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Introducing Pocket Cricket

Cricket is one of the world's most popular team sports, and enjoys an avid following in cricket playing nations like England, Australia, South Africa, and elsewhere. In countries like India, it is the equivalent of a national religion, and is closely followed by millions of people. Aside from soccer, cricket is the most popular sport in the world, ahead of sports like golf, baseball, basketball, golf, and football, with an estimated 2.5 billion fans worldwide (if you're not convinced, see these links: #1, #2, #3). Cricket enjoys a long and rich history in its traditional form, Test Match cricket, but this version of the game also requires a strong measure of endurance, since it takes five days to play - and even after all that it can still end in a draw!
A game that requires that level of patience and persistence and can still end without a result is always going to be the subject of a certain amount of mockery, so it's no surprise that cricket has its share of critics as a sport. It's honour isn't exactly helped by the fact that most people from non-cricket playing nations have no clue how the game actually works.

However recent years have witnessed significant evolution in cricket, with shorter forms of the game like One Day Cricket (ODIs) becoming well-established fixtures in the international calendar. But the modern form of the game really achieved new heights of popularity with the advent of Twenty20 Cricket little more than a decade ago. Twenty20 Cricket was a professional format that made an entire game of cricket playable in around 3 hours. It's the sporting equivalent of taking the best bits of an epic board game like Civilization, which usually takes hours to play, and compressing it into a dice game that plays in only 20 minutes. This new format has been a huge success, and stadiums are packed to watch Twenty20 games, which are usually thrilling and entertaining. Earlier this year, in March and April, the 2014 ICC World Twenty20 competition was held, with Sri Lanka winning the title. The Indian Premier League is currently in progress through to early June, with many of cricket's biggest names starring in a highly televised and very popular competition.

Like most sports, cricket has also made the transition to board games, with titles like Test Match (1960) from Crown & Andrews enjoying fairly good success. With Pocket Cricket, Hamish Sterling and Paul McLellan have come up with a dice version of cricket. It's even been picked up by Cricket Australia and is marketed as one of their official products, so that gives this game some credibility and respectibility. Pocket Cricket is part of the PocketSports series of games, which includes dice games corresponding to other sports like golf, football, soccer, and more. But Pocket Cricket is the original game that started it all in 2010. It's a very light and quick dice game, that - much like the Twenty20 version of the real sport - promises a quick light fix of the game. The publisher has sold over 15,000 units of the game already, and it also won the Tropical Innovation People's Choice Award in 2012. So this is clearly a game that is making some kind of mark, and deserves a closer look. So let's show you what you get, tell you how it works, and what I think.


Designer Hamish Sterling with the dice from Pocket Cricket

COMPONENTS

Storage bag

Pocket Cricket is an Australia Cricket endorsed product, and comes in a small cloth drawstring bag that fits easily in the palm of your hand. It's eminently portable and attractive, and does the job well. In addition to the regular version of the game, a special Ashes 2013-14 edition was made, to commemorate the recent Ashes series of Test matches between Australia and England. Aside from having different cloth storage bags, the games are otherwise identical, with the exception of an optional additional rule introduced in the Ashes edition to reflect Test matches.



Component list

What you get inside is very simple:
● six custom dice
● instructions

The basic idea is that the batting team uses three dice to attempt to play a conservative shot, an aggressive shot, and determine how many runs they score; while the bowling team uses three dice to bowl, to field (e.g. run-outs, catches), and to get an umpire's decision on whether a wicket is taken.



Bowling dice

Three dice are used by the bowling team as follows:
Red = Bowling (Fast Ball, Spin, Bouncer, Swing Ball, No Ball, Clean Bowled)
Green = Fielding (Through the Gap, Over the Top, Dropped Catch, Classic Catch, Fielded, Shot at Stumps)
White = Umpire (Not Out, Not Out, LBW, Caught & Bowled, Run Out, Caught)



Batting Dice

Three dice are used by the batting team as follows:
Yellow = Conservative batting (Hook Shot, Pull Shot, Cut Shot, Cover Drive, Dot Ball, Howzat?)
Blue = Aggressive batting (4 Runs, Super Shot 4, Big Hit 6, In the Air?, Outside Edge, Howzat?)
Black = Scoring runs (1,1,2,2,3,3)



Instructions

A double-sided sheet of instructions is provided, which can be downloaded from the publisher here:

Colour rules ver. 1.5



The rules for the Ashes edition are identical, with the exception of a small addition that we'll explain later.

