WBG Score: 7/10
Player Count: 1-4
Published by: AEG
Designed by: Neil Kimball
Ready to wrestle with your nightmares, count some sheep and score some winks? This new push-your-luck game from AEG packs more than the art and box suggests!
Let’s get the main issue with this game sorted right away. This is not just a children’s game. Ok, the art and name very much suggest otherwise, and sure, it works well with children. But this is more than simply that. This is a push-your-luck style game in the same vein as Quacks and King of Tokyo, that works well for all ages, and the game does have hidden depths. Not Mariana Trench depths, but more than a puddle!
With that said, my two children absolutely loved this! The highly visual mechanic of moving your Sheep around the board, trying to avoid the nightmare was instantly understandable for them both on concept and strategy. So much so, I have failed to beat them yet! But what’s new there? My Son often likes to remind me of the games he beat me on his first turn when I had played them many times before! And with Sheepy Time there was no exception!
So how does this play? Well, much like the name suggests, its time to sleep. We play as the sheep that us human’s often count when trying to get to sleep. We need to move our Sheep around the board and jump over the white fence as often as we dare! Each time we do that, we edge closer to victory, and help more people drift off to dreamland.
But beware! There is a nightmare lurking! And if it crosses your path two times or crosses the fence itself, you will wake up. How long you dare to keep circling around avoiding the bad dreams is up to you. But time it right and you could very well just be the sheep that caught the most winks and reach your pillow.
The scoring mechanism has a fun twist whereby you are aiming to move your player token up the board by scoring winks to meet your pillow, but points reset each round. At the start of the game, your pillow starts on the 40 space. The game is won whenever any players token meets or surpasses their pillow. The player marker moves forward whenever any players sheep crosses the fence, takes winks from the card they played, or scores via the dream tiles, but if you don’t make your pillow at the end of the round, all your current points are lost!
But don’t despair, at the end of each round, either when all sheep have been woken up, or have decided to call it a night themselves, fearing the nightmare is coming too close, players will look at their position on the score board and move their pillows closer to them. How far your pillow moves is dependent on the player count and your position. For example, in a four or three player game the player in first moves their pillow 10 spaces back, and in a two-player game they would do this eight spaces. The player in second would move back eight, seven or five spaces in a four, three or two player game respectively. In the solo game, you move the Pillow back one space for each five winks scored.
This makes the chance of victory become more likely as each round progresses. I found the game usually goes two to four rounds. This is perfect scoring mechanism for a push-your-luck game, because if you fall behind, you will need to chance your luck even more in an attempt to catch up. I like games like this that show you visually where you are on the leader board, encouraging players to take more risks if they are in last place. There is no fun in playing it safe, or taking risks when you don’t need to. Its also frustrating not knowing and having to take blind guesses.
Playing the game works very simply. On your turn, players will play one card from the two in their hand. These cards will allow them to move their sheep around the board, scores winks (points) or catch some Z’s. Catching Z’s allows players to place one of their Zzz tokens onto one of the Dream tiles around the board. If on a later turn your sheep land on a dream tile with one of your Z tokens on it, you can then activate that tiles power.
The game starts with just two dream tiles, but at the end of each round you can add more. The dream tiles offer bonus actions sauch as moving your sheep around the board, gaining more winks, or the chance to become scared or brave. If you become scared this way, or via the Nightmare catching you, you must rest your sheep tile on its side. If this happens again when still sacred, your round is over. Becoming brave gives you the chance to stand your Sheep back up again.
Waking up means you will not be able to move your pillow based on your current position on the score board and will only be able to move it three spaces. Timing when you will call it a night is crucial. How far will you try and go?
This game is all about timing. Knowing when to push-your-luck, and when to call it a night. Each player will be given information on the potential movement of the nightmare they are using, so there is some strategy to this. It is not all luck based. And if you are not scared, then you may be more inclined to keep going. If the Nightmare is close to jumping the fence though, you might have to stop, but this is all information freely available to all players. You will know what nightmare cards are in the deck and if you pay attention to what has come out, you can try and predict the likelihood of the Nightmare moving soon. But where is the fun in that!?
There are three different nightmares to play with. The Bump in the Night and Nightmare Wolf which are recommended for beginners. And the Sinister Spider which offers more advanced options. Each Nightmare comes armed with 10 cards that are shuffled into the deck. On each players turn, they must draw back to two cards. If they draw a nightmare card, this must be played immediately. These cards will generally move the nightmare token around the board. But can also scare sheep on adjacent spaces, and in the case of the Spider, it will jump forward many spaces. You may well know what is likely to come up with this nightmare, but it is much harder to avoid!
The joy in this game comes from cheating death. Chancing your arm more than you should, and your luck paying off. Of course, there will be many times when your luck runs out and you will wake up. The nightmare in this game, like in life, is ultimately hard to avoid! But the satisfaction from avoiding its wispy grasps for as long as you can, will have all players on the edge of their seats. Like any good push-your-luck game, Sheepy Time works well but not punishing you too much when you fail. The game plays quickly, turns are even quicker, and if you do get caught by the nightmare, you can always try again very soon after. This is essential for me for a game that uses this mechanic. There is nothing worse than pushing-your-luck, failing, and losing a game for one unlucky decision.
If you enjoy games that use similar mechanics, I would recommend this to you as a light family or gateway game. It is also a perfect end of night experience. Not only can you teach it very quickly, and play it very quickly, it obviously sets all players perfectly for a restful night’s sleep. Just don’t have any nightmares!