Ready Set Bet
- Designer: John D. Clair
- Publisher: AEG
- Players: 2-9
- Age: 14+
- Time: 45-60 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by AEG, also played with designer at GenCon
John D. Clair is prolific game designer, with designs spanning many different genres – we have looked at a number in the past: Mystic Vale, Cubitos, Dead Reckoning and Ecos to name a few. I have found the quality of his designs across these different game types to be nothing short of amazing.
Ready Set Bet is a “racing” game, but in a betting sense. Here, you do not control any of the horses in the race – in fact, they move on their own based on the luck of the dice. Instead, you bet in real time on the results of the race in progress. For now, you’ll need to have someone serve as the house player – responsible for rolling the dice, moving the horses, and hopefully injecting interesting commentary to the game. By the time the game is released, there is supposed to be a companion app, voiced by the designer himself, that will automate the horse action for you.
There are two boards in the game, a smaller track board – with 9 lanes for the 9 horses – and a larger bet board, allowing bets on those 9 horses to win, place or show. Each player gets their own set of 5 colored betting chips. The house player gets their own set of 6 house bet tokens that they can also use. The deck of Prop Bet cards is shuffled and 5 are dealt to the spaces at the top of the bet board. One exotic finish bet card is also placed nearby.
In short – Ready Set Bet is played over four rounds. Each round consists of a race followed by bet resolution. During each race, players freely place their bet tokens on the board while the race is going on. After each race, players win or lose money for each of their placed bet tokens, then receive a VIP Club Card to help them win more money in the following races. After four rounds, the player with the most money wins!
For each race, the horses are placed in the starting gate and the house player starts rolling the 2d6. With each roll, the two dice are summed, and the horse of matching number is moved ahead one space. Note that the horses on the end have 2 values each: 2/ 3 and 11/ 12. The House player continually rolls the dice and moves the appropriate horse forward. Also note that there are bonus moves awarded if the same number is rolled twice in a row – 1, 2 or 3 bonus spaces depending on the number rolled – you can see the bonuses to the left of each number on the Track board. Note that the 7 horse never gets a bonus, and also note that a bonus is not triggered by the 3rd consecutive value (though would be triggered again if the number was rolled four times in a row).
(If you choose to play the variant where the house player can also bet – he places his bets before any dice are rolled for the round. These bets do not prevent any of the regular bidders from betting. The House Player also starts with $18. There is also a variant which allows players to rotate as the House Player.)
As the numbers are being rolled, the House player should be sure to announce all numbers rolled as well as trying to add in any commentary possible. The House player also should be tracking the progress towards the red line near the end of the track. When the third horse in the race crosses the Red Line, the House announces “NO MORE BETS”, and unsurprisingly, at this time, the players can no longer bet on this race.
As the horses race on their track board, the players are free to place bets. There are a number of different spaces on the board for bets (as well as the five Prop bets and the four Color bets at the top and any exotic finish cards). Each space can generally accommodate only a single bet marker – so there is a bit of a race to get to the desirable bets. Of course, the race keeps going on in the background, and if you wait it out, you might be able to place bets on a horse currently in the lead – thus with a higher chance of winning. But, if you wait too long, someone else might beat you to the spot you want! Also, note that the different betting spaces offer different odds for the same bet – it would make sense for the player who is betting earlier to take the space with a higher payout. There is no restriction on the timing of bets until the “NO MORE BETS” announcement is made by the track announcer. Then, there are no more bets. Duh.
The race now continues until the first horse makes it past the finish line. At this time, the dice are not rolled any further and the race immediately ends. The horse to pass the finish line wins. The next closest horse is in the Place position and the next closest is in the Show position. If there is a tie for 2nd place, they both Place, and there is no Show horse.
Players now resolve all their bets – gaining the multiplier of the number on their bet chip if the bet is successful, and taking a penalty (money lost) if their bet is unsuccessful. Not all bets have a penalty associated with them – look for the red circle in the bottom right of each bet space to be sure. After all the bets are resolved; all player collect their betting chips. The prop bets are discarded and a new set dealt out. An additional Exotic Finish card is added to the previously available once.
Finally, each player is dealt 2 VIP cards, choosing to keep one and discarding the other. The VIP cards are placed in front of each player, and they provide ongoing bonuses for the rest of the game – they may allow the player to place a bet in an occupied space or to bet after the NO MORE BETS announcement, etc.
Repeat the process for 4 rounds. After the fourth and final race, players tabulate their winnings, and the player with the most money wins.
My thoughts on the game
Ready Set Bet really does bring the excitement of being at the track into your gameroom. I have had the chance to play a few times, both as a bettor as well as once as the track narrator – and each game has been well received by the players. The bets are nicely set up to reward players for making earlier bets while having enough different options that there are still plenty of options left for those players who would prefer to wait closer to the end of the race to bet.
There are multiple levels of risk-reward calculations to be made here. Obviously the best odds are given to those bets which are made the earliest; and there is even the added benefit that many of the better bets in a category come with lesser or no penalties for missed bets. Of course, in order to make those bets, you’ll have much limited information on how the race is going to go.
As the race progresses, you’ll get a better sense of which bets might turn out good – but all of the spots might be gone! Thus, you’ll spend a lot of the game trying to divide your attention between watching the race while you try to watch the bet board as well as your opponents to see when they are thinking about trying to make a bet. It helps to have an animated race caller so that players might be able to follow the action by just listening, and then they can concentrate on other things to look at.
Of course, there is a bit of pressure on the race caller to do a good job of it. I’ll admit that my imagination fails after five or six dice rolls, and my race call degenerates into “7”, “6”, “6 again, getting a bonus”, “8”, etc. When we played at GenCon with the designer, he had a lot more experience at calling the race, and it was actually really interesting commentary that was super helpful and super fun to listen to.
There is a way to allow the race caller to also “play” the game by making a set of bets prior to each race. These bets do not affect the regular bets; they use a special L shaped token that leaves the bulk of the space free for the betting tokens. On the whole, I’m less of a fan of the House Player variants. I’m sure they’re been tested and hopefully balanced; but it still feels incongruous to have one player doing one thing while the rest do the other.
Even when you rotate the house bets, there is still a bit of “makeup” money involved. For me, I’d prefer to play with the app so that all the players in the game are competing for the same thing. Otherwise, just have someone resign themselves to being the helper for this 45-60 minute game (yeah, that doesn’t sound appealing to me at all). My very first game of this was played with the designer acting as the House Player, and he did an excellent job of keeping things exciting. IIRC, Mr. Clair will also be doing the audio for a number of the races in the app as well, and I’m sure that this will be our preferred way of playing once it is available for us to use.
The races are exciting, and I’ve found it neat that the bettors really get into the race part once the horses have crossed the “no more bets” line – though, of course, for most of them, there really isn’t anything else to do. But, it’s fun to hear the bettors cheering for the numbers that they have backed.
Though the main board stays the same, the prop bets and the VIP cards make each race feel fresh and different; thus far, we haven’t tired of things. Each race takes about ten minutes, and it definitely doesn’t feel that long as we play – as the game and the growing excitement of the race results end up usually being enthralling. This has the potential to replace “They’re at the Post” as my favorite horse betting game in my collection!
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Dale Y
- I like it. John P
- Not for me…