GRAND NATIONAL DERBY - Reviewed by Mike
Clever Reiner Knizia card game which requires players to bet on horses at different stages of a race, with winning bets being paid out if your selection(s) finish in the first 3. The earlier the bet is placed the higher the reward.
Initially the 8 horses which start the race are placed in a column on the table and play consists of a series of rounds which are depicted by a Fence Card and players place a token of their colour against a horse of their choice which they think will survive to the end. Only one token can be placed on each horse but players can bet on two or more different horses if they wish, but only have 4 tokens to bet with in total.
They then play a card from their hand onto a row for the horse of that colour. In addition to cards rated 0-9 for each coloured horse there is a series of neutral cards which can be placed on any coloured horse. When the row of cards representing each horse is completed the horse with the lowest current rating is eliminated from the race(i.e. it falls at the fence).
So the object of the game is to keep your horse 'alive' whilst trying to ensure that the other horses are the ones that fall. This is not as easy as it first appears, as they will be trying to do the same to 'your' horses, so you sometimes have to place one of your higher cards on 'your' horse to keep it in the race, thereby denying you the opportunity to nobble the others.
Each round takes about 7-8 minutes and there are 5 rounds in all, with no bets allowed in the last round.
On completion of the final round players bets are valued according to the round in which they were placed, each round from the first being worth 4,3,2,1 respectively.
Only horses that finish are scored so typically the winner has say 3 scoring pieces worth 4,2,1, a total of 7. At 35-40 minutes a game it makes an excellent opener or closer; for those wanting a slightly longer game you could play further games, with the overall score determining the winner.