Author: Reiner Knizia

Publisher: Alea 2001

Awards: none



A long time has passed since a german games producer last introduced a game on horse-racing to the german games market. Now Alea has tried a comeback of this genre, introducing Royal Turf in their fairly new "Small Games Series". Once again, they have come to terms with top-author Reiner Knizia, and it must be acknowledged that once again this name stands for quality gaming.

As usual with Knizia-games, Royal Turf comes with a finely constructed set of rules, tuned accordingly to the demands and wishes of strategy gamers. The game itself covers a series of 3 races, and in these races the players have the option on bidding on 7 different horses. The player who has earned most money by betting in all three races wins the game.

At the beginning of the races, the horses will be randomly assigned attribute cards, bearing values for Speed, Jockey Skill, Horse's Handicap and Endurance. Depending on the cards drawn, the horses will be assigned positions behind the Start-/Finish-Line, with on horse occupying one space. So, at the beginning of the race, there are 7 horses in a row on the 7 spaces behind the Start-Line.

Next, players start betting on the horses. In turn, a player places a chip openly on a space corresponding to one of the horses, indicating his bet that the horse will make it under the first 3. Each player has to place 3 chips, all of them on different horses. Two of the bidding chips are worth 1 bid, but once of them has a double-value, being worth 2 bids. When all bets have been made, the race starts!

In turn, the players now start rolling a dice which shows symbols corresponding to the different attributes of each horse. After the roll is made, the player chooses a horse and moves it forward a number of spaces corresponding to the number given on that horse's attribute card behind the symbol of the attribute that was rolled. A player can chose which horse he wants to move, but after the move has been made the attribute card is put into a slight distance from the gameboard, indicating that a horse has moved. The next player then follows and proceeds likewise - however, a horse may only be moved again after all other horses have been moved. Furthermore, no two horses may occupy the same space, so that a horse which cannot make it's full move will have to move to the next free space behind the space which it normally would have reached. As a bonus, the first horse which crosses space 18 on the track will be given the "Pacemaker", indicating that this horse will earn an additional 100 Pounds per bid when the race is over. The race is over once the 3rd horse has crossed the Finish-Line.

Now the numbers of bids on each of the first three horses will be counted, and the results will be cross-references with a quota-table on the middle of the gameboard. The winner is worth more than the second (who, in turn, is worth more than the third), but the winning-quota will be lowered the more players have bet on a certain horse. Each player now gets his winnings, adding 100 or 200 Pounds if they did place a bet on the pacemaker and loosing 100 or 200 Pounds if they did bid on the last horse in the race. After this, the next race is started.

Especially the movement mechanism for the horses in the race offers a high degree of fun and strategy alike. A player has to decide carefully which horse he wants to move, cutting of the option for that horse to be moved again until all the others have been moved as well. The game is entertaining and fairly short to play and offers a good replay value. Another point which must be mentioned is that the author included good variant rules, making the game especially suitable to be played even with just 2 players.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany