Ender Wiggins
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Introducing PitchCar

I love Crokinole, as do a whole of other people on BGG. But what happens when we take the finger flicking fun of Crokinole and turn it into a race? We get PitchCar, a dexterity game where players each have a car (a round wooden puck) that they flick around the track, to see who can be the first to complete three laps. It's a ton of fun, and easily one of the best dexterity games on the market right now!



The game has been marketed under different names. It was produced by Goldsieber under the name Carabande, which is now out of print. It is currently available by Ferti under the name PitchCar. Differences between the editions are minor, but since the Ferti edition is the only one currently available, this is a moot point.

In case you need more convincing, consider part of the PitchCar pedigree: it won the Meeples' Choice Award in 1996, the Spiel des Jahres "Special Award for Best Game of Skill" in 1997, and Games Magazine's "Best Dexterity Game" in 2001. And it can handle up to 8 players! So why wait, let's head to the racetrack!



Components

The box cover gives us a good indication of what to expect from the game:



From the back of the box, it's evident that you can make 10 different race tracks with the components supplied with the game:



There's also a short synopsis of the game: "PitchCar is at the same time a game of skill and a car race. This game is made of wood and is composed of 16 track parts, 10 curves and 6 straight lines, which allows you to build about ten different 3.7 meter long tracks. Build your track, choose a car, and pitch it along the track! PitchCar is family friendly and will please players of all ages."

So what do you get with the game? Here's what we find when we open the box:


picture by Martin Ralya

The complete list of components:
● 8 wooden pawns
● 16 safety barriers
● 16 pieces of track
● stickers for start line and cars
● rules


picture by Martin Ralya

Let's just walk through the components and check them out a little more closely.

Rulebook

The rules are printed in a small pamphlet, and are in five languages: English, German, Dutch, Italian, and French:



The rules are not difficult, and are only a single page of text in each language. The rule book also displays the ten different tracks pictured on the back of the box.



The Ferti rules are available here, and you can also download an English translation of the Carabande rules here. Unfortunately the rules don't cover every possible scenario in the game (e.g. what happens if your car turns over after crossing the finish line? How much of the car has to go over the line to win? What happens if your car ends up resting on top of another car?). But all you really need are the rules for basic gameplay - you can always adopt house rules on minor points, since the core of the game is easy enough to learn in 60 seconds.

Components: Track

Track

There are sixteen track pieces, of which 6 are straights, and 10 are curves:





These are made out of wood (particle board), and are good quality:



Safety Rails

There are also 16 safety rails, in two different sizes, corresponding to the two different types of track:



These are placed inside the grooves in the track pieces, as follows:



Components: Cars

Eight different coloured crokinole style wooden discs are provided in a plastic drawstring bag, along with stickers for the cars and for the start/finish line:



The start/finish line sticker needs to be affixed to one of the straight pieces of track, and the car stickers to the wooden discs:



Here's the result:





Note that the discs are not symmetrical: one side has a more rough face, the other side is smoother and has a convex face. If you want fast play with less accuracy, use the convex side down, but if you want slower play with more accuracy, use the convex side up (for more discussion, see here).

We're nearly ready to race!

Game-play: Set-up

Track layout

To play, first you need to build yourself a race-track! Here is one of the ten possible layouts that are suggested for the base game:



It does take a fair amount of space, but what you see above is only a medium sized table, so if you're playing with only the base game, most tables should be big enough. As can be seen from the back of the box, there are at least ten different configurations possible using the tracks from the base game:



Some tracks look quite exotic!



Troubleshooting the track

You will find discussion on the forums about two minor issues with the track that might dampen your enthusiasm slightly if not addressed:

1. The safety barriers can come loose from time to time when a car is flicked against them. Solutions suggested by BGG users include glue or putty (see also here).

2. Uneven joints can lead to cars jumping off the track when they hit an uneven seam. Solutions suggested by BGG users include placing pennies or foam under one side of each track piece (see also here).



Determining starting player

Racing begins with qualifying! Each player does one lap of the entire track, and counts how many flicks (or "pitches") it takes them. The starting grid (and order of play throughout the game) is determined by who can do the qualifying lap in the least amount of pitches (ties are broken by having the tied-players race again). Now we are really ready to race!



Game-play: Racing

Are you ready to race? Gentlemen, start your engines!



In the order determined by qualifying, players take turns to flick their car along the track. The player to cross the finish line and complete three laps first is the winner! Points can be awarded according to placings if playing more than once.



