Hare & Tortoise game

Hare and tortoise game Hare and tortoise game

Hare & Tortoise was first published in Britain by Intellect Games UK in1974 and has been in print ever since, though Intellect has long since vanished from the scene.

In 1979 the German edition, published by Ravensburger under the title "Hase und Igel" (= Hare and Hedgehog), became the first-ever winner of the now prestigious Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) award.

Hare & Tortoise has since sold over 2 million units in at least 10 languages, including two known pirated editions. The latest version was republished by Ravensburger Games in 2008, and in a newly designed English-language edition by Gibsons Games in 2010.

What's it all about?

Hare & Tortoise is an unusual 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're 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 -If you play hare-wise, taking great leaps forward at each move, you risk running out of carrots so fast as to lose valuable time trying to get them back. But:

If you play like tortoise-wise, plodding along as cheaply as possible, you risk lagging so far behind as to never have time to catch up with the hares.

The skill of the game lies in choosing which square to move to and whether to play hare- or tortoise-wise according to your position. The fun of the game lies in changing other runner's positions by overtaking them - or even undertaking them by moving backwards.

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.

Mathematical stuff

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 generalize, 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.

Fabulous background

H&Tmural 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 the equivalent fable collected by the Brothers Grimm the hare races against a hedgehog and doesn't nap but speeds ahead. The hedgehog wins, however, by concealing all his relatives along the route. At each lap's start, 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, cheat".

Biological query

I used to wonder why American commentators switched indiscriminately between tortoise and turtle, and between hare and rabbit, given that tortoises are essentially terrestrial and turtle aquatic. (Tortoises have legs and walk; turtles have flippers and swim). Hares and rabbits are not only different species but different genera to boot. (And hares don't burrow.) All was revealed when I read the following: "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." (From a side note on page 187 of Caspar Henderson's wonderful Book of Barely Imagined Beings (London 2012)).

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