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Subject: Race of the evil sheep... rss

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Welcome to my review of:

Ostfriesisches Schafe-Schubsen


I discovered this game during my Essen 2011 preparations and thought: A game with such a strange title I just have to try. Essen came and eventually I found myself at the booth and even managed to take over a seat from someone who had to leave. I enjoyed the game and since it was a limited production run I decided to snag one of the unclaimed copies. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Components
The game consists of:
Two square double sided boards depicting the East Frisian dyke
8 round differently colored wooden sheep tokens
8 sets of small playing cards numbered 0-9 in each of the player colors
A number of lifesaver and lucky clover cardboard tokens
The Angel and Devil cat card and
8 small reference cards

The components are all of good quality. The playing cards are nicely illustrated and everything projects a very light-hearted theme.

Game play
Game play is quite simple. Each turn the players choose 1-3 of their playing cards to form the number of spaces they want to move forward. In turn they then reveal their number and move their sheep. When everyone has revealed their cards then the player who moved the farthest (that turn) gets a lucky clover token (can be used to modify movement). The player who moved the least looses one of his lifesaver tokens. If he had already lost all of them he is removed from the game. Lifesavers can also be lost when a sheep ends its move on a water field or is pushed onto one. Play continues until all but two sheep are eliminated from the game - at which point the sheep the farthest back on the dyke wins.

Conclusion
Pros:
Lighthearted theme
Simple rules
Predictable length
Unpredictable game play

Cons:
Unpredictable game play
Very little actual sheep pushing (Schafe schubsen)

Although I've only won one full game so far it was always fun to play. The game is short and flows well. There is player elimination but most players manage to stay in the game until almost the end. The game has a certain degree of psychology - trying to predict what others might play but it's pretty hard to do. So game play ends up being pretty unpredictable. Usually multiple players try to go for a lucky clover so you often end up surpassing each other only by a couple of points. Those are quite fun but also quite frustrating situations depending on which side you're on. There's also the occasional opportunity to be really devious and the way the winner is determined is also a nice twist. Probably the biggest disappointment in my opinion is the fact that there is very little actual sheep pushing going on. Landing on a space occupied by another sheep would push that sheep one space up. This could be used to push a player into the water (making him loose a lifesaver) or even off the map (making him loose the game) but since most people will position them self far enough away from water it's generally not worth the effort to try and push their sheep.

All in all it is a fun, quick game that can take a lot of players. I also own Get Bit! which is very similar but more distilled and I'm curious to see if over time a clear preference will emerge.
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