Become a true desk jockey
Game Title: Long Shot
Publisher: Z-Man Games
Designer: Chris Handy
Number of Players: 3-8 (5-6 is best)
Suggested for ages 10 and up
Long Shot is YOUR ticket to the track. In this exciting family-friendly horse racing board game, up to 8 players bet, buy horses, and strategize as the race unfolds.
Long Shot includes over 100 unique cards allowing players to combine strategies and resources for maximum control of the race. Will you buy a horse or two in the hopes of winning some of the purse, or will you bet it all on the long shot?
Whether a novice or a horse racing enthusiast, everyone's a winner in this interactive strategy game where anytime is post time!
Long Shot is basically a horse racing simulation board game. The object is essentially to earn more money than your competitors, either by owning the winning horse (or the 2nd place or 3rd place horse) or by betting on the victorious ones. Obviously the higher finishing horse earns more for both his owner and those betting on him. A player is not limited to the number of horses he or she either owns or bets on, other than the amount of money he or she has. The game consists of ten horses; however they are not all created equal. Each horse has different odds to win, with set long shots and favorites. Of course, the better a horse's odds, the more expensive it is to buy. A horse's move on the board is determined by the roll of the dice. There are two dice in the game. One 10-sided die determines which horse actually gets to move. The second is a six-sided die with a 1 on four sides, a 0 on one side, and a 3 on the last.
At the beginning of the turn, the player rolls both dice. The number on the first determines which horse gets to advance towards the finish line. The number on the second determines how many spaces. However, horses actually owned by one of the players can also move even if their number does not come up on the die. Each horse has a card listing the numbers that they can move on. This is where odds come into play. The horses with the best odds, such as Horse 9, can move forward with more numbers (five in the case with Horse #9). For example, if the die comes up with 1, both Horse 1 and Horse 9 move the number of spaces. In addition, there are action cards which can be played. Some allow for free bets to be placed on a particular horse, some give free money if you own a particular horse, while others can move particular horses forwards or backwards. These cards may be played after rolling and moving horses. The turn ends with drawing a new action card.
The strategy of course comes in choosing which horse (or horses) to buy and on which horses to place a bet. One can place a bet on any horse, even if it is owned by a competitor, as a way to hedge and diversify winnings. This means that if a horse has 6-1 odds to finish first, 4-1 odds to finish second or 3-1 to finish first, a meager $5 bet can pay off fairly handsomely. Naturally, the owner of the winning horse will win the most money. First place is worth $100, but the owner of the first place animal may or may not end up as the winner of the overall game. Horses may be bought at any time, though it obviously behooves the player to buy his horse as soon as possible as a horse cannot move unless it is owned. Bets may be placed on any horse at any time until it crosses the three-quarters line of the race (though action cards sometimes allow a bet to be place on a horse at any time, even one space from the finish line.
While the game does have its strategic elements, the game is hampered by the odds system. It is too easy to get an automatic leg up on other players by simply buying the horse with the best odds. Even when bought relatively late, the game where Horse #9 (with odds at 3-1) doesn't at least finish in the top 3 is pretty rare. Similarly, a game where one of the "lesser" horses win is also not very common, and due more to good luck on rolls and action cards than anything else. This means that most strategy comes down to betting the right amount of money on the winners. But since pretty much every player will naturally bet on the same horses (the ones who get to that 3/4 line when the betting window is closed on a particular horse), it often comes down to who owns the winning horse. And since the same horses are often winning, the victorious player often comes down to simply who managed to get the first opportunity to buy the best horses. This makes the game seem a little too predictable, a little too much the same every time it is played.
There are also a few problems with the board design. The track is laid out as an oval with all starting positions having an equal number of squares to traverse. But this means that the squares for the inside track are very compressed, while the outside ones are greatly elongated. This makes just glancing at the board to see who is winning a little trickier than it needs to be. It perhaps would have been better if the track had been designed as a straight course. However, the cards are well designed with easy to read text. The actual horse pieces are standard plastic with little stickers showing numbers and colors.
With a 60-minute playing time, and with the small pieces, this would perhaps not be the best game for small children.
The game is not a total waste of money; the actual race can be pretty exciting with horses making sudden surges and sudden drops, just like in the actual sport, forcing quick adjustments in betting strategies. The game was a nominee for the Golden Geek Award for Best Party Game in 2010, and can be a lot of fun with a good number of players. It is merely hampered in that the end is often anti-climactic, with the same horses often finishing in the top. And so it is difficult to give it an unqualified buy recommendation unless you are a big fan of horse racing.
Long Shot can usually be found for about $35-40.
Written or Contributed by: Gregory Huber