Product Type: Waddingtons board games
Newest Review: ... ever. You are each given a number of horses to train and the first part of the game focuses on training them in you specific yard and ... more
A Silver Memorial for the Waddington Stakes
Member Name: Newfloridian
Date: 16/11/03, updated on 16/11/03 (1558 review reads)
Advantages: Fascinating game play, open to development, strong end user interest. , Strong second hand market
Disadvantages: Long gone from the catalogue and store shelves.
I want to take you down memory lane and dip into a few of my childish recollections. I remember evenings (Autumn and Winter, mainly) when I used to go over to Christopher Isherwood's house - I guess I would be about ten or eleven back then. We would meet up and, after catching up with the latest exploits of Dan Dare in the Eagle, would set up a game (his parents made it four) to a background accompaniment of "The Archers" (Walter Gabriel holding court - whatever happened to him?) and "Dick Barton Special Agent" on the steam radio. He had a Monopoly set and I owned Cluedo - both made by Waddingtons of Leeds. We also both had a copy of Totopoly: his being slightly older than mine.
That was some forty five years ago. Totopoly ("The Great Race Game" as it was announced on the box) was invented in mid 1930s and, with a variety of modifications, was produced by Waddingtons continually until 1978. It was the finally withdrawn - twenty five years ago this year.
This is my testimonial to that great and long-lamented game.
The purpose and equipment
Totopoly was a game for two to six players. The purpose was to buy and train a string of racehorses and then enter them into the final race. Unlike most other board games, it was a game of two distinct parts, and the board had two distinct playing surfaces. In some editions the board had leaves that opened like a book, in others it folded
'Z'-fashion and was turned over at half time. The first half represented the training ring; the second half the racecourse. Money was used in the first part of the game for buying and trading the horses and businesses. There was an element of gambling on the outcome of the race but money was otherwise not used in the second part.
The set consisted on a board, twelve (most commonly) die cast horses, play money, advantage and disadvantage cards, lease cards (representing each of the horses and the businesses), Owner's Club membership cards and Trainer's and Vet's reports.
The horses were numbered and painted one of four colours. The Black (1 to 3) and Red (4 to 6) horses were heavyweights; the Yellow (7 to 9) and Blue (10 to 12) were lightweights. The lower the number, the more likely the horse will win the final race. The businesses consisted of two stables (Walroy housed and trained the heavyweights; Stevedon the lightweights), the Vet, the Owners' Club Steward, the Bookmaker, the Forage Merchant, the Auctioneer and the Blacksmith.
Start of Play
The board is opened on the training ring. The horses are placed into their respective boxes in the stables. The Trainer and Vet Report Cards (similar in function to Chance and Community Chest in Monopoly), the Owner's Club Cards and the advantage and disadvantage cards are placed on their spaces on the board. Each player is given £700. One player is appointed banker. The lease cards are shuffled and dealt into stacks - one for each player and one over. Each player has the option of discarding cards from his hand onto the last stack. After this, the Auctioneer auctions off each card in the stack to the highest bidder.
The object is to gain the best possible hand for the training ring and subsequent race. The provisos are that no-one may own both stables; you would need at least one business to create income; the ideal number of horses in training is thr
ee of four - noting the weighting in favour of the Black horses.
The Training Circuit
In turn, a player rolls both dice. Each of your horses are moved around the training ring the same number of squares following the instructions were they land. This may involve buying the services of the blacksmith or the fodder merchant or seeking advice from the trainer or the vet. These cards may give you good news or bad ("Your horse is a finicky feeder - pay £50 to the Vet"). As you proceed the horses could be awarded a number of advantage cards (coloured black, red, yellow or blue) or white disadvantage cards. These are collected up for future use on the racecourse. There are other cards (like 'Get Out Of Jail Free' in Monopoly) that confer special advantages such as the use of 'Unbreakable Reins' in the final race.
When your horses have completed the circuit they return to their boxes. When everyone has finished, the board is cleared and turned over to allow the second part of the game.
The Race Course
Bets may be placed on the race under the direction of the bookmaker. Each player also pays an entrance fee for each horse entered (up to a maximum of three). At the outset each player nominates one of his horses as lead horse (for obvious reasons this will usually be Black if you have one). One dice is rolled to determine who will play first.
