you can make and follow. Other players will get in the way. They always do. I also found how important the map is to play the game. Making a corridor with a one space opening can give a player a massive advantage. The map should be large and robust.
I enjoy this game quite a lot but there are other games that will burn my mind more when engaging with negative space, like Fresh Fish. But I wouldn’t say no to a game of Battle Sheep.
*See my rating scale Here