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There's Only One Winner
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Lambourne Games are well known for producing simulation sports games. Generally these involve the use of detailed tables, six sided dice and basic graphics. The look of "look and feel" is discarded in favour of feel in their games. This always prompts the question in our gaming sessions of what the games would be like if Avalon Hill were to publish them. The main problem, I suspect, is that there are too few sales for this to be possible under the old Avalon Hill, and that this is even less likely under the Hasbro banner. Nonetheless, it is something that would be delightful to contemplate.
The Internet has increased the sales of Lambourne Games by allowing greater access to Lambourne Games. They are now available at www.sportgameshop.com or you can email [email protected]
The latest in the series of games feature horse racing, which is a topic that has been successfully covered before by Lambourne. The surprising aspect to There's Only One Winner is that it is not a simulation, but a light betting game, the sort that rounds off an evening's gaming. (In style, the game reminds me of Devil Take the Hindmost, but that game has more tactics than There's Only One Winner.)
The board is a 40 x 12 grid, allowing 12 horses to move 40 spaces. By the side of each of the 40 spaces is a starting price for betting, such as 8-1. The horses are lined up at the starting place, which can vary between space 40 (starting price 40-1) and space 30 (starting price 11-1). The odds decrease until the final 8 spaces, where there is a no betting zone.
Each player can bet up to four times on a horse before or during a race. The bets are worth 1 to 4 points, and you have probably deduced by now that the final payoffs are a multiple of the points and the row that you bet on the horse. Two six sided dice and two twelve sided dice determine the speed and lane of the horses moving. The bets can be placed at any time before the dice are rolled and the highest of the 6 sided dice is used for the speed. Sounds simple so far and it is.
Each player also has a bonus move card that is played before dice are rolled, which allows an extra two points on movement when that horse moves on this and future turns. When a horse enters the no betting zone, it cannot be bet on (pretty obviously). If two horses cross the line on the same turn, the red coloured 12-sided die determines which one crosses first as there's only one winner.
This seems like a game that is completely dependent on luck. To a large degree it is of course, but there is some skill in when to place your bets and when to place your bonus move card but the races are over very quickly. The recommended solution to this is to play a series of games over different lengths, with some handicap races where horses start from different squares and with different starting prices. The designers have also included rules for National Hunt racing (over jumps), where landing on a jump forces a horse back 4 places, and seven if this is a steeplechase.
The rules are in a four page booklet and are clearly written while the horses are desk top publishing standard and can be fixed to green plastic bases. The move cards need to be cut out (from thin cardboard) and I have laminated mine to provide more durability. If you're looking for a light and entertaining end of evening game, or want a set of non-regular gamers to find something simple but enjoyable, then this might well be for you. The game is fun and quick, and certainly not deep. Have a look at the web site (which takes credit cards) and see if this is what you are looking for.