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High Roller Horse Racing

Be a horse race owner, spectator, and jockey all in one, in this dice rolling, drafting, betting game — now seeking funding on Kickstarter.

High Roller Horse Racing features 8 of the greatest real-life American racehorses ever (Man O'War, Secretariat, Citation, Seattle Slew, Zenyatta, Dr. Fager, American Pharoah, and Native Dancer). But does the gameplay do them justice?

Gameplay

The game is divided into three portions: horse drafting, betting, and the race. During the horse draft, each player rolls a die and the highest roller gets to choose which of the eight horses to purchase. Players then take turns picking horses in a clockwise direction. If there are still any horses remaining, the player who chose last gets to choose another horse and the drafting continues counter-clockwise back to the first player, until all the horses have been drafted. The game also suggests that, alternatively, the horses can be auctioned off to the highest bidders.

During the betting phase, each player may choose one horse to bet on. You may bet in increments of three hundred, and if two players bet on the same horse, the player who bet more money on that horse will win more of the payout if it wins.

High Roller Horse Racing product shot

After the betting comes the race. At any given point in the game, horses go in the order of how far along the track they are. On your horse’s turn, you choose either to Ride or to Drive it. Driving often lets you go further, but if you roll a one you must pay a fine and your horse is disqualified from the rest of the race. Once you decide if you are Riding or Driving, you roll a die. Each horse comes with a card that says what number, if any, you add (or subtract) to your roll. The number usually is different for Riding or Driving. The number also changes once you are halfway through the race. The resulting total is how many spaces your horse can move. Moving closer to the inside of the track always takes two movement spaces, and cannot be done while turning a corner.

Each horse also has a different level of patience. For each patience point it has, you can store up one point of movement and use it again at any time during the race. This is helpful, particularly at the start, if it gets hemmed in by other horses.

Once a horse reaches the finish line, all horses that have not moved yet that round get to complete their movement to see if they can pass the horse that finished. Whatever horse is farthest is declared the winner. Gameplay continues until there is a second and third place winner as well.

Afterwards, the owners of the winning horses get paid, as does anyone who correctly bet on the outcome of the race.

High Roller Horse Racing

Review

The game nicely balances the three different roles you take on: horse owner, better, and jockey. Having the winning horse definitely pays out better than a winning bet usually, but there is something extremely satisfying about seeing the horse you were banking on, crossing that finishing line.

There’s a nice, thoughtful balance to the horses. Each one has its own strengths and weakness. There’s also a nice blend of press-your-luck in Driving, and some horses really play into that. So you can draft your horses based on how much you enjoy pressing your luck and your preferred play style.

This does mean that there’s a lot of luck in the game. The race is determined very much by the roll of the die. However, if you’ve drafted two horses, there are some interesting ways you can use them to help each other along the race or block your opponents.

The game comes with a suggested variant in which you play a series of races. This is going to take more time, but it is really enjoyable to see how each horse does over more than one race, while also making coming in second or third feel more important.

We played with a prototype copy of the game which looked great, and there’s a lot of effort put in to the theme, with fun tote board paper sheets to keep track of bets and descriptions of each horse. If the theme interests you, or if you just enjoy dice games, check out High Roller Horse Racing on Kickstarter.

Pros: Nice blend of three different game phases, some fun push your luck elements, horses nicely balanced

Cons: You need four players minimum, may be too luck-heavy for some players

Disclosure: this preview is based on our evaluation of an unpublished prototype of the game, which is subject to change prior to publication. While a modest payment was received to expedite the review process, our thoughts and opinions expressed here are honest and accurate.