Updated: Dec 26, 2019
Sheep Hustler is a simple easy-to-play set collection card game aimed at families and children. It is designed by James Hitchings with winsome art by Sam Turner. The sheeples (sheep meeples) are used just to keep track of who has won each round: games are won by the player who ends up with the most sheeples.
Players each have four cards in hand and two face up on the table. To win a round, you need to have, across your six cards, two wooden pen cards and four sheep cards that make a set: 1234 in the same colour or all the same number in four different colours. The rules also allow as a winning hand, sheep where the ascending numbers are in two alternating colours (eg: 1 green, 2 pink, 3 green, 4 pink). You may find that, playing with children, this option complicates the game unnecessarily.
Players can at any time (including during players’ turns) swap cards between those on the table and those in hand. This speeds up play but it can be the cause of arguments when a player tries to swap cards around in order to frustrate the effect of a card an opponent has played. We found it reduced family squabbles when we house ruled that these swaps could only be made at the start or end of a player’s turn.
On a player’s turn, they play by discarding and drawing cards. Sheep cards are merely discarded but it is the sheepdog and other special effect cards that are played for their effect. With a sheepdog card, a player can take a card from any of those face up on the table (the person whose card it was, replaces it by drawing another from the deck). Sheepdogs can also be used to fish for cards in other players’ hands, like in the traditional card game Happy Families. You can ask a player either for a particular number or a particular colour card and they have to give it to you if they have a card in their hand that meets your requirement. In addition, Sheepdogs can be used to retrieve a card from the discard pile and can be played to block another sheepdog.
Sheep Hustler is a light family game that children will enjoy. There is some strategy in trying to deduce what opponents are collecting and over the most effective use of the sheepdog and special cards. That said, there’s inevitably a very high luck factor in this game: a lucky deal or card draw can give you a win in a round on your first or second turn.
Sheep Hustler is published by MAD Games and has launched on Kickstarter. The version shown here on Board’s Eye View is a preview prototype but the production copy is expected to incorporate some changes, including a bigger box.