The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game has been around a while, having been on the market since 1987. It was one of the first board games I ever played, and nearly caused my uncle and aunt to divorce while arguing over the rules during one memorable Christmas.
The game essentially takes the skulduggery and cheating that goes on in real life horse races and applies it to a board game, making for an interesting and often bad-tempered experience for the players.
How to be Nasty
The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game is a competitive betting game for 2-6 players. The player that wins the most money over the course of the six rounds, each round consisting of a single race, is the winner, and money can be earned either by a player’s horse finishing among the top three at the end of the race, or by placing a bet on the winning horse. At the beginning of each race the players must decide whether to bet on their own horse or another.
You start the game with a stable of horses numbered from one to six, with one being the fastest. During the race the players move their horses around the board, either trying to reach the finish line before the others or attempting to make sure the horse they bet on finishes first. How fast a horse moves depends on their grade, which is assigned at the beginning of the race and gives them a certain amount of leeway with dice roles, also giving players clues on who to bet on depending on the size of the stakes. Grades revolve with each subsequent race, so every horse gets to be the fastest horse at least once.
Where the game gets really interesting (or really nasty) is with the race event cards. These allow players to influence the race beyond dice roles and horse grades. Cards can be used to turn a horse around the wrong way, force them to re-start the race, cause them to fall over at the fences or just have them collapse in the middle of the flat. There are also defensive cards to allow remounts and, in the tumultuous final race, cards that can disrupt or even alter the final outcome such as objections and photo finishes.
At the end of each race the prize winnings are handed out, so players can then use the money accrued to place their bets for the next race. Players can choose not to bet if they’re short of money, in which case they would have to race for the prize money.
Thoughts on The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game
Like most games, The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game is based on a mixture of skill and luck. It involves a lot of gambling, particularly when choosing to place a bet on your own horse or someone else’s. It’s interesting to have a game where players often start nobbling their own horses to make it easier for the one they bet on to win.
What tends to happen is that in the first two or even three races everyone behaves themselves, just to see how the rolls of the dice and the game plays out. Then, as it gets to the final race things begin to get, and I quote, nasty, with people knocking each other’s horses over and generally causing mayhem. At the final round the choice is whether to keep some money back as insurance or throw it all in. Players have been known to bet all their money and win millions or lose everything and finish with a score of exactly zero.
I think my biggest criticism is that there can be a lot of luck involved. If you don’t get good dice throws and you’re stuck with rubbish cards, it’s very hard to get anywhere. That’s the advantage of being allowed to bet on other people’s horses, but then if the horse you bet on is nobbled by another player or happens to also suffer from terrible dice throws it can feel like a lose-lose situation.
It is also on the long side. The board states it takes around 90 minutes, but my memory is of longer games, especially as it reaches the later races and the stakes get higher. But I confess I do enjoy the arguments and the high tension of the game, it’s probably not one to choose if you don’t get on with the people you’re playing with. However, if you can cope with a bit of tension and like a game that involves betting and being horrible to your opponents, this is definitely the one for you.