Winner’s Circle

Winner's Circle is a board game I had seen many times but had never got around to playing. The box is innocuous enough, a dark green color with jockeys and horses on the cover. Perhaps it was the timing of night as we were rushing to get one more game in, or the composition of the players, but regardless of the circumstances, I have to say this game most certainly got me riled up.

Generally speaking, I enjoy games related to betting, probability, and odds. In my former life, I was a Stock and ETF Trader, so this was a familiar world to me. For instance, I enjoy Camel Up, and Carson City, both which involve betting and/or probability, and neither of them impacted me the way that this game did.

So, how does one play? The board is a racetrack which horses move around based on rolls of a die. Each of the 7 horses have cards on the board corresponding to their designated spaces. These cards are randomly assigned and alter the amount of moves per the symbol rolled on the die. On the 6 sided die, 3 are of a horse head symbol, 1 is a jockey hat, 1 is a horseshoe and 1 is a saddle. 

die with horse head, horseshoe, and saddle

Players take turns rolling the die and choosing which horse to move based on the roll and their bets, which have been placed on the horses ahead of time. Each player gets 4 bets, one of which is a null bet, so that it's not so obvious where players are betting. The objective is to win the most amount of money by having the horses you bet on cross the finish line in first place, second place, or third place, before the other horses. There are 3 rounds of this, and the horses go around the track once per round before the cards and bets are reset. There is also a bonus for the horse that crosses the 18th space first, and a bigger prize for 1st place, than 2nd, and so forth. There is also a penalty for having a horse you bet on finish last.

image of winner's circle game board and playing pieces

Designed by Reiner Knizia, 2-6 players, ages 10+

Nothing seems out of the ordinary, however, here's where I faced some challenges with regards to the betting. When placing bets, players may bet on the same horse, especially if the horse has a good position and a good card. However, if everyone chooses the same horse, then there really isn't much of a game. It disincentivizes risk to some degree. Furthermore, 2 horses can't be on the same space at the same time. Therefore, it seemed that there was a huge disadvantage to choosing a horse in the 6th of 7th position, because they would not only be 5 and 6 spaces behind the horse in position 1, but also harder to get out of the gate. 

Is this how real horse racing is?? Tough odds!

Thus, I am not sure how horses in position 6 or 7 are going to win, unless for example, every player puts their bet marker on them, or unless they are given some handicap to balance their disadvantage. Perhaps, though, Winner's Circle isn't as much a game of odds and betting, as it is on playing with the home team when necessary, and also figuring out how to bet and play such that you have a slight advantage and end up with the more money $$$ than everyone else by the end of the third time around the track. 

Winner’s Circle
Critic's Corner Review
Winner's Circle is a fun horse betting game for a crowd. However, you may be at a disadvantage if you bet against the favorite. Take a turn around the track if you want some jockey and jostling in your life. Plays in 1.5 hours.
PROS
Fun betting mechanisms
Highly engaging and interactive
Classically themed game
CON
Disadvantages to betting on a long shot
69
GameHubHQ Rating
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