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Subject: A run for your money rss

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Selwyn Ward
United Kingdom
Tunbridge Wells
Kent
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This is review I wrote that was originally published in Games & Puzzles magazine in 1977. If I find my copy of the game, I’ll uploaded a scrollable 360º photo on my Board’s Eye View board game review page on Facebook (www.facebook.com/boardseye). The review appeared in the same issue as my review of the Waddingtons horse racing game Lose Your Shirt, so the two games were inevitably compared. I'll upload that review to the relevant BGG page.

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A handful of cards are dealt out to each player who secretly places a bet on the horse or horses he fancies most. He then plays his cards, alternating with the other players, to move the horses along a green felt race-track in an attempt to bring the horses on which he has bet into first or second place; the winner being the player with the most money after a set number of races.

On the face of it, a very simple game of chance, Jockey has rather more to it than might initially meet the eye. As the horses on which each player has bet are kept secret there is a certain amount of poker-faced bluffing and counter-bluffing throughout each race, with players moving horses on which they have not bet in order to mislead the other players - although of course if they pursue their bluff with too much enthusiasm they may find they are overly assisting another player who has bet on the horse they are moving.

The main feature of Jockey which introduces the possibility of strategy and tactics into each race is the use of positional cards in the game. Certain of the cards used in Jockey affect only specific horses, advancing a named horse a set distance (eg: red horse forward 10). Other cards, however, advance specific horses only in relation to their position in the race (eg: blue horse, if it is in the lead, may triple its lead), and still others will advance whatever horse is in a certain position (eg: horse in second position advances 13). As relying solely on the cards advancing specific horses by specific distances will never get one's horse past the finishing post, a player has to use the cards in his hand. Often moving horses he has not backed to jockey for position in order to be able to advance the horse he has backed with the various positional cards.

The betting in Jockey also requires the exercise of a degree of skill and judgment. One must decide not only how much to bet but how best to bet it. Tongue-twisters aside, there are four types of bets which are permissible in Jockey. One may back a horse to win or to come first or second; one may bet that either one or two of the four horses will win; or, for the confident, the ambitious, or the hardened gambler, one may attempt to predict the first and second place horses. The odds paid vary according to the type of bet made. One criticism here, however, is that in the case of a first and second place forecast bet, one may still receive some return if only half of one's prediction is correct. This makes it advantageous to use this type of bet even if one is less confident about predicting the second place horse, as one can apportion a small amount of one's total stake on the second place prediction to maximise one's return on the first place result.

Each player starts the game with a betting capital of 1000 units, of which he must bet at least 100 units in each of the three races which make up each game of Jockey. Should he run short of money after the first or second race he may borrow sufficient to make his bet up to 1000 units in each remaining race (although he may of course borrow and bet less). There appears to be no penalty for borrowing money and no interest charges are levied - a feature which probably reflects the figures for current German inflation rates better than those for Britain.

The game is produced to a remarkably high standard. The horses are cast in metal and the felt race-track is mounted on foam. The design of the cards is a little clumsy, however, as, although very attractive, their layout is such as to make it very difficult to see the nature and effect of each card while they are held in the hand. This is particularly the case in two-player games of Jockey where each player may at times have to accommodate as many as seventeen cards in his hand.

Some of the Games & Puzzles Games Testing Panel members were also critical of the system used for keeping track of winnings in the game, as Jockey uses a chart system where each player's money is accounted for with markers on scales of 100s, 1000s and 10,000s (with minus columns for loans). It was thought that the inclusion of paper money would have been simpler and rather more convenient.

The rules are fairly clear on most points, although there is some ambiguity over the interpretation of those cards allowing a horse to move a maximum of a certain number of spaces but not more than will take it past a certain position. Do these cards mean that a horse can be moved by·any number of spaces less than the maximum and less than the farthest permissible position? It is thought not and that in these circumstances a horse must move the maximum that the card and its position on the racetrack permits as to do otherwise would be inconsistent with other aspects of the game.

As with fewer players there is considerably more control over the game, Jockey can be most highly recommended as a game for two or three players. With more than three, it is noticeably less a game of skill, but it is still one of the more enjoyable horse racing games on the market.
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