Aesop Would Be Proud
Hare & Tortoise is a classic race game first
published in the 1970s. It's held up well, has been published by
at least three publishers over the years, and is still an excellent
choice when you have 4-6 players and want an interesting race game
that is more skill than luck. (Although it says it's for 2-6
players, I think it plays best with at least four.)
The game is very attractive: a delightfully illustrated board,
pretty cards and wooden tokens. Every player has a player aid to
calculate how much it costs to move and the "Jugging the Hare"
table. (This pun is lost on most Americans: think rabbit in a
crockpot and you'll be close to what jugging the hare means.)
The concept is simple: each turn you can move like the hare or the
tortoise. You pick how fast you go - one space, a dozen, twenty
- whatever you want, even backwards. Provided you have enough
carrots, of course - it takes energy to move forward, and carrots
give you energy. So to move one space takes 1 carrot. To move
two spaces takes the one carrot for the first space plus
two carrots for the second space = 3 carrots. To move a third
space takes the three carrots needed to move two spaces plus
three carrots to move to the third space = 6 carrots. And so on
- each player aid gives the carrots needed for each space up to 40
spaces (which takes a mere 820 carrots, in case you're curious).
And in case you're really curious, the formula
is: required carrots = (N+1)*(N/2), where N equals number of spaces
moved. So moving, for example, 20 spaces at once would take (21)*(10)
= 210 carrots. But you only need the formula if you lose all your
player aid sheets ... or plan on moving more than 40 spaces at
You start with enough carrots to finish the race: 65 carrots (95
with 5-6 players) and there are only 64 spaces! Of course, you
may want to move more than one space in a turn, so you have to
figure out a way to gain more carrots. Fortunately, there are a
few ways to do that ...
Basic Course of Play
Carrot cards come in lots of denominations, all with the same backs
so that during the game it becomes difficult to know how many
carrots a given player has. There are also Lettuce cards - you
start with three of these and must get rid of them before you're
allowed to finish the race. Choose a start player and you're ready
The start player simply says how far he wishes to move, pays the
required number of carrots, and moves his piece. The second player
does likewise, but has one restriction: you can't land on the same
space as another player.
What happens when you land depends on the type of space you land on. The
board has five different types of squares:
Number squares: these range from 1-4, and the 1s include 5
& 6, too. Nothing happens right away, but on your next turn
you may win some carrots. You win carrots equal to 10 X the number
you're on if that number equals your position in the race
at the start of your next turn. Example: if I land on the
number 2, I get twenty carrots on my next turn if I'm in second
place. I get nothing if I'm in first, third, or any other place
- Number squares
- Carrot squares
- Lettuce squares
- Tortoise squares
- Hare squares
Carrot squares: nothing happens when you land. On your next
turn, though, if you decide not to move you may draw 10 carrots.
You can stay there as long as you like: each turn draw 10 carrots.
Conversely, you could discard 10 carrots if you stay on such a
space. You sometimes need to do that because you're not allowed
to finish the race if you have too many carrots in your hand!
Lettuce squares: these allow you to spend your next turn
eating a lettuce - discard a lettuce card. You can only stay one
turn on a Lettuce space - there aren't very many of them and everyone
has to chew their lettuces before they can finish, so there's always
a line-up to use these spaces.
Tortoise squares: you can only reach these by going
backwards. If you wish to move backward you must stop at
the nearest Tortoise square, and only if it's unoccupied. Each
space you moved to reach that Tortoise square is multiplied by ten:
draw that many carrots. You may move back from one Tortoise square
to the next one to draw even more.
Hare squares: these introduce the only luck in the game
aside from choosing starting position. When you land on a Hare
space, roll a die. Add your current position in the race (1-6)
and consult the table on your player aid chart. (In some versions
you don't add your position, but cross-reference it.) Results vary
from the good to the bad:
So the basic course of play is to pay carrots to move forward - or
move backwards to gain carrots. Sometimes you sit where you are
for a turn or two to gain or lose carrots or a lettuce. You can
choose the space you land on, provided you have enough carrots to
reach it and no one else is there ahead of you. Pretty straightforward
but usually an interesting choice.
