Long Shot: The Dice Game Review (prepublished version)

Please Take Note: This is a review of the final game, but it might change slightly based on the Kickstarter campaign’s success. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the game’s website or visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review.


The Basics:

  • For ages 14 and up
  • For 1 to 8 players
  • Approximately 25 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management
  • Bidding

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Moderate
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Place your bets and try your luck at the racetrack!

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek mixed!

Overview

American author, Roger Kahn, said: “Horse racing is animated roulette.” Which is to say, you don’t know the outcome until the very end. But it’s that excitement, with the paired horse and jockey, racing as fast as they can with each horse’s step bringing them closer to the finish line, that keeps everyone in the stands at the edge of their seats. In this game of horse racing, players will be placing their bets on their own horses. To win this game, you need to play the race in both the short and long run.

Long Shot: The Dice Game, designed by Chris Handy and to be published by Perplext, will reportedly be comprised of eight Player boards, eight Horse tokens, eight dry erase markers, eight Starting cards, 16 Horse cards, one Track board, one Horse die, one Movement die, and one Solo board. As this is a review of a prepublished game, I cannot comment on the game component quality. Illustrations by Clau Souza are bright and stylized, giving the game a unique look and polished finish.

The Day of the Race

To set up the game, first place the Track board in the center of the playing area and within reach of all the players.

Second, place the eight Horse tokens behind the blue “Start/Finish Line” found on the Track board.

Third, select a set of eight Horse cards with the number value range from “1” to “8”. There is a recommended set of “starting cards” for those learning how to play the game. The Horse cards allow players to customize or randomize the horses in play. However, they have also been designed to play in specific sets, providing a good balance. It’s up to the players, and there is no wrong way to go about it.

Fourth, place the selected Horse cards face-up and in a row beside the Track board. This row of Horse cards is referred to as the “Market.” All remaining Horse cards should be returned to the game box at this time.

Fifth, give each player a dry erase marker and Player board. Have each player indicate they have a starting money value of “$12” on their Player board using the dry erase marker.

Sixth, shuffle the Starting cards and deal one card to each player. Players should now update their Player board with the information on their Starting card by marking out specific numbers under the Concession grid and adding two numbers to the Bet space. Once all players have completed updating their Player board, return the Starting cards to the game box.

That’s it for game set up. Determine who will go first and let the races begin!

And They’re Off!

Long Shot is played in rounds and turns with no set number of rounds per game. A round is divided into four sequential phases, which are summarized here.

Phase One: Roll Them Dice!

The active player for the round takes the dice and rolls them to see the results. There are two dice in this game. The Horse die (which will match one of the eight horse numbers), and the Movement die with a number value of one through three.

Phase Two: Move the Horse

The active player now moves the Horse token that matches the value rolled on the Horse die the number of spaces around the Track board based on the number value rolled on the Movement die. If the horse has already crossed the finish line, this phase is skipped.

It should be noted that horses and their jockey would move towards the center of the track to gain an advantage in a real race. That is not the case in Long Shot. Each Horse token has a lane and should remain in it when being moved, as there is no advantage to be had shifting lane positions. In this way, Horse tokens will travel the same number of spaces and never get in each other’s way.

A few rules to follow when moving the horses:

  • Any number of Horse tokens can occupy the same track space
  • Always move Horse tokens in numeric order, from lowest to highest
  • If a Horse token would move backward past the “Start/Finish Line,” the Horse token’s movement stops at the line with any additional movement ignored
  • Horse tokens can only pass the finish line using movement from the Horse and Movement dice or secondary movement.

Phase Three: Jockey for Position

Some, not all, of the remaining Horse tokens, now move one space forward in the track. To determine which Horse tokens move, find the Horse card that matches the Horse token just moved. Listed on the Horse card is a row of numbers one through eight with one or more of those numbers with an “X.” This is referred to as the “secondary movement bar.” Only move the Horse tokens, in sequential order, one space each if their number has an “X.”

