Tonight, we had 4 players (Dave Wilson (aka Dave), Dave Wallace (aka Dave 2), Jeff, Lawrence) join Rich for a bit of "H" gaming. I had printed out some nice English versions of the event cards for Homas Tour (Um Reifenbreite) and Dave had mentioned Hansa, but both of those games top out at 4 players. So we had to look a bit deeper in the "H" list for 5 player games.
Hare and Tortoise
5 Player - 90 minutes
The first up for the evening was Hase und Igel or rather the recent Hare and Tortoise version. A while back some of us had played the original Hase und Igel game which has more lettuce (5) spaces and the first lettuce 7 spaces from the start. The recent versions have reduced the lettuce spaces to 4 by removing the penultimate lettuce space and moving the initial lettuce to 10 spaces from the start. A nice write up of the various differences of this game can be found at: http://www.thegamesjournal.com/articles/Hare&Tortoise.shtml. Having enjoyed the original version, I had wanted to try the newer version to see the impact of the differences and with 5 players tonight, it was an opportune moment to do so.
With 5 players, no one wanted to spend too many carrots to start, so all the hares ended up clustered together in the spaces just next to the start. Dave as first player went for the hare to try his luck and rolled the necessary 5 to eat a lettuce. But wait, Dave went first, Dave is in first place, so all Dave gets to eat is a carrot for his efforts. Good luck getting a bit of bad luck to start. But on Dave's next move, he pounced onto the lettuce space to be the first to eat the lettuce. Rich was sitting on a carrot space, so decided to stockpile carrots for a turn or two while waiting for Dave to clear the lettuce space. Dave 2 was the next to try jugging the hare - hoping to advance to the next carrot space, but lost his turn instead. Lawrence was moving to the various numbered spaces trying to get alignment between the printed number and his position and garnering the carrot reward. The third time was lucky as Lawrence was in 4th place on the 4 to get 40 carrots.
Rich did get onto Dave's lettuce space. All this time, Jeff had noticed that people were hanging back picking up carrots, so he ventured into the lead stopping by the lettuce space at 42 to eat a lettuce. Rich repeated his tactic from the first lettuce space and sat on the carrot space just before the lettuce to jump onto the lettuce as soon as Jeff had moved away. As a result, Rich was the first to eat two lettuces. A jump onto the hare around the corner and Rich jugged a 5 to eat his third lettuce while all the hares were still in the first half of the course.
But eating lettuce is but half the objective to moving towards the finish line. While Rich had no lettuce, he didn't really gain that many carrots either so needed to moderate his moves carefully as a sudden spurt to the finish was not going to be possible. Jeff was methodically moving along the top of the board. Moving forward a bit to spend carrots, moving back as necessary to gain carrots, but keeping the initiative moving forward to be the first to the 3rd lettuce space at 22. Rich saw an opportunity to pick up some carrots by being in second at the 2 space just behind Jeff when Jeff moved off. But Rich misplayed the move as Dave 2 jumped onto the vacated lettuce space to push Rich down to third place. Lawrence had gathered carrots and more carrots and was going to have to make some big moves to eat the surplus carrots and finish with the requisite number. Unfortunately, a jug of the hare at space 33 resulted in Lawrence moving up 1 position. However, that position was the aforementioned Dave 2 and Rich on 2 adjacent spaces up at 22 and 23. As space 21 is tortoise, Lawrence jumped all the way to 20 for "free" in a move that would have cost 91 carrots had he made it normally. To make matters worse, he still had 2 lettuce to munch and had just jumped over the 3rd lettuce space - leaving only 1 space from which to eat a couple of lettuce for certain. Jugging the hare was another option, but it also held big risks in moves up the board.
Dave had been lingering around the second lettuce (at 42) hoping to make a large final move to get into the thick of the hunt for finishing order. But probably held back a bit too long as the finalists were starting to position for the final moves across the finish line. Dave 2 was the first to make a big jump spending 171 carrots to move from space 22 to space 4. Jeff continued his relentless progress around the board and landed in space 1 holding 2 carrot cards in hand. If more than 11, he would have to wait a turn to dump the necessary carrots before crossing the finish line.
Rich, running low on carrots, had advanced to the 3 space at 12 hoping to gain a carrot infusion to help him jump across the finish line. He was indeed in third place, picked up the 30 carrots, but needing to spend 78 carrots to cross the finish line, he held only 74! He moved 9 spaces to 3 (a carrot space) where he could dump carrots if time allowed (unlikely). The more likely scenario was to be in position to cross the finish line second while having just over 10 carrots left in hand. Dave at space 4 appeared to have too many carrots in hand as he jumped 2 spaces (to the hare) and managed to dump 10 carrots on the jug.
But Jeff sitting on space 1 needed to spend but a single carrot to cross the line first with a single carrot to spare. Rich didn't need to dump any carrots, so spent 6 to cross the line second with 13 carrots in hand. Dave 2 crossed third with 7 carrots in hand. Dave made his large jumps across the board and crossed in 4th with 25 carrots to spend, leaving Lawrence to finish in 5th with way to many carrots to count.
A fairly balanced game in that the obvious early leader barely hung on to place second. More importantly, even though everyone seemed to have a slightly different strategy, most reached the end at about the same time despite some fairly large gaps at the beginning. Hase und Igel (Hare and Tortoise) might look simplistic, but I suspect that there is some skill and strategy to playing the game well on a consistent basis. Other than jugging the hare (which is entirely optional), there is no luck in the game.