Gordon & Fraser

ZOCH 2006

G@mebox Star



At the SPIEL 06 at Essen the new ZOCH game Haste Bock with its absolutely cute looking collection of coloured plastic sheep not only challenged people passing the ZOCH-booth to immediately try (and then buy) the game, but it also is a perfect example about how a small company all of a sudden may find a major audience if they succeed in creating a game with challenging rules and high-class playing pieces. Thus, let me start this review by going back a year to the SPIEL 05 where the Lamont Brothers from Scotland presented their new game Shear Panic as a small, limited edition to the astounded public...

At that time, the Lamont Brothers came to Essen with 500 copies of the game which they had produced under their own label FRAGOR GAMES, and most of which were already on pre-order by players from around the globe who had seen preview photos of the game and its playing pieces. However, already during the press presentation on the first day of the convention the game received such an attendance by reviewers and other hobbyists that the last remaining copies were sold, so that the whole edition was SOLD OUT even before the convention itself started. Still, during the convention the fame of the game spread, and many people came to visit the booth of FRAGOR GAMES and asked whether there would be a new edition of the game. This development did not go undetected by some of the major publishers, and thus it was the ZOCH Verlag who finally was successful in closing an agreement with the Lamont Brothers for a new release of the game.


And now, in fall 2006, the sheep are back in town, coming in a new, enlarged box with enhanced artwork and including a gameboard. However, apart from these optical enhancements and the introduction of rules for 2 and 3 players the ZOCH design crew did not do too many other changes to the gameplay itself, so that the essential spirit of the game has remained untouched.

At the beginning of the game, all 8 sheep are aligned in a square formation around a black sheep at the center of the gameboard, with each player being assigned ownership of two sheep (identified by coloured dots on the backs of the sheep). Also, each player receives an identical set of 12 action markers depicting different manoeuvres which the flock of sheep may be ordered to perform.

During his turn, a player chooses one of his action markers which he may perform and then must discard. These actions allow a player to push a single sheep or a whole rows of sheep into different directions, jump over sheep, line the sheep up or even to take an U-turn and to change the facing of the whole flock. Each action also has a value between 1 and 3, and by chosing an action a player also will trigger a corresponding movement of the game-progession-marker on the scale around the gameboard, so that the game slowly progresses from beginning towards the end.

This progression marker also divides the game into four phases, in each of which the players will have to position their sheep differently in order to score points. So, in the first phase the players score by getting their own sheep into adjacent positions, while in the next phase Rudi the Ram comes into play positioning himself in front of the flock, allowing players to score higher the closer their sheep stand to the Ram. Phase three then will allow the scoring for positioning a player`s sheep next to the black sheep, while in the fourth and final phase the dreaded shearer comes into play, now allowing the players to score highest if they have got their sheep at the greatest distance to the shearer. A player always is awarded the current score for his sheep at the end of his turn, so that each action a player perfoms has direct influence on the points awarded after the turn. After all four phases of the game have been played, the player who has scored most points has won the game.

Although the cute looking artwork used by ZOCH on the box of Haste Bock may lead players to the expectation to find an easy children's game, Haste Bock in reality is a tricky, brainwhacking game which has not lost the strategic challenge which was posed by Shear Panic. Especially if played with four players, the game offers a wonderful balance between easily understandable rules and a high strategic potential, although it should be noted that no real long time strategy can be developed. Players usually try to plan ahead for their next turn and to keep the next scoring in mind, but a calculation of further turns usually is futile since the alignment of the sheep on the board will have changed considerably so that a long-term strategy will not be valid anymore. However, this focus on short-term strategy has some charm of its own, since the outcome of the game can still be changed even if one player has taken a lead during the first and second scoring phases.

In this context it is also worthwhile to mention that the players' choice of an action marker is not only influenced by the kind of action depicted on the marker, but also by the value of the marker. The higher the value, the further the game progression marker will be moved, and this also gives the player a chance to influence when the next scoring will take place. In a way, this adds a further dimension to playing depth, since players will have to balance the gaining of an advantageous position on the board against the possibility to keep another player from taking a turn before the next scoring takes place. The newly included two-player rules build especially on this interrelation of sheep movement and game progression, and thus it is no wonder that the game gets even more strategic when played with only two players.

To sum it up, the new artwork and the minor rules twists introduced by the ZOCH Verlag have not changed the game but greatly enhanced it, and so players from around the globe now have the deserved chance to add a matured version of Shear Panic to their collection. To my mind, Haste Bock is one of the rare examples of a PERFECT GAME!

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany