## Saturday, October 27, 2007

### Reassessing Shear Panic

I decided to play Shear Panic again before I traded it away.

I owe another apology, this time to Gordon Lamont, the game's designer. He fell victim to something others have fallen victim to in the past: a less-than-enthusiastic assessment from me of their game owing primarily to my having understood some key rules incorrectly.

Which only goes to show one or more of the following things:

1 - I have to reread the rules several times before making judgments.

2 - The best way to learn is from someone who definitely understands the rules, and not by myself.

3 - Publishers really need to write better rules, especially for games with more than basic complexity like Shear Panic.

Unfortunately, the latter is a serious problem here. I wonder how anyone, other than the original author, could have read the rules and not understood that they were confusing.

Rules

Let me now explain the rules as I understand them:

Components

- 8 white sheep with a spot of color: there are four colors, 2 sheep in each color.

- 3 special figures: black sheep, ram, and sheep shearer

- 48 tiles: twelve tiles in each of four colors. Each tile represents a special action of some sort. In addition, four of the tiles are also numbered 1, four are numbered 2, and four are numbered 3.

- A 9 x 9 game board with a numbered track running along the edge

- score markers for each player

- the black phase marker

- a d6, with four sides corresponding to the four colors, and the other two sides indicating black and white.

Setup

Each player controls two white sheep with spots of their color. The players take the tiles of their color.

In a three-player game, each player also takes three tiles, numbered 1-3, from the remaining fourth color. These tiles are turned over; the reverse side of the tiles shows only the number (1-3) of the tile, and not any special action.

In a two-player game, each player takes an entire additional set of tiles from one of the unused colors. These tiles are turned over; the reverse side of the tiles shows only the number (1-3) of the tile, and not any special action.

The starting position is as indicated in the rules.

Start of Game

Before the game begins, each player rolls the die and bumps once, selecting a bumping sheep according to the color rolled.

Bumping sheep means choosing a bumping sheep and a bumped sheep. The two sheep must lie on the same line. The bumped sheep must have an unoccupied space directly on the other side from the bumping sheep. Any number of other sheep may lie between them.

The bumped sheep is bumped to the unoccupied space. All other sheep in the line, including the bumping sheep, are lined up in the spaces before it.

In a two-player game, each player alternately bumps twice.

Turns

On your turn, you play a special action card and perform the action. The phase marker is advanced according to the number on the played card.

In a three player games, a player may choose to add one of his additional face down tiles to his played tile in order to move the phase marker additional spaces. In a two-player game, a player must add one of his additional face down tiles.

If the phase marker would otherwise move past a "well" space, the phase marker instead lands on the well space.

If the phase marker lands on a bumping space, the player additionally rolls the die and bumps, as above.

The played tile or tiles are discarded.

Scoring

Scoring may take place after a player's turn.

- If the phase marker lands anywhere in Phase 1 ...

- If the phase marker crosses the wall or lands in the well in Phase 2 ...

- If the phase marker lands anywhere in Phase 3 ...

- If the phase marker crosses the wall or lands in the well in Phase 4 ...

- In a three player game, at the end of the game you must subtract two points from your score for each face down tile you didn't use during the game.

The Tiles

The tiles:

- Bump with one of your colored sheep

- Turn all sheep 90 degrees. Move any special figure to the side of the board in which direction the sheep are now facing.

- Jump one sheep over any number of sheep or spaces in a line, landing in the first unoccupied space after a sheep.

- Slide all sheep one space along a line.

- Draw the smallest square which contains all the sheep. Slide each sheep to one edge of this square. (*)

(*) This was the biggest source of problems in my previous games. I understood from the rules that you had to slide all sheep to the edge of the board, i.e. the entire playing area. NOT just to edge of the current flock of sheep wherever they may currently be. My interpretation made subsequent bumping rather difficult and therefore the game rather dull.

Undoing Actions

Two of these special actions cannot be "undone" according to the rules, but the rules are not clear on what "undone" means. Maybe they can't be undone immediately, but can be undone on the next round following? As to the slide all sheep against the side of the smallest square action, even if you play the same card and specify the other direction, it doesn't "undo" the action, but slides all sheep to the other side of the new smallest square. Is that "undoing"? Who knows?

In the rules, the face down tiles handed out in two and three player games are called "movement tiles". The rules only say that they may be added to an additional tile that you play, but it doesn't say what happens as a result! I had to figure out that "movement" meant moving the phase marker additional spaces. I thought it might mean move a sheep that number of spaces. I may still not have it right, actually.

Reassessment

With the correct ruling for the sliding tile action, and implementing the face down tile play correctly, the two player version of the game was decidedly much better. So much so that I have decided not to trade the game away immediately if I can convince others in my group to give it another try. I think there may be more depth and life to the game than I previously thought.

I suspect that the three player game will also be much better, and the four player game somewhat better. Even so, it's not a phenomenal game. The sheep sure are cute, though.

Blog News

My site dropped in Page Rank last week to PR5 from PR6, and this week to PR3. Which is an awesome drop. Net consensus is that this phenomenon, of which my blog is not at all unique, is entirely do to the presence of text link advertising on my blog.

Important News About Online Game Stores

The U.S. has seriously weakened one of its major 97 year old anti-trust regulations, that of price fixing. Price fixing is when a producer forces retailers to sell a product at a minimum price. This practice is bad for the consumer and purely in the producer's interest.

It is now no longer automatically illegal to price fix, instead instances of price fixing will be decided on on a case by case basis as to whether they harm the consumer.

How does this affect you? Mayfair Games has already sent out letters to all retailers telling them that they may no longer discount Mayfair products, such as Settlers of Catan, more than 20% off of retail. That means big price increases for Mayfair games, even if you try to buy it from an online store.

Until now, discount online stores were spreading gaming across the world by making gaming affordable to those who would otherwise not be able to afford the hobby. As a result, local brick-and-mortar stores were suffering, since they could not compete with the discounts the online stores offered.

Now, the online discount stores will have a hard time competing with the brick-and-mortar stores, since they will not be able to compete on price, and of course already can't complete on timeliness.

Mayfair Games is in favor of this as they claim that rather than online stores being good for the game industry, it is brick-and-mortar stores which are good for the game industry, since they have presence in local communities, display the games, and host game sessions.

Other game manufacturers are liable to follow in Mayfair's lead. So buy online at discount while you still can.

Game News

There is a blog devoted to an upcoming DVD wrestling board game, where the developers are seeking input about the game from the public before it is developed.

The Motley Fool has a stunningly good list of economic board games, sourcing both Mark Jackson's Apples project and Jonathan Degann's Journal for inspiration.

Front Porch Classics, makers of beautiful coffee table games, have many new games in their line up including kids games. May have something to do with their merger with Sababa Toys.