Long Shot: The Dice Game
D: Chris Handy
A: Clau Souza
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.
*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.