In November, we announced our finalists for the 2022 GeekDad Game of the Year. This past week, we got our panel of judges together to play through all ten finalists. So happy to have been able to do it again this year! Each of us really loves the titles that we designated as GeekDad Approved, and spent time sharing what we loved about these games with each other—but it’s still always a tough decision to narrow it down to a single title, especially with the broad range of game genres and themes represented.
After much deliberation, we’re happy to announce our Game of Year for 2022: Long Shot: The Dice Game, designed by Chris Handy, published by Perplext, with illustrations by Clau Souza.
This is the first nomination and the first win for Chris and Perplext. Congratulations!
You can read Jonathan’s original review here, and keep reading to see what we had to say about it.
…annnnd they’re off!
Even if you’ve never seen an actual horse race in your life, thanks to movies and television, you’ve undoubtedly heard race announcers make that declaration over the loudspeakers, as the gates swing wide and the horses’ hooves thunder onto the track.
And somehow, game designer Chris Handy has managed to pull off the excitement of those races, using two simple dice: one that indicates the particular horse that’s racing, and the other that determines how many lengths of track it moves.
Of course, that’s hardly all there is to this clever roll-and-write game. The horse die doesn’t just control the horses. It also tells players what they can do with that particular number.
Let’s say a “7” comes up on the horse die. As a player, you could then bet on horse 7. You could purchase horse 7, if you had enough cash. You can buy a helmet or a jersey for the jockey of horse 7. And that’s just a few options available to players. There are even a limited number of wilds that you can select, which allow you to take an action on a different horse.
All of those options give a lot of agency to the players. In the games that I’ve played, I’ve almost always felt that my choices have been meaningful. I say almost, because you might end up choosing an action to move a particular horse forward three spaces… only to find one of your fellow players has chosen to move the same horse back three spaces!
Too many roll-and-write games can feel like solitaire games where you’re just trying to get more points than anyone else. Long Shot: The Dice Game is refreshingly interactive. Because you are betting on different horses to place, and may own one or two yourself, you’ll be paying attention to the moves the other people around the table are making, especially when it comes to manipulating and betting on particular horses.
I can certainly imagine that the theme of horse racing may not initially excite a lot of people. But Long Shot: The Dice Game’s mechanics work perfectly with the theme, creating an engrossing game that fantastically recreates the excitement of a horse race on the tabletop. It’s family-friendly, easy to learn, and plays in a relatively short amount of time so that you can easily get in a few games or play it alongside other titles on game night. And the most important part of all? Win or lose, you’re going to have a lot of fun at the table.
While I’ve been known to play a game of poker or two when I happen to be near a casino (my lifetime winnings do exceed my lifetime losses … but about $100), I’ve never had much interest in horse racing. But thankfully, Long Shot is such a beautifully designed game that interest in, or even any real knowledge of, the theme isn’t required to thoroughly enjoy playing it.
On several occasions in the last few years, I’ve been so taken with one of our finalists that I’ll order a copy for myself while we’re in the middle of playing it. This year, that didn’t happen with Long Shot … because I had already bought it a few weeks earlier, based on Jonathan’s review. That enabled me to play a game with my family over Thanksgiving, and then another game with my regular gaming group, before playing it with the GeekDads. There’s always a bit of “sure, I like this, but will other people who don’t write for the blog?” going on in my head when we’re discussing the finalists, but this year, I already had the answer: an emphatic “yes.”
What works in the game is the multiple paths to victory. It’s not quite at Point Salad level, but you can choose to focus on spending your money backing a horse you think will win, or try to buy a horse or two and get their bank if they win, or work on concessions to see how you can use the bonuses to win. I’ve tried each of these strategies, and seen other players try them, and all of them seem to have the potential for victory (unless of course one player really backs a horse and then gets lucky and has that horse win.)
Any game that relies on dice is going to rely on a lot of luck. That’s the whole purpose of dice. But the small addition of the secondary movement, where horses “pull” other horses along, mitigates a lot of that luck, as does the presence of the bonus moves players can apply to the horses. In the half dozen or so games I’ve played so far, every one has seen a close finish for multiple horses. Unlike a lot of similar games where you have a common set of racing animals, like, as a random example, maybe camels, it’s common for one or sometimes two of them to fall so far behind that it’s just impossible for them to have a shot of catching up. In Long Shot, I’ve seen race after race where one horse never leaves the starting line until another horse is more than halfway done … and then see that slower horse catch up and even pass the leader.
The other thing that this game does really well is encourage a lot of player interaction. Yes, you’re focusing on your player board, figuring out your bets, but you will absolutely find yourself looking at what the other players are doing and see if you can find a way to disadvantage their horses. Unless of course you discover that the horse you’ve backed with a bunch of bets is owned by another player, in which case you may find yourself trying to help them, hoping you’ve bet enough to overcome the purse they’ll win.
In the end, my decision to back this as our winner really came down to one thing: I have a lot of fun playing it, every time. And I’ve seen the folks I care about and play a lot of games with enjoy it as well. And if that doesn’t embody the GeekDad Game of the Year, I don’t know what does.
