The trumpet sounds. Post time is near. The horses are about ready to take off. And you, dear reader, have the opportunity to strike it rich. Horse racing is a pretty easy sell for a theme for a board game. In Ready, Set, Bet you’ll be betting in real time as horses take off and approach the finish line.
So let’s dive into how it plays and see if it’s worthy of a spot in your gaming collection.
First, it’s important to note that the horses themselves can be controlled in one of two ways. A player at the table can take control of the horses… essentially rolling a pair of dice and moving the horse that matches the result. If no one is up for this task there is an app that will “roll” for you and call out the results. If the same number is rolled twice in a row that horse gets bonus movement. This bonus is larger for the harder-to-roll numbers allowing them to have more varied movement.
The betting players each have 5 betting chips. At any time after the start of the race they can place one of their chips on the board on the horse they think will win. Each horse has slightly different odds to win and only one chip can be placed on each space, so payouts become worse as other players bet in front of you.
There are a couple of other prop bets available to players. You can bet on the color of the horse that wins. Or if a certain horse will finish in front of another. And a new prop is added each round giving some more variability to the game.
After the race ends you get paid for your correct bets and most of the incorrect ones will cost you money as well. After the fourth race, the game ends and the player with the most money is the winner.
Let’s start by flashing back to Gen Con 2022. People were enamored with Ready, Set, Bet. There weren’t copies for sale but AEG distributed quite a few to demo areas, open gaming, and reviewers. Designer John D. Clair was on hand running a ton of races and people were having a great time.
But we don’t all have Mr. Clair coming over to do the rolling for us. The app is serviceable if a little less exciting. If a player controls the horses and gets into the callouts and process it can be quite entertaining.
However, I think that is probably the most fun role to play. As bettors, the other players have very little to do. The game really only comes down to how quickly you are willing to throw a bet down and if the dice roll in your favor. There is a little bit of decision-making in how quickly to bet as your tokens are limited and payouts get worse as others beat you to them. But ultimately you just kind of spew tokens out and hope.
As if often the case with party games—and make no mistake, this is a party game—it’s very dependent on the group. However, I think the ceiling, even with the perfect group, is ending that game and thinking “Well heck, that was kinda fun” and moving on to something else. And the floor, which seemed to be the more common experience with my groups, is that no one really enjoyed it.
In the best cases, you are rooting on a horse and hoping the dice roll your way. More often I found myself with bets all over the place and not entirely sure what outcome I really wanted to root for. Too often the fun, “stand up around the table” moments just failed to materialize.
Will you enjoy Ready, Set, Bet? It’s hard to say. If someone asked if you wanted to play a game where the mechanic is betting on a set of dice rolls, would you be interested? For me, and most of the folks I played with, there was no amount of theme that could overcome that just being a somewhat underwhelming experience.
The exciting moments are few and far between. The app is serviceable but almost never is able to really capture the excitement when it does happen. And if you have a human rolling dice for you they have to be a special kind of person to enjoy that and really sell the rest of the table on the experience.
Final Score: 2 Stars – Not the horse racing game we deserve. Almost no player agency and too few exciting moments of randomness.
• Ready, Set, Bet is a game of betting on random outcomes of dice.
• You really need the perfect person running the race and even then it’s not always exciting.