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Developer Diary: Ready Set Bet

Board Game: Ready Set Bet
When I sat down to write a developer diary about John D Clair's Ready Set Bet, I thought about all the different things I should include. I could easily talk about how it's the first game I worked on as a new member of AEG's amazingly stacked development team — I'm learning so much from all of them! — and how they asked me to fit a nine-player game in a medium-sized box, a side effect of how the manufacturing and shipping aspect of our hobby has changed in the last couple years.

I could also talk about my past experience as a table games dealer and pit boss on the Las Vegas strip to figure out the best board layout and money-chip denominations and distribution.

I could talk about, you know, the typical developer diary stuff like the evolution and balancing that was done to very specific bets during playtesting — but to be honest, John already had a pretty solid game that didn't need too much tweaking. I did learn how to convert all my skills working on slot machine games, the career I had after putting myself through art school while dealing on the strip at night, into producing a board game.

I added some UI stuff like the Win, Place, and Show arrows that made it easier for players to understand how those bets work for horses that finish in first, second, and third place.

Board Game: Ready Set Bet

But here's the thing: None of that behind-the-scenes info could convey to you what I learned about the game while playing it with friends and coworkers.

There is a magical element to Ready Set Bet that isn't a physical component. It's not a piece of artwork that we can commission, it's not a little trinket we can have the printers add to the box, nor is it a rule or mechanism that we can explain in the rulebook.

When you acquire your copy of Ready Set Bet, this element is not apparent when you open the box or when you punch out the tokens, shuffle the cards, or line up the little wooden horses on the track. It's just not in the physical components.

Board Game: Ready Set Bet

Instead there's a moment when you realize what that extra ingredient is. You first see it after you've explained the rules to your friends and you toss the dice to move the first horse. When you get to that moment, look up around the table and watch as your friends process the craps-style layout and see how their expressions evolve with each movement of the horses.

There's a sense of urgency and rivalry as they look to get juicy bets in before someone else takes them, but also of camaraderie as their shared fate lies in the fickle hands of lady luck, teasing one horse's early domination only to never roll that number again. With your bets locked in once they are placed, a horse that had so much potential early on can suddenly be overtaken by another who has just now decided to leave the gate.

The air is soon filled with laughter and cries of disappointment as fate toys with the mere machinations of players trying to predict and profit from silly little wooden horses moved by two little blocks with pips on them. The sum of those pips each turn feels like it could be scripted to reveal the most dramatic twists and turns, or the funniest set of nonsensical happenstance — but the magical element isn't the dice.

It's the people.

Board Game: Ready Set Bet

It's your friends coming together for a shared experience. That's what John has captured and somehow fit into the 9" by 9" box. He's made a game that can appeal both to hobby gamers and their non-gamer friends and family.

I hired a voice actor to record commentary for the race app that will be available to run the race for you, and he invited some of his improv friends to play and help him learn the game. Granted, these are some very funny people, but as I went through the recorded footage, I was surprised by how close this is to my personal experiences playing the game with friends old and new!

Thank you for reading! And thank you to AEG and John D. Clair for allowing me to help bring this game into the world! It's been almost as much fun as playing it!

Kirk Buckendorf
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