Root Beer Float Challenge

Root Beer Float Challenge

Designer: Brady Peterson, Tim Swindle
Publisher: Gray Matters Games | BGG Entry
2-8 players 30 min ages 8+ MSRP $25
Time to Teach/Learn: 2 minutes
Written by: Stephen Conway

You have come together to crown a new champion by assembling that most tasty treat – the root beer float! The ice cream, the soda, the straws and cherries are laid out and ready. Using these charming props, you will compete to complete a series of hilarious challenges – sometimes on your own, sometimes with a team, and sometimes head-to-head. Be the first to collect the right combination of ingredients and you’ll claim the crown!

Instead of a box, the game itself comes in a giant root beer can! The can is more than just a gimmick. It is actually an integral part of the game.

Inside the can are four sturdy straws, two cherries, and a large scoop of ice cream (a white plastic ball). These are the ingredients you’ll use to complete challenges.

There are three decks of challenge cards (solo, co-op, and head-to-head) and a 6-sided die. The backs of the cards are color coded and have one to three ingredients displayed. The die has sides that match the colors of the decks.

Last but not least is a deck of individual ingredient cards. These are the trophies you’ll collect for completing challenges.

The goal of the game is to collect the right set of ingredient cards to make a root beer float. You’ll need a can of root beer, some ice cream, a cherry, and a straw.

On your turn, you roll the die and draw a challenge card from the deck that matches the color you rolled.

If it’s a solo challenge, you’re on your own. If it’s head-to-head, pick a player to compete with. If it’s co-op, pick a partner to help.

The challenge cards are wacky and ridiculous. Each one will lay out what props you need to use and the goal you need to accomplish. Here’s a few examples:

Solo Challenge – Bounce the ice cream ball into the can from one straw length away.

Co-Op Challenge – One player balances two straws on the back of their hand. They must transfer the two straws to the back of their teammate’s hand. The straws cannot fall.

Head-to-Head Challenge – Players balance a cherry on their heads then walk ten paces forward and ten paces backward. The player who returns first (or goes the farthest) wins.

Give the challenge your best shot! Not every one will go your way and that’s ok! The game goes fast; you’ll get ‘em next time. And if you land upon a challenge that is beyond your capabilities, no problem, just pick a new one.

If you complete the challenge, you collect an ingredient card of your choice from the ones shown on the back of the card. In a co-op challenge your teammate gets one, too. In a head-to-head challenge, your opponent will collect one if you lose!

The first to collect the right ingredients for the root beer float wins the game.

Root Beer Challenge celebrates the joy of active, silly fun. It brings the spirit of the playground indoors. Each challenge is an event in and of itself – a mini-game that includes opportunities for little triumphs and laugh-out-loud disasters. The scale and the stakes are balanced such that the fun comes from the playing, from testing yourself against each silly challenge, whether you succeed or fail. In fact, the failures are often more fun, more hilarious, and more memorable!

Many years ago, the beloved founder of the Major Fun Award, Bernie DeKoven, wrote a book called Junkyard Sports. In it, he lays the foundation for over 75 different games using low or no cost found objects. Think of the made up games played at recess; games you assembled with rules to accommodate the equipment, time, and players you had on hand.

Root Beer Float Challenge carries a torch that was lit by Junkyard Sports. The game reminds us that this flavor of active silly fun is always available and can be created on the fly. It is not something we need to abandon or deny ourselves as “mature” adults. The door to play is never closed. Sometimes all we need is a small push to peek through and rediscover Major Fun.

December 2022

Stampede

Release: 11/14/2022    | Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Run Time: 34 min   | Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

You are a stamp collector and your obsession is for one particular set of stamps featuring wild animals.

Driven by this animal passion, you’ll do almost anything to collect the whole set, including messing with other collectors that get in your way.

But remember the Collector’s Code. Play fair, no stealing! Just trading. Swapping one for one.

Stampede is a game of card swapping and set collecting. Using each animal’s special action, can you build the best album? It will take stealth, planning, and a bit of luck to collect the most dangerous… postage!

