Coming to us from Alderac Entertainment Group(AEG) and designer John D. Clair
Yes, after Ticket To Ride presented us with a sight seeing tour through one of the US’ most iconic cities and A Battle Through History gave a battle across space and time comes…gambling on horse races.
Don’t let the more mundane set-up dissuade you however, as Ready Set Bet is a very engaging game on its own, and much more chance and thrills than the aforementioned games.
Looking at the board here, you’ll immediately realize where Ready Set Bet’s focus lies. Consider the small size of the racetrack in comparison to the gambling table (legitimately eight times smaller, I checked). This is not a game about horse racing, this is a game about gambling on horse racing. Indeed, AEG has even provided an app to eliminate the need to actually do anything with the horses yourself (which is a very useful thing, but it’s also amusing).
With this premise firmly established, what actually is this game?
Ready Set Bet is played over the course of four rounds, with each round consisting of a single race. Players must bet on the horse race in real time, as one player (or the app) rolls dice to move the horses along the track. This player is the House and does not compete in the game, merely facilitating it (hence why the app is so useful) unless one uses the special rules the game itself provides.
There are a handful of important responsibilities the House player has. They’re essentially the board game equivalent of a Dungeon Master, running the gameplay and giving the players key information without partaking in the gameplay themselves. Certain cards reward specific dice rolls, so in addition to moving the horses they need to call these rolls out, and they must also keep players aware of how close they are to betting ending. Bets end when three horses cross the red line, or when one horse hits the finish line.
It’s an important task with lots to do, but its removal from the actual gameplay means players may prefer to use the Ready Set Bet app, which is available on Apple and Android and ran without bugs for me.
While this is happening, players put Bet Tokens on specific slots on the board to declare how much they’re willing to put on specific outcomes. Each Bet Token has a different number on it, which corresponds to the amount they’re willing to put down. For example, if you put the 5 Bet Token on the 9x slot for a specific horse to win, then if it does get first place you’ll have won $45. Of course, if it doesn’t, then you’ll owe the house $45 instead.
In addition to betting on which horse will come in which place, Ready Set Bet provides the ability to vote on which color will win (there are three colors of horse, plus the 7th black horse) and ‘prop bets’ which change every race and offer up specific outcomes (such as the black horse beating all the blue horses).
To further add to the variety, Ready Set Bet also has two sets of cards-VIP and Exotic Finish.
VIP Cards are dealt in pairs to each player after the first race has finished, with players picking one to keep and one to discard. As a result each player will have three VIP Cards active by the final race. These cards give you bonuses, and some even allow you to break the rules of Ready Set Bet. Exotic Finish cards serve much like the aforementioned Prop Bets, providing the opportunity to bet on specific outcomes to each race.
That is, for better or worse, pretty much it. The winner is just whoever has the most money after the final race. Ready Set Bet is a fairly straightforward game, only really difficult to play if you’re the House player. This is gambling, pure and simple, driven by the roll of dice. There is some strategy certainly, but it’s entirely of the assessing risk and reward variety. That won’t be for everyone, and it’s not something I’d play every time, but I still had fun with it!
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Images and review copy courtesy of Alderac Entertainment Group
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