A Day at the Races

I don't know if it is a trend, just coincidence or I'm making conclusions out of nothing, but has anyone else noticed that there seems to be a trend in new gambling racing games - where you win or lose based on how you bet on the races, not the race itself.

I tend to be a sucker for miniatures and games that use them, so I managed to back two different kickstarters that are about racing, Divinity Derby and Dungeon Derby   Both are based on the idea of betting on races which you have no 'direct' control over, with multiple races to determine who wins the game (and you can win the game without winning the race, if you bet correctly).

Divinity Derby is by Ares Games.  Each player picks a god, who have been sitting around a bit bored discussing which magical creature is faster.  Eventually they all decide to meet up at Zeus' place to race them and see. 

The base games comes with 6 gods and 6 magical creatures.  The kickstarter version initially funded two additional gods - and with a wink and a nod they added Cthulu and The Flying Spaghetti Monster.  Well apparently that didn't sit well with some people (who have an issue these) so they added in two others (and then gave you the choice of which you wanted).

Nice cover art, and the kickstarter 'deluxe' edition comes with a special certificate, that actually shows all ten playable gods.

One piece of 'fluff' in the deluxe version that I like is it has a separate booklet describing all the 8 'normal' gods in the game (though not Cthulu and TFSM), as well as the creatures that are racing.

Then there is the rule book, which is not very long, as the rules are pretty simple

Nicely packaged with a plastic insert that holds all the creature miniatures, all the tokens and all the cards you need, as well as some wooden card holders.

One thing it doesn't have however is any type of coins/money to represent your winnings - so you at minimum need a paper and pencil to keep track of your scores (in this game you can't lose any money, only gain it).

The board is folded in 4, with the circular race track and spaces for the cards.

The six base gods for the game are Odin, Marduk, Yu Huang, Osiris, Quetzalcoatl and Anasi.

The kickstarter gods are Shinatobe and Iris, as well as The Flying Spaghetti Monster and Cthulu.  In my version I picked the later two, and did not get the token for the former ones, though this is not that important in the game.

If you play the base game, there is no difference at all between the gods - each deck is the same except for the back.  If you want you can play a variant where each god has three unique cards that can be played to influence a race - these three cards for each god are really the only unique things about the decks.  Each deck has 11 bet cards - each of these has a placing and an amount you win if the creature you bet on finishes in the place on the card.  The harder it is to do, the more you win.  So betting on a 1st, 2nd or 3rd place win give you 2 gold, but while ONLY a 1st place win gives you 7.

There are also creature cards.  Each of these has a high and a low value on it.  There are also some that have a third value (and a different picture of the creature - these are "dirty tricks" - which gives the creature bonuses but and also cause them to be disqualified at the end of the race.

There is also a set of nice wooden card holders

In the base game all the creatures are effectively the same - however you can play a variant where each has it's own unique specific power.  You actually are supposed to get 6 sets of 6 creature reminder tokens - which now that I write this up, seem to be missing from my version.

There are also god power tokens for another variation, and creature tokens used for placing your bets.

Of course what initially attracted me to this was the miniatures (ok, I had also backed Swords & Sorcery by them, and wanted to keep supporting the company).

The deluxe version actually comes with PAINTED minis - not super high quality, but great for board games.

Game play is pretty straightforward.  First you deal out the creature movement cards, and each person puts theirs in the cardholder between them and the player on their left.  Then starting with the first player, each one picks a bet card, and selects a creature token, placing the card face down in front of them with the token on it.  There are a limited number of tokens for each creature, so each player cannot bet on the same creature.  Also, you can see the movement cards on your left and right, but none of the others, so you can't be guaranteed how well or poorly any creature will do in the race.
Each player then does a second bet, and the race starts.

In turn, each player picks a card from the holder on their left and one from their right.  They play one of them with the high move value, moving the creature that many spaces, and then moving the creature on the other card the low number of spaces.  If the card is a dirty trick, they can use it (but only if playing for the high value), but then it gets put into the Zeus judgement space.  Play continues clockwise, with each player playing two cards.  As soon as the first creature crosses the mid-way point, one more round of betting goes on, with the person to the left of the one moving the creature starting (so if you make a creature cross the center, you are the last to be able to add a bet).  Once a creature reaches the finish line, or all the cards are played, then the race is over.  The creatures are lined up in the center of the board according to their placing.