Two important rules about game-play:
1. You must return your car to where it started (and end your turn) if any of the following happens:
- your car turns over
- your car goes off the track
- your car makes another car go off the track
2. Before your turn, you can move your car up to one car-width if your car is against a safety rail or another car.

That's pretty much it! Here's a few great images of the game in action.


picture by Gary James


picture by Sneaker


picture by Fernando Lopez

Variant rules

For most people the basic rules will be the preferred method of play, but there are two alternative variant rules that come with the game: The Pursuit, and The Trash Variation.



Of these, the Trash Variation might especially have appeal, because with this variation if you can knock an opponent's car off the track. If both cars slide off the track, they are both returned to their starting position, as with the basic rules. But you manage to knock your opponent's car off the track and have your own car stay on the track, the opponent's car goes back to where yours started from and yours remains where it ended up! With this variation, any cars that turn upside down remain where they are, but turn over without flicking on their next turn.

Expansions

There are currently four expansions for PitchCar, and these can take the game to a whole new level - literally!



And jumps!



For more information about the expansions, see:
PitchCar Extension
PitchCar Extension 2
PitchCar Special Long Straights
PitchCar: Stunt Race

There's also a smaller version of the game:
PitchCar Mini



What do I think?

One of the strengths of PitchCar is that it's appealing for both gamers and non-gamers of all ages!



What do I like about PitchCar?
High fun factor: features the thrills, spills, and tension of a genuine race game.
Broad appeal: both gamers and non-gamers, and a variety of ages will love this game
Play-time: it plays quickly, and you can finish an entire game in 15 minutes.
Scalability: handles 1-8 players, so you can challenge yourself, or play with a large group of up to 8 players.
Rewards skill: it's pure dexterity, and you can improve your level of play with experience
Visually attractive: the track and cars looks great on a table.
Quality components: the wooden tracks are solid and durable.
Replayable: partly because of the different configurations of track, and because every race is different.
Expandable: there are some terrific expansions available if you want to go beyond the base game and build wild and wacky or bigger tracks.
Unique: it is different from so many other games.

Are there any downsides? Well it's not cheap, it's not very portable, and it can take a bit of tweaking to get a smooth track. But these are more than outweighed by the positives. Few other games offer as much fun, as you see captured in this picture: What a shot!



What do others think?

As far as dexterity games go, PitchCar is at the top of the list along with Crokinole, and there are a couple of pages of "10" ratings from enthusiasts of the game. Here are just a few representative comments to give you an idea what other fans are saying about it:

"I have a new found love for racing games. Well worth the money." - S. Copeland
"Great game! Fun and exciting -- hooting...hollering...love it. Loses only one point due to set up / take down time. Otherwise perfect game for its genre." - Brian Beyor
"This may be the world's best party game." - Christian Killoran
"No deep thinking required, no AP, no tabletalk -- just drink your beer and flick, and it doesn't stop being fun." - Paul Imboden
"This dexterity race game brings all to the game table, including my mother-in-law who claims to hate games." - Jason Spears
"The tag is a bit pricy, but PitchCar has returned that investment many times over in the quality of play and the great gaming experience. My gaming group always clamors for more! It's hard to find a better game in this manual dexterity/flicking niche." - Jason Little
"How could someone not like this? Very simple and a lot of fun. This is the only short game I've ever played repeatedly all night long without playing anything else." - Twinge
"Fantastic game to play with four brothers. Seeing five grown men yell and jump and cry with each flick...amazing." - Jordan Easley
"Playing PitchCar is like being a kid again. For adults, it's 20-30 minutes of smack talk, swearing, flicking, missing, and making amazing shots. It is an absolute blast to play." - Martin Ralya
"Get this one out and your party will be remembered forever!" - Mark Rollings
"An absolute blast to play. An incredible 'wow' factor. Always a fun time." - Nate Felger
"This is the closest thing to the perfect game I think I've ever seen. Simple mechanics, non-stop fun, a level of skill required but fun even without skill, non-gamers and gamers alike enjoy it, balanced with any age player." - Robert Farthing




Recommendation

What more could you want in a dexterity game? Any complaints about PitchCar are minor, so if you can afford the price tag, this is well worth picking up!



My other PitchCar reviews:
Expansion #1: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/452141
Expansion #4: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/520045

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The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
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James Avison
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Excellent review as always!

