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Two Furlongs from Home



Designer's Notes

This is the third of the special projects, World of Golf and Grand Slam Tennis were the other two, which we promised ourselves we would publish without regard to pressure from our customers. Three games to satisfy our own replay requirements as the first priority.

Needless to say the research and design stages have been more than usually pleasurable and we hope and expect that the end product will please a much wider audience than the design spec required.

Two Furlongs From Home is a big game.

It offers the solo player the chance to control a string of horses for a full 33-week English and European flat-racing season some 500 races long, from the humble handicap to the extremely valuable Class 1 races such as the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp, the Epsom Derby and Chantilly's Prix du Jockey Club Lancia.

You have forty-one stables to chose from, ranging from three-horse outfits to the massive 40-horse stable of Michael Stoute. And there is even more choice as you can decide to manage just one or two of the three age groups (2-y-o's, 3-y-o's and Aged (4-y-o's plus)) rather than the complete stable's inmates. With horses expected to run 8 - 10 times during the season even a modest 6-horse string involves fifty-plus races, and that's about 25 hours gaming.

Whichever string you choose your aim is to maximise profit (Prize Money less Entry Fees) in relation to your seasonal target which varies with the mixture of ages within your stable but is approximately 120,000 UK Pounds per horse. Your end-of-season total is expressed as a percentage of this 'target' to provide an indication of your success or failure. Rather like a round of golf, you can always do better next time! Or can you?

We use an actual season - 1989 - as the basis of the game, with the Ratings of a leading ratings compiler at the heart of the race system, plus carefully researched information about the distance range over which each horse was effective.

With around 600 horses in the game the research was a lengthy process! We deliberately chose a season more than ten years old as we wanted a factual base but not one that was too recent in the mind that it would influence the player's decisions - we want you to use the game's framework of rules as designed uncontaminated by personal bias about the horses themselves.

Racing fans will obviously recognise some of the names but the time-gap is sufficient (we hope) to avoid any preconceived ideas about their ability. Most horses within about 3 stones weight (42 pounds/19 kilos) of the top-rated are included, and whilst only the best will be able to compete with any chance of success in the most important races the game is about using each of your horses to the very best of their money-earning ability. So placing each of your horses with this in mind is what the game is all about.

An admission here. Unusually for us we designed the race system first and built the rest of the game around it. Normally we look at the entire subject and design everything towards that end, so everything slots into place naturally. Here the race system is paramount, but we believe we have successfully created an environment that fits it well. Understanding the pattern of the season's races and devising a racing plan for each horse is an integral part of the game, as enjoyable as the races themselves and giving a meaning to the game and a real challenge to the solo player.

Let's quickly run through the procedures:

Having selected your stable - we recommend a modest size of 6 to 8 horses for your first game - you examine the Racing Programme and try to find suitable races in the early weeks for each of your horses. You should target specific events for your better horses, selecting other races only if they fit into the general scheme of things.

When horses race they usually need to rest afterwards for up to five weeks (if your jockey has given them a hard race) so you need to plan your campaign carefully. Only races involving your horses need to be run so don't be put off by the 500-plus race programme! Having selected a race for one of your charges you are debited with the Entry Fee - which can be as high as 10,000 UK Pounds for the Class 1 races.

Every race has a set of Race Requirements to which all entries have to conform. A modest 7 furlong race might be open to any horse of 3 years and upwards with a Rating of no more than 118 and a Best Distance that falls within the range of 6 to 9 furlongs, while the Epsom Derby Race Requirements are 3-y-o's only, with a Rating of 117 or more and a Distance Requirement of 10 - 14 furlongs. The Derby distance is 12 furlongs so a 3-y-o rated at 120 and a BD of 14 - 16 could enter but becasue his BD is 2 furlongs more than the race distance he would not run up to his Rating.

All horses - both yours and the System horses (not controlled by the player) - have to conform to the Race Requirements. Devising a method to select the other runners was probably our biggest problem. In the end we solved it by providing a series of Runner Selection Cards and a ten-sided die which enable you to pinpoint an individual horse from the list of around 600. Thereafter you test that they 'qualify' in accordance with the Race Requirements, and work up or down the list until you find one that does. This ensures that your opponents are worthy and also varied.

All System horses randomise Jockey Instructions - for the first two Turns of the race, which make up all the action up to the two furlongs from home marker, and for the final two furlongs (Home Straight), when there is the chance, increasing as they approach the winning post, that they will go 'under pressure'.

For your horses you get to choose what instructions you give to your stable jockey. Or better still, you can hire a Star Jockey which enables you to react appropriately in those last two furlongs, using the whip if needed or giving your horse an easier race if you've already won - or lost!

Just one little problem though - Star Jockeys demand 20% of any Prize Money won. They're good but greedy!

All races are run over two Turns plus the last two furlongs action regardless of distance. This is because in most races the horses tend to stay bunched together - at greater cost in stamina/energy to some than to others - until the business part of the race when class, form and fitness begin to tell.

Two Turns will reduce our horse's Rating (movement is partially linked to Rating Reduction, so the faster it goes the greater the Rating Reduction) and bring the race to the two furlong marker quite quickly, leaving the home straight action to be played out in more detail, rather like the difference between a normal speed replay of the race switching to slow motion for the final stages.

On the final Turn of a race the horses are moved off the main Track Display onto the Photo Finish Card - in keeping with the slow motion concept of the final stages - to illustrate dramatically the closeness of the finish.

Lutz Pietschker has designed some super racehorse figures for us, and thirty of these, in full colour, are provided with the game. Although the maximum number of runners in the game is 26 we provide 30 racehorse figures so that The Sport of Kings and National Hunt Sport of Kings owners can use them also.

The size of the package, and the expense of producing these rather splendid racehorses, means that we need to attach a higher price tag than usual to the game.

But then horse racing has always been an expensive sport!

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  • 100 Units in Stock

This product was added to our catalog on Thursday 14 February, 2008.

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