Various editions
Image (boxpile)
A pile of boxes
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. It became the first ever winner of the now prestigious Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) award when published in Germany by Ravensburger Games in 1979 under the title "Hase und Igel" (literally Hare and Hedgehog, the Grimm Brothers' version of the fable rather than Aesop's). Hare & Tortoise has since sold millions of units in over a dozen languages, including several known pirated editions. Current publishers are Gibsons Games (English-GB) Rio Grande (English-US) Ravensburger (German) and Broadway Games (Chinese, Japanese).

What's it all about?

Gibsons current edition
Current UK edition (Gibsons)
Hare & Tortoise was an unusual race game for its time in that forward 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 - 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.

It's the thought that counts

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.

Fabulous background

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".

Specious species

I used to wonder why some commentators switch indiscriminately between tortoise and turtle, and between hare and rabbit, given that tortoises are essentially terrestrial and turtles 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 sidenote on page 187 of Caspar Henderson's wonderful Book of Barely Imagined Beings (London 2012).

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