Have you tried Pitchcar Mini, and if so, do you have any opinions regarding that version?
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Vangelis Bagiartakis
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Once again, a very nice and detailed review! thumbsup

Just one comment:

EndersGame wrote:
Are there any downsides? Well it's not cheap, it's not very portable, and it can take a bit of tweaking to get a smooth track.

If you try PitchCar Mini you'll see that it is very portable. I used to put both the main game and the first expansion in a small backpack with no problem, so the game can be carried almost everywhere. Also, since it is smaller, it doesn't take a lot of space to set it up and can easily fit in a small/medium table.

The game, whether the normal one or the mini, is amazing. Very fun, very easy to play and very addictive!

Give it a try. You won't regret it!
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Markus
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So this is my new overtext ? Hmmm...
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Awesome review ! If it wasn't on my wishlist already, now it would thumbsup
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Ian McCarthy
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Aristophan wrote:
Excellent review as always!

Have you tried Pitchcar Mini, and if so, do you have any opinions regarding that version?


I've played both versions quite a bit and own the mini version, a decision that I came to after realizing that all the tables that I play on, except the one at game night, where the original game is, are really too small for any decent-sized tracks.

The mini set is comparable in quality, but does have quite a different feel, mainly due to the smallness and lightness of the cars. An adult can flick a mini car across the room with ease, so more care is needed and it always feels a bit restrained. I still love the experience, though, and think it compares really favorably to the original.

I can answer any more specific questions you might have.

Also, thanks for the detailed review. I think a few other points are worth mentioning regarding the game.

Firstly, it isn't just that the rails will sometimes pop out in the course of a race, it's also that they can be a pain in the butt to install before every race. That process can increase the setup time considerably.

Also, sometimes the rails are not so easy to squeeze into the rail slot and a vigourous teenager or child could damage the track piece trying to get them in forcefully. This actually happened, as I let a younger person "help" me set up the game. Some wood glue solved the issue.

The option of gluing the rails in can seem very appealing after several sessions of set up and take down. Personally, I just pack the track pieces away with the rails still installed. They seem tight enough without glue and I haven't had problems in-game either. What this means is that the game will set up a lot faster, but won't fit properly back into the original boxes and takes up considerably more space on the shelf. With the mini version, this isn't too bad, but I could see that being more of an issue with the original.

Secondly, the rules as written are really just fine. However, after many plays, I have found that it can be difficult, with six or more players, for everyone to keep track of the turn order. It seems simple to just remember who goes before you and remind the person who goes after you, but, in practice, some folks forget or get confused or just aren't paying perfect attention and we have resorted to having a sheet of paper and a designated turn caller. We have also lined up in order, but that gets silly as certain cars get far ahead.

A fair solution to this has been to have the turn order reflect the current position in the race, i.e. first always goes first. This also eliminates the problem of blocking that always comes up in the game, which is particularly silly if the car in the blocking position keeps missing his shots and getting returned to the track right in front of your car.

Additionally, we use the rule that Tom Vasel mentioned in his video review, which is that cars sliding off the track and or pushing other cars off the track do not get returned directly to the track, potentially acting as a blocker, but get placed off to the side of the track, where the original shot was taken. They get to place their car on the track and take a normal turn when it comes around again. This prevents the aforementioned blocking problems and makes for a much smoother race.

Thanks again for the review.
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The Compulsive Completist
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Great review. I wish it had been up before I had bought. No regrets about buying but it still would have been helpful before.

I have gotten passed my biggest complaint (cost) since my bank account has recovered and my only problem now is warping issues. The long straights are almost impossible to use and my base PitchCar set has a couple warping issues.

The rails popping are still there but really a non-issue.
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Edin Cahtarevic
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I like your reviews, but this one is fantastic. I appreciate your passion and time spent to show us "big" games, but when I see the same passion when it comes to "small" games...
You deserve more golden microbadges.
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Your reviews make me want stuff...(no emoticon to express my emotion)
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Raiko Puust
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Raiko & Agnes Forever! Feel the Love and Feel the Warmth. Happiness is 2 hugs plus 3 kisses every hour...:D (http://mrboardgames.wordpress.com/)
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Addicted Estonian gamer with big heart and direct winning attitude. Need any help with something, just ask. Need some GG for something, just ask. Need something to be translated, just ask. Meanwhile, behave! :D (http://mrboardgames.wordpress.com/)
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Where's the review???
Few sentences actually only as a review...

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