Phase Four: Take Your Action

Each player, starting with the active player and continuing in turn order sequence, can now take one action. Normally, the actions available are based on the Horse die. Each of the actions is summarized here:

Concessions

This action allows the player to mark a single space in the Concession grid found on their Player board. When the player completes a row or column in the grid, they earn a Concession bonus immediately marked and resolved. If players are crafty, they will complete a row and column simultaneously, allowing them to resolve two bonuses! The available bonuses include:

  • Gaining money
  • Moving Horse tokens backward on the track
  • Moving Horse tokens forward on the track
  • Placing a bet (for free)
  • Taking a Helmet or Jersey action
  • Buy a horse (for free)

Helmet

This action allows the player to mark the Helmet space that matches the Horse die value. The player can bet on horses with an “X.” This includes horses that have already crossed the “No Bet” line on the game board.

Jersey

This action allows the player to mark the Jersey space that matches the Horse die value. The player then looks at the matching Horse card and marks any one horse shown on the secondary movement bar with an “X” on their Player board. The goal is to create scoring sets comprised of a paired helmet and jersey for the same horse its jockey.

Bet

This action allows the player to bet $1, $2, or $3 on a Bet space for the horse that matches the Horse die. The money spent on the bet reduces the player’s Money. If a bet value is already placed, add the new bet to increase the total. Players can only take this action if they can pay for the bet and the Horse token has not passed the “No Bet Line” unless the player has the Helmet space marked for the matching horse.

The one exception to this rule is the ability to place a free bet. Free bets never reduce the player’s Money, and a horse can be bet on if it passes the “No Bet Line” if the player has the matching helmet.

Bets can never be placed, free or otherwise, on horses that have crossed the finish line.

Buy

This action allows the player to purchase a Horse card in the Market that matches the Horse die value. The player pays the fee from their Money and then places the Horse card in front of them, indicating to all that they now own the horse. Players cannot purchase horses that have already crossed the finish line or are owned by an opponent.

An owned horse unlocks the horse’s abilities, but these are only available to the player who owns the horse. Each horse is unique, and the ability is triggered when certain conditions are met. Some examples of horse abilities include the following:

  • Placing a bet for free
  • Movement bonuses and penalties
  • Scoring bonuses
  • Adding additional marks on the Player board

Wild Numbers

While this is not an action, it’s available for players who cannot complete one of the other actions noted above. At the start of the player’s turn, they may mark one of the Wild Numbers on their Player board. If the player does, this round’s action is the equivalent to the Horse die value, even if it doesn’t match. The only drawback is that the player doesn’t get to activate the horse’s Horse die value ability. If the player has marked all their Wild Number spaces, they can spend their turn erasing a mark to recover it later on a subsequent turn. A player can also elect to recover a Wild Number even if they have one or more still available.

Ending the Round

After all the players have taken action on their turn, the round is over. The next player in turn order sequence after the previous rounds Active player becomes the new round’ Active player. The new round then begins, and the race continues.

Crossing the Finish Line and Ending the Race

Eventually, a horse will travel enough spaces to cross the finish line. The first Horse token to do so is moved from the track and placed in the first position on the winner’s circle. The same is done for the second and third horse to cross the finish line.

After the third horse crosses the finish line and is placed in the appropriate spot in the winner’s circle, the race is over. No other horses are moved, but the round is completed, allowing each player to take their final action.

When the final round is over, the final scoring can begin. Scoring is done by taking the following into account:

  • A player earns the purse amount that matches the owned finished horse’s positions in the winning circle
  • Collect bet winnings
  • Earn additional bonus money for helmet and jockey sets
  • Earn additional bonus money from horse abilities

After the players determine their total earned, the player with the most Money wins the game.

Game Variant: Going Solo

Long Shot can be played as a solo game for those players who have a stable full of horses but no other players to race them. The players will compete against an “AI” named Roland, which will take specific and default actions as the game progresses. The goal of the game is the same, with the player winning if they beat the AI. A specific Solo board is made available to help facilitate the game.

