Ready, Steady, Sit!

Review of board game Galopp Royale by Pevans

Stephen Tavener may prefer Sternenhimmel and Nigel Monaghan Bakschisch, but my favourite of Goldsieber's first four games is Galopp Royal. This is probably because it doesn't involve any heavy duty thinking. The theme of the game is ... sedan chair racing! Sedan chairs always conjure up Georgian Bath for me, but these are at King Louis' court at Versailles and are described as "Baroque".

The object of the game is to accumulate the most money over a series of six sedan chair races - this is the fun part. Money comes from prizes for the first, second and third in each race. To win races you need to have a good team of footmen to carry your chair - and some luck. At the start of the game players bid to buy their initial team of footmen and there's a further opportunity after each race to buy a new team. It is possible to squander your winnings on new teams and thus not win the game!

So there is more to the game than simply luck. To start with, players are bidding against each other to buy teams of footman cards. The precise mechanics vary depending on the number of players, but at the end of each auction one player will have bought four footmen. The problem is that you only see one (or at most two) of the cards, so you're essentially bidding blind. That means you have to go by the other players' bids and gives lots of scope for out-psyching your opponents. The last player without a team buys one at random (the top four cards off the deck) for 10 Louis d'Or, which provides a guideline for reasonable prices to pay (unless you have a really good footman and you know that Chris isn't bluffing and...).

Once you've got your footmen, you spread them out on your board - the colour of which matches that of the sedan chair you move round the race track. There are four spaces for the cards, each labelled with a number. During the races, you roll a four-sided die each turn. The number that comes up indicates which of your footmen is in charge and your chair moves according to his value. Values can be 1, 2, 3, 5, -2 (oh dear) and +2/-2. This last is the slyboots who not only moves your chair forward two, but moves one or two other players back. As you can see, a team of 2s will perform steadily. A team of 2, 3, 5, -2 will be erratic: you could win or you could end up in the pond (some distance behind the start line!).

It can be beneficial to come last in a race. Whoever was last gets to remove one footman from each player. Naturally, you throw away your worst and everyone else's best cards (opinion is divided on whether a +2/-2 is better than a 5). Replacement cards are dealt at random (and it's so annoying to throw away Mike's 5 only for him to pick up another one) and then two whole new teams are auctioned. These auctions follow the same rules as at the start of the game, but anybody can buy each team (the same player can buy both). The new team must replace the whole of your old team - so you can spend your money to get a worse team. Oops!

The final wrinkle is that the marker (a cardboard Arc de Triomphe) for the end of the race is moved one space further on for each race. While the races do get a little bit longer each time, the main difference is that the prize money goes up. It is therefore quite a valid strategy to aim at picking up money in the last few races. Mind you, the early cash can be very helpful in buying a good team for the later races. Oh dear, decisions, decisions...

It has to be said that the luck element is important in this game. But the auctions offer an opportunity for skilful players to get the edge. Those who play games for fun will enjoy the races and watching someone else's sedan chair receding gently into the pond. Those who take their games more seriously will be watching where the money goes and making sure that prices get inflated for those with cash. It's not a game that has something for everyone, but it has something for a lot of people, and I recommend it.

And now for a few tips. The best time to buy your first team is when only two or three players are without teams. At this point you get to see two out of the four cards, which means you have a better idea of the value of the team. It doesn't mean it's any good, mind you. Avoid being the last player because you'll just get a random team - unless prices are going well above the 10 you'll have to pay for it.

Don't forget in the races that you can use a +2/-2 card to move yourself backwards: if you're not going to be in the money, it's better being last. In a three player game being last is a damn good idea: you get third place prize and the perks of being last. And now the caveat: I don't win this game!

Galopp Royal was designed by Klaus Teuber and published (in Germany) by Goldsieber. It is for 3-6 players and takes 45-60 minutes to play. Pevans rates it 9/10.
This review was originally published in Games Games Games 96, November 1995.

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