Sheepdogs of Pendleton Hill Review
Time: ~20-40 minutes
Times Played: 8
Who hasn’t wanted to be a sheep herder? Forget having to schedule meetings, writing reports or making contrived elevator banter. The life you want is just you, your dog and your flock of sheep. I mean, that’s definitely not the life for me. I prefer air conditioning far too much.
But for those of us that do dream about herding sheep instead of counting them, Sheepdogs of Pendleton Hill lets you live that oh so glamorous lifestyle.
This game has players take the role of shepherds, trying to herd their flock up the hill that is the game board. The higher up the hill that you herd your sheep, the more points you score because…the grass is greener and more nutritional at the top as it’s closer to the sun? Whoever has the most sheep points at the end of the game wins.
The board, card and the art are what they are; traditional ware and art of sheep and the countryside. Nothing that really stands out, minus the sheepdog card, which is a higher quality drawing than anything else. The sheep, wolf and shepherds are of typical meeple quality and I have no issue there.
The board showcases just a point-to-point movement system, connecting the bottom of the hill to the next level and so on and so forth until one reaches the top. Each level of hill has a separate point value. Each player has six sheep meeples, hence forth known as “sheeples”, to add to flocks and seven shepherds who will sit in the fields and await their sheep arrival.
Sheep can only be scored when they reach a shepherd in the field and they can only score one sheep per shepherd. So loading up a large flock could prove disastrous if you don’t have the shepherd boots on the ground. The amount of points granted is equal to the number on the field. But it’s not all fun and sheep-herding; there is a wolf that patrols the hill and can eat an unsuspecting sheep if they wander to close.
If a flock moves into the wolf’s space or if the wolf moves into a flocks space, the acting player gets to decide which sheep is eaten. This can be a powerful tool to keep a point leader from running away with the game.
What happens if they reach the top of the hill with no shepherd? They escape/tumble down the hill/are abducted by aliens and are removed from the board and placed back in your pile. Don’t let your sheep reach the top without having a shepherd there.
Each turn, players choose from a menu of actions. They can:
Add a sheep to a flock in one of the pens at the bottom of the board (never totaling more than five),
Add a shepherd to a field,
Move a flock up a field or sideways (but never down), or
Move the wolf.
What sets this game apart is that you can move other players pieces, as well as or in lieu of your own. To perform any of these actions, players must choose from one of the three action cards they have in their hand. When they play a card, they will add another card from the deck into their hand at the end of their turn. The action cards that you have allow several different options. The ‘1’ card allows you to take one single action affecting any piece. The ‘2’ card allows two actions, but both actions must involve at least one of your pieces or the double movement of the wolf. Lastly, the ‘1+1’ card allows one action that involves only your pieces and the other action must not involve your pieces at all.
The sheepdog card is a one-use action that acts as a wild card. It can be any of the mentioned cards. Once the deck is exhausted and the cards played, the game ends.
This game involves direct player conflict. You can move players pieces about the board, purposely scoring them lower or having them eaten by the wolf. It also involves players working together, as a flock will not reach the top field without a little help from one another. Creating one flock of just your own sheep paints a target on your back, and really only allows you to control where the flock goes on your turn.
Regarding the player count, at three players the game is too open and the decisions don’t really hold as much weight. The black sheeple does block one of the pens, but it doesn’t restrict the game as much as you’d like. You can navigate somewhat peacefully and typically accomplish what you set out to do. If you want a more laid back approach to this game, three players is where you should be looking.
At four players, the board is busy but not packed and teamwork as well as trickery are key. It’s a very tense set-up and the turns move quick, so the game plays just as fast as with three. This is the best player count, in my opinion.
I was not a fan of five players, which is weird, as myself and my gaming group is all about #TeamChaos. The board is crowded, the decisions made for your tokens are taken out of your hands almost entirely and it feels like you’re playing the action card just to get through the game. It still resembles Sheepdogs but it wasn’t fun.
I wouldn’t say this game is very strategic or even too luck based. It really depends on how aggressive and/or vindictive the players at the table are. It is easy to learn and easy to teach. The barometer for me saying that is my parents got it down within the first two or three turns. I’m almost certain my mom won a game.
With the high amount of conflict, this game could be highly replayable for your group or one that hits the table and then is banished to the shelves for good.