Run, Hamster, Run! (Version 2.1)

Release Date: 
Friday, July 15, 2005
Package icon rhr 2point1 pieces and stat sheets.zip441.15 KB
Setup Time: 
Play Duration (new players): 
Play Duration (experienced): 
Minimum number of players: 
Maximum number of players: 
Minimum Age: 

by Jonathan Leistiko


Be the last hamster left in play. The best way to do this is to avoid falling into the Alligator Pit at the end of the Conveyor Belt.

Obstacles and Hazards

  • The Conveyor Belt: You must keep moving up the Conveyor Belt or you’ll get dumped off the edge into…
  • The Alligator Pit: At the end of the Conveyor Belt is a pit with one or more hungry alligators in it. If it comes down to a battle between a hamster and an alligator, my money’s on the reptile.
  • Other Hamsters: Other hamsters may try to push you into the Alligator Pit to increase their odds of being the last one in the game. Be careful!
  • Fatigue: The stress of constant exertion will wear down even the heartiest hamster. You’ve got to stop running eventually you know…

You Need

The following pieces:

  • Five stand-up Hamster pieces.
  • Five clusters of Pluck chips, containing eight chips each.
  • Ten Conveyor Belt strips, 1 square by 5 squares long. One of these will have asterisks on each end.
  • One Alligator Pit strip.
  • Twenty-one Alligator chips.
  • One copy of the Experimental Data Sheet (or you can just make your own with pencil and paper).
  • One copy of the Experimental Subject Profile Sheet for every hamster in the game (or you can just make your own).

To make the chips and strips rigid, we recommend gluing them to a cereal box, letting them dry, and cutting them out. Color the alligator chips green, and color each of the five groups of Pluck chips a different color (you might also want to color the white space around the five hamsters the same colors you color the Pluck chips).

You will also need:

  • One or more dice (six-sided).
  • The Hamster Aptitude Tester, or “HAT”: A paper bag or other container that can not be seen through for mixing Pluck chips up in and drawing them out at random.

Setting Up


  1. Lay out the ten Conveyor Belt strips parallel to each other so that all arrows are pointing in the same direction (they should make a 5×10 grid). Place the Alligator Pit at the end of the Conveyor Belt that the arrows are pointing at. Make sure that the Belt strip with the asterisks on it is the fifth strip (counting the strip next to the Alligator Pit as strip number one) of the Conveyor Belt. It should look like this:
  2. All players start with a Hamster piece and seven Pluck chips. Make sure these chips are all the same color. (The game comes with eight chips for each hamster; the leftover one is just an extra.)
  3. Each player places one Pluck chip in the HAT. Draw chips from the HAT, returning the chips to their owners, until the HAT is empty. In the order that the chips were drawn, each player gets to place his or her hamster on the Conveyor Belt no farther than the fifth strip with the asterisks on it.
  4. Each player gets an Experimental Subject Profile Sheet. Fold this sheet in half so that you can hide and reveal the three traits that are written on it (Mettle, Scamper and Friskiness). You may want to draw a little picture of your hamster on the part that shows while your sheet is folded over.
  5. Put one chip (one of the extra Alligator chips will do nicely) in the Conveyor Belt’s Speed pool on the Experimental Data Sheet. Put an Alligator chip in the Alligator Pit.

When you’re ready to start, your setup should look somewhat like this:



Play proceeds in this order.

  1. Allocate Pluck.
  2. Determine Initiative for the round.
  3. Declare Actions.
  4. Resolve Actions.
  5. Move the Conveyor Belt.
  6. Alligator Actions.
  7. Check for Fatigue.
  8. Tally Hamsters.
  9. Begin a new round.


1. Allocate Pluck.
At the beginning of each round, use the Experimental Subject Profile Sheet to secretly allocate your Pluck chips to Scamper, Mettle, and Friskiness.

  • Scamper – If you take an action that permits you to move, your Scamper determines how many squares you get to move.
  • Mettle – Your Mettle indicates how tough you are. Hamsters with lots of Mettle push and resist pushing well, while hamsters with little Mettle do not.
  • Friskiness – Your Friskiness measures how alert you are to what’s going on around you. Friskiness is used to determine who acts first each round (this is also called Initiative).