Stampede

Designer: Jeroen Geenen

Publisher:  Wiz Kids  |  BGG Entry

2-6 players  20 minutes  ages 10+   MSRP $20

Time to teach/learn:  5 minutes

Music credits include:

Star Collector  |  perf by  The Happening Fourthe song

Green Stamps  | perf by Allen Sherman  |  the song

Hey Yo

Release: 11/7/2022    | Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Run Time: 40 min   | Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Yo! You and your crew are about to jump on stage for your first rap battle. The DJ will lay down the beat and it is up to you to follow along, connecting cards and phrases in rhythm. The beat won’t stop for anyone so it will take concentration, communication and quick thinking to keep your group from being booed off the stage. If you can get everyone in synch, you will wow the crowd and maybe even level up.

Hey Yo is a rhythm-based card game driven by a small electronic gizmo that lays down a beat for your team to follow. Connect cards and symbols in time with the beat and you’ll have a chance to score well before the song ends.

Listen in to explore the game and discover how Hey Yo finds its rhythm and earns the Major Fun Award.

Hey Yo

Designer: Takashi Saito

Artist: Jun Sasaki

Publisher:  Oink GamesBGG Entry

2-10 players  15 minutes  ages 8+   MSRP $45

Time to teach/learn:  3-4 minutes

Music credits include:

You Can’t Play With My Yo Yo  |  by Yo-Yo   |  the song

Hey Ya  | perf by Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra  |  the song

Mountain Goats

Mountain Goats

Designers: Stefan Risthaus
Artist: Anca Gavril, Daniel Profiri
Publisher: Boardgametables, Ostia Spiele
2-4 players 10 min ages 6+ MSRP $19
Time to Teach/Learn: 3 minutes

Written by: Doug Richardson

Boardgametables |  BGG 

What a beautiful day. The sun is shining on the mountains, and the goats are out to play! As they leap from rock to rock, the goats start to get hungry. Where are the most delicious flowers found? At the tops of the mountains, of course. Let’s go!

Mountain Goats is played with a deck of 18 cards, which will form the mountains. The # 5 and 6 mountains consist of 4 cards, the #7 and 8 mountains, 3 cards, and the #9 and 10 mountains are just 2 cards tall each.

Each mountain has a stack of point tokens – 12 for the Mountain 5 and one less token for each successive mountain.

There are also 4 Bonus Point tokens, worth 15, 12, 9 and 6 points.

Each player has six goats and will assign one goat to each of the six mountains.

Finally, there are 4 dice, which players will use to move their goats up the mountains.

Set up the mountain cards with each number card below its peak. Stack the Point tokens above each mountain, and set the Bonus tokens off to the side.

Hand the 4 dice to the starting player, and you’re ready to play Mountain Goats!

Mountain Goats is a game of dice rolling and set collection. The goal is to earn the most points in tokens, including those Bonus Tokens.

Each turn you’ll roll the four dice and then combine them to move your goats up the mountains.

Once you roll the four dice, look for groups, or single dice which produce the numbers 5 through 10.

For each dice group, you’ll move your goat on the corresponding mountain up by one step.

So, for example, if you rolled a 2, 4, 5, and 6, you could set the 5 by itself, pair the 2 and 4, and use the 6 by itself. You’d then move your goat on the Mountain 5 one step, and your Mountain 6 goat up two steps.

Of course, you could also have chosen to pair the 4 and 6, and the 2 and 5, moving one goat up the Mountain 10, and one up Mountain 7.

Note that if you end up with groups of dice that don’t add to numbers between 5 and 10, those dice won’t move any goats.

Any number of player’s goats may share the same space, except at the top of the mountain.

When you move a goat to the top of any mountain, you take a token from that mountain’s stack. If another player’s goat was already at the top, return that goat to the bottom of the mountain to start its climb all over.

As long as your goat is at the top, when you create a new group of dice with that number, your goat won’t move, it’ll simply grab another scoring token. Just watch out for other goats climbing up from below!

If  you collect a set of one token from each of the six mountains, you earn the highest numbered Bonus token available.

In fact, each time you collect a complete set of tokens, take the highest Bonus token available.

