[TT] Battle Sheep

Battle Sheep is an abstract game of territorial control themed around sheep. The visuals and theme are cute and light. The play is surprisingly cutthroat.

The entirety of the rules fit on an index card, so this is an elegant game getting a lot of distance out of very simple mechanics. A full game with four players takes about ten minutes, so your investment is low. It is simple enough to teach anyone but has surprising strength for serious gamers.

The whole game is assembling a pasture (so it is not identical every game), starting with a stack of sheep on the edge, and dividing a stack each turn. When you move sheep, they carry on in that direction until they hit something (an edge or another sheep). Your goal is to occupy the most space in the pasture, preferably herded together. That’s it. That’s the whole game.

How does this give rise to interesting decisions? The main one is how many sheep to take or leave each time you split. You want to box in your opponents while avoiding being boxed in yourself. You can project a lot of power all at once, but that also means most of your sheep are headed right next to an opponent who could be countering you. Project too little power, and opposing sheep will just walk around you.

The game is quick, simple, competitive, cute, and strategic. The components are high quality. I have never heard anyone describe this as a “must play,” but I stumbled on it and found that it beat my expectations. The next game up that night was the much more highly rated Istanbul, and I found myself thinking, “but is all this added complexity worth it?” Battle Sheep does a lot with very little.

: Zubon