Collectively, Scamper, Mettle and Friskiness are called Traits. These Traits will determine how successful your hamster’s actions are. The different types of actions are explained in the Declare Actions step. Many actions require you to Test your hamster. There’s an explanation of Tests and how your Traits relate to them at the end of the Play section of the rules.

Once all players have secretly allocated Pluck chips to Traits, they are revealed simultaneously. Pluck chips are not re-allocated until the beginning of the next round.

2. Determine Initiative for the round.
Put the Friskiness chips from all hamsters in the HAT. The chip of the first hamster drawn gets the highest initiative. The chip of the next hamster drawn gets the next-highest initiative, and so on.

When one Friskiness chip for a hamster has been drawn, return all of that hamster’s Friskiness chips that are in the HAT to that hamster.

When no chips remain in the HAT, move on to Step 3.

If no hamster put a Pluck chip in for initiative this turn, add a chip to the Conveyor Belt’s Speed pool. This can increase the speed beyond 4.

If more than one hamster put no chips in the HAT for initiative, determine initiative for the hamsters with chips first, then determine initiative for the chipless hamsters randomly.

3. Declare Actions.
The hamster with the lowest initiative declares what action he or she is going to take this round, followed by the next-highest hamster. This continues until the hamster with the highest initiative has done so.

If all hamsters declare a Rest action this turn, add a chip to the Conveyor Belt’s Speed pool. This can increase the speed beyond 4.

Turn all of your chips face-up when you declare your action. When an action lets you spend a chip, you may only spend face-up chips. Spent chips go to your Fatigue pile and can not be used until you get them back.

A hamster may perform one of the following actions each round:


  • You may move one square.
  • You may challenge an adjacent Hamster to a test of Mettle. If you win, your target loses a Pluck chip (your choice) to his or her Fatigue pile. Otherwise, nothing happens.



  • You may flip a Scamper chip face-down to move to an adjacent square.
  • You may spend a Scamper chip to move two squares.
  • You may flip three Scamper chips face-down or spend one Scamper chip and flip another Scamper chip face-down to climb over a hamster in an adjacent space and end up in a vacant square adjacent to the one you climbed through.
  • While Running, you may make one step toward the left or right side of the conveyor belt for free.
  • If you try to move into an occupied square, test your Mettle against the occupant of the square. If you win the test, you may enter that square, pushing the loser into the adjacent square beyond. If you lose the test, you stay in your square. Whether you win or lose, you must still flip a Scamper chip face-down for attempting to move into an adjacent square.
  • You may flip one Scamper chip face-down to continue pushing anything that you successfully pushed this turn; enter that square and move the occupant into the adjacent square beyond.
  • You may not push anything into an occupied square or off the left, right, or top edge of the board. Attempting to do so causes you and what you’re pushing to remain in your respective squares.



  • You may move one square.
  • You may challenge the occupant of an adjacent square to a test of Mettle. If you win, you may move the loser (ignoring intervening obstacles, like blocks or hamsters) a number of squares less than or equal to 1/2 your current Mettle, rounded down. The loser must end in a vacant square (or the Alligator Pit). If you lose the test, nothing happens. Note that if you have 4 or more Mettle you can grab an adjacent hamster and flip it over you – judo-style – to any empty space adjacent to you.



  • You may not flip or spend Scamper chips to move.
  • If you have less than seven Pluck chips, take one Pluck chip from your Fatigue pile. Place it in any attribute you want to.
  • Exception: If you are resting in the Alligator Pit, you do not regain any Pluck chips.


4. Resolve Actions.
The hamster with the highest initiative resolves his or her action, followed by the next-highest hamster. This continues until the hamster with the lowest initiative has done so.

If you decide that you want to take an action that is different from the one that you declared, you may do so. You must spend a Pluck chip (your choice) before you take your new action.

A hamster that moves, is pushed, or is thrown onto the Alligator Pit strip has fallen into the Alligator Pit. Hamsters in the Alligator Pit can not get out of it.

A hamster or other object that attempts to move, is pushed, or is shoved off the side or top of the Conveyor Belt hits a wall and must stay in the square it just attempted to leave. Any hamster pushing this hamster or object similarly stays in its square.

Let’s see an example.

It’s the first round of the game and there are four hamsters playing. Listed in order of initiative for this round, they are:Alice, Bob, Cathleen, and Dave.

