Thank goodness for Wil Wheaton. Without Tabletop, I would still be in the barren wasteland that is life without Tokaido. Season three of Tabletop continues to move along at a reliable clip. While I am mostly watching and realizing there are games I don’t want to play (I’m looking at you Forbidden Desert), I am pleased with the amount of new games we are experiencing. More than ever, this season has given us a chance to play more games with our family. The episode in which Wil played Catan Junior was interesting certainly, but it was the more recent episode featuring Tales and Games: The Hare and The Tortoise that we chose to share with the rest of our family and friends. So gathered around a table late one Friday night, four parents and four children played a team version of our new favorite game.
The Hare and The Tortoise is a card-driven betting game for 2-5 players aged 8 and up. We played with four teams of two. Our youngest participant was three; he mostly just revealed my hand to everybody else. The five-year-olds present handled the game very well, and have played several times since then, without adults present. The company suggests that an average game takes 15 minutes. Ours took 45, but team play does make it a little more involved.
The point of the game is to bet on animals, loosely based on Aesop’s Fable of the same name, and race those animals down a track. The first three animals to cross the finishing line receive points, and the winner is the player with the highest number of points based on the animals they placed bets on.
At the beginning of the game, or race, each player receives an animal card chosen at random. There are five animals to pick from: turtle, hare, lamb, wolf, and fox. Each player then receives seven cards. From this seven, they choose another random animal. Both of these cards are placed face down and not revealed to the other players. These are the animals on which the player has bet. It is possible to bet on the same animal twice; you do not re-draw.
Players will then take turns laying down between one and four cards of the same animal. You refill your hand to six cards before the next player lays down. The turn is over when four cards of any one animal have been played, or when there are eight cards played on the table at once. Yes this does have to be eight. If at seven cards down, someone decided to play two more and so nine cards are in play, you keep going until four are the same animal. Then, it is time for the animals to move or not.
The race track consists of 11 road cards, two of which contain water; configuration is at the player’s discretion upon setup. Each of the animals in play have distinct characteristics that determines how they move down the board. Kids and adults alike had fun getting into the mood of their characters. The animals always move in the same order.
- The Turtle: Always moves one space, even if no turtle cards have been played. May move two spaces if four of its cards were played.
- The Hare: Always moves two spaces, but only if a hare card is in play. If four hare cards are played and the hare is currently in the lead, then the hare takes a nap and does not move.
- The Fox: Always moves as many spaces as the number of fox cards played.
- The Lamb: Always moves one more space than the number of lamb cards played. If the lamb reaches water mid-move, it must stop and take a drink, regardless of how many moves are left. The lamb cannot move again until it’s next turn.
- The Wolf: Moves one space if 1-2 cards are played, and moves one less space than the number of cards if three or more are played. The game also includes three howling wolf cards. If a howler is played, no one but the wolf moves. The wolf moves one space if one to two cards are played, and one less space than the number of cards if more are played. The wolf also has three cards with a howl; if one of these is played, no one but the wolf moves. (The track consists of 11 road cards, two covered with water.) If playing with kids, prepare for a lot of howling around the game table.
Once all animals have moved, or not, a new round begins. The game ends when three of the five animals reach the finish line. Players receive points based on the ranking of the animals they bet on. The player with the most points wins.
The kids loved racing the animals down the track by choosing which cards to play, though it took a few turns for them to understand that we were betting on animals and weren’t actually the animals themselves. But this isn’t just a kids’ game. The dynamic and gameplay certainly lends itself to a family game, but it is thoroughly enjoyable without the kids around too.
The links in this post are to Amazon, but I would encourage you to seek out your local board game store. We purchased our copy from Weekend Anime. We love giving them our business and being part of a larger gaming community through the people we meet there.
The Tabletop episode shows the game off really well, but do not watch with the kids. The language isn’t as age-appropriate as the game.