- Move backward
- Miss a turn
- Gain carrots
- Lose carrots
- Get a free turn
- Chew a lettuce
- ... and so on.
Oh, there are lots of strategies for this game! That's what makes
it so delightful. The basic three are run like a hare, plod like
a tortoise, or be somewhere in between. But there are probably
others, such as the March Hare strategy: hit all the Hare spaces
and roll that die constantly ...
Running like a hare means you rarely have many carrots. You try
to keep moving 3-6 spaces most turns, and sit on a carrot space
now and then when you have to. You gain 10 carrots on a carrot
space if you spend a turn there, and 10 carrots lets you move 4
spaces. So keep moving, never plod, and you'll never have to worry
about having too many carrots to finish the race ...
Plodding like a tortoise is hanging out in fifth or sixth place
most of the game, just building up a huge hand of carrots. If
you're in sixth place and land on a "1-5-6" Number space, on your
next turn you'll draw 60 carrots unless someone stops you by dropping
back to a tortoise space behind you. But even then, you'll be in
fifth place and the same space will give you 50 carrots. Then just
when those pesky hares think they have the game won, you smugly
lay down 300 carrots and move 24 spaces to win the game!
Being somewhere in between means always looking out for opportunities
ahead and behind. You've got to be flexible enough to spend
a lot to grab an open lettuce space, and not feel bad about falling
back 7 spaces to pick up 70 carrots.
The bottleneck spaces are the lettuce spaces. There are only four
of them, and you can't sit on one for more than one turn. You
can move backward off one to hit it a second time, though,
and it's often a good idea to do so. In a six-player game, there
are 18 lettuces that need to be chewed, and only four spaces to
chew them all on ... so good lettuce management is key to this
It can be important for somebody to try to stop big carrot
accumulations on the Number spaces. You may decide it's somebody
else's job, though, and just ignore it. But if I'm in fifth place
sitting on a "1-5-6" space, I'll get 50 carrots next turn. If you
fall back to a Tortoise space behind me, you not only pick up
carrots for going backwards, but also put me in fourth place,
meaning I get nothing. So there is some defensive play involved
- especially since 25 of the spaces are Number spaces!
The Hare spaces are the hardest to discuss. Results can be wonderful
or disastrous. Most people save them for when they're desperate,
but others play them just because they like chaos. Take your
Why Wouldn't You Like This Game?
Some people claim there's a first-player bias. It's true that the
first player can reach a lettuce space on his/her first move, but
that costs 55 carrots - over half of your starting allotment even
in a 6-player game. Most players think it's worth it, though, and
that's a very typical opening move. The other players then have
to choose whether to move slowly, hoping to get onto that lettuce
space next, or just bypass it and head for the second lettuce space
down the path a ways. Either way, some critics claim the first
player has an advantage. It may be so, but I've seen the first
player lose fairly frequently.
Proposed fix for those who feel there is a
first-place bias: bid for the right to go first. High bid starts
with fewer carrots. Example: if I bid "8" to go first and
no one raises me, I start with eight fewer carrots than anyone
else in the game.
Some people don't like the bottlenecks - it can be a bit frustrating
trying to maneuver your way onto a lettuce space only to have
someone else beat you there yet again. This frustration is
probably the biggest flaw in the game - some people just don't like
to feel frustration in their entertainment, since most of us have
more than enough in our lives. I can't blame them, though I actually
don't feel the way they do. I enjoy watching someone play cleverly
enough to outmaneuver me. But you may be of a different personality
It can be a bit long - most six-player games clock in around an
hour, which is fine, but I've seen some go over an hour and a half
because of over-analysis. That's a bit long for this type of game. If
you play with slow analyzers, this game will probably take a long
time - be warned. You could just play Cartagena
A classic. A largely skill game with multiple strategies to follow,
with a fun setting and illustrations. Recommended.
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