To learn more about Long Shot: The Dice Game, visit the game’s website or visit the Kickstarter campaign.

Final Word

The Child Geeks had difficulty with this one. They liked the game’s theme and how it was played but struggled with the math and the “betting” elements of the gameplay. According to one Child Geek, “I don’t know how to bet right, and I feel like you have to if you want to win the game.” While the Child Geek’s feelings are true, you need to know how to bet to win is not a true statement. Betting is an element of the gameplay but not the bedrock on which the game is built. Another Child Geek said, “I liked the game, and I liked how you always had something to do and think about to get points. This game is probably a lot more interesting than watching real horses.” Based on what we observed, the older Child Geeks had the most fun with the younger crowd struggling with the need to hedge bets and take risks. When the last horse finished the race, the Child Geeks gave Long Shot a mixed endorsement.

The Parent Geeks, on the other hand, had a wonderful time. According to one Parent Geek, “A fast and fun game with lots to consider, but never to a point where I felt like I didn’t know what my best options were. I really liked that you could buy a horse and bet on your opponents always to come out ahead.” According to another Parent Geek, “A game that mixed random outcomes perfectly with tactical and strategic decision making. I found the game to be light in its direction, but the roads I had to travel were exciting and always made me think and smile. I really enjoyed this and would gladly play it again.” When all the bets were collected, Long Shot was a big winner with the Parent Geek crowd.

The Gamer Geeks also found a good deal they enjoyed. As one Gamer Geek put it, “A thoughtful mix of random outcomes to methodical thinking. In real horseracing, you can hedge your bets by thinking things through and reduce your risk as a result. I found the same here. Add in the racing element that reduces the time you have to course-correct poor decisions, and you have a game that kept me interested from start to finish.” Another Gamer Geek said, “Good gameplay that is set at a comfortable pace. I enjoyed it a great deal and found each part of the game meaningful and empowering to the player who really wants to compete. I good game.” Long Shot stood proud in the winner’s circle after the last race, with the Gamer Geeks applauding with enthusiasm.

I enjoyed this game a good deal. It kept me engaged right from the start, and I found each round of the gameplay to be a real opportunity to take new information into account and correct my strategies. The dice element added a nice mix of randomness to the game results, but players always had the room and control needed to ensure that dice that hated them didn’t mean a poor game. Even on the worst of rolls, I was able to get ahead. Sure, not as far as I would like, but I was never left feeling like the round was a wasted effort.

The Child Geek did struggle a bit with Long Shot. While the betting element is not difficult, we observed the difficulty the Child Geeks faced regarding when to bet. Never on what horse, as it was obvious that the lead horse was doing the best. What did trip the Child Geeks up was the continuous shifting of the positioning of the horses. Like a true horse race, the pieces shifted position each round with a clear winner never really obvious until it was almost too late to bet on them. Even then, there was still enough race for the lead horses to upset the other’s position. This frustrated some of the Child Geeks and left others simply not caring to bet at all. The good news here is that betting is not an essential element of gameplay. It’s there for those who want to, but not a mandatory decision a player is forced to make.

Long Shot is a great mix of risk and reward, excitement, and quiet moments to concentrate on your next move. It was very much enjoyed, and it was never to a point where meltdowns and flipping of the table were observed for those who it frustrated. In the end, regardless of how the player felt about the outcome of the race, they always liked participating in it. That’s about as good as you can get with any game with a diverse crowd of players. Do try Long Shot: The Dice Game when the opportunity presents itself. Here’s hoping your horse is a winner!

This is a paid-for review of the game’s final prototype. Although our time and focus were financially compensated, our words are our own. We’d need at least 10 million dollars before we started saying what other people wanted. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek, which cannot be bought except by those who own their private islands and small countries.

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About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner. Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....

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