The last round of the game is triggered when all the Bonus tokens have been claimed or when 3 mountains have no more Point tokens available. When either of these conditions is met, finish the round so all players have had an equal number of turns.

Players add up the points on all their scoring tokens. Highest score wins the game. In the case of a tie, the player with the most goats on mountaintops wins.

The winner is now the Queen (or King) of all the Mountain Goats!!

Mountain Goats is an excellent re-theming of an older game, Level X. That game made the short list of recommended games by the Spiel des Jahres committee in 2010.

While the base game play is identical, there’s something both fitting and wonderful about this new setting. Now your markers on each mountain are frisky goats, jumping and bumping each other as they bound for the peaks.

Before you were picking up point tokens, now you are motivating your goats higher and higher, all in pursuit of the sweetest flowers.

Why do these changes matter? Because play isn’t just about winning, or out-scoring your opponents, but about the connection the game creates in your mind between what you are doing, and what the theme suggests you are about.

Mechanically? You are using dice to move tokens and gain points. Thematically, your dice allow your goats to scamper up the mountains, gathering tasty flowers, and butting rivals from the loftiest heights.

With this theme, we create an emotional connection. Those are MY goats! How dare you butt them from the top of the mountain?? Yeah? We’ll see about that!

Now, you are invested. This is your team, your family. How dare anyone mess with YOUR family? The pieces and gameplay are virtually the same. What has changed is your commitment.

It’s not business, it’s personal.

Aside from the involvement created by the theme and lovely artwork, Mountain Goats has some strategic considerations. Do you make a blitz to the top of a mountain, hoping to clear it of points?

Or should you lay back, spreading your dice to move all your goats, hoping to nibble away on all the peaks, hoping to earn some of those big Bonus tokens?

And, of course, any other player’s goat at the top of a mountain is automatically a target. You can’t let that goat just stay there to gobble up points round after round!

The other feature added to Mountain Goats is a nice little expansion. Here, a 5th player can join in the fun, and there’s an additional strategy option.

Using the Big Mountain expansion allows players to group dice in totals from 11-24. As long as there’s not another goat already there, you may send one of your goats to these higher peaks.

At the end of the game, the goats on these higher mountains will score additional Bonus tokens, based on how high they climbed.

Mountain Goats presents us with a compact game that plays quickly, and offers just the right balance of strategy and chance for a family-friendly game.

Mountain Goats shows that sometimes, even a good game can be improved. Here, Level X, a classic modern game, has been given new life and brought to a new generation of gamers.

This game allows us all to frolic together on a tabletop without a long trip to the Alps. Bringing delight to gamers of all ages is certainly a mountain worth climbing. Mountain Goats straddles a peak we call Major Fun.

October 2022

Written by: Doug Richardson

Disney Mad Tea Party

Release: 10/10/2022    | Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Run Time: 38 min   | Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Welcome to the Mad Hatter’s tea party! It’s always six o clock and that means it’s always tea time. Here’s another plate of biscuits. Take two. There’s no time to wash, so the cups and saucers pile higher and higher. Just make sure you’re not the one to crash the party, smashing stacks of cups, making them tumble and topple from the table. That would be ever so rude.

Disney Mad Tea Party is a nerve wracking cup stacking game atop a very precarious table. Be the first to play all your cards or stack every last cup to win. Tension tuned by skill, strategy and a touch of luck drives each decision you make.

Listen in to explore the game and discover why we think it’s Major Fun.

Disney Mad Tea Party

Designer: Funko Games

Publisher:  Funko Games

2-10 players  15 minutes  ages 5+   MSRP $20

Time to teach/learn:  2 minutes

Music credits include:

A Very Merry Unbirthday  |  by Ed Wynn & Jerry Colonna  |  the song

Mad Hatter  |  by Melanie Martinez the song

Picture Perfect

Release: 8/29/2022    | Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Run Time: 38 min   | Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

This party is in full swing. The food is a sumptuous feast for the senses. The music is lively and many are dancing. The conversations are a buzzing mixture of laughter and wit on subjects mundane and profound. There’s just one last detail to capture the moment… a picture!