In Step 3 (Declare Actions), Dave said that he was going to Run, Cathleen said that she was going to Bite, Bob said that he was going to Rest, and Alice said that she was going to Throw.

  • Step 4 (Resolve Actions) begins with Alice resolving her Throw. She’s already next to Bob, and she wins the test of Mettle. Alice successfully Throws Bob three squares, putting him one square away from the edge of the Alligator Pit.
  • Bob resolves his action and Rests. Since it’s the beginning of the game, he hasn’t lost any chips (Bob decided to Rest so he wouldn’t become fatigued: see step 7 (Check for Fatigue), below), so he doesn’t get a Pluck chip back.
  • Cathleen notices that if she changes her declared action from Biting to Running, she has a chance of pushing Bob one square closer to the edge of the Pit, causing him to fall in when the Conveyor Belt moves (see step 5, below). Cathleen declares that she’s changing her action from Biting to Running. Because she’s changing her action she has to spend a chip, and places a chip from her Friskiness in her Fatigue pile. Cathleen moves next to Bob, beats him in a test of Mettle, and pushes Bob one square closer to the Pit. Next she flips her last two Scamper chips to move two squares up the Conveyor Belt.
  • Dave originally intended to push Bob to the edge this turn, but decides to pick on Cathleen instead (Since Dave is only changing the target of his action, he does not pay the one-chip penalty for changing actions.). He moves over to Cathleen. They test Mettle and Cathleen wins. Dave flips a Scamper chip over for attempting to move, leaving him with two unused Scamper chips. Dave decides to move up the belt with his last two Scamper chips and flips them over.

At the end of the first round, Alice has all of her Pluck chips, Bob has not lost any Pluck and is about to fall in the Alligator Pit, Cathleen has lost one Pluck chip (for changing actions), and Dave hasn’t lost any Pluck chips.

5. Move the Conveyor Belt.
The section of the Conveyor Belt closest to the Alligator Pit is removed, dumping any hamsters that were on it into the Alligator Pit (Good luck!). Place this section on the end farthest away from the Alligator Pit. Do this once for every chip that is in the Conveyor Belt’s Speed pool at the beginning of this step.

Any hamster that is dumped by the Conveyor Belt onto the Alligator Pit strip has fallen into the Alligator Pit. Hamsters in the Alligator Pit can not get out.

If the section with the asterisks is removed and placed back at the top of the Conveyor Belt, check the number of chips in the Conveyor Belt’s Speed pool. If there are more than four chips in the Speed Pool, remove a chip. If there are less than four chips, add a chip.

6. Alligator Actions.

  1. Add / Remove Alligators: If there is a hamster in the Pit, add an alligator to the Pit. If there are no hamsters and more than one alligator in the Pit, take an alligator out of the Pit.
  2. Chomp!-ing: Starting with the hamster with the lowest Mettle, each hamster in the Pit must perform a test (his or her choice of Trait) against the number of alligators in the Alligator Pit (Do not take the alligators from the Pit, use the extra chips instead.).


  • If you win the test, you’ve avoided being Chomp!-ed this round. Remove your chips, put them back in the Trait they came from, and pass the HAT to the next hamster in the Pit.
  • If you lose the test, you’ve been Chomp!-ed. Take one alligator chip and all of your chips out of the HAT. Put your chips back in the Trait they came from. Lose one Pluck chip for every two alligator chips in the Pit (rounded up), then take one alligator chip out of the Pit. If you lose your last Pluck chip in a Chomp!, you have been eaten and are out of the game (You may make sound effects and draws for the alligators now.). Either way, pass the HAT to the next hamster in the Pit.

7. Check for Fatigue.
If you took an action other than Resting, put a Pluck chip in your Fatigue pile.

8. Tally Hamsters.
Count the number of hamsters in play. If only one is left, that hamster wins the game. If no hamsters are left, the alligators win the game.

9. Begin a new round.
Check to see if you have no Pluck chips left. A hamster with no Pluck has passed out. You may only declare Rest actions until you have at least one Pluck chip. Remember that if you are in the Alligator Pit and take a Rest action, you do not regain any Pluck.

Start the next round at Step 1 (Allocate Pluck) again.


