Haba’s Inspector Rabbit game creates such a fine balance between memory, strategy and luck in such a novel way that the game proves to be as much of a challenge to adults (especially older adults) as it is to children, creating something like the perfect game for a six-year-old to play with his grandparents.
Each of up to four players gets two wooden rabbits of the same color. Each rabbit can be placed anywhere on the large, folding board – illustrated with a winding garden path. The path is made of two kinds of spaces – “path squares” and the more darkly colored pairs of “searching squares.” Adjacent to each of the searching squares are two circular “hiding spaces,” a total of 24 in all. These are the spaces where any the robbers are hiding. There are 12 pairs of robbers (wonderfully illustrated on thick, cardboard coins). These coins are turned robber-down, shuffled, and then seeded in the hiding spaces adjacent to the searching squares.
There are two wooden dice. The large die is a regular die, with pips numbering from 1-6. The pips on the smaller die number from 1 to 3.
At the beginning of the game, players may position their two rabbits on any path square on the board. The rabbits don’t have to be together. When it’s your turn, you select one or both dice, and move either of your two rabbits along the path, in any direction, following any branch. When your rabbit lands on a searching squares, you turn over both of the robber coins that are on the adjacent hiding spaces. As long as your rabbit is there, the coins remained face up. As soon as you move your rabbit back on to a path square, the robber coins are turned back over. Each different robber pair is a different character, on its own color background, so you can use either or both clues to help you remember who’s where.
When each of your rabbits is on a searching square, and two of the same robbers appear on any of the adjacent hiding spaces, you capture the culprits. Depending on the number of players, the first to capture four crooks (2 or 3 players) or three (4 players) wins the game.
There are several decisions you have to make at each turn: which die to use, which rabbit to move, which path to follow. Keeping a rabbit on a searching square makes it easier for you to remember where the bad people are, but it also makes it easier for your opponents. When your opponent reveals a crook that matches yours, your best strategy is to move your other rabbit over to that searching square. If that rabbit is too far away, or the dice throw is not favorable, then you might want to move your other rabbit, just to keep your opponent from remembering where the matching bad guys are.
The novel mechanics of having two pieces to move and of being able to choose from two different dice creates a strategically compelling game. The need to remember makes the game more difficult for older people. The presence of luck keeps winning or losing from having too great a sting.
Cleverly designed by Hans Meister, and delightfully illustrated by Gabriella Silvera, Inspector Rabbit proves to be a unique gift to families who understand the value of playing together.