In Aesop's Fables, the race between the fast-but-lazy hare and the slow-but-steady tortoise illustrates that determination, rather than natural talent, is key to victory.  In the game The Hare and the Tortoise from Iello Games, more animals are racing -- and the keys to winning the race are betting, bluffing, and playing cards.

This game has five animals (Hare, Tortoise, Wolf, Coyote, and Lamb) racing along an 11-tile track.  The first place animal gets five points, second place gets three points, and third place gets two points.  Before the race starts, though, players have to bet.  Each player gets one random animal card for one of their bets.  Then, after players get their starting hand of seven cards (each card has one animal), players choose a second card to put under their starting bet for their other bet.  Players can go with two animals in the hopes at least one will win, or double their first animal to double its points (which is bad if the animal doesn't finish in the top three).

Next, players play cards.  A player can play 1-4 cards of the same animal, provided afterwards no animal has more than four cards and there aren't more than eight cards total.  (After playing cards, players draw back up to six cards.)  If an animal has four cards or there are eight cards in all, the race starts; if not, the next player plays cards, and so on around the table.

When the race starts, the animals go in this order:

-- If there are 1-4 Hare cards, the Hare moves two tiles.  But if the Hare is in first place or tied for first place and four Hare cards are played, the Hare takes a nap and doesn't move at all.

-- The Tortoise moves two tiles, and one tile of 0-3 Tortoise cards are played.  So the Tortoise moves even if none of its cards are played!

-- The Wolf moves one tile with 1-2 Wolf cards, 2 tiles with 3 Wolf Cards, and 3 tiles with four Wolf cards.  In addition, three Wolf cards show the Wolf howling; if one of these is played, no other animals move that turn.

-- The Coyote moves one tile for each Coyote card played.

-- Finally, the Lamb moves a number of tiles equal to the number of Lamb cards played plus one.  But when the Lamb reaches a tile with a river, the Lamb stops moving and takes a drink instead.

The game ends when three animals cross the finish line, right past the final tile.  All players reveal their bets, and whoever has the most points wins!

The Hare & the Tortoise is a family-friendly game that also works very well for adult players.  Little kids will like the cute animals, with no violence or scary stuff happening in the game.  But there's a lot of strategy involved for grown players.  No animal is better than the others (I've seen all five cross the finish line), and having the first bet random keeps players from always going with their personal favorite.  Playing cards is key, as you not only want to advance your animal(s), but also to do so in a way that doesn't make it obvious who you want to win.  There are times you'll play cards to get them out of your hand, and times you just want your animal(s) to speed ahead as much as possible.  This game is relatively simple, but with plenty of fun, replayability, and strategy as well.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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