Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tile Game Review - Wooly Bully

You would think wolves have it made. They basically lie around all day, sleeping until they get hungry enough to hunt. Then they go rustle up some grub, eat it, and go back to bed. That's my kind of life - sleep and eat and not much else.

But in Wooly Bully, wolves kind of get the short end of the stick. At first, their life seems pretty easy - they just wait at the edge of a forest and get to eat a bunch of sheep. But as you'll see, it's not quite that easy.

See, in Wooly Bully, each player is a shepherd trying to keep his flock safe. This is a tile-laying game, with each edge of every double-sided tile showing part of a herd of sheep, a forest, a village, a wolf or a hunter. That hunter is really a problem for the wolves, by the way.

You know what color sheep you're trying to corral from the start of the game, but nobody else does. You just lay down tiles, trying to get the biggest herd you can fence off. Other players can hose you by fencing in your herds before you get them big enough, or by making your herd so big you can't finish it. At first, there's not much to this game - you just lay down tiles and draw replacements.

But there are wrinkles that make this a lot more interesting. For one thing, like I said, you don't know what the other people are playing. If there are less than four players, one color of sheep isn't represented by anyone, so you don't even know if you're screwing someone else when you drop a Big Bad Wolf into the forest next to their field. But if you feel like revealing your true colors, you can take three turns in a row, so strategically timing your reveal can give you a huge edge when you really need it.

Another twist is that you can drop out of the game if you think you're winning. The player who drops out first gets six points, second out gets three, third out gets one and that last player (who then has the entire field free to try to lay tiles as long as he wants) gets no bonus. If you think you've got the winning field, it makes sense to pass early on, but it can be tricky - leave too early, and everyone else has a chance to try to beat you. Leave too late, and you have a wide open field, but it may be too late.

Finally, you've got the wolves. You can put a wolf into a forest, and any herd that borders that forest is discounted. The wolf gets a free meal, and gets to eat until he's ready to go back to bed. Which, like I said, would be pretty cool for a wolf.

The problem for the wolf is the hunter. These tiles go on top of wolves, and then your poor, downtrodden wolf, who is just out looking for a snack before bedtime, winds up mounted on a wall somewhere. That's not even fair. The poor wolf goes to grab a bite and gets shot for his trouble. The shepherds get to eat mutton, but the wolves get to eat lead.

Wooly Bully is a very light family game. It's easy to learn and easy to play, but there's a fair bit of strategy in placing tiles and timing your big moves. Time your moves incorrectly, and you could be up a creek. Time them well, and you could drop a wolf into the forest, finish a huge herd and block everyone else from winning. The biggest strategy in Wooly Bully is timing, though placing the right tile in the right place is a big consideration.

One thing that makes Wooly Bully fun to play is the art. The game just looks great. The sheep are all wearing sweaters with different patterns, which means that not only do they look quite natty, but color-blind gamers can still play without wondering if they just put red sheep in a blue field.

All things considered, Wooly Bully is a great way to enjoy half an hour at the cabin, or after dinner and before desert, or while you're waiting for that last guy who is always late. It's not going to blow your mind with its clever game play, and it's not going to be the game you stay up playing until everyone has bloodshot eyes and a headache. It's not exactly a filler game, but it is fun and easy.

Unless you're wolf. It's decidedly less fun and easy if you happen to be a wolf.


Easy to learn and play
Clever and strategic
Great art

A little on the light side
Unfair to wolves

This is a fun game, and it's downright affordable. Go here and get one:


Anonymous said...

This sounds like a great light game to have around. Something easy to teach to non-gamers, and fast enough that if they don't like it isn't a lot of time lost.

I would pick this one up if I saw it!

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