Use of the Whip

Review of board game The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game by Pevans

The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game has been around for a few years - the copyright notice on the board is dated 1987 - but my first encounter with it came at this year's Toy Fair. It comes in a large red box - which I carried around all day. Inside the components are equally solid. There is a large board, depicting the race track, a stand-up board for the bookie to chalk up the odds on, cards, money, dice, pencils, betting slips, and half a dozen substantial models of horse and jockey - each wearing distinctive colours. Oh, and an A4 sheet which is the rules.

Starting Odds

The game is played over half a dozen races and the player with the most money at the end wins. Money is gained either from the prize money for the races or by betting on the winning horse in each race (which needn't be your own). At the start of the game each player chooses a colour and the cards for the races, each with different prize money, are shuffled and dealt out. Players now decide which horse to enter in which race. There are spaces on the track which doubles the move of a horse landing on it. Six of these affect the number 1 horses, 5 the number 2 and so on. However, more significant in each race is which lane the horse is drawn in. These are determined at random at the start of each race. As the outer lanes are longer and moving in depends on rolling a 6, the horse drawn in lane 1 has a significant advantage. At this point "Generous George" chalks up the odds, depending on the quality of the horse and the lane it's in. Then players decide which horse they are going to bet on, mark it on their slip and place their stake in the centre of the board.

And They're Off!

Each race is run over 1Ľ laps of the circuit and eight fences. Players roll the die and move their dobbin the appropriate number of spaces. First to cross the finishing line wins the race. The rest then finish, the prize money is paid out and anyone who bet on the winner collects their winnings from the bank. However... each player has several cards in his/her hand which can be used to affect the outcome during the race (horse falls at fence) or even after (the dreaded Steward's Enquiry).

Despite (or because of?) the simple mechanics, the races are quite fun, with the possibility of card play adding a bit of needle. There's bound to be one person who will act as commentator, too. Winning races brings in some useful money, but it's winning the bets that really makes the difference - especially if you can get a winner at really long odds. This means that there's quite a strong bluff element, as players will not necessarily have bet on their own horse.

Photo Finish

This is a good, solid family board game - the sort they don't make any more! The outcome is heavily dependent on luck, though there are some decisions to be made and various tactical options. The cards add some player interaction - though there aren't enough of them for this to have too much effect. The production is excellent and, like most German games, the box inlay is formed to hold all the components neatly. The downside of this is that the quality makes it expensive. Overall, it is good fun to play and should appeal to the family gamesplayer and the less serious hobby gamer. But it doesn't live up to its title: it's not really nasty!

The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game is published in the UK by Upstarts!. It is for 2-6 players (or teams) and a game takes 1˝-2 hours to play. Pevans rates it 8/10.
This review was originally published in Games Games Games 90, April 1995.

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