This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Time: 20-45 Minutes
Game Type: Press Your Luck, Race
Gamer Type: Casual
Complexity: 4 (Gateway)
When you are looking at a game, trying to get to sleep is not one of the first things that come to mind. You want a game that keeps people thinking, invests people in playing, and engages players on multiple levels. Counting sheep jumping a fence just does not bring that to mind. However, the designers at AEG turn this sleepy trope on its head with a fast-paced racing game called Sheepy Time, the game of counting sheep and avoiding nightmares.
We all know that without a story, you do not have much of a game. AEG meets this demand in Sheepy Time. In this game, you are a dream sheep; it is exactly what it sounds like: you are one of the sheep people count to help them get to sleep. Your goal in this game is to help your person get to sleep by jumping the fence enough times to get your sheep to the pillow (representing your person being asleep). It sounds simple enough, but like any good night’s sleep, the person can be plagued by the nightmare – which not only ruins the sleep but also takes your sheep out of the game for a round. Jump the fence, avoid nightmares, and help your person get to sleep: it is a great story for the whole family and earns a score of 7 out of 10 for Story.
The artwork is cartoony, which can give the impression that this is a kid’s game. I am not saying that your kids will not have a blast playing this game, but there are a lot of strategies (see section) involved. The artwork fits the theme – when we think of sheep jumping the fence, we think of puffy soft imagery – this game delivers. The cards are cute and cartoony that direct your plays for the round, the board and scoring track are well done, and bring game elements into play without making the game bulky, and the little wooden sheep and the nightmare are well made.
As you know, box size and art are a factor in this category. The box is a standard medium size, which means that it will fit with most of your games. The artwork on the box is excellent. It keeps with the theme of the game and helps draw the player into the game before they ever open the box. Sheepy Time pulls in a strong 6.5 for artwork on the game.
This is a gateway game, so the mechanics are simple. The randomizer is the cards (single randomizer), and they propel the movement, resources, and dangers of the game. On a card, you will either have a move AND resource or a move OR resource. The resources are Z’s which you use to power special abilities around the track. Each round, special tiles are placed around the track (the game starts with tiles on 5 and 10). These tiles can change how you move and what you do during the game, so each game tends to be different.
Each player uses their cards to move around the board as many times as they want to during a round (taking turns, of course). While it may seem like this is an easy pattern, there is a catch. Somewhere in the card deck lie nightmare cards. These cards bring the nightmare into play. When the nightmare lands on a space with you (or passes over you), your sheep is stunned. In this case, you are not out of the round, but you are stuck for a turn. This is why the choice to finish a round after you jump the fence is so important.
As you jump the fence, you accumulate points to move toward sleep. In the first round, you would have to move the whole way to the end of the chain to put your person to sleep. However, each round (based on where you place) your person’s pillow moves down the track. This makes it easier for you to achieve victory. The great mechanics give it 8.5 of 10 for a gateway game.
In this game, you have the basic strategy styles. You can play offense and defense by where you place your resources on the tiles around the ring. The effect of the offense and defense is subtle but is a great substrate for other methods. If you are a gambler, then rush is a great strategy in this game. Take a devil-may-care approach and stay out there jumping the fence, hoping the nightmare does not catch you. The first place position brings you closer to the pillow faster, and as long as you stay in without getting bumped out of the round, you can win quickly. Engine building is the most steady method in this game, how you play your cards and use your resources dictates how many Zs you get and where you are at the end of the round. Sometimes it is good to hold back so you can make a swooping move in a late-round for victory. 7 out of 10 for strategy.
Oddly enough, there are several sheep-themed games on the market. Gamers seem to have an affinity for sheep, so if you like playing as a sheep- this game is one of many for you. However, looking at the market, there are no other “counting sheep” games for adults. (ie. strategy games). This means that Sheepy Time is a genre of its own. Add this fact to mechanics that are unique, work well together, and change each game, you have a great little game that you will not see anywhere else. AEG is known for unique games and this is one of the more unique games I have played from their catalog. 8 of 10.
This is a great game you can play with anyone. While the box says you can play with anyone over 10, I can play this game with my niece and she gets it (you may have to explain a card or tile, but the gameplay is pretty simple). This means you can play with any of your friends. This is a gateway game, meaning the mechanics are intuitive. After one round of the game, everyone will have a good idea of how the game works. The fact that it is “counting sheep themed” means you do not have to worry about the friends who “hate fantasy games” or “hate political games” or hate any other genre – you can literally tell them that they have not played anything like this before.
With a score of 43 out of 50, this is one of the better gateway games I have played/tested. It has good mechanics that work well together, while still maintaining a quick whimsical game. If someone hates this game, then they already made up their mind before they played it (unless they are afraid of sheep). With easy gameplay, simple mechanics, and a really fun theme, this game is great for casual friends who just want a quick game to play while hanging out. Also, it is very safe for work as you are playing against the board mostly (so no making your boss angry).
I have been asked (several times) by members of different groups I am in to start talking about the solo gameplay of a game. Sheepy Time has a good solo mode, mainly because it is simply you playing the game against the clock. You set a goal number of rounds that you have to put your person to sleep and play the game normally to try to beat the clock. With the exception that you will not see many “bad tiles” powered up, you have a pretty cool solo gaming experience (bad tiles being tiles that do not fit your strategy). The game is still balanced and you can set the difficulty level based on how many rounds you want to play.