You have been hired to commemorate the event with a group photo, showcasing the guests. It seemed like a simple job until each guest pulls you aside with a list of requests: I cannot stand next to him. I need to be on the left but make sure I am in front of her. I’m allergic to dogs, make sure that mutt is as far away from me as possible. It will take your expert skills to accommodate all their special needs, arranging and rearranging the guests and get everyone lined up just right.  

Picture Perfect is a game of logic and space with a technological twist. Over six rounds, can you puzzle out how to arrange all the party guests in a cardboard diorama? When you’re ready, snap a a photo with your phone and compare to see whose picture is closest to perfect.

Listen in to explore the game and discover why we think it is Major Fun!

Picture Perfect

Designer: Anthony Nouveau

Artist: Ronny Libor, Soren, Meding, Gyula Pozgay, Maja Wrzoek

Publishers: Arcane Wonders, Corax, Don’t Panic, Mebo, Broadway | BGG

2-4 players  1 hour  ages 10+   MSRP $45

Time to teach/learn:  5-6 minutes

Music credits include:

One Small Photograph  |  Kevin Shegog & The Gold Toppers  |  the song

Fotograf  |  Cool Candys  |  the song

Picture Book  |  The Kinks  |  the song

Kabuto Sumo

Kabuto Sumo

Boardgametables |  BGG

Designers: Tony Miller
Artist: Kwanchai Moriya
Publisher: Boardgametables
2-4 players 15 min ages 6+ MSRP $44
Time to Teach/Learn: 3 minutes

Written by: Stephen Conway

If you listen closely you can hear it… KLONK! The mighty Kabutomushi, the magnificent Rhinoceros beetles are knocking heads, sumo wrestling. Their epic duels in the World Insect Wrestling Championship are the stuff of legend! Now, you and a swarm of challengers are here to contend for titles and your place in history. Position is everything. It will take balance, steady hands (and maybe a little luck) to push and pivot your opponents from the ring!

Kabuto Sumo is a beautiful game. First, artist Kwanchai Moriya creates an enticing colorful world full of flamboyant insect heroes worthy of any professional wrestling circuit.

The play surface, the wrestling ring, is a raised cardboard platform in the shape of a tree stump. A separate cardboard pushing platform butts up against the stump, allowing each player to introduce new pieces to the ring.

Chunky smooth wooden discs in three sizes and three colors will populate the board. Each player will begin with a few discs in their personal supply.

Each player has a wooden insect wrestler token and a special move token in a shape that reflects the insect’s species. Each wrestler also comes with a reference card outlining their abilities. For younger or new players, Junior league cards outline rules for a simpler and slightly faster game.

To play, discs and wrestlers will be arranged in a pattern on the stump according to the number of players. Choose your wrestler, gather your discs, and get ready to rumble!

The goal is simple: push your opponent’s wrestlers from the ring OR run your opponents out of pieces to play.

Kabuto Sumo draws great inspiration from old school coin push arcade games.

On your turn, you will select one of the discs in your personal supply and place it on the pushing platform. You may place the platform anywhere around the wrestling ring. Then, using one hand, push the disc from the back of the piece until it is completely in the ring. You can push your disc at any angle as long as you push in a straight line. If discs fall out of the ring as you push, you collect them into your personal supply. Then your opponents take their turns, selecting and pushing discs until someone’s wrestler falls or runs out of pieces to play.

NOTE: While your goal is to push the opponent from the ring, you constantly need to replenish your supply of discs by knocking some from the ring. Lose sight of this and you could find yourself scrambling just to stay in the game!

Kabuto Sumo is a great example of inclusion in game design. Signature moves add depth and strategy. The Junior League makes the game approachable to anyone.

Each wrestler has a set of superpowers. Some are triggered when their signature piece is pushed. The Stag Beetle’s mandibles can capture opponent’s discs. Others are triggered when certain conditions are met. If the Blister Beetle’s wrestler is touching another wrestler at the end of your turn, that opponent must give you a piece. Ouch!

