The Sport of Kings

Lambourne Games, £19.95
Designed by Terry Goodchild
Multiplayer or Solitaire Campaign
Reviewed by Mike Clifford

Or 'frustration city' as it should be called.

Firstly, as a game, Sport Of Kings ranks with the best that Terry Goodchild has designed. And as this modest chap already has Metric Mile, Wings Over France and The World of Motor Racing under his burgeoning belt, this is a significant achievement. But the downside:

To call the production 'perfunctory' would be to insult King Perfunct. Admittedly, the components are functional, the graphics clear, the rule book an exercise in 'how to' and the package substantial (9 on the Sigter Scale). But it's drab, with nay a nod to modern technology. I fully understand Terry's predicament. He operates in a limited marketplace, and judicious use of funds is required. But, assuming this endeavour has been put together on a computer, why not invest in a decent graphics package? Personally, I don't care. The Sport Of Kings is a superb game, with a simple but highly effective solitaire system. But surely this is a case of 'lost opportunity' in terms of a wider audience. And now, having run out of metaphors, the game:

It is likely that The Sport of Kings will be played solo more often than not. Although the subject matter (horse racing) is a popular one for the family boardgame operators, this system would baffle those looking for something to amuse for half an hour or so. Hardened sports gamers, therefore, will no doubt thrust themselves into the campaign game, which comes with a multi-player option, but is likely to completed by those 'bats' amongst us (me included). Although there is a lot of book-keeping, this will not detract from the gameplay. In fact, totting up winnings and losses is good fun, and even 'setting the book' proved a doddle.

The campaign scenario requires a player to choose a stable, and complete a series of race cards either over 13 or 26 weeks. The opposition horses for each race are selected in a random manner, as are the jockeys (of variable quality). When the odds have been deduced, the race begins. Depending on the length (from 5 furlongs up to 2 miles), a small token is moved along a track until the finish marker is reached. In each turn, the player rolls 2d6 and refers to the horse cards which feature variable movement factors. The final movement number can also affected by the going and quality of jockey. There are even blinkers for nervous mounts! The horses are carefully graded, which means potential classic winners cannot run in a handicap, and keeps the racing very competitive.

Players are allowed to place two bets, on both one of their own horses and another from the opposition. Prize money is graded according to the standard of race and allotted at the conclusion of proceedings. This is a pencil and paper exercise. Tokens are not provided.

The race course is a serviceable plastic two-piece job in murky British Racing Green. The horse counters are black and white (with identical image but different numbers) which sit in plastic stands, a la Platoon. It is suggested that those with artistic ability create their own mounts, buy an old set of Totopoly or steal the excellent models from Stretch Call.

Terry Goodchild has included every facet of flat racing in this weighty bundle. All-in-all, you get 72 racehorse cards (good quality, and ready cut), Superbly Fit and Jockey cards (from Apprentice to Top-Class, but which need to be cut) two outstanding rule books (basic and campaign) and a host of charts and forms. There is little question that the game provides value for money at around twenty quid. My reservations are purely aesthetic. For £6 less, you can buy the excellent Win, Place & Show, which does a similar job and looks like a Matisse in comparison. However, I have no reservations about the gaming quality of The Sport of Kings.

mike clifford

On to the review of Stalingrad Pocket or back to the review of Quo Vadis.

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