Like Rob, I have never bet on a horse race nor really enjoyed betting type games. Therefore, I had a lot of skepticism before I played Long Shot for the first time. I was surprised at all that goes on in this game. You are not just betting on a horse and waiting to see who wins the race–and the game all takes place during a single horse race. Instead, each roll provides each player with several opportunities. I had not read the rules when I first played it, yet the basic concepts were easily taught to me by the others at the table. In fact, they taught me so well that I won my first game.
One of the aspects of Long Shot that I really like is that there is some strategy involved. Even though the dice decide which horses move and ultimately the winning horse, there are things players can do to help push a horse closer to the finish line as well as move that leader back a few spaces. In addition, players can even help ensure that their favored horses get to move even when the die is rolled for another horse. Another interesting part of the game is that when a player purchases a horse, not only do they win money if that horse is one of the first three to cross the finish line, they also get to use that horse’s unique special ability. Therefore, buying a horse early in the race is to your benefit.
Long Shot keeps all players engaged throughout the entire game. Every roll, each player can take an action on their card. While in other games, you may be planning out your next move while you wait for your turn, in this game you are constantly playing. Plus you are looking at what the other players are doing as well. If someone raises their bet on a horse you are wanting to win, then you need to raise your bet as well. As a result of this constant action, whether you are playing with one or eight players, there is no down time. Players can feel like they are at a horse track since all of this is taking place while the horses are running.
Before I played Long Shot, I figured it was definitely a long shot for me to see this as a contender. Roll-and-write games are not games I would normally be excited about playing since they rely so much on chance. Yet I love how this game lets players work to minimize that sense of lucky die rolls through strategy. I was surprised at how caught up I was in the game and the excitement around the table throughout the race and especially as the horses made their way around the last turn and approached the finish line. After playing Long Shot and learning all of the features included in the game, including the several ways to win and how smoothly the game plays, I feel like this game truly deserved to be the GeekDad Game of the Year. I had a lot of fun playing this game and now want to get my own copy to play with my family.
I’ve really loved Long Shot: The Dice Game since I first got to try the prototype back in early 2021. At the time, I played it mostly with my then-7-year-old daughter, but it also worked well playing it online on Tabletop Simulator as well. I loved the broad player count range that the game could accommodate, as well as the mix of luck and the ability to influence your luck a bit. It’s a game that can have runaway leaders in some games and surprise dark horse victories, yet it doesn’t feel like it’s just entirely left up to chance, either.
After the Kickstarter campaign closed, I eagerly awaited the delivery of the finished product, and it was an easy decision to give it a GeekDad Approved seal earlier this year, and despite reviewing many more excellent games over the course of 2022, Long Shot remained in my personal top five the whole time, so I was delighted that it made our list of finalists.
I’ve played Long Shot with a wide range of players, and although there are some parts that can be a little confusing at first, just about everyone I’ve played it with has come away with a smile on their faces, win or lose. It really captures the feel of spectating at a sports event, with players cheering on their horses as the dice are rolled, and watching with anticipation as they near the finish line.
This year’s Game of the Year was a pretty close race with some strong contenders, but Long Shot has earned its top spot on the podium!
When I first was introduced to Long Shot: The Dice Game, it was certainly with a fair bit of skepticism. Admittedly, I am only lukewarm on roll-and writes as a genre and I was concerned that this one would feel like all the rest, with a pasted on theme and perfunctory gameplay… Boy, was I wrong!
Long Shot: The Dice Game does a number of things well that take it from being just another roll-and-write to being worthy of the GeekDad Game of the Year award, the first of which is its integration of the theme. Although I’m not much of a gambling man myself, there’s no denying that the back-and-forth anticipation of a horse race is one of the more exciting experiences in sports. Long Shot does an incredible job of replicating the chaos and the high stakes in a way that creates memorable plays for both newbies and veterans alike.
For new players, this one is easy enough to wrap your head around as the game goes on, with a fairly simple ruleset and simultaneous play keeping the play time to a crisp 25–30 minutes. And for experienced players, the decision space is robust, with many viable winning strategies to consider from start to finish. Most importantly though, the gameplay encourages a lot of player interaction, a quality that is often glossed over in the roll-and-write genre. I personally love the many opportunities to manipulate a horse’s movement in the game – finding the perfect time to make your opponent stumble or have your big ticket horse sprint to the finish is so satisfying!
Lastly, one of the biggest draws in my opinion is that this game plays up to 8 players. Although many roll-and-writes bill themselves as accommodating “1-100 players,” in my experience, the more players you add, the clunkier it becomes. This is not the case with Long Shot – in fact, some of my best plays of it have come with 7–8 players. It occupies this interesting space of being light enough (and wild enough) to scratch that party game itch, while still providing enough strategy to satisfy the core gamer’s cravings.
All in all, Long Shot: The Dice Game is a triumph and provides a great formula for an engaging and fun roll-and-write that I hope many designers will soon learn from. From its immersive theme to its exciting gameplay, Long Shot is more than deserving of this award and I’m quite pleased that the other writers agree!
Congrats to Long Shot: The Dice Game, and kudos to the rest of our Game of the Year finalists as well!