Anyone who’s watched an episode of Planet Earth should leave with one conclusion: animals are assholes to each other. They only think about themselves, about their most immediate needs, even if that means eating a neighbor alive or driving rivals from land they rightfully occupy. Regardless of personality they just stick to their own kind. It’s a harsh but necessary lesson for all children to learn. But kids can’t get all their information from television, so sometimes we try to teach our child about the horrors of the animal kingdom in other ways. Like through family gaming.
Which is why we love Battle Sheep, part of the Europe Collection by Blue Orange Games. It’s a super fun and easy game to learn, it presents endless possibilities for outcome, and it subtly reinforces some of nature’s most depressing truths.
Have your sheep take over as much grazing real estate as possible, while hopefully forcing your opponent sheep to starve.
How it works
Before play begins you’ll need to set up your pasture by linking 16 identical 4-hex tiles together. Players take turns laying the pieces, which means Battle Sheep has an new playing field every time. It’s a cool feature in our overcrowded cabinet and one that makes every game totally unique.
Once the board has been set up each player takes 16 smooth round sheep-adorned game chips and places them, in a stack, on one space along the edge of the field.
Players take turns moving part or all of their stack in straight lines all the way across the board. You must leave at least one sheep in place whenever you move a stack, and you must move your stack to the opposite edge of the board. In this way, players spread out their sheep to populate the field and also try to block their rivals from expanding their territories. The player who occupies the most tiles at the end wins. Ties are decided by greatest amount of adjacent tiles.
All told it only takes about 15 minutes to play a game. It’s open-ended but leaves nothing to chance. Once you get the hang of it there’s a lot of strategy that goes into making sure you get each of your sheep to some grazing space while trying to find ways to corner your opponent so that they cannot. It’s sort of like a cross between Chinese Checkers and a simple, bucolic version of Risk.
How you win
Battle Sheep is an abstract strategy game, which means you have to think on your feet and respond to the conditions that develop. Ultimately, you’re trying to block your opponents’ sheep without having your own backed into a corner. You certainly don’t want to get stuck with a tall stack surrounded by opponent sheep, so you have to have an eye toward both offense and defense simultaneously. Play around with different configurations as you set up the board, or start your stack in different places along the perimeter to experiment and strategize.
Who it’s for
Ages 7 and up. Anyone who likes a quick game of strategy. Kids who want to take things from their parents. Darwinists.
Golden Goat with your battling sheep
Though it may be a little on the nose, we like to have some Golden Goat, concentrated down to its most pure form, enjoyed through a pen. The sativa leaning hybrid of Hawaiian origins is great for keeping the mind focused so that you can best a small child in Battle Sheep. And, because we generally don’t experience groggy effects from concentrates, we can be cognizant enough after the game to reinforce that yes, those sheep that didn’t find pastures did die, and yes, it was a very sad death.
But someone had to go. That’s the way nature works.