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The Overview: Esels-Rennen is a small German board game by Doris Matthaus and Frank Nestel about racing donkeys. It appears to have been originally published in 1988 or '89. In this game, the players are dealt cards which predict the winning donkey(s). They then try to assure that their card ends up correct by manipulating the race. The game handles 2-6 players and suggests ages eight and up. My son enjoyed it by age six, though there is certainly enough strategy to keep an adult interested and give them an edge.

The Boards: The board is made up of spaces that have arrows in the same colors as the donkeys, pointing to one other space on the board. The central spaces, which make up most of the board, are roughly square and tilted 45 degrees from the edge of the board. This diamond tessellation yields two faces of each space pointing more or less toward the starting line and two toward the finish. Along the left and right (short) edges of the game board are the start and finish line. On one side of the board is a track for three donkeys (green, red, and yellow) and on the other there are four (blue, green, red, and yellow). The long edges of the board have irregular trapezoidal spaces which manage to still present two faces toward the finish and two toward the start by overlapping one another.

The Play: On each player's turn, they choose one donkey to advance. In general, it can be moved at the player's discretion either up-right or down-right. By necessity, the moved donkey will land on a colored arrow pointing either up-right or down-right. The donkey of the color shown on the arrow then moves in the direction indicated by the arrow. This continues, chain reaction style, until a donkey can not move in the direction indicated because it is blocked or until a donkey moves onto an arrow of its own color.

Ending the race: The first donkey to cross the finish line wins the race. Play continues until the second donkey also crosses. If the first place donkey appears on your card as the winner, you earn three victory points. If the second place donkey appears correctly on your card you earn one. If your card got both first and second correct -- but transposed the order, you win two points. Scores are more meaningful when accumulated across several races.

Exceptions: On the three-donkey board, there are nine spaces in a band right before the final row that are colored darker than the majority of the track. Any donkey sitting on one of these colored spaces may, as the player's kickoff move, be moved up-left or down-left instead of toward the finish line. This kind of space also exist on the four-donkey board but in a different configuration. The four-donkey board also has four spaces with white arrows. When a donkey, in the course of a move-chain, lands on one of the white arrows, the donkey in the rear moves forward in the direction indicated by the arrow. If there is a tie for losing donkey, then the player making the move selects which to move on.

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