The racecourse itself is six lanes wide, with a two deep starting gate at one end. There are two curves (and outer and an inner) which lead finally to the winning post. The second bend is staggered so that the outer tracks have more lengths that the inner. The horses are placed on their starting positions. At intervals along each lane, the sections of the track are also coloured like the horses. In turn, the player rolls the dice. This first roll may be applied to the lead horse or the second horse. The chosen horse is moved forward that number of squares.
If the lead horse is moved first, the other horses must always be moved in the same order.
There are a number of rules which make movement along the racetrack interesting and at times frustrating. Firstly, you must get rid of all of your white disadvantage cards before you horse crosses the finishing line (otherwise it is disqualified). It is an advantage to occupy the inner lane as this is the shortest route, but no two horses may occupy the same square. If your horse lands on a square of its own colour it moves forward by its 'advantage' bonus (Black - four spaces, Red - three, Yellow - two, Blue - one). Alternatively you may discard a White disadvantage card at this point and forego the bonus. If your horse lands on a square of a different colour, you may play an advantage card of the colour of the horse which effectively converts the square to that colour - and claim the 'advantage' bonus. Alternatively you may play a colour and white card together, again foregoing the bonus.
There are other 'static' instruction sections ("Horse Falls - Throw a Six to remount"; "Boxed In - Fall Back A length") along the route.
There are somewhat complicated rules that govern progression along the course, overtaking, changing lanes and baulking. The winner of the game overall is the owner of the winning horse. Additional interest is generated by calculating the final money collected from prize money, business profits and winning bets.
OTHER GAMES PEOPLE PLAY.
No, I am not diverging from the topic here. I guess I had regular sessions with a variety of players of this game for a number of years - Totopoly only finally slipped out of my system when I went to University (although interestingly there was a set in the common room of the Hall of Residence). At one time we devised an alternative version with different rules which introduced steeplechasing to the racecourse. It was also an intere
sting exercise (I suppose a quite common pastime for young teenagers to invent inconsequential things like that) to keep a form book over a number of races. In this way the horses seemed to develop their own personalities. My own favourite - and by far the most prolific winner - was No.3. Dorigen.
In my recent researches I have found that I am not alone. There are descriptions of variations in track length, increased numbers of horses and different weights (different colours), different handicapping systems and even rules that allow progressive training (horses carry forward unused advantages from one race to the next).
Again my researches have revealed a quite active presence of this apparently long dead board game. Although Waddingtons no longer sell or support it, there are sites of historical information (there were officially seven different versions of the game), photographs of the horses and boards, detailed discussions of the rules and tactics and there are also lists of sources of second hand boxes and spares. These websites are not restricted to the English language either. There again, there was a French version many years ago called Ascot.
eBay (the American branch) has a comprehensive list of boxed sets on sale. An 'almost perfect' 1938 vintage edition would set you back $ 15.88; a slightly worn 1972 box is currently on offer for £4.99
The course syllabus for the Computer Science Department of Brunel University suggests Totopoly as one of the specimen board games suitable for a programming exercise in computer languages.
There is perhaps a feeling of 'old hat' about board games these days, particularly with the ascendancy of the personal computer and console and the dominance of electronic games. Certainly there are many old titles that have come and gone (do you remember Careers, Formula One, Buccaneer?) produced by this and other toy manufacturers. There are still n
ew games issued every year - just look at the shelves just before Christmas - and games such as Monopoly and Cluedo have never completely lost their appeal. There is a certain and special something that a board game has which has never been fully realised on the keyboard. Maybe it is the up-close and personal interaction with your fellow competitors that cannot be reproduced.
Maybe the time has come to give Waddingtons (or its successors) a little prod and persuade them to resurrect this Grand Old Game of the turf.
[APPENDIX 1: THE HORSES
The fascinating names of the horses are rumoured to be the winners of the Lincolnshire Handicap run at Lincoln racecourse in the twelve years before the game was first produced. It is also said that the names of the two stables are taken from the names of inventors of the game.
Black: 1. Dark Warrior; 2. Flamenco; 3. Dorigen
Red: 4. Marmaduke Jinks; 5. Leonidas II; 6. Overcoat
Yellow: 7. Play On; 8. Priory Park; 9. Knight Error
Blue: 10. King of Clubs; 11 Jerome Fandor; 12 Elton]