|Everything you never wanted to know about||
HARE & TORTOISE
A clever race game with a classic theme...
...where even he who hesitates can win
|© 2005-2013 by David Parlett|
Hare & Tortoise was first published in Britain by Intellect Games UK in
1974 and has been in print ever since, though Intellect has long since
vanished from the scene.
The first German edition, published by Ravensburger in 1979, became the first ever winner of the now prestigious Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) award. Its title "Hase und Igel" (Hare and Hedgehog) refers to a similar fable by the Brothers Grimm.
Hare & Tortoise has since sold over 2 million units in at least 10 languages, including two known pirated editions, and has never been out of print.
The latest edition, incorporating slight revisions and improvements, was republished by Ravensburger Games in 2008, and in a redesigned English-language edition by Gibsons Games in August 2010. For full details of the latest versions see Hare & Tortoise Rides Again!
|What's it all about?|
Hare & Tortoise is a uniquely original race game in that movement is
governed by skill rather than chance. Instead of rolling dice to find out how
far to move, you can always move forwards as far as you like - but only if you
can afford to pay for it. This you do by consuming units of energy called
carrots. The 65 carrots you start with are just
enough to get you home one square at a time by spending one carrot per move.
Alternatively, they are enough to get you up to ten squares forward in a
single leap, and you can earn more by carefully choosing which square to land on.
But there's a catch!
The catch is that the further you move in one turn, the faster the cost of moving accelerates. Therefore -
So, unlike traditional race games, Hare & Tortoise is won by superior strategy and player interaction. The element of chance is not only reduced to a minimum, but can be eliminated altogether by agreeing to avoid landing on Hare squares, which are, by design, the only external chance elements in the game.
The actual cost of moving is: 1 for the first square, plus 2 for the second,
plus 3 for the third... and so on. It therefore costs 1 carrot to move 1
square, 3 to move 2, 6 to move 3, 10 to move 4, etc. To generalise, moving
forwards n squares in one turn costs n(n+1)/2 carrots. So,
given 65 carrots to start with, you might play tortoise-wise and get home in
65 moves at 1 carrot each and still have 1 carrot left over.
Playing hare-wise, you could get home in just one move, but only if you could afford the 2080 carrots such a leap would cost. To add to your problems, the further ahead you are, the fewer the carrots you earn when you land on a pay-out square. In Hare & Tortoise, unlike certain other games, you don't collect 200 carrots every time you pass Go.
In Aesop's classic fable the hare is so confident of winning that he takes a
nap and wakes up too late to find himself overtaken by the
plodding tortoise. His moral is "Slow but steady wins the race". In
Germany and elsewhere the game is called "Hare and Hedgehog"
(Hase und Igel), being based on an equivalent fable by the Brothers
Grimm. In this, the hare doesn't nap but speeds ahead. The hedgehog
wins by concealing all his relatives along the route. As each lap
begins the current hedgehog immediately hides and the next one
pops out of concealment just ahead of the hare. This moral is
"Slow and cunning wins the race". Or perhaps: "If at first you don't succeed,
Above: Yr Ysgyfarnog a'r Crwban, from a series of murals depicting Aesop's fables at Castell Coch, near Cardiff, Wales
I've noticed that American commentators tend to switch indiscriminately between
tortoise and turtle, and between hare and
rabbit. I'm baffled as to why, seeing that tortoises are essentially
terrestrial and turtles aquatic. (Tortoises have legs and walk; turtles have
flippers and swim). Hares and rabbits are not merely different species but
different genera to boot. (And hares don't burrow.) Or do they do things
differently on the other side of the Atlantic?
Update: Apparently they do. Here's an item from the Corrections and Clarifications column of The Guardian dated 1 March 2005 and referring to a previous article about the evolution of modern turtles: "The accompanying photograph showed a tortoise, distinguished by its domed shell and clawed limbs, but was described in the caption as a turtle. Turtles have flattened shells and flippers. The agency which supplied the photograph captioned it according to the American convention, calling it a turtle". More is revealed in the following observation: "British English distinguishes tortoises, which live all their lives on land and have flat feet; terrapins, which live in fresh water and have fins; and turtles, which have fins and live in the sea. In American English they're all turtles." This from a sidenote on page 187 of Caspar Henderson's wonderful "Book of Barely Imagined Beings" (London 2012).
I invented Hare & Tortoise in 1973, basing it on an original movement
mechanism devised in 1969 for an abortive game called Space Race. (It was
the year of the first moon landing.) Its development was remarkably rapid:
invented 13 October, first played 20 October, revised and replayed 4 November,
play-tested soon after by the Games & Puzzles review panel, and
licensed to Intellect Games (UK), a relatively new company, on 17 December.
Pictured left is the prototype after first revision. (Click to enlarge.)
Haring forwards at great speed, Intellect had it on the shelves by the following
June. The first edition (right) was designed by Shirtsleeve Studio in
Victorian style. In 1975, in the first Game of the Year Award inaugurated by
Games & Puzzles magazine, a readers' poll placed Hare & Tortoise in the Top Ten
after Scrabble, Mastermind, Diplomacy and Monopoly, and ahead of Cluedo.
Unfortunately, Intellect Games was taken over in 1976 by a new company seeking
to establish itself in the games market. Poor management led to the virtual loss of
the game from the UK market, though it continued to rate high in British Game of
the Year polls.
