TURF HORSE RACING - Reviewed by Mike

Category/Format: Sport/Card Game

Although this game is categorised under card Game it could easily be filed under Boardgame as it is really a mixture of the two, the interpretation of the cards affecting the movement on the board, which is a simple straight racetrack of 40 spaces. The only other components are the 28 cards, 7 plastic horses in different colours, betting chips in 6 colours and a special die, more of which later.

The game revolves around placing bets on 3 different horses and by co-operating with other players, ensuring that the horses you have bet on finish in the first 3. Winnings are paid out depending upon how many backers each horse has, the fewer the backers the higher the rewards. However this being a Reiner Knizia game there is more depth to it than expected from a first impression.

At the start players are given 3 betting chips in their chosen colour, one large chip which will double the returns from any winning bet, and 2 small single chips.

MOVEMENT. To explain the game I had better describe the cards and the special dice which drive the games mechanisms. For each of the 7 horses in the race there are 4 cards in the deck. On each card is depicted 4 symbols, these being a horses head, jockeys cap, horseshoe and riding boot. Marked against these symbols are a series of values which denote how many spaces that horse can move if that symbol is thrown on the special dice.

The 6-sided dice contains 3 horses heads and one of the other 3 symbols. If you multiply the values of the horses head symbol by 3 and add the values of the other symbols on the card they always come to total of 30; this is the good doctor weaving his arithmetic patterns again.

During the race each player will throw the dice and then use the symbol thrown on any of the horses that have not yet moved in this turn. Once this has been done the card is turned over so that it cannot be given another movement this turn. When all horses have had a turn all the cards are placed face up again and a new turn begins. Players will either use this symbol to move a horse they have backed its maximum movement forward. If it's not suitable for this purpose they may decide to use it on another horse that they haven't backed to stuff their opponents !

BETTING. At the start of each race the deck of 28 cards is shuffled and given to the start player. That player will turn over the first card and place it against the appropriate entry on the side of the track. Each player in turn can then elect to place one of his betting chips on that horse. When all players have made their decision to bet or not the deck is passed to the next player who repeats the process. If a card is turned up that has already been placed then it is ignored and the drawing process continues until a 'new' horse is drawn. Once all 7 horses have been drawn and final bets placed the race can begin.

THE RACE. Whoever is the next player in sequence then takes the special die and throws it. They will then study each of the 7 cards in play for this race and select one of them to receive the movement as described above. You're looking for allies who have backed the same horse as you to improve its chances, as you're unlikely to get it home if you are the only one on it. However some of the symbols have 20 spaces against them and it only needs 2 of those to be thrown and you're nearly there !. So this takes a little bit of thought.

RACE END. A race ends as soon as one horse passes the winning post and finishing positions are determined by their standing at the time this happens. It may follow therefore that if you have horses in 2nd and 3rd places and you're the only one on them it may be advantageous to get another horse first over the line even if you haven't backed it. This is just one example of the little nuances that come out after repeated playings.

PAYOUT. The winning bets are calculated according to position and number of backers and these are recorded on a piece of paper (I have constructed my own for ease of reference). The winner is the player with the most points after an agreed number of races. We normally play a number of races equal to the number of players.

A good little game that will please older children and adults and takes about 10-15 minutes for each race, so it's suitable as either a session game if you play 6 races or as a closer if you play just 3 races.

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