Then Zeus hands out judgment against those who cheat.  You shuffle all the dirty tricks that have been played along with the 4 protection cards, then draw 2.  If a creature is drawn, then it is disqualified from the race, and all others move up to fill their space.  If it is a protection card, no one is disqualified.

Then you reveal your bets, and receive the rewards for any that paid off.

The game lasts for three races to determine the final winner.

Overall, a simple but fun game with some interesting, subtle strategies involved.  This isn't one that requires deep thinking, and there is a bit of luck involved, but this is one that the whole family can play.

Dungeon Derby by Rabiteer is a similar concept, but instead of mythological creatures you are racing dungeon monsters.

In this you play as one of six racers through a dungeon, but it isn't so much about winning as it is about betting.  There is a prize for winning each race, but by betting on yourself or other racers, you an make even more money.

There are six creatures to choose from : Roque & Roller, Pied Piper, Wurm & the Twins, Princess Pollua, Mary and L.A.M.B. and Cpt Tiberius Cannon Rider

Each racer has a card, but there is no difference in game play between them.

The board folds into six sections, so it struggles slightly to lay completely flat

The game rules are again short and simple

A try holds all the counters, models and cards.  The only issue is it isn't quite big enough to hold the 4 kickstarter exclusive tiles - and it seems like they had the room if they had thought about it.

There are three decks of cards

and lots of coins and tiles.

It was the minis that first drew me to the game, of course
Roque & Roller
Pied Piper
Wurm & The Twins
Princess Pallua
Mary & L.A.M.B.
Cpt Tiberius Cannon Rider
Each player picks a racer and gets $250.  They each then get treasure cards - which can be either spells, armor or encounters. You then set the number of races, and deal out that number of purse cards face down on the board.

For each race, each player draws their hand back up with treasure cards.  If they have less than $250, then they can draw quest cards to fulfill until they have at least $250 (so even if you lose all your money EVERY race, you are never completely out of the game).

You then turn over the purse card for that round.  It indicates which lane each racer lines up in, the amount each wins for 1st, 2nd or 3rd place, and any special rules for that race, and the odds for bets - from 2:1 to 10:1.  Though with one purse exception, these only pay off for a win. 

Then players play armor and/or encounter cards from their hands.  To play an armor card, lay it face down behind a racer (each one can have no more than 3 armor cards).  Some make the racer better, others hurt them.  When you plan an encounter card, you take the corresponding encounter tiles (which have a faint watermarked image that matches the card) and place the tiles into any squares in any lanes on the board - generally putting good tiles in front of your racer, bad ones in front of others.

Once all the armor and encounter cards are played, each player places any bets they want.  You can bet whatever you want on which ever racer you want to win - not just your own.  You place the racers token face down on your board with the coins you are betting on top of it.  Again, these bets only pay off if that racer wins.

After all bets are in, the armor cards are revealed and the race starts.  The two dice are rolled, one is the number 1-6 and the other is the racer/color to move.  Move that racer the appropriate distance.  IF they land directly on an encounter card, then they must follow those instructions - for example roll the die, if it is >4 then nothing, otherwise you move back three spaces.  Once and encounter is landed on and resolved, it is removed from the board.  But beware, any encounters that are passed over stay on the board to affect subsequent races - and each race the lanes you are racing in change!  So you may have put some nasty tricks in front of your friends racer - then next turn you end up in that lane facing your own traps!

During the race, you can play spell cards from your hand - and they have the affect listed.  For example the spell "Pay The Fates" allows you to switch any 2 champions positions and lanes - but the armor cards stay in the lane where they were placed.

There is a deck of IOU slips that can be used if the bank runs out of coins as well :-)

Again a fun, family friendly game with simple betting.  It isn't dependent on an any strategy, and without the cards (armor, encounter, spells) each racer has identical odds of winning.  I like that you can hose yourself by setting traps for your opponents that you may have to deal with later instead.

So two similar, but different, racing betting games.  It looks like derby day!

Because it is all fun and games . . .