When I first discovered 'German' games, I read up on a lot of them, especially the ones considered classics -- Adel Verpflichtet, Wildlife Adventure, and Hare & Tortoise. This one was spoken quite well of, and, never having played it, I picked it up on reputation alone -- and was subsequently quite disappointed. It's not to say this game doesn't have its place as a classic or even as a game to be played once in a while, but it was not quite what I thought. I believed I was getting a family game and Hare & Tortoise is NOT a family game, (unless you are a Kumon family and you don't want your kids' imaginations getting too wound up. =)
This is a race game with some very interesting twists. Players burn carrots as fuel and so may pay to move as far as they want -- or can afford. It often pays to go backwards (a way to gain carrots), and you will certainly go backwards a few times in the race. It also pays to dawdle sometimes in order to receive larger carrot bonusus (or refuelling, if you will.) The game is a linear race as the track could well have been laid out in a straight line, so players are simply trying to get to the finish line first.
Since carrot costs increase quadratically (a math prof told me that 'quadratically' is the preferred term and NOT 'exponentially' =) smaller moves are preferred over big moves which become very pricey. (Ie. to move 4 spaces in 4 turns costs 4 carrots; to move the same 4 spaces in one turn costs 10 carrots.) One more complicating factor is that players must eat 3 lettuce heads before finishing, and there are only 4 spaces on the whole board that allow you to do that, so competition increases to reach these prized spaces as well. A long queue often forms behind the lettuce spaces as people jockey for access.
This game has tons of math certainly, but there is the Rabbit square to throw a wrench into the whole mix. If you move to it, you roll a die and read a chart that tells you what the die roll means for your current position in the race. You may move forward one position, lose a turn, or eat a lettucs, among other things. Quite random and seemingly out of place in an otherwise quite calculating game.
Can't complain about the graphics, but again, they give the impression this is a family game, which I feel it is not. Some people may like this type of game quite a bit with tactical interaction and denying people bonuses but it is a calculation game. I'll play it from time to time, but I don't think I could talk my family into it.
La Trobe University
I agree fully with your evaluation. But the setting and design of H & T is appealing as a family game. I have two granddaughters, 8 & 7 years old, very bright, very competitive, very keen on boardgames, particularly while they remain novel.
H & T could not possibly work for them at this stage -- too tactical, too much calculation, not enough randomness, not enough chance for kids to compete with tactically thinking adults (or for slightly younger sister to compete with slightly older sister, which is even more important!)
So here is my version of 'Hare and Tortoise for granddaughters'. It is quite different from the proper game, though it retains some of its features, and is set up for a possible later switch to the 'adult' rules.
The main feature is a switch from 90% calculation and tactics, 10% random luck to 10% calculation and tactics, 90% random luck. I also found a huge increase in the fun factor when we tried it.
Players move by the roll of 1d6. If a player lands on a space that is already occupied, they have the choice of moving forward to the next vacant space or back to the previous vacant space.
If you land on
- a numbered square: win that number of carrots
- a carrot square: win a number of carrots equal to the roll on the die
- a lettuce square: win a lettuce
- a tortoise square: move backward to any vacant square of your choice (but not onto nor beyond another tortoise), and proceed as if you hd landed on that square.
- a hare: roll a fortune die
on 1: swap places with the player (of the others) coming last
on 2: swap places with the player (of the others) coming first
on 3: win 3 carrots
on 4: win a lettuce
on 5: miss a turn
on 6: take an extra turn
(if swapping places, DO NOT follow procedure for your new square)
The game ends when the first player reaches the finish
There are three winners: (1) the player who finishes the race
(2) the player who wins the most carrots
(3) the player who wins the most lettuces
We found that this worked really well, because it made sure that the little girls were at least partial winners most of the time. Alternatively, the single goal could simply be to collect most carrots, with the race winner getting a 10 carrot bonus, and lettuces being traded in for 5 carrots each at the end.
Believe me, this really works for 7 & 8 year olds, and is not beneath the dignity of adults having family fun.
John! Your house rule for kids seems to be very good!!
I want to try this for my daughter...