By July 7, 2009

Black Sheep game review

I play a lot of games: board games, video games, card games, role-playing games, reindeer games, you name it. There are several factors that determine what game I play, including number of people, the amount of time we want to spend per game, and the relative skill level and interests of the players. Another very important factor in deciding what to play is the mental state of the gaming group. At the end of an evening, normally razor-sharp minds have been reduced to dull sporks by titles like Race to the Galaxy (buy at Amazon) or fifty rounds of Dominion (buy at Amazon).

Black Sheep is a quick board game for two to four players. The game play is simple, and perfect as either a warm-up game or a last-game-of-the-night before everyone starts drooling on themselves.

The premise is simple: put as many animals in your pasture as possible. Little plastic animals of varying types are worth one to three points. The point value of every animal is stamped at the bottom of each figure, so you don’t know how much an animal is worth until you acquire it.

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There are three square farms in the center of the play area. Each farm has two randomly determined animals. Players take turns bidding on the animals by placing cards face up on their side of the farm. You may put down up to two of your three cards on your turn. Three cards are required to complete a bid on a pen of animals, so there is some strategy involved on what you bid, and when. When all players have completed their bids on a pen, the farm is “scored,” and the highest bidder gets the animals.

Bid value is determined a bit like a poker hand. The best bid is five of a kind (two horses + three horse card bid = five of a kind). Each animal has a different value as well. Horses are worth the most, black sheep are worth the least. In the event of a tie bid, the person who completes their bid first wins. New animals are placed on the recently scored farm.

A farm becomes closed during the re-population phase if you cannot place two animals on the farm in a row (e.g., if you are out of chickens and sheep and you draw a chicken card and then a sheep card). The game ends when all three farms are “closed.”

The game would also be good for mixed ages. The game suggests players aged eight and up, I guess that is accurate. If you just want to play “match the cards with the animals,” I would say the minimum player age is less than that. The bidding strategy part may require an older player but really, the game is simple: if there are two white sheep on a farm, put down white sheep cards.

Black Sheep is fun because it is simple and game play is typically fast. There is a stream of sexual innuendo about cocks, pork, beef, etc after the end of a long night of gaming. I wouldn’t want to play more than two or three games of Black Sheep at a time, but as a finisher it is excellent.

Recommended.

Black Sheep is published by Fantasy Flight and is available from retailers on Amazon.com or at your local game store for about $15.

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