Skip to Content

Cows vs Sheep - from abstract to theme

Prototype play

So, never having ever kept a diary or done a blog I've finally bitten the bullet & decided to start now, mid-design, with 2 games I've been working on. The first, Cows vs Sheep, started life as an abstract using naughts & crosses & lines as walls. It was nicely abstract, crudely made & demonstrated the concepts of the 2 games I'd tried to mash together, Naughts & Crosses & Boxes (boxes is what we called it as kids, I've also heard it referred to as Dots. It's the game with a grid of dots & each player takes a turn drawing a horizontal or vertical line between 2 adjacent dots trying to form a closed box which they put their initial in).

The initial development went well. I had the idea at the start of lunch, had made a random assortment of square cards & self-playtested it by the end of lunch. I was happy with it & asked my design teacher if he'd like to try it since I knew he liked strategy games. After he understood the rules he seemed to be hooked. Another playtest with another student, consisting of about 5 games, followed & more positive feedback.

I took it into a local gameshop & had a friend that likes abstract & strategy games & had fairly positive reviews with some good balancing suggestions. It was at this stage that theme came up. He works in my FLGS & said that in order to sell it needed a theme. We discussed some, ranging from building a space station & trying to encapsulate astronauts to save them to farmers trying to claim a paddock. The latter is what I went with.

I head back to the pc & search for royalty free assets I could use for testing. Hours spent cutting & pasting & using my atrocious skills to cobble together new cards; paper & ink wasted as I confuse myself about where I need to guillotine the sheets; & rolls of glue tape sticking them to some thicker cards stock so they aren't see through & don't crease & bend so easily & I was ready for a more public playtest.

A local digital gaming group meets monthly & let me playtest (since mine are usually paper prototypes for digital games, this being one of them) so I rocked up with the cards & a non-slip mat to play on. The first tabletop game I had designed had a take that element that was scaled back by only allowing players to affect 3 of an opponent's pieces at any one time. Surprisingly I got the exact same feedback for this game, don't let players affect 4-quadrants as that means players get analysis paralysis looking at all the possibilities - instead encourage them to expand the board by forcing play around the edges with a quadrant restriction.

Feedback noted the general consensus was that it was a fun, challenging game. They especially liked the fact that it is a 0-sum game (apart from 1 card that has no walls & 2 of each animal on it, there are similar cards for each player. Shuffling them together & drawing cards as you play means that you are likely to get a piece that favours your opponent at that time as they are to get the card you need) that has only ever had 1-draw play out. I'm not saying that a draw won't happen more often, just that so far, if both players are playing to win, then they don't seem to happen very often at all.

Where am I at now with this? Well I've (foolishly?) said that I will provide a PnP version to be included in a show bag for PaxAus being put together by the TGDA (tabletop game designers Australia) group so I've done up a rules sheet & an Alpha build of a deck & sent it out into the world to get feedback. Interested in trying it? Here's a link to the folder - go for it, have fun, & let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading :)


I'm a little blurry eyed from

I'm a little blurry eyed from doing laundry all night and misread the title as "Cows versus Sharks - abstract theme," which had me super excited. I have two kids, so cows and sheep . . . I'd actually need to go count how many games we have about that theme. At least four, I think.

That's commented on a lot

But the theme sort of makes sense. I am trying to come up with others so I can see what works but as this is the first game I've managed to design that actually has a theme I was pretty happy. Then again, a comment I'm getting from some players is that it looks really cute so they think it is easy but playing it hurts their head because they have to think.

I suppose I could explore the astronauts in space & trying to build force bubbles to protect them might work.

Syndicate content

gamejournal | by Dr. Radut