Black Sheep is a cute family game indeed. This game has a fair mechanical complexity for kids (not too easy, not too much complex), the rules allow them to make decisions although simple ones, and luck makes possible kids often beat adults! The lovely animals and drawings complete the game.
Nevertheless, as kids grow, the luck factor can be decreased and tactics increased. The lenght of the game can be increased too. So, in order to approach such goals, we decided to create some game variants. Our games are now played under such rules. Kids are confortable with them and adults are finding the game a little more interesting (although luck still plays a major role and kids still often win!).
Let me share these variants we named M&M House Rules.
All official rules apply unless overruled by the following statements.
In order to preserve the players’ physical and mental health, the "moo" rule is abolished!
Instead of mooing, each player draws a random animal card. The player who gets the highest ranked animal will play first. Should some players tie for the highest animal, they must draw again ...
(All animal cards drawn are placed on the discard pile).
Any time a player plays one or two cards on his side of a field in which at least one card has already been placed (during a previous turn), such card(s) must be placed face down, so no opponents can see which cards are being played.
(Nevertheless, if the player plays one or two cards on a side of a field in which no cards have already been placed, such cards must place face up, according to the official rules).
Hidden cards are revealed only when fields are scored.
Ex: Andrews chooses to play one card on his side of a field (A) in which is has no card played yet. The card he is playing must be placed face up. On a subsequent turn, Andrews chooses to play cards on the field (A); he must place two card face down.
The Beth’s side of field (A) is vacant when he decides to play two card on it - these card must be placed face up. On a subsequent turn, Beth decides to play on field (A) again; she must place one card face down.
When a player discards one card from his hand to the discard pile, he must place it face down, so no opponent can see which card is being discarded.
Checking for fields’ scoring
Fields are scored only when all the three fields have been completed (i.e. three cards have been played to each player’s side on all the three fields).
All fields are scored in a row (in any order) after a player’s turn and before the next player’s turn. Until then, completed fields remain unchanged.
Re-stocking fields after scoring
Once the six plastic animals are awarded and all cards played to the three fields are removed to the discard pile, two plastic animals are replaced on each field (unless the game ends).
One by one, fields are re-stocked as follows:
1st - Select the animal type in majority in the stock. Pick up one random plastic animal of the selected type from the stock and place it on the field. (If two or more types of animal are in majority in the stock, select the lowest ranked animal type)
2nd - Then draw one card from the draw pile and place the corresponding animal figure on the same field. (If the card drawn corresponds to a type of animal for which there are no remaining plastic animals in the stock, then draw a replacement card for the animal type that has been exhausted. Draw replacements one at a time until a card is drawn for which a plastic animal remains; that animal is then stocked to the field).
Note: the order of the two previous steps should be respected or two identical animals on the same field will rarely occur.
Continuing play after re-stocking fields
Once the fields are re-stocked, play resumes with the player who had played the last turn taking the next turn and proceeding in a reverse order (i.e. the order of play is reversed whenever fields are re-stocked).
Ex: Andrews begins the game, followed by Beth (on Andrews’ left) and then followed by Chris (on Beth’s left). Turns proceed clockwise around the table until Chris concludes his 6th turn. Now, all fields are completed, so scoring takes place, plastic animals on the fields are awarded by the fields winners and fields are re-stocked. Chris takes the next turn, followed by Beth and then followed by Andrews. Turns proceed counterclockwise around the table until Andrews concludes his 12th turn. Now, all fields are completed again. Players will take turns clockwise around the table again until ...
End of Game
The game ends once all 36 plastic animals have been herded into player’s corral mats!
If, at the end of the game, two or more players sum equal number of points and have herded equal number of animals, the player who has collected the most:
1st) horses; 2nd) cows ; 3rd) pigs; 4th) sheep, 5th) roosters
is the tie-breaker winner.
(If there is still a tie, all tied players are joint winners).
During setup, each player draws 1 (one) random task card - regardless of the number of players.
These task cards ("personal" tasks) must be kept secret from the other players until the end of the game.
In addition, 3 (three) additional task cards are placed faceup on the table ("community" tasks).
A player who fulfills the conditions on his personal task card or on a community task cards gets the benefits defined by such cards. However, a player who fulfills the conditions on an opponent personal task card does not benefit from it.
- Last edited Thu Sep 23, 2010 7:39 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Wed Sep 22, 2010 7:28 pm
Superb - I think this game is very under-rated but as you say is great with kids, whilst still keeping enough strategy to entertain their parents!
