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WOOLY BULLY

Reviewed by Herb Levy

WOOLY BULLY (Asmodèe Editions, distributed by Blue Cafe Games, 2-4 players, 30 minutes; $19.95)

 

Tile laying games have been around for ages. Ever since Carcassonne (Summer 2001 GA REPORT) hit it big, it seems there has been an explosion of such games. Sheep have always been a pleasant sort of animal to me. Ever since The Settlers of Catan (Fall 1996 GA REPORT) used sheep as a resource, it seems that sheep have appeared in “flocks” of games as characters or resources. It seems inevitable that the two should meet – and they do in Wooly Bully or La Guerre des Moutons (War of the Sheep) by Philippe des Pallières.Picture of ‘Guerre des Moutons,La’

In Wooly Bully, players are shepherds, each with a flock of sheep (in black, blue, red and yellow) that they have to care for and protect from becoming prey to packs of wolves.

The game comes in a small box which holds a large cloth bag, a smaller cloth bag (although our copy was missing this!), 77 double sided tiles and instructions.woolybully

The nine special tiles are separated from the rest. The Village Square tile is placed in the middle of the playing area to serve as the center of play. The four “?” tiles, marked by a question mark on one side and a shepherd protecting sheep on the other, are distributed, one to each player. Finally, the four shepherd ID tiles (identifying which color sheep belongs to which player) are secretly dealt out. The remaining tiles are placed in the large bag and mixed thoroughly and each player draws four tiles at random to make their starting hand.

The Village Square tile shows an aerial view of the countryside’s village. The player going first plays a tile from their hand that matches a village edge. (If that player has no matching tile, play passes to the left.) Now, in turn, players play, one tile at a time, tiles that match an edge of a tile already played. Players replenish their hands with tiles based upon how many edges have been matched. (For example, if a player can only match one edge, he draws one tile. But should a tile placed match TWO sides of tiles already placed, that player gets TWO tiles from the bag.) So far, this is fairly standard play. Now come some of the twists.

At any time, a player may reveal his “sheep color” by playing his “?” tile. The “?” tile is flipped to reveal the shepherd and four sheep of his color. This tile may now be played like any other tile with the player being able to draw additional tiles by matching edges. In addition, that player may also place ANOTHER tile as a bonus. In this way, a player can place up to 3 tiles in a turn: the shepherd tile, a bonus tile and, finally, his regular turn tile.

As you construct the board, forests (denoted by the green trees on the tiles) are created. Forests that border fields (where the sheep are) are safe areas. But some forests harbor wolves! Four wolf tiles are in the game. Wolves that border areas inhabited by sheep negate the point values of those sheep at game’s end. Fortunately, wolves can be neutralized by hunters. Four hunter tiles are in the game and they can be placed ON TOP of a wolf to eliminate the wolf’s effect. Alternatively, they may be placed in a forest to keep wolves out. (Wolf tiles cannot be placed in a forest containing a hunter.) Wolf and hunter tiles may be played out of turn if so desired.

Play continues until all tiles have been drawn from the bag and no player wishes to or is unable to play a tile to the game area. Now we score.

Each player scores 1 point for each sheep of his color in the largest, wolf-free, fenced field that they have managed to build. Only fences and forests can enclose a field. “Open” fields score no points. Enclosed areas that hold sheep AND a wolf score no points! In addition, bonus points are awarded based upon when players stop playing tiles: six points for the first player to stop, three points for the second and one point for the third. The player with the most points (including bonuses) wins! (In case of a tie, the second largest enclosed field of each player is compared. The player with the largest wolf-free field earns the victory.)

Wooly Bully is a game that has received less recognition that it should have because of the phenomenal success of Carcassonne. Ironically, both games were reportedly designed at about the same time, with Carcassonne hitting the market first and garnering the big buzz. However, I like the scoring in Wooly Bully much better. (I may be in the minority on this but I always found the Carcassonne scoring cumbersome, taking away a lot of the pleasure of that game’s design.) That being said, I would have liked to have seen the smaller fields, used only in the case of tie-breakers in the rules, count for total scores. It would raise the scoring totals (making a bigger – and more satisfying – payoff for all that hard work and planning) and reward the ability of players to create many corrals instead of their one, biggest, enclosure. The ability to draw multiple tiles on a turn rewards skillful play and the bonuses awaiting the player who knows “when to fold them” adds a “timing” factor. The thick tiles are nice to handle and the delightful artwork of Francois Bruel captures the theme and “lightness” of the game.

Wooly Bully is a excellent choice for an opener or a closer at game night. It could also serve as a delicious “snack” during lunch time on the job. Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs had a hit single with “Wooly Bully”. Philippe des Pallières deserves a hit as well with this tile-laying treat. – – – – – Herb Levy


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