Long Shot: The Dice Game Review
Horse racing might not be the first theme you think of when you’re choosing your next game. Other than people who like an occasional flutter on the Grand National, I don’t know a single person who’s actually into horse racing as a sport. As a sport to bet on, however, that’s a different story. Long Shot: The Dice Game takes 2009’s oft-overlooked gigi gamblefest Long Shot, and packs it into a small box.
The original Long Shot had plastic horse minis, which for some reason, I found a bit freaky. It also had cards. Lots of cards. Long Shot: The Dice Game does away with the cards and goes dry-wipe crazy, with horse ownership cards and player boards you can write on. If you’ve played Just One before, you already know just how satisfying it is to use those little eraser things on the end of the pens. Teeny tiny bouts of satisfaction, every time.
And they’re off
The aim of the game is simple: have the most money at the end. You and your fellow gamblers choose which horses to bet on, and whether to throw all your money at one, or spread it over lots of nags. Long Shot is a roll-and-write game. In each round you roll a couple of dice; one of them shows you which of the eight horses is going to move, and the other tells you how many spaces around the track. Sounds like the dullest roll-and-move ever when it’s described like that, but it isn’t.
The super-clever, super-interesting twist comes in the form of horse cards. Each horse in the race has its own card, and each card serves two purposes. Firstly, they’re up for sale. That’s right, you too can become the proud owner of a race horse! Owning a horse is a good thing, as they have abilities which are activated whenever that horse is chosen by the dice of destiny. The other upside to horse ownership is a payday if your nag is in the top three places at the end of the race.
Each horse card also has a series of checkboxes at the bottom of the card, some of which come pre-filled. This is the really juicy, fun bit. If a horse moves because its number comes up, any of the horses with a filled checkbox at the bottom of that horse’s card get dragged along with it. It’s almost like that horse is super encouraging, turning around and going “Come on you lot, you can do it!”
As well as moving the horses around the track, the coloured D8 also lets you do the fun bit, the strategic bit where you write on your player boards. You can spend your dollarbucks on bets for the selected horse, invest in them to be able to bet on them after they pass the ‘no more bets’ line on the track, or do the bingo board. The game calls them ‘Concessions’, but I call it the bingo board.
Every time you complete a row or column on the 4×4 bingo board, you can claim one of the one-time bonuses from the chart below it. Free bets and extra money are up for grabs, but also a few uber-powerful abilities that let you move horses forwards – and backwards – around the track. After a game or two you’ll notice people saving these movement bonuses up until the end of the game, and it makes the last third of the game fantastic.
People will cheer, and others will curse, as that horse that was one space from winning gets shunted back three spaces. It’s incredibly satisfying to see the horse you bet on coming through strong, after it spent most of the game just ambling around the track at its own pace. When the first three horses cross the line, you cash in your bets using the multipliers on the player boards, and add any bonuses. The gambler with the most money is crowned KING OF THE HORSES! Probably.
Long Shot: The Dice Game, despite having a really annoying name to type, is great. It got a load of buzz earlier in the year when Shut Up & Sit Down featured it, and with good reason. In truth, I bought into the hype too, and I’m glad I did. The wooden horse markers are really chunky and satisfying, and so much less creepy than the plastic ones from the original game.
It does what all good something-and-write games do, which is to make it really satisfying to fill in space on your board. Those mini dopamine hits from comboing things together isn’t as prevalent as in something like Hadrian’s Wall, but it’s still very satisfying. The game feels pretty chaotic most of the time, and for some people that’s a deal breaker. This isn’t a game of deep strategy. It’s a game of laughs among a group of friends.
Speaking of groups, having a few players is where the game does best. The full player count of eight would drag I think, but four or five players is awesome. The game moves along fast enough to not outstay its welcome, and there’s plenty of banter and competition for horses. There are different sets of horse cards to keep things from getting stale, and there’s a really decent solo mode too, seeing you face-off against the AI called Roland Wright (…). When it’s in stock, it’ll set you back less than £30, and if you regularly play with a group who enjoy the lighter stuff too, I’d really recommend picking up a copy of Perplext’s game.
Long Shot: The Dice Game (2022)
Designer: Chris Handy
Art: Clau Souza
Playing time: 30 mins