Does this horse racing-themed board game have it what it takes to win?

long shot: the dice game review
(Image credit: Future)

  • +Easy and fast, with a great balance of random rolls and tactical betting
  • +Different players backing the same horses results in fun clashing motivations
  • +Looks and feels more engaging and interactive than other roll and write games
  • -Random race progress may leave strategy fans cold
  • -Some may find the gambling theme objectionable

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If you’ve never heard of 2009’s Long Shot, you can be forgiven. A horse-racing game with plastic steeds, it didn’t make a huge splash when it landed. Normally that would be the end of a franchise. But it got a second bite at the apple thanks to the rise in popularity of roll and write titles, games where you roll dice and mark down something about the results on a scoresheet. The designer of the original took his game and tweaked it to fit the model, resulting in a much slimmer, faster version of the concept.

But is it one of the best board games you can play today? Let’s find out.

long shot: the dice game review

(Image credit: Future)

Price and Who It’s For

Like a lot of roll and write games, Long Shot: The Dice Game is quite affordable. It’s a small package, coming in a neat little box with a magnetic clasp, and should set you back about £25/$30. That’s perhaps a bit more than some of its ilk but then again it has an actual board and wooden horse pieces, so that’s understandable.

In terms of who it’s for, it’s more salient to ask who it isn’t for. This is a game with very wide appeal. It’s fairly easy to learn, fast to play, plays well from one to eight players, and has a satisfying mix of both strategy and randomness. It should prove entertaining for anyone beyond young children and the most discerning of heavyweight strategy gamers.

long shot: the dice game review

(Image credit: Future)

How It Plays

At the beginning of the game, each player gets a betting card to mark off and eight horses are lined up at the start line of the track, ready to go. Each horse has a corresponding card with a special ability and eight boxes along the bottom, some of which start out marked with a cross. There are several sets of these cards with different special abilities so you can mix and match, ensuring there’s plenty of variety and replay value.

On your turn you’ll roll an eight-sided die and a six-sided die, the latter of which is marked with the numbers one to three. The first dice tells you which horse to move while the second shows you how many spaces down the track it goes. You then refer to that horse’s card and check the boxes. They correspond to the horse numbers and, if the box is marked, that horse also moves one space. The higher numbered horses start out with more of their boxes on other cards marked, meaning they’re more likely to move and hence more likely to place well.

You need this information because Long Shot: The Dice Game is a betting game where the player who wins the most cash wins the game. Your card shows the odds for each horse winning or coming in second or third, and the odds get longer as you move down the horses in numeric order. So the money you bet on horse number 1 will get you a smaller return than horse number eight, but horse #1 is more likely to win the race. After the dice roll, each player can, if they want, bet more money on whichever horse got rolled, so every player is involved in every round of the game.

If that was everything Long Shot: The Dice Game had to offer, it would still be a reasonable, if repetitive, distraction. You only start with twelve bucks to bet across eight horses, so watching the race, judging the odds as the conditions change and spreading your resources according to the risk is fun in it’s own right. The dice roll keeps everything uncertain and there’s no guarantee that the leader at the halfway point is even going to finish in the top three.

long shot: the dice game review

(Image credit: Future)

As it happens there’s a lot more to this. Upping your bet is only one of a number of actions that can be taken against the horse you rolled. Most extravagant of all is buying the horse, allowing you to take the card and use its special ability, such as gaining two dollars if a two comes up on the dice. More importantly if a horse you own places in the top three it will earn you a hefty bonus to your winnings.

Other options include ticking off the jumper and/or cap of the horse. One lets you bet on the horse even in the closing stages of the race, while the other lets you cross a box on that horse’s card, allowing you to favour other horses on a repeat of that die roll. In this way, you can inch up the chances for cobs you own or have bet on, while still retaining all the excitement and uncertainty of the movement dice.

This is where the game gets particularly interesting. Because this isn’t a game where you’re backing a single interest: you may have a big bet on a horse, but another player may have an even bigger bet or may own it. So if you increase the chances for a given horse, you’re not the only one who stands to benefit. This creates a fascinating net of tensions where you’re forced to try and juggle the chances of a horse winning versus analysing who stands to benefit and by how much. As the race progresses and more players get involved across more horses, this web of intrigue assumes deliciously exponential proportions.

The final action is to mark off concessions, which are simply a grid on your card in which horse’s number is repeated twice. If you can cross off a line or column on the grid you get to choose one of a number of tempting bonuses. It’s the only way to increase your paltry twelve-dollar starting cash, for one thing. Other options include moving horses of your choice on the track backwards or forward, influencing their chances. You’re not, however, allowed to push one over the finish line with this effect. That crowning glory belongs to the dice, ensuring the excitement lasts right up until the end.

long shot: the dice game review

(Image credit: Future)

Verdict

While it might look like a crapshoot at first, Long Shot: The Dice Game offers you just enough control over proceedings to make it a very interesting horse indeed. There are several levers to help you advance your favoured contender and if not, well, there are also plenty of chances to back a different horse instead. The intricate tangle of complimentary and competitive goals that arise as players strive to push their chosen horses over the finish line is a never-ending delight that brings a rare level of player interaction to roll and write games. In that crowded and ever-expanding genre, you could confidently bet that Long Shot: The Dice game, is going to finish close to the top of the pack.

Also Consider

Long Shot: The Dice Game has its foot in two camps, racing games on one hand and roll and write on the other. So it makes sense to make one suggestion from each. 

Racing fans who don’t fancy a bet on the horses could perhaps check out Downforce. This is another family-weight game where you can own racers and bet on them, although this time they’re cars rather than horses. The biggest difference, though, is that you’re in control of how the car you own moves around the track, although you’ll also be forced to move some of your opponent’s cars. That makes it a bit more strategic, although perhaps a bit less exciting and it takes longer to learn and play.

In terms of roll and write titles, Long Shot: The Dice game is pretty unique. However, if you like the sound of the concept then On Tour might scratch your itch instead. In this game, players are trying to create a route across a map of America, for a touring rock band to follow. Two dice are rolled, giving you two pairs of numbers, that then need to be written into one of three states shown by a card draw. At the game end you need to join the numbers on your map up, high to low. It has the same sense of anticipation and excitement but is a bit easier on the brain.

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