Author Topic: The Barbarian Report: Drunken Sheep Over Hill and Dale (Sheep & Hills Review)  (Read 4467 times)

Offline whaleyland

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When I first heard of the Sheep & Hill expansion for Carcassonne, I immediately wanted to know when it was coming out. There was a running joke my entire high school years about me and sheep (yeah, watch out what you say on camping trips) and the prospect of a sheep expansion was simply amazing. When I found out it didn't actually include sheeples, I was somewhat saddened, but that still didn't stop me from buying the expansion from German at first opportunity (Amazon.de has amazingly cheap shipping to the US). I've played it but once, but will play it many more times. And here's why:

Crying Wolf
 :red-meeple: The Wolf Ate My Sheeples - Carcassonne is a game full of meeples, those lovely little wooden people, buildings, and animals that make the landscape so much more three dimensional. The lack of sheep meeples (sheeples) is disappointing since it seems like a wasted opportunity. Granted one can simply place sheeples in a field when they pull a sheep token out of the draw bag, but still, I think this mechanics could have been worked on just a bit.
 :red-meeple: Bags For Giants - Like Inns & Cathedrals, Sheep & Hills includes a canvas bag with a Carcassonne "C" and two sheep peering around it. This lovely addition is only made obscure by its sheer size. It's huge for its purpose, yet ridiculously small for any other use. The bag is intended to hold the sheep and wolf tokens and act as a draw bag during games. Yet it is massive for that purpose, leaving enough room to fit a large child's hand inside with space to spare. But the bag isn't nearly large enough to fit all 89 tiles required to play a game of Carcassonne and it's new expansion. Who designed this bag? Something half the size would have been more appropriate to the task.
 :red-meeple: In The Distance, A...Hill? - Geographic abnormalities aside, the concept of The Hills is probably the weakest in this expansion. Hills accomplish two things: (1) They remove tiles from circulation leaving their arrangement unknown; and (2) They allow players to break ties. The first ability of The Hills is actually great. One of the weaknesses of Carcassonne is that people who have played many games know the tiles - they have them memorized. By randomly removing up to eight tiles per game, that knowledge is lessened. But this mechanic could have been done better. Perhaps the easiest thing to do would be to remove a certain number of tiles from the game at the start. That accomplishes the same goal. The second aspect of The Hills, though, is the weakest of the entire expansion. A Follower placed on a Hill will break a tie, but only in the event that they are exactly tied with another player for that feature (e.g., two players each have a Knight in a City; the Knight on the Hill wins during scoring). The problem is that this requires a combination of events to occur prior to it being useful. The Follower on the Hill must be in a feature with exactly one other Follower (which is unlikely to happen if the Hill Follower was placed first). And another player must not have placed a second Follower on the feature to break the tie.

The Faithful Alcoholic
 :green-meeple: Alcoholics Anonymous for Monks - Every medieval historian knows that monks enjoyed the drink of the vine. This expansion finally acknowledges that with the introduction of The Vineyards. This lovely little component expansion adds eight new Vineyards to liven up the countryside and make all your Monks a little richer (points-wise, that is). While the sometimes annoying random factor of Carcassonne remains, this element of the expansion is still spot-on, making Cloisters all that more valuable.
 :green-meeple: Beware the Big Bad Wolves - There are two wolves in a bag of a ton of sheep. Those sheep are worth points. And if you play your luck right, you can get some nice fatty points every time you cash out your sheep. This is a concept previously foreign to Carcassonne and it makes a welcome addition to the game. Just beware of the two wolves. Sometimes they strike early, and sometimes they strike when you fear them the most.
 :green-meeple: Shepherds on High - Jesus has become a Carcassonne figure. Oh, wait! Jesus wasn't technically a shepherd, he was a carpenter. Well, whatever. The addition of the new Shepherd meeple introduce an always-welcome new figure to the family of Carcassonne meeples. While it may not be a Follower, formally speaking, Hans im Glueck finally acknowledged the existence of other expansions and added an FAQ at the end of the expansion's rules noting that shepherds and sheep are both dragon-fodder when playing with Princess & Dragon. With more FAQs like this, the game may actually rise above its myriad contradictions.

Inconclusion
There is little doubt that this is a good Carcassonne expansion, possibly its best since Abbey & Mayor. The fact that the franchise reached such a low point with The Catapult yet rebounded so well with subsequent expansions is a sign that the game is not done yet. Indeed, a new series of promotional mini-expansions has already begun with The Monasteries of Germany. Still, this expansion plays the luck game heavily, with tile draws and the sheep concepts both relying primarily on the luck of the draw. In my first game, I drew six of the Hills (and one was under a Hill), five of the Vineyards, and was the only one to successfully use the sheep. My wife, meanwhile, drew a wolf for her first sheep draw twice then gave up on the mechanic. She also couldn't place her one Hill because there were no unclaimed features to place it next to. Overall, she only profited off the Vineyards, though a number of Vineyards went unused because of a lack of nearby Cloisters. Still, an overall good expansion and one I plan to use fairly often.

SCORES
Playability: A
Affordability: A
Compatibility (with other expansions): A
Aethetics: A
Learning Curve: B+
FINAL GRADE: A

Linkback: http://www.carcassonnecentral.com/community/index.php?topic=728.0
« Last Edit: April 22, 2014, 08:37:05 PM by whaleyland »

Offline SRBO

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Great review whaley!!
Looking forward to play it myself except for the Hills..

Offline kettlefish

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Hi whaleyland,
as always I like your great reviews.  :(y)

Offline coyote

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Wait, wait, wait...

There ARE sheeples? Not in the expansion, but.. elsewhere?  :o

Offline Jéré

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Offline obervet

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Wait, wait, wait...

There ARE sheeples? Not in the expansion, but.. elsewhere?  :o

Newer versions of Agricola have sheeples, and the 2-player spinoff Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small also has sheeples. (And piggles, and cow...les and horse...les. Okay, that doesn't quite work as well.)

Offline SRBO

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Wolf and sheeples.. how many sheeps are in this expansion?

Offline whaleyland

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Something like 16 tokens, but they represent between 1 and 4 sheep each, hence the problem. There are also 2 wolves. I believe Wolf (or Dog) animeeples have been made for some game or another. I'm not sure which, though. Perhaps Caverna.

Offline kettlefish

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You can use 2 black sheeples for the "wolves".

And 14 white sheeples for the "sheep" - Each sheeple need a number on it 1 to 4.

Then the bag is no more to big...

Offline obervet

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You can use 2 black sheeples for the "wolves".

And 14 white sheeples for the "sheep" - Each sheeple need a number on it 1 to 4.

Then the bag is no more to big...

I like this idea. It's important to have the wolves be the same shape as the sheep or else you'd be able to feel which one was which when you draw out of the bag.


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