But these powers come with a catch. They must be earned during the game! You’ll be forced to discard discs, stack some on the board, or even give discs to your opponents in order to use your powers. Suddenly the game operates on an entirely different level. Planning how and when to trigger your powers will likely be the key to victory!

At the other end of the spectrum, the Junior League option provides a quick and easy way for anyone to join the fun. Each wrestler starts with their signature piece and other discs. No special powers, just push and push and let the wrestlers fall where they may. The concept is so simple. There should be no barriers to entry in a game like this. No matter your interest or experience level, there’s a version of Kabuto Sumo to fit the way you want to play.

Kabuto Sumo teaches its players to savor and play with balance. Mind and body are all called to action. Planning and pushing pieces to making them fall is a primal kind of Major Fun, even when your plan goes sideways.

August 2022

Written by: Stephen Conway

Ouch!

Ouch!

Devir |  BGG

Designers: Romain Caterdjian and Théo Rivière
Artist: Fran Collado
Publisher: Devir
2-5 players 10 min ages 5+ MSRP $10
Time to Teach/Learn: 3 minutes

Written by: Doug Richardson

You and your friends are out in the desert and everything is blooming, especially the cactus. You shouldn’t touch… but they have so many pretty flowers! Risking a little prick, you can’t help but pick a few.

Ouch! is played with a deck of 44 cactus cards. 36 of these cards have only cactus flowers. Eight cards also feature an animal: either a helpful snake or a cute fennec fox.

The back of each card will show the whole cactus plant, as well as a number of flowers, ranging from one to three. The more flowers, the better. But be careful! The more flowers a card has, the more dangerous it is. The back of each cactus card has thorns covering one to three sides.

To set up a game of Ouch!, simply shuffle the cards and deal out six of them to the table, back side facing up. Players will now take turns going clockwise, starting with the youngest player.

The goal in Ouch! is to pick the most flowers. Extra points will be added for having sets of flowers of the four different colors as well as having the most red flowers.

What you are trying to NOT do is to get pricked. Remember, cactus plants have sharp thorns! 

On your turn, you will choose one of the six cards on the table. Then pick it up by one side of the card: top, bottom, left, or right. Now turn it over quickly and see what you got.

If the side you chose shows no cactus spines, congratulations! You have picked flowers successfully. Put the card in front of you in your collection.

If you picked up the card by an edge showing the cactus, then shout “Ouch!” and drop it quickly. Discard this card. It is out of the game.

Red cactus cards carry extra risk and extra reward. If you pick a red cactus and it stings you, you must discard a card from your collection. That’s the risk. The reward is, at the end of the game, the player with the most red flowers will score five extra points

You may also encounter some helpful animals in the desert. If you collect a card with a snake, watch the next player’s turn. If they are pricked by the card they choose, you get to add that card to your collection.

If a card you collect shows a fennec fox, you may choose to take another turn picking flowers. But be very careful! If you’re stuck by this card, you lose it, and the card with the fennec.

Whether you picked flowers, or got stuck by thorns, after your turn, draw another cactus card so that there are always six cards for the next player to choose from.

The game ends once someone has collected eight cards, or when there are no more cards in the draw pile. Then everyone adds up their scores.

  • You get one point for each flower on your cards.
  • You get 4 additional points for each bouquet of four different colored flowers you can make.
  • The player with the most red flowers gets 5 points. If tied, each player gets this bonus.

The player with the most points is the winner!

People play games for so many reasons. Some of us enjoy the thrill of competition. We get a charge out of besting our fellow players. 

Or maybe it’s the challenge of building up a tabletop empire – a kingdom, or business, or farm. We revel in creating a beautiful, efficient, or productive machine. 

Others love the challenge of playing cooperatively to solve a mystery, or beat back a pandemic. It’s us-against-the- game. Surviving or solving as a team is the reward.

Whatever the game, fun should be the ultimate prize. 

Ouch! delivers fun at its most basic level. This is fun we know deep in our bones – fun we can see and hear and touch.

The fun is in the look of relief on someone’s face when they pick a card and don’t get pricked. It’s in hearing a loud “Ouch!” from a smug opponent. You see this fun in the look of real apprehension as someone fearfully flips their card.

