Sheep Hustler review
Score : 9 (for kids)
Quick and easy to play
Light on take that mechanics
Great to play with kids but little appeal to adults outside of that
I had herded three of the four sheep I needed back in their pen, and had a sheepdog ready to round up the last. The only trouble was, I didn't know where that last sheep was. I hadn't seen it in the discard pile, so either it was still to come, or one of the other farmers was holding it. I knew one opponent had been asking for another type of sheep, so that left two likely candidates. I picked one and sent the sheepdog off to try and find my final sheep...
Sheep hustler is a light card game aimed at kids where you play shepherds trying to get their sheep back to their pens the quickest. The majority of sheep are numbered one to four of various colours. Everyone starts the game with two face up cards (the paddock) and four cards in their hand (the flock). You can swap these cards at any time. The aim is to have four sheep (all the same number, all same coloured numbered one to four, all different colours numbered one to four or alternating sheep of two colours numbered to one to four) contained in a paddock with two wooden fences keeping them in.
Each turn sees you either discarding cards (from paddock or flock) and picking up replacement cards from the draw pile, playing a sheepdog (which can request a card of a certain number or colour from an opponent) or playing one of the special cards, such as the wolf or metal fence. These are limited, with only one of each type, but allow you to force every opponent to discard a sheep, discard one of their fences, look at another players hand and take a card or make everyone pass one card to the next player. Players always draw cards immediately so they have four cards in their flock, and after taking one action, it moves on to the next player, unless someone has won at that point. The winner receives a little sheep as a victory token, and then another game will start until all the sheep have been won, with the player who has the most being declared the winner.
This is definitely a game aimed at kids. The player turns are extremely quick, taking a matter of seconds with a limited range of actions to take. Whilst there is a small element of take-that with the special cards, these are few and far between, and with players immediately replacing discarded cards, aren't too harmful. There is a beginner rule too which allows players to pick any card they want from the discard pile with a sheepdog, which can quicken the game substantially and give younger kids an advantage. The theme is strong and works well with the game, which reminds us of both Happy Families and Rummy, games from our past. As with those games, there is a strong element of luck involved, particularly as you have to decide to discard cards (and which ones) before picking up new ones.
We would recommend this if you have younger kids, and is a great game to play with your family where everyone will have a fun time, win or lose. Outside of that though we can't see it having any appeal with purely adult gamers but that is clearly not the target audience. This is due to launch on Kickstarter in November.
Note this review copy was provided free of charge by MAD Games Ltd.
Publisher: MAD Games Ltd
Designer: James Hitchings
Number of players: 2 - 6
Play Time: 15 - 45 minutes
RRP: Kickstarter coming November