There’s a stack of games in our house we’ve said at some point or another that we’re probably going to sell. But before we do, I force us to play one or two more times to be sure we’re not making a terrible mistake and to try to think through why we didn’t enjoy the experience (if that’s still the case). THESE… are our stories.
The Victorian Gamer is exactly the sort of game someone gets you for Chanukahmas when you are known to like:
1. board games, and
It’s a fair cop, guv’nor, and if this game didn’t suck I’m sure that it and I could have been very happy together (in an embarrassing ‘shit I’m easy for’ sort of way). Alas, it sucks more royally than Edward II.
Your first clue is in the sense in which the company means ‘Victorian Gamer’. Check this flavour text:
I guess they mean that some sports were developed and professionalised during this period, but the implication that Victorian English people invented sports is pretty funny.
TVG features rowing, horse racing and relay races: three things that can be entertaining enough to take part in yourself, but which are boring to watch others take part in. Perhaps they’re less so if you’re a person who likes sports (which I’m not), but even so, watching basketball is more of a recognised activity than watching rowing. (You can shove whatever you’re thinking of saying about the Oxbridge boat race, Wimsey.)
The other element this game revolves around is gambling. I know some people actually want to go to Las Vegas et al, but for me the whole thing is a combination of risky and dull, like taking a high-stakes standardised test.
The game is cheaply made. In fact it’s as bad as anything I’ve seen in that regard. The little slivers of paper money make Monopoly look posh. The graphics are clip-art as hell and the cardboard thin as a tissue box. You have to put the stickers on the 6-sided dice yourself. It'd take a Pantone colour expert to differentiate between the plastic 'gold' and 'bronze' tokens.
Why must you make this call? Because you’re given two relay-race runners, a rower and a jockey, and you must assign one of your runners (the other’s neutral-black) and your other two kept sportsmen skill-levels. These hold throughout the game. You then challenge or are challenged by someone else in a particular event. You meet their stake, or don’t, and you bet, or don’t. The amount of the bet is up to you, and a little table determines odds and payoffs. (The rules are simple, yet somehow also not very clearly explained in the instructions.) A ‘round’ consists of however many people are playing’s one on one battles, and then an all-in event. There are three rounds to a game.
The person with the most money at the end’s won. I like a neat, singular scoring mechanism, but Victorian Gamer’s about as bare-bones as it gets. I do appreciate that the three forms of racing have slightly different rules, but it really is simply a question of rolling your die again and again, and the better-ranked player winning the mathematically likely percent of the time. It is not a game for people who like board games, and it’s not really going to do much for people who like this period in history, either.
We honestly only played one of the three rounds through, because we’d tried all the events and could see the whole mechanism, and that it wasn’t going to get any more interesting. The game’s at once substantially themed (it’s like stepping into a naff Victorian Ladbrokes) and insufficiently built up. There’s nothing to do but endure the tedium (and my god this game would be awful with a the 6 players it can accommodate: there’s the potential for a lot of downtime, and rounds would take ages). And yet this is still more of a game than the ignoble Wonderword.
VERDICT: We could see immediately we were going to have to rid ourselves of TVG, but we’re still working out how. Shockingly, no one wants to buy it. Need to find someone else desperate for a Victorian-themed present. Possibly steampunks…