  • Tests are used to figure out if a hamster succeeds or fails at a given feat.
  • Tests are always made against a Trait (Scamper, Mettle, or Friskiness). The hamster that causes the test to occur is called the initiator and all other hamsters involved are defenders; all hamsters involved are participants in the test.
  • Tests state what Trait the initiator is using and what Trait the defenders use to resist. The first Trait mentioned is always the initiator’s Trait, and the second one is always the defender’s Trait. If only one Trait is mentioned, all participants use the same Trait.
  • Example: If you initiate a test of Scamper vs. Mettle, you use the chips from your Scamper and the defender uses the chips from his or her Mettle.
  • Example: In a test of Friskiness, all participants use their Friskiness chips.
  • Note: As presented in these rules, all tests are Mettle vs. Mettle tests. Future Run, Hamster, Run add-ons may have other kinds of tests.
  • You must have at least one chip in the Trait required by a test to initiate it. If you do not have a chip in the required Trait, the test does not occur. If a defender does not have a chip in his or her required Trait, he or she does not get to put any chips in the HAT for that test.
  • To perform a test, put all chips involved in the HAT, shake the HAT to assure randomness, and draw one chip out of the HAT. The hamster who owns that chip wins the test. Return all chips used in the test to the appropriate Trait pools of their respective hamsters.
  • If your hamster is the defender in a test, you may choose to not resist. If you do this, do not place any chips in the HAT for this test. Effectively, this lets the initiator win the test, but you do not place your chips at risk if there are any consequences for winning.

Origin and Credits

I remember thinking that it’d be fun to make a game where the players were all animals in an experiment. I think that I was thinking about how pointless many animal experiments would seem to us if we were the subjects of them.

Anyway, that was several months ago in the car with . About a week ago, this game came back to me with a vengeance and I wrote almost all of the text as it is now (without html markup) in a two-hour stint. The bit with the chips and the hat came out around that time too. I was previously planning on using a stat-and-die-check style of conflict resolution before selecting a chip pool method. I’m curious to see how it works. My greatest concern is that sorting the chips out after each test will take too long. I think that it will be important to color-code them.

5/29/00 – Memorial Day
I played the game for the first time with Sharon and Chris McLaren this weekend and it was really boring. It was too easy to outrun the Conveyor Belt, too easy to regain lost Pluck, and too easy to outrun hamsters that are trying to Push you. Chris also suggested that there should be special effects in the game, like power pellets or somesuch. Many basic changes were made, like the accelerating Conveyor Belt, flipping Scamper chips to move (Sharon’s idea), and the distances that a hamster can move for various actions were changed. The Profile sheets for each hamster were created that evening too.

Obviously, a massive re-write of the rules followed. On the bright side, the HAT worked really well.

, who designed the pieces and board, adds: props go out to Sean Tejaratchi, who provided the hamsters that are depicted on the hamster “avatars,” via his personal bully pulpit Crap Hound.

I played the game with new players last weekend at Austin Game Days (Note: Austin Game Days are defunct at the time of this revision.) and the feedback I got was fantastic. With their playtesting comments, I’ve spent the past week revising the rules to create Version 2 of Run, Hamster, Run!. The game is much better than it was before. Some of the changes are:

  • The Alligator Pit is much more deadly,
  • The Bite action was added,
  • The extra sidestep for Scampering was added,
  • The option to climb over other hamsters was added,
  • The rules were re-written and edited (Thanks Sharon!) for clarity,


Many thanks to all the playtesters for offering such utterly superb playtesting feedback and ideas for Run, Hamster, Run! Y’all rule!

I played the game with some of the nice folks from Looney Labs last week and a group of guys at AggieCon last weekend. The feedback from these sessions resulted in Run, Hamster, Run v2.1. Changes in Run, Hamster, Run! v2.1: The Run and Push actions were combined. The Bite action was simplified. The Experimental Profile Sheets were printed with action data to make them more useful. Fatigue was shifted from random to constant for all non-Rest actions. The rule for losing a point of Pluck for winning a Mettle test was axed. The Alligator Pit was made more lethal.

July 9, 2005
A friend played Run, Hamster, Run! recently and wrote back to Sharon with thoughts and questions. This reminded me that I still hadn’t posted this 2.1 revision of the rules. I re-read the rules again, deleted extraneous words, clarified the example a little more, wrote this addendum, and stripped out all the html that I’d added to the rules so long ago. Thanks to everyone who contributed to making Run, Hamster, Run! even better than it was before.