Ravensburger published the award-winning first German edition in 1978 in a design best described as Ruritanian, or fairy-tale romantic. By the end of the year it had become one of Germany's fastest-selling games. Sublicensed to other European manufacturers, the same design appeared in French (Le Lièvre et la Tortue), Dutch (Haas en Schildpad) and Spanish (La Liebre y la Tortuga).
The Italian edition also featured the Ravensburger board and cards, but surmounted it with this visually garish and conceptually corny box-lid.
Having discovered by now that H&T was not really a kids' game, Ravensburger produced this more restrained box design for the French edition, which was also used for their English-language edition published in the USA.
With the demise of Intellect Games, the UK licence was taken up in 1980 by Waddingtons House of Games, with abysmal design and production values including a reduction to a maximum of four players to save on component costs. They seem also to have sublicensed it to Majora, a Portuguese company. Thomas Malloy kindly sent me a picture of "A Lebre e a Tartaruga" of which he recently purchased an old, battered copy, and I have prettied it up for reproduction here.
Waddingtons also produced this promotional version of the game in which carrots were replaced by glasses of Britvic fruit juice. It would have been nice if they had sent me a copy (I only managed to get this image courtesy of The Games Journal), but at least I got some royalties for it. Then again it was not until November 2009 that I stumbled upon this image of an edition of the game evidently sublicensed by Waddingtons (who again told me nothing about it) to the Australian games company John Sands.
Waddingtons also sublicensed the Scandinavian rights to the Swedish games company Alga, who published it in Swedish, Norwegian (right), Danish, and, I believe, Finnish ("Jänis ja kilpikonna"), though I have never actually seen the Finnished product.
Alga subsequently smartened up the box design to make it look less like a kids' game. Here's the Swedish version.
I first heard of the pirated Czech edition from Tom Werneck (a founder of the Spiel des Jahres award), who sent me a black-and-white photocopy of the box-lid. For a complete set of the real thing (right) I am indebted to the French games-collector François Haffner, who was kind enough to let me have it in exchange for one of my only two remaining copies of Shoulder to Shoulder. An image of the board can be seen on Haffner's website. An unexplained curiosity of this game is that lettuces are replaced by apples. Does that mean Bohemia is a lettuce-free zone?
Rudolf Rühle, of the European Society of Game Collectors (ESG) kindly sent me these images of a Hungarian pirated edition of 1986 in which the theme has been changed to motor racing. The equivalent of carrots is petrol, and lettuce squares are compulsory pit stops for changing tyres.
From Austria, this appears to be a promotional adaptation on behalf of an electricity company, as evidenced by the names of the principal characters "Voltinger & Wattinger". It was presumably sublicensed by Ravensburger, though they never told me about it. I photographed this copy, which belongs to Rudolf Rühle, at the ESG stand at one of the Essen game fairs.
In 1984 Wolfgang Großkopf, a games enthusiast in the then GDR (German Democratic Republic, i.e. communist East Germany) home-produced a one-off version of Hare & Tortoise using standard playing-cards for his hand-made board and renaming it "Energie". Großkopf similarly reproduced many other western games that took his fancy, and recently donated his entire collection of them to the European Society of Game Collectors, whose co-founder and first president Rudolf Rühle I thank for providing me with these images.
Another pirated edition was produced by a South American games company called Tipo's. This set was sent to me in the 1980s by my late friend Jaime Poniachik of Buenos Aires.
Gibson Games, of whom I then lived within walking distance, took up the UK rights in 1987 and had the happy idea of going back to Shirtsleeve Studio (who designed the original Intellect version) for a new design. Shirtsleeve responded by updating it from early to late Victorian. It was for this new edition that I revised the layout by shifting the first lettuce square from seventh to tenth away from Start, which experienced players recognise as an obvious improvement.
The German rights reverted to me in 1999 and were taken up AbacusSpiele (left). Given the self-evident requirement of producing a new and distinctive design, their designer effected a clever updating that combines fantasy with modernity.
Back to Ravensburger again (right), nearly 30 years after they first published it! This one reverts to its most widely known design, but incorporates the improved layout of 1987 (with the first lettuce on the 10th square) and some changes to the hare-card instructions that you draw when you land on a hare square.In 2010 Gibsons republished the game for the English-language market (left). Michael Gibson decided, with my agreement, to break away from the traditional Ruritanian ethos and commissioned Simon Chadwick to produce a design more in keeping with the intellectual nature of what is essentially an abstract game with a light thematic dressing up. As it does not reproduce well on the small scale shown here, it may be worth pointing out that the outline sketches surrounding the actual race track depict famous English landmarks, including St Paul's Cathedral, the Blackpool Tower and The Angel of the North.
|Games collectors are intrigued by the fact that almost every edition or reprinting incorporates greater or lesser differences from the previous one. The most significant difference is as follows. When "jugging the hare" in the original and current version, you roll a die, add the number you get to your position in the race, and follow the appropriately-numbered instruction printed on your race-card. But when Ravensburger first published the game in 1979 they wished to emphasise the its essential dicelessness and so replaced this feature by having you simply draw a Hare Card and follow the instruction printed on it. The result was that "jugging the hare" gave you equal chances of good or bad outcomes regardless of your position in the race, instead of (as I prefer) more strongly favouring those lying further behind. However, in the latest versions (2008, 2010), I have revised the hare-card instructions in such a way as to slightly favour trailers over leaders (on average) as originally intended.|
Rules of H&T H&T rides again Other DP games