Which is silly, really. After all, those aren’t real thorns on the cactus plants. They’re just playing cards. And yet, you will find yourself smiling, and cringing, and shouting “OUCH!” as you play! 

Here’s why.

The game is just an object. But when it becomes an object of play, it becomes something more – an invitation to a world of imagination. We invest the cards in Ouch! with a power beyond mere cardboard. The game invites us to make believe, and the more you buy into that small illusion, the more fun we make the game.

A game can invite its audience to stop the “real” world. Come play and let’s find the fun. 

Most of the time, fun is hard to describe or know. The simple genius of Ouch! is that it helps us create fun we can recognize and surrender to in the blink of an eye… or the turn of a card. 

Ouch! allows us to lose ourselves in a simple lie and be silly for a few moments. The fun it gives us permission to find is evergreen – anyone of any age or background can find it. Ouch! delivers an experience far beyond a deck of cards. If you let it, the game will drop you off in a land we call Major Fun.

June 2022

Written by: Doug Richardson

Aves

Release: 6/15/2022    | Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Run Time: 180 min   | Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Seven fruits, seven feathers. The birds are playing a colorful game. When a red apple is eaten, a feather turns red. Eat a lime, a feather turns green. Can you be the first bird to collect all the colors and display them in your pretty plumage?

Aves is a card capturing / set collecting game with roots in the classics. It shares common ancestry with games like Gin Rummy and Scopa. It is also a game of simple, subtle, and sneaky strategies . Tune in to learn why we think Aves is a wonderfully accessible invitation to a lighter and brighter kind of fun.

This show also marks the 400th review episode of The Spiel!!

To celebrate, we invited Spielers from around the world to host seven different segments that have been part of the program over the past 16 years. This super sized show is filled with fan favorites, lots of laughs, and a ridiculous amount of board game hijinx. We hope you have as much fun listening as we did putting it together.

Full show notes on all the segments are available at The Spiel.

Aves  Play With Us Design  |  BGG

Designer: Shi Chen   Artist: Yawen Jheng

Publisher: Play With Us Design

2-5 players  10-15 min.  ages 16+   MSRP $20

Time to teach/learn:  3-4 minutes

Music credits include:

And Your Bird Can Sing  by  Neymar Dias & Igor Pimenta  |  the song

Little Birds  by Carthy, Hardy, Farrel & Youngthe song

Leather Wing Bat  by String Loaded  |  the song

Long Shot: The Dice Game

Long Shot: The Dice Game

Perplext  |  BGG 

D: Chris Handy
A: Clau Souza
P: Perplext
1-8 players 20-30 min ages 10+ MSRP $30
Time to Teach/Learn: 4-5 minutes

It’s going to be a great day at the track. Whether you’re here to bet on your favorite, cheer on the horse you own, or enjoy a mint julep in the stands, the excitement and anticipation builds as the field thunders around the last turn, headed for the home stretch!

Long Shot: The Dice Game is a roll-and-move-and-write game.

Each roll, a horse will gallop toward the finish line, dragging others along for the ride.

Each roll, you will have a chance to shape the outcome of the race and your fortunes with a variety of special actions: betting or buying horses, concessions, or equipment.

Will you play it safe to insure a solid payout or press your luck to cash in? Collect the most money to walk away the talk of the track.

The focal point of the game are the eight chunky wooden horses moving around the race track board. The horses are brightly colored and numbered and feature charming illustrations giving each horse character.

The race track board is an oval with 15 spaces. The last four spaces are a lighter shade indicating the No Bet Zone.

There are 24 horse cards, 3 sets of 8 different horses. Each horse in a set is color coded and numbered to match the wooden tokens. The horse cards have very clever names, a special ability, a purchase cost, a listing for the odds on the horse, and a row along the bottom edge of the card with a numbered space for each horse in the race. Some spaces will be blank and some will already have an X.

It wouldn’t be a dice game without dice, right? There are two dice in the game: a movement die and a horse die The green movement die is six sided and is numbered 1-3 (1-2-2-2-3-3). The horse die is eight sided. Each die face represents one of the horses in the race and is numbered 1-8. The die face is also color coded to match the horse cards and tokens.

