Turf Horse Racing

Game invented by Reiner Knizia.
Review by Martin Higham.

Turf Horse Racing is a gambling game for 3-6 players. The game is played over a number of races with the wealthiest player winning. Each race consists of the players placing bets on one of 8 horses. Each player has three betting markers, two worth 1 point and one worth 2. Your bet is worth 2 or 3 times more if you are only one of two backers or the sole backer of a winning horse. At the start of each race the 8 horses are known (by colour) but there ability is not. In turn each player turns a horse card. If the horse to which the card belongs doesn't yet have a card it is placed by the horse and every player has the opportunity to place 1 bet marker against it. If the horse already has a card the new card is discarded. This is repeated until all horses have a card against them. These cards indicate all possible dice results and the number of spaces a horse moves for each result.

During a race each player gets to throw a dice and decide which horse moves. Depending on the result of the roll different horses will move different amounts. Every horse must move once before any horse can move for a second time (and so on until the race finishes). When it is your turn to roll the dice you have to balence how far your favoured horse would move against the chance that it will move more latter and that one of your fellow players will move it less given the opportunity. If in doubt you move a horse you haven't backed as little as possible. This mechanism is reminiscent of Favoriten (an older German race game) but is varied by the differences in the horses. Points are scored at the end of the race for the first four horses. Three races can easily be played in under an hour.

The game play is not particularly complex with turns progressing quickly. There is a reasonable scope for picking on the leader but a couple of lucky rolls at the right time can change the outcome of any race. In my opinion, the game lacks that certain something to make it special. On the plus side it is meant as a family game and is better than alot of other games that might be classed as such. The components are cheap and the race track printing leaves alot to be desired. Recommended to Horse racing nuts and for people looking for something to play with non-addict gamers for light relief.

The Game Cabinet - editor@gamecabinet.com - Ken Tidwell