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I bought this game last year at Essen. I've been playing it a fair bit recently and noticed there were no reviews of it yet, so I thought I'd do a quick one.



Overview

The Sheep Race is built from a now reasonably well used mould. Players place their bets on a series of races and then the main part of the game consists in controlling the movement the racers. Players whose sheep wins, and in the early races, come second and third, get points. The person with the most points at the end wins.


The story given by the game as to why these sheep from countries all over the world are racing is something to do with the Queen of England, but it's perhaps trying a little too hard to be cutsey-silly for me, so I'll not go into it. It also doesn't really matter.



Game play

The game is divided into three races of six sheep each, two semi-finals and then a final where those sheep that placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd compete to see who the overall winner it. In the first two races, players will bet on three sheep, one openly and two secretly, and will get points for each of those sheep that comes either 1st, 2nd or 3rd. In the final race, players only get two secret bets, and win points only if their sheep wins.


When the race starts, players roll dice to see which of the six sheep they will get to move this turn. This is where the first of the two main mechanics come in. Rather than rolling a fair six-sided die to determine which sheep they move, players roll one normal six-sided die and another die with the numbers 1,2,3,0,0,0 on the faces. If the players roll one of the numbers 1 to 6, then they move the sheep in the lane with the respective number. If they roll higher, then they 'count back' from lane six to see which sheep they move. If they roll a 7, they move the sheep in lane 6, if they roll an 8 they move the sheep in lane 5 and if they roll a 9 they move the sheep in lane 4.

What this means of course is that the sheep in lane 6 is more likely to be moved that the sheep in lane 5, who is more likely to be moved than the sheep in lane 4, etc, with the sheep in lane 1 unlikely to move very much at all, at least at the beginning of the race. This does mean that the sheep in lane 6 is more likely to win than the other, and the sheep in lane 5 more likely to win that the others other than the sheep in lane 6, etc. This is reflected in the betting system, where those sheep nearer to lane 6 are worth less points if they win. However, your opponents are also more likely to be able to move the sheep in these outer lanes too, so might be able to move the sheep in a way that forces it to collapse and lose the race (see below).


When the player has rolled to see which sheep is moved, they then get to choose how it is moved. Each sheep comes with its own card and on each card there are cubes representing how much breath they have left. Players choose how far the sheep will move by spending these cubes. The sheep can either rest or go slowly to regain cubes, or spend lots of cubes/limited cubes of special colours to go fast. If they sheep has no cubes left, then they have to rest. That is, unless they are close to the finish line. Once they are within 5 squares of the finishing line (marked with different colours on the board), if they run out of breath, they collapse, and can't move any further. They can still win, but only if all the other sheep collapse behind them.

Each of the different sheep starts with a different selection of cubes, and a different movement rate for each type of movement. This means the sheep do act quite differently.

The main part of the game is managing these breath cubes. Getting your sheep to the end quickly but without collapsing, while keeping the others slowly plodding behind or collapsing them as they near the finish line.




Components

The sheep themselves are very cute models. Part of me would love 12 different sheep in the box (there are only 6) with a different design for each country they are representing, to go with the design on the cards. No doubt this would have made the game much more expensive, though. Something for a special edition . The sheep cards are very nice. The pictures are cute and funny, with each sheep being named after a local sheep's milk cheese.


The rest of the components are functional, but there were some odd decisions.


The counters for the flags for each sheep and the number tokens are basically there so you remember which sheep is in which lane. This works more or less, but is slightly awkward. It seems to me that the board could have been made a little bigger, with slots for each of the sheep cards already numbered, as well as somewhere on the board to put the flag tokens. The flag tokens themselves could also be bigger.

The board is also a little odd. The race track is a little plain, but perfectly functional. The score track is however the oddest thing. It's goes up to 100, and your score token can be flipped to a +100 side, yet your score is highly unlikely to get much higher than 40 at the very most. I read somewhere else in the forum that this was for a future expanded or variant game, but its lead to there not being that much space on the board for other things that could have been handy.

The score and bet tokens are also a little bit small. A little bigger would have been nicer.

Finally, what the game is really missing in terms of components is a player aid that tells you what exactly the 4 different types of movements are. Its not that complicated, but its a little much to remember right off the bat. A player aid would make the first couple of turns go much more smoothly.




Impressions

There a lots of similar betting/racing games out there, and this one is a solid but not outstanding example.


The choice of who to bet on is important as the sheep are far from equal due to the way the lanes work and their different breath statistics. But really any sheep can win and if you are lucky and have some good cube managing skills, you can get a lot of points from a sheep that was on paper pretty unlikely to win. However, the game is a lot easier if other people have also secretly bet on your sheep. If no one else wants your sheep to win, you have to be extremely lucky to get it over the line.

The management of the cubes is not that difficult. You do need to judge whether other people want your sheep to win, and maybe hide your preferences, so there is a little element of bluffing here.

Overall, it's a reasonably light family game. Its theme is cute, but if you don't find it appealing then there's probably better games to get. But the theme is fairly well done, so if you want a light betting/racing game and you like sheep a lot more than horses then this is an obvious buy.


One final note. The sheep all come from different countries, yet there is a Scottish sheep and a British sheep. Is this a minor geographical mistake on the part of the designer, or a subtle political message for Scottish independence?
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Dan The Man
United States
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Nevada
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"Wood for Sheep Race?"
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Patrick Riley
United States
San Jose
California
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"Sheeple Chase"
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Craig C
United States
Wichita
Kansas
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"You're Flocked"
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Gordon Lamont
Scotland
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FormEweLa 1
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Adam Kazimierczak
United States
Falmouth
Maine
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In summary: not baaaaaaaad.
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Belgium
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Meaningless means there's a strong limit to how much I can mess up!
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Guys, I said I couldn't think of a good enough pun
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Raymond Haaken
Netherlands
Maastricht
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Check my YouTube channel "Boardgame Heaven"!
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Feel free to geekmail me about reviews, or if you need a microbadge designed.
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I think those were woolly good!
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