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A Day at the Races - Psst! Opera Eye in the fifth

A fast new board game takes you back to Shanghai of the 1930s and the legendary Race Club where a race is fixed. Players collect tips by traveling in vintage cars to historic spots. Sam Riley places his bet.

Get a whispered tip on a horse race from magnate David Sassoon or rub shoulders with the glamorous and wealthy in the opulent surrounds of one of Shanghai's exclusive private clubs.

It's all part of a new board game set in 1930s Shanghai when the champagne flowed and the party never stopped.

Designed by British Internet advertising executive Byron Constable, the Shanghai Race Club board game transports players into a club that in its heyday was one of the world's most powerful private enclaves.

It's about a fixed horse race and it's played with a deck of horse cards (named after actual steeds, like Sassoon's Opera Eye) and vintage-car tokens that are moved about the board to venues where the players buy tips.

Constable launched the game on May 17, 75th anniversary of the founding of the Shanghai Race Club.

In keeping with the glamor of the game - Constable says he wants players to feel like they have stepped into their own private members club - it was launched at a champagne lunch at Kathleen's 5, on the fifth floor of what is left of the original clubhouse.

Each of the games is numbered, with the owner having a numbered "membership" key that unlocks the boxed game.

Of all the private clubs in Shanghai, the biggest and most impressive was the Shanghai Race Club, started in the 1850s where People's Square is today.

"Shanghai has such an amazing story and the city's history captivated me," says Constable. "So, if other people could understand this period and escape into Shanghai's history they would be equally captivated."

Horses ran a course defined by what is the perimeter People's Square today.

A center for Shanghai's social and recreational life, the club had squash courts, Turkish baths and bowling lanes.

On race day the wives of millionaires would wager fans and sun bonnets on the outcome, because betting money was considered vulgar.

This game is one of Constable's many creations. He is constantly testing his lateral thinking, inventing new and quirky online games to reach potential customers as part of his work for targeted online advertising company Wanmo.

In developing the online presence of these household brands, Constable has built more than 300 online games to help reach clients for permission-based marketing campaigns.

Constable designed the Shanghai Race Club game more than three years ago, and it was first played on a piece of paper at a friend's barbecue.

"We played it non-stop for three hours and I knew I was onto a winner," he says.

Set in the lead-up to a big horse race that is fixed, players must travel around the city visiting a variety of iconic historic sites to mingle with the city's tycoons to pick up tips on which horse will win.

"It is a very simple game that is finished in about 10 minutes but then you can play it again. Commonly you can play it about six times in an hour or an hour and a half," he says.

"There used to be about five or six races in a day, so if you play it like this you are doing a full day of racing."

Constable researched board games to determine the structure and rules.

He purposely designed the game to be played in 10 minutes so that even if a player is losing, he or she knows there will be another chance to win when the next race starts.

"What it does is bringing excitement to the game, which I think can be missing from a lot of other board games," he says.

It's easy to set up and play: All you do is to open the box and you are ready to play.

The game can be played by two to four players of almost any age. Each player withdraws money from the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank and bets are placed.

The horses run and as in the Shanghai of old, the winner is the player who is left with the most money, after paying for tips.

Constable did extensive research on the race club.

The horses in the game are the prized steeds of the billionaires of Shanghai.

On the game's board, players can step back in time to visit some of Shanghai's most venerable clubs and glamorous mansions.

Players drop by the fairytale Moller Mansion on Shaanxi Road N., by Yan'an Road M., to get a racing tip from Eric Moller, the shipping tycoon. Moller was such a racing fan that a copper statue of a horse stands on the spot where he buried his favorite Arabian.

Another stop is the Sassoon Mansion, where David Sassoon entertained on the weekends at his half-timbered faux Tudor manor on Hongqiao Road.

Other stops include the exclusive Shanghai Club on the Bund, with its famous 34-meter Long Bar and notorious old boys' network, and the mansion of Shanghai mafia boss Du Yusheng.

The game is available on pre-order and anyone interested can contact Byron Constable at


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