Thank you Bible Games Central for sending us this game to review!
The Good Shepherd is a competitive card game where individual players each try to get the highest scoring hand. Each player has a hand of 3 cards and in order to score players must have at least one sheep card and one pasture card in their hand when the game ends. Each sheep and pasture card has a value of 1 - 10. The game ends when a certain number of sundown cards have been played. The exact number of sundown cards needed depends on the number of players. So, in a three-player game, that number is 3 sundown cards. An example of scoring: John, Jane, and Joe are the players. John has in his hand a sheep card valued at 4, a pasture card valued at 9 and a shepherd card. Jane has 2 sheep cards valued at 5 and 6 and a sparrow card. Joe has a sheep card valued at 7 a pasture card valued at 8 and another sheep valued at 2. The third sundown card is played and the game ends. The final score is: John scores 13 (a sheep valued at 4 + a pasture valued at 9); Jane scores 0 (sheep aren't scored without a pasture and vice-versa); Joe scores 17 (a sheep valued at 7 + a sheep valued at 2 + a pasture valued at 8 ). Joe wins.
Gameplay is pretty quick. Players take clockwise turns which consist of 2 steps. Step 1: draw a card. Step 2: play a card or discard a card. Cards that can be played are: the sparrow, the wolf, the stampede and the sundown card. Cards that can be discarded are: the sheep, the pasture, and the shepherd.
The sheep and pasture cards are solely for scoring points as described earlier. The sundown cards function as a kind of game clock that can be controlled by holding them in your hand until you have a hand that can score. The sparrow card allows you to see another player's hand. The wolf allows you to steal one of your opponents' cards and give them one of yours in exchange. The stampede forces one player to discard (or play in the case of a sundown card) all the cards in their hand and draw 3 new cards from the deck. The shepherd card can prevent a wolf or stampede card from taking effect, but you lose the shepherd card and draw a replacement card from the deck. Finally, there is one extra special sheep card in the deck that is valued at 99+1. If you have a pasture card, this card is an instant win since you're guaranteed to score over 100 points! Just don't let it be wolfed (is that a verb? It is now, I guess.) That's what happened to me.
All the card faces are easily identifiable by color and artwork. The cards are made of industry-standard card game material and will hold up well for a while under normal play conditions.
The recommended age of 6+ is probably accurate. My 5-year-old probably could have played on his own, but he preferred to team up with me. He understood the mechanics of the game just fine with a little explanation. The first game we played was over in about 5 minutes because we got 3 sundown cards pretty much right away. The second game took about 15 minutes to get all the sundown cards needed, and while we were waiting for the last sundown card to appear my 99+1 card got wolfed by my wife. My son nearly had a meltdown when that happened.
The Good Shepherd is a very simple, fast-paced competitive game with a biblical motif. It's fun and doesn't take long to set up or play. We'd recommend it to families or for small groups.