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Subject: A fine 2P game, especially with the latest version of Hare Event Cards rss

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Justus
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For context, I've only played this game twice on my homebrew set, and only with my girlfriend. However, I almost never write reviews unless it has been bouncing in my head for a few days, so I definitely think there is something there, there.



You know this game. It won the first Spiel des Jahres, way back when there weren't any other SDJ winners. But as a good BGGer you know that even though box says 2-6, most folks around here don't recommend this game for two -- even David Parlett thinks his game is best with 4-5. Furthermore you read the rules for the 2P game on Parlett's website website
David Parlett wrote:
You each start with 95 carrots and 5 lettuces, and move two runners round the board. The winner is the first to get both runners home.
You each play in turn, and at each turn are free to move either one of your runners, but not both. When one of your runners lands on a lettuce square, however, you must use your next turn for chewing a lettuce and the turn after that for moving it away.
When bringing your first runner home you may have any number of carrots and lettuces left over, but the usual rules apply to bringing your second runner home. That is, all five lettuces must have been chewed, and the number of carrots left over must not exceed 20 if it comes home second or 30 if third.

Hell, I cringed when I read that variant. On principle I hate 2P variants that include dummy players or playing two “sides”. Its inelegant and almost insulting – you’re too lame to get more buddies over so we’ll cobble together this variant for you! Spare me your pity and just print 3-6 on your box! Even worse, 2P Hare and Tortoise is anti-thematic. The multiplayer track meet makes simple sense – get in as early as possible! ... But goal of the 2P game is to get your second guy in before the other guy gets his second guy in. What? So first place doesn’t matter?* Where’s the sport in that?
*This brings up an idea. What if there was a series of races and you scored points for the position? Whoever had the most points after a set number of races wins. Maybe 5 points for first, 3 for second, 2 for third. Or to go with the race idea, whoever gets to set number of points (31?) wins.

But if you get past all this, I think you'll find this game works very nicely 2P. Let me reframe 2P Hare and Tortoise as a highly tactical resource management /worker placementaction selection game with a slight chance element (or none if you use the Parlett strategic variant where landing on a hare space merely means losing a turn). The board is made up of a limited number of action types, mirroring the limited number of action types available in typical action selection game. Each turn, a player working with the constraints of the game choses an action, resolving any resources they may collect from their previous action, moving the worker, paying for the movement costs, and then resolving any actions that are activated upon to their arrival in the new space. Even though turn order merely alternates, battling for turn order has been replaced by fighting for race order which can have significant effects on your resource generation. Admittedly there is no engine building but this game is still all about carefully timing the production and expenditures of resources. And instead of racing for the most veeps, you are racing to get your workers to the end as quickly and efficiently as possible.

I think that the game’s 2P reputation has been hurt by earlier versions of the Hare event cards (unfortunately including the current the Rio Grande release). But the latest incarnation of the event cards (published in 2008, 2010) has eliminated random movement of pieces – you won’t land on hare space and then get your guy thrown somewhere else. For a multiplayer game, this type of randomness can be overlooked since you only have one bunny and its more "social". But the 2P game is all all about manipulating your TWO bunnies to be in the right positions at the right times to cash in on their race order positions. Furthermore, a 2P game is directly confrontational and you must be able to get in there and mess with the opponent’s plans. If you cannot predict where your piece will be after it lands on a space then it will seriously hinder your ability to plan ahead – especially since most of the spaces provide bonus carrots based on race order. For those with the older version of the game I would suggest playing 2P using the Parlett Strategic variant where landing on a Hare space results in losing a turn (note this would now be a perfect info abstract). Losing a turn is a high price to pay, but it may be worth it to f’ up the race order and force the other guy to adjust his plans. Personally however, I do like the new cards. I prefer my games a little lighter (which is why we don't play with open carrots) and I appreciate how the hare cards have a slight catch the leader mechanism baked in.

After a couple plays, I can confidently say this game is a great 2P game that fits perfectly in that SDJ sweet spot. Sometimes the committee goes heavier and sometimes a lot lighter, but Hare and Tortoise was well deserving of the honor of being the first SDJ winner and holds its own even after 30 years of game design innovation. For those who have played this game with many players, I hope to join your ranks soon -- I might even realize how much better a game with more players.

Even so, I contend this is a perfectly fine 2P game. 2P Hare and Tortoise is a tight tactical game: it forces you to make tough decisions, gives you room for dramatic moves, but is balanced enough to keep the game tight. It doesn’t outlast its welcome, just the right amount of game for its medium low weight, while still rewarding skilled play. I might not know how well 2P H&T stacks up against multiplayer H&T, but I’ve played plenty of two player games and this is a great 2P game.




The two editions with the new "final" hare cards

update: I have since learned that my use of "worker placement" was not exactly correct so I have replaced WP with "action selection". Also, I have played a few runs of multiplayer H&T and it is still very, very good.

update2: This is the variant I now play with. Its not much different from the latest david parlett design, but it uses a die instead of cards:
1Give 10 carrots to each player lying behind you in the race (if any) (a) If you haven't enough carrots, give them five each; if still not possible, one each. (b) A player who doesn't want extra carrots may throw them to the carrot patch.
2If there are more players behind you than in front of you, miss a turn. If not, play again. (If equal, of course, play again)
3Restore your carrot holding to exactly 65 If you have more than 65, pay extras to the carrot patch; if fewer, draw extras from the carrot patch.
4Draw 10 carrots for each lettuce you still hold. If you have none left, miss a turn.
5Free ride! Your last turn costs nothing. Retrieve the carrots you paid to reach this square.
6Lose half your carrots! If an odd number, keep the odd one
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Eugene
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I might have to give 2p a try.

Is your homemade board the original layout or the revised?
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Justus
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Its the post 1987-revised layout (which is in the Rio Grande print...not that it matters to you either =). I suspect it is vastly improved from the original especially the changes to the last four spaces. There are enough moving parts in this game I'm not surprised it took the designer a few shots to get it "just right".

BTW if you redo your board, I strongly suggest numbering it 0-63 per the suggestion here. edit: oops.
 
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Eugene
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Look closely -- mine is numbered too.

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Justus
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Ahh! I see you took the apocolyptic approach...I had assumed it your theme was man sending envoys to the great beyond, not missiles headed to gaia!

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