I'm definitely going to go with your variants re the hidden cards (that is genius - love it!), and the tasks - especially like the community tasks.
Well done Martin.
While I admittedly don't get the reasons for some of the house rules, what do you think about this variant on your variant . . . . .
Under Placing Cards:
What if you have the option of placing face down any cards that are the same as any other card on your side of the 3 fields? This might add a bluffing element!
Thank you, Fred.
- Last edited Fri Apr 15, 2011 6:44 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Fri Apr 15, 2011 6:44 pm
I'm afraid of being misunderstanding your suggestion... (or you have misunderstood mine) ..
1- The variant I've presented includes a strong "bluffing element", since you
may bluff in every field and regardless of the cards already played in any field!
2- About your proposal, it seems to be not easy to track cards in order to ensure no player fails to hide cards identical to any other card already played (as required by your rule)...
suppose I wrongly play a "pig" face down (I mean, I should have previouly played other "pig" card but I hadn´t); nobody is able to notice such mistake until fields are scored ... and then it will be too late ... (furthermore, sometimes it could be hard to prove the error...)
Concerning the movitations for the variant I've posted, here they are:
A) "Relevant changes":
- "moo" rule abolition: (no comment)
- "hidden card" rules : adds a "bluffing element"; increases tactics
- "scoring fields in a row" rule: implies that combinations are not so "good" as under the original rules (players have to play in all fields during six consecutive turns and could not wait for a field "refresh" meantime); this increases the efficacy of bluffing and the decision on where to play cards becomes more tactical;
- "restocking fields" rule: required by the "scoring in a row" rule;
- task card rules: reduces the "luck factor" since no longer a player may score on unknown cards (what it was just a matter of luck); increases strategics;
B) "Minor changes":
- "reversing order of play" rule: combined with the "end of game" rule (see below) every player takes his turn before any other player for 18 times and after any other player for 18 times also; this ensure no player takes advantage from playing before/after any other;
- "end of game" rule: (just because we prefer a longer game... nevertheless, shorter games can be considered; for instance, ending the game immediately after the fields are scored for the fourth time = when 12 animals are left in the reserve...)
- "tie-breakers" rule: (just because we prefer to avoid ties...)
(Finally, let me note that although the text of this variant could seem to be long, the rules themselves are very easy to understand, very easy to remember and very easy to apply...)
- Last edited Sat Apr 16, 2011 3:24 am (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Fri Apr 15, 2011 7:46 pm
We play hidden cards all the time and it brings more tension and interraction, personnal preference..
I bought this game for 10 bucks at Target while on vacation last week. My daughter and I enjoyed it, wife was "meh".
Mine and my wife's first note, however, was why not play the cards face down to fields (all of them). That way the bluffing, and therefore risk-taking and strategy, prevail over the randomness mostly. Next time we play, we are playing 100 % face down to fields. Other rules are fine as-is, imo (we roll a die to see who goes first).
- Last edited Mon Jul 30, 2012 7:34 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Mon Jul 30, 2012 7:33 pm
Playing cards 100% face down may increase tension but surely ...
- interaction decreases,
- tactics decrease and
- the game tends to be more random.
If all of my opponent cards are concealed, my decisions are based just on my hand and my opponent's play has a minimal impact on my decisions. It´s somehow as if I were playing a "solitaire" game against other "solitaire" players. (Less interaction, less tactical "moves").
By the contrary, when I am allowed to see some cards of my opponents, I may adapt my play to their play, so my decisions may be affected by their decisions. (More interaction, more tactical "moves").
Revealing some cards and hiding other keeps tension and tatics.
But, obviously, it´s a question of personal taste to prefer to maximize tension, to maximize tatics/interaction or to balance tension and tatics/interaction.
You know, this game ended up shelved as my collection grew, and we never returned to it after I made that post. I had forgotten all about it...lol.
My reasoning for playing face down, was the opposite though of how you are suggesting it would likely turn out (and you very well could be right, I would have to play it both ways to see, since it has been so long), but if I remember correctly our gripe was that it was TOO obvious what to do, when you saw opponents cards played, and it just came down to the randomness of the card draw in how you responded. I figured playing blind would make it more tense, and therefore take away the "obvious play".
Gonna have to bust this game out again soon and give both ways a few tries.
Hello, Bill Hartman
This is a light game, indeed, decisions are not too hard but I think they are not so obvious when playing "semi-face down", specially for children.
Nevertheless, "full-face down" it's a good solution as well.
Have a Happy New Year