Everything in the game synchs up visually. So, for instance, the #4 horse is pink. Its wooden token and horse card are pink and the #4 side of the horse die is also pink.

This extends to the individual player boards as well. This is where you will keep track of your bets and purchases and also tally your bonuses and money. Again, you will see the eight horses, in matching number and colors. There are spaces to track your bets, helmets, and jerseys for each horse. There’s also a concession stand grid. It is a 4×4 grid with two colored dots for each horse in the race. There are also 3 horseshoes you can use if the dice don’t cooperate as much as you’d like.

The player boards and horse cards are all coated so they can be written on with dry erase markers. As the game unfolds, you will be marking off spaces, and keeping track of your investments. There are 8 nice markers included as well as a nifty eraser shaped like a jockey’s helmet.

Last but not least is a separate board for the solitaire edition, and a deck of 8 starting cards.

To play, select a set of 8 horses (numbered 1-8) and arrange them near the race track. Place the 8 horse tokens on the start line on the board. Each player takes a personal board, and starts with 12 dollars (recorded on the board).

Each player then draws a card from the start deck. This start card gives each player a free bet on two horses and shows a few spaces to mark off on the concession grid. This way each player begins with different interests and some skin in the game.

The youngest player rolls the dice on the first turn… and we’re off!

Long Shot is a roll-and-move-and-write game. There are three parts to a turn. Roll dice. Move horses. Then players get one action based on the dice rolled, writing the result of this action on their boards. The game continues in this pattern until three horses finish the race. When the race is done, tally your money from all sources and the player who earned the most wins the game.

Let’s look at each part of the turn at little closer.

Every turn begins with the active player rolling the movement and horse dice. The horse rolled will move 1-3 spaces based on the result on the movement die. But we’re not done moving horses yet! Consult the horse card for the horse that just moved. Remember at the bottom of each horse card is a row showing a space for each horse in the race. If that horse’s space is marked with an X, that horse gets a bonus move, galloping forward one space. So each and every turn the main horse will move and one or more horses may get a bonus move based on which horses are marked off on the bottom of the card.

That’s 2/3rds of the turn right there. Roll dice. Move horses.

The turn ends with a fun choice for each player. Based on the horse rolled, each player in turn order will get to perform an action. The actions are listed on the player boards: Bet, Helmet, Jersey, Concession, or Buy a Horse.

If you choose Bet, you write down a $1-3 bet on the horse that was rolled. Erase the money from your bank total and add it to any existing bet. The odds for each horse are listed on the board and will multiply your bet based on whether the horse finishes first, second, or third. If your horse makes it to the No Bet Zone, you get your money back.

If you choose the helmet action, you mark off the helmet space on your board for the horse that was rolled. Once you have a helmet for a horse, you may place future bets on that horse even if it is in the No Bet Zone. This means as the horse is getting ever closer to winning, you might be able to sneak in a big bet at the end.

If you choose the Jersey action, you mark off the jersey space on your board for the horse that was rolled. Then, you immediately select one of the horse cards and mark off a space at the bottom of the card corresponding to the horse that was rolled. In addition, you get to mark off ANY space on the horse card that was rolled. This means you are increasing the chances of several horses getting a bonus move.

For example, let’s say I have a big bet on horse 6. I might choose the jersey action when someone rolls horse 6 during the game so I can mark off the 6 space on horse number 8. Now every time horse 8 moves, horse 6 will get a bonus move thanks to my jersey.

If I choose to Buy a horse, I can buy the horse that was rolled. Each horse has a price listed. Deduct that price from your bank on your board and take the horse card and place it in front of you. Why buy? Two reasons. First, you get prize money if your horse finishes first, second, or third ($35 win, $25 place, or $15 show).

Second, each horse has a special ability you can now use. The abilities are usually keyed to a specific action and vary widely.

For instance, if you buy Cook the Books, it will cost you $8. Pricey! BUT, when you take the bet action, you can place a FREE $1 bet on ANY horse instead of placing a regular bet on the horse that was rolled. If you buy Nitro Nellie, when you take the jersey action, that horse immediately gets a bonus move.

