Ed Hughes
United States
Pennsylvania
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I have to admit it, I'm a sucker for racing games that come in boxes that resemble books. Twice now it's compelled me to make purchases that I otherwise wouldn't have, and twice now I've been pleasantly surprised with the results. The first time was Wicked Witches Way, and more recently, The Hare and the Tortoise.



Much like an Aesop's fable, everything about this game is simple, yet clever.

Hare and Tortoise is a racing game for 2-5 players. The theme of the game is quite simple- the Hare from the classic story has challenged the tortoise to a rematch, and three other woodland creatures; the Fox, Wolf, and Sheep, have joined the footrace.

A racetrack is set up from a number of tiles. Two of the tiles have streams crossing them, but otherwise, the track is featureless, and any bends and turns the players may choose to make are purely aesthetic.

Each player is dealt a card depicting one of the five animals. This serves as a 'forced bet' determining which animal he or she must try to guide to victory. Each player is then dealt a hand of seven cards featuring the five animals, one of which must be chosen and set aside as an additional 'side bet'. The animal chosen can be the same as the forced bet, doubling-down, as it were, or different, to hedge one's bet. This information is kept secret, and a clever player would do well to disguise his intentions.



These same cards are what drives the gameplay. Starting with a randomly determined first player, each player selects and plays one-four cards from his hand of six depicting the same animal. play continues until either any animal has four of its cards showing, or a total of eight cards have been played.

Next, the animals move in the following order: Hare, Tortoise, Wolf, Fox, Sheep.

Each animal has its own gimmick that sets it apart from the others.
The Fox moves a number of spaces equal to the number of his cards that were played.
The Sheep moves a number of spaces equal to the number of his cards played plus one, but with a catch- he must stop to drinkevery time he reaches a stream (Sprinting makes you thirsty!)
The Hare moves two spaces if any of his cards were played, but if he is in the lead and four of his cards were played, he naps instead of moving. (Hubris!)
The Tortoise moves one space every turn even if no cards were palyed (Slow and steady indeed!), or two if four of his cards were played.
The Wolf has a weird movement scheme. If one or two of his cards are played, he moves one space. If three or four cards are played, he moves two or three spaces respectively. Additionally, three of the wolf's cards are 'howl' cards, and if one of them is plyed, no ther animal will move that turn. The Wolf howl cardss are probably the most interesting wrinkle in the rules, as they offer an opportunity for strategic blocking and dumping of cards.

Play continues in this fashion until three animals have crossed the finish line.



The players score points if the animals they bet on place. a first place victory is worth five points, a second place; three, and a third place victory; two. Ties are frequent, as animals multiple players were supporting are more likely to be highly placed. This does not, however, detract from the fun, and the game is light and quick enough that you will probably want to play multiple rounds and compare accumulated points.

Now, for my opinion.

I picked this game up partly due to my aforementioned weakness for book-boxes, and partially on the strength of a video demonstration on the Youtube show 'Tabletop'. I was reluctant due to the game being more than a little 'cutesy', and seeming to be aimed at children. While the game may be aimed at younger players, I enjoy this game quite a bit, much more than I expected to. The players I played with ranged from 18 through 65 (I'm 36), and everyone seemed to enjoy it (most of all the 65 year old!). That kind of broad age-range appeal is a rare thing in my experience, and a testament to the simple ingenuity of the game. Each turn you are must play cards to support a racer, and depending on your hand, it will likely not be one you want to win. There is no discarding or hand management to speak of, so your choices are limited, and timing of play is critical. There is some tension, and the balance between the racers is rather elegant. Each one feels like a credible contender, albeit in their own unique way, and supporting your chosen racer to victory is a pleasing experience.

The production design is very, very good. The racer pawns are solid, the racetrack is easy on the eye, and the victory stand and finish line are very nice touches. The art is cartoonish, but in a good way, like a storybook illustration, as it should be. The box is of course wonderful, and contains a form-fitted insert that stores everything perfectly.

I would have liked a touch more complexity, especially in the racetrack itself. If I were to change anything about the game, I would add shortcuts for the Fox to use, and change the Fox's ability to something involving shorter moves, and shortcuts if he can successfully end his move on a shortcut entrance. But that's just a personal preference. I like my racing games to include a 'cheating' element, and it fits the character.

All told, I recommend this game for anyone looking for a light racing game for all ages.
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Ian Kissell
United States
Dallas
Texas
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Thanks for the review. Two quick questions:

How long does a race take?

Do you find it lessens the enjoyment if you are playing with all adults who play games (to some degree), or does the game feel too shallow in that circumstance?
 
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Ed Hughes
United States
Pennsylvania
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So long as the players take their turns in reasonably good order (not a given with younger players), a race is resolved in approximately 15-20 minutes.

after repeated plays, I don't think the game is sufficiently deep for a group of all-adult, experienced, gamers. I think it's better for extremely casual gamers or families.
 
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