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Winner's Circle
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Winner's Circle

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Product Awards:  
Games Magazine Awards
Family Game Nominee, 2007

Ages Play Time Players
10+ 45+ minutes 2-6

Designer(s): Reiner Knizia

Publisher(s): Face 2 Face Games

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Product Description

THEY'RE AT THE POST... As the crowd tenses with anticipation one can only wonder what's going on in the minds of these seven men and their mounts, these "equines for the ages" will soon settle that long asked question "Who's the greatest of all time?"... And... THEY'RE OFF!

In Winner's Circle you are right in the middle of a classic day of racing. Which horse is the favorite? Does the long-shot have a real chance? How high are the betting ratios? Which bet promises the highest profit? Once the field is announced you must place your bets. You then take turns rolling the special die and moving the horse of your choice. Will you advance the horse you are backing or impede those horses backed by the other players? While having multiple players back the same horse improves its odds of winning it also lowers the payouts, and there are still no guarantees of victory. At the end of the running the best bets payoff. After 3 races the player with the most winnings is triumphant.

Product Awards

Games Magazine Awards
Family Game Nominee, 2007

Product Information


  • 1 game board
  • 7 horses
  • 28 horse cards
  • 6 color cards
  • 24 betting chips
  • 1 pace chip
  • money
  • 1 special die
  • rules
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Product Reviews


Average Rating: 3.9 in 15 reviews

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by Greg J. Schloesser
Horse-racing and betting fun!
December 01, 2010

Designer: Reiner Knizia
Publisher: Face 2 Face Games
Number of Players: 2 – 6
Time: 1 hour
Review by: Greg J. Schloesser

NOTE: This review was first published in Knucklebones magazine I'm usually not fond of race games, and horse racing in particular has never been a favorite of mine. However, Winner’s Circle (formerly released as Royal Turf by Alea Games) immediately struck me. It is fast, fun and has some interesting betting and movement mechanics. Sure, there's luck involved, but the other facets of the game overpower the luck and help make it quite exciting to play.

A field of seven horses is raced around the fairgrounds, with three races being held in a complete game. The number of races, of course, can be varied to suit your tastes and time constraints. Players place bets on the horses, with payouts being made for the horses who win, place or show, which is horse-racing vernacular for finishing in either first, second or third place. After three races, the player with the most winnings is the champ.

Each horse in a race is rated with four possible movement factors, as listed on over two-dozen placards. Each horse is randomly assigned one of these placards. Which of the four movement values is used depends upon the roll of a die. Three sides of the special die depict the profile of a horse head, while one each depicts a saddle, helmet and horseshoe. The movement factors listed on the horse charts correspond with these four symbols. Some horses are slow and steady, having moderate movement for each of these four symbols. Others, however, are prone to swift sprints and can move 10 - 20 movement spaces IF the correct symbol is rolled and the player selects that horse to move. The drawback is that the other movement factors listed on these swift horses tend to be VERY slow ... often just a '1'.

Horses are placed in a line on their pre-determined starting locations, one behind the other. Each player, in turn, then places a betting chip onto the betting box of one of the horses. Each player has three betting chips, numbered 1, 1 and 2 respectively. An additional chip with a value of zero is used if playing the 'Hidden Bets' variant, wherein all chips are placed face-down onto the horses. Otherwise, the '0' chip is not used and chips are placed face-up. I've played both ways and actually prefer the Hidden Bets variant. The face-up chips, however, do make it easier to hinder the progress of opponent's horses and makes it easier to catch the leader. This placement process continues until all players have placed all of their betting chips.

Once all horses are in place and bets have been made, the trumpet sounds and the race begins (Sorry ... no trumpet included!). The start player rolls the die and may move ANY of the seven horses. The amount the horse moves depends upon the movement factor listed on the horse's placard that corresponds to the symbol rolled. The temptation is to move a horse upon which you have placed a bet, but often this isn't the wisest choice. For example, if you placed a '2' betting chit on Busher and roll a saddle symbol, this would only allow Busher to move 1 space. It may be wiser to move a different horse, even one upon which you do not have any bets? Why? Well, each horse can only move once and cannot move again until ALL other horses have also been moved. So, if you move a horse only one space which opponents have bet on, they cannot move that horse again until all other horses have moved. This often means that your opponents are forced to move the horses you have bets on ... and often they are forced to move these horses forward a bunch of spaces due to the symbol they roll on the die! This is a quite nasty aspect of the game ... and it is quite fun!

Play continues in this fashion until three horses have crossed the finish line. Betting chits on the horses are tallied and payouts are made. The more chits a horse has upon him, the less the payout will be per chit value. However, those horses have a better chance of placing in the race as more players will have an incentive to move them. Still, the payout of being the sole bettor on a horse and getting it across the finish line can be sweet. You just gotta love those underdogs!

There are few other payout twists. The horse who is the first to cross the '18' space on the track is labeled the 'pace-setter'. If he finishes in the top three positions, each player who bet upon him receives an extra $100 per chit value. The horse which finishes in last place (determined once the third place horse crosses the line), however, costs those players who placed bets upon him $100 per chit value. Ouch!

After a race is completed, betting chits are returned to their owners and the horse placards are removed. A new set of cards is dealt and another race is held. As mentioned, the rules call for three races, with payouts in the third and final race being doubled. This does provide a chance to catch the leading player, and often results in payouts in excess of $1000 in the final race.

As mentioned, Winner’s Circle is truly fun and exciting to play. There are lots of moans and cheers uttered as horses are moved, and it is great fun to cheer your own horse to victory. The decisions to be made with each roll aren’t terribly taxing, but are nonetheless meaningful. Winner’s Circle does a good job or recreating the quickness and excitement of the horse racing sport.

Lots of fun to play with experienced gamers and anyone else
January 20, 2006
We played this game in Germany and in Portland at our game club. It's lots of fun to play with experienced gamers and anyone else too. You need both a little bit of strategy and luck too. We really recommend this just for lots of fun it doesnt bore people who arent used to playing hard strategy games and its pretty affordable too.


by Ynnen
Excellent, light bidding/racing game
February 22, 2004

I was completely caught off guard by how much I enjoyed Royal Turf and how well received it's been by my gaming groups. The rules are simple and straightforward, but despite the first glace that this is a simple game, there is far more at work.

Players take turns moving horses around the track to get them to Win/Place/Show after each race. By observing your opponents' actions -- which horses they move how far, how they react to other player's movement of certain horses -- you can try to determine who is rooting for which horse. Since there is a 'zero' or fake bid in the mix, you can never be quite sure which horses a player is pulling for except through their behavior.

The game plays very quickly, and since you play several races back-to-back for a complete circuit, you are never truly 'out' of the game if you perform poorly in the first race or two. There is also often collusion among players to completely decimate a horse they believe the current winner is bidding large on -- which can sometimes have unpredictable results!

A fine game with excellent components, a quick learning curve and incredibly high replay value. Highly recommende.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.

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