Even if your horse doesn’t finish the race, its ability may make it worth the investment!

The last action is the concession stand. This is the grid of colored number dots corresponding to the horses in the race. If you choose the concession action, mark off a colored dot on the grid corresponding to the horse rolled. If you complete a row or a column in the grid, you immediately get a bonus. The bonuses are listed in a grid below the concessions area on the player board. You could get $7, you could move horses forward or backward on the track, you can put in a free bet, or a free helmet, or jersey action. You can even buy a horse for free! Every time you complete a row or column, you get a new bonus. So, with some simple strategerie in selecting which dots to mark off, you can set yourself up to cash in several times.

Last but not least are the horseshoes. Each player has three and they are wild. Normally, during the action part of the turn, everyone must use the horse number that was rolled UNLESS you decide to mark off a horseshoe on your board. Then, you can take an action based on a horse of your choice. If the #7 horse was rolled and you really really needed horse #3 to complete a row on the concession grid, you could spend a wild and make the #7 into a #3 this turn.

Let’s recap. Roll dice. The horse rolled moves based on the movement die and any horse listed on the bottom of its card with a mark gets a bonus move. Then each player gets to do an action based on the horse that was rolled. You can bet on the horse, give its jockey a helmet allowing you to bet on it in the No Bet Zone. Give the jockey a jersey allowing you to increase the chance of that horse getting a bonus move. You can buy the horse, allowing you to cash in if it finishes well AND you get a special ability. And last but not least you can cross off that horse’s number in the concession stand, trying to complete rows or columns for big bonuses.

When three horses finish, the race is done. Tally your money from prize winnings and bets. There’s a $5 bonus for each horse with a jersey and helmet marked off on your board. Add in any remaining cash in your bank and the player with the most money wins the game.

Long Shot is incredibly flexible. It can accommodate big groups or small without the game bogging down. Switch out different sets of horses (or mix and match) and the game feels fresh and different each time. And for a dice game, there are so many ways to mitigate your luck and change the outcome of the race.

The bonus move mechanism is a lovely stroke of genius in this regard. Even when one horse goes on a long streak of rolls, it will pull along several other horses in its wake.

Long Shot feels like a series of mini-games when you’re in the thick of it. Do I want to focus on buying horses and cashing in on their abilities? Do I want to focus on concessions and grab bonuses? Do I want to bet high and try to use the jerseys and helmets to move my favorite horses ahead?

In any given race you may not be able to focus on every one of these mini-games, but that’s ok. The game goes so quickly, there’s plenty of incentive to set up another race and try something different next time.

Speaking of pacing, every race seems to build to an exciting crescendo not just based on which horse will win or lose, but who will swoop in with a brilliant (or lucky!) roll allowing them to buy or bet or gain a bonus to collect a princely sum. Even when the odds are long, no one is ever truly out of contention until the third horse crosses the finish line.

There’s also a solitaire version allowing players to pit their talents against the infamous Roland Wright.

And if this wasn’t enough, there’s a deck of track events that add yet another layer of opportunities or obstacles to every decision and every race.

Long Shot gives players a snap shot experience of a day at the races. It isn’t trying to be a simulation of realistic horse racing. The emphasis is on casual play and invites everyone to join the fun.*

It banks on some of the most basic elements all game players know. Roll and move. Then roll and write. The actions are not overwhelming to understand or use. They are presented buffet style; you can pick and choose which ones to pursue – and the next race, you can go back and fill your plate in an entirely different way.

The game has nuance without being overly thinky. And that is a great because it allows Long Shot to focus on a casual, exciting, and unpredictable gameplay.

This makes Long Shot itself a long shot – that rare find – a game that can point so many to Major Fun and in so many different ways.

May 2022

*Publisher and Designer Chris Handy has intuitive grasp of casual play. Just take gander at any of the titles in his gum-pack sized games and you’ll see how open and inviting the entire series is to players of all sorts. Major Fun is like a rainbow colored bit of silly string that unites them all.

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