GAME-PLAY

Scoring

Players can choose to play as a solitaire game, or with two or more players, and it is certainly more fun playing with someone else. As with a basic game of real life cricket, each team will bat once until they lose ten wickets, and the team with the highest score is the winner. You can download a printable scorecard from the publisher here, and the realism and enjoyment of your game is inevitably enhanced if you give your players names of famous players. Bring on Dale Steyn, and bring on Glenn Maxwell!



Dice are rolled by the bowling and batting teams as follows, with the fielding team rolling the red die first:

Bowling

Red die rolled by bowling team

Clean Bowled indicates a wicket, and the batsman is out.

No Ball means the batsman can't get out (except run-out), plus the batting team gets an extra run and a "free hit", just like in real cricket.

Fast Ball / Spin / Bouncer / Swing Ball all mean the batsman must swing at the ball by rolling the yellow or blue die.

After the bowling die is bowled, the batting team bowls either the yellow or blue die, and the fielding team will come into action depending on the outcome, as shown below.

Batting and Fielding

Yellow die (conservative) or Blue die (aggressive) rolled by batting team

Dot Ball means no runs are scored.

Hook Shot / Pull Shot / Cut Shot / Cover Drive are all followed by the batting team rolling the black die to determine the number of runs scored (1/2/3).

Howzat? or Howzat? means there's an appeal, and is followed by the bowling team rolling the white die (umpire) to determine if a wicket has been taken:
- Not Out means the batsman survives.
- LBW / Caught & Bowled / Run Out / Caught means the batsman is out, and another wicket has fallen.

4 Runs / Super Shot 4 / Big Hit 6 means a boundary (four runs) or maximum (six runs) have been scored.

In the Air? / Outside Edge means that there's a fielding chance, and is followed by the bowling team rolling the green die (fielding) to determine what happens next:
- Through the Gap / Over the Top / Dropped Catch are followed by the batting team rolling the black die to determine the number of runs scored (1/2/3).
- Fielded means there is no run.
- Classic Catch means the batsman is out, and another wicket has fallen.
- Shot at Stumps means there's a run-out chance, and the white die is rolled to see if a wicket is taken with Run Out, if not then the black die is rolled to score more runs (1/2/3).

As you can see, the yellow die is a more conservative option for batting, with only a 1 in 6 chance of creating a wicket chance. In contrast the blue die is a more risky option, with a higher chance of getting out as a result of a shot in the air or an outside edge, but also creates a potential opportunity for scoring more runs.



In practice, here's how a delivery might work: The bowler rolls the red die and it's a Bouncer from Dale Steyn. The batsman is Glenn Maxwell and he's feeling aggressive, so he decides to roll the blue die and go for it. But he doesn't hit it cleanly, because it's an Outside Edge. The ball is in the air and heading to the slip cordon, will it be a catch? The bowler rolls the green die, and Maxwell's fans cheer, because it's Through the Gap. The batsman rolls the black die to determine how many runs result, and they get 2 runs! Dale Steyn heads back to his mark, and prepares for the next delivery of his over.

Test Match rules

The Ashes edition includes optional Test Match rules. This just gives the option of playing a longer version of the game with two innings. Also, it adds optional rules for a Decision Review System (DRS), like that used in real Test Matches. This gives each team the possibility of challenging an OUT decision, with up to 2 unsuccessful challenges. You can certainly play with these rules regardless of which edition of the game you have:

Batting side: A "Clean Bowled" decision can be overturned by rolling "No Ball" on the red die; a "LBW / Caught / Caught & Bowled / Run Out" decision can be turned by rolling "Not Out" on the white (umpire) die.
Bowling side: A "Not Out" decision after a "Howzat?" can be overturned by nominating one of the four options of dismissal on the white umpire die (e.g. LBW) and rolling the named form of dismissal.



House rules

Because of the nature of the game, there's certainly scope for adopting your own house rules with Pocket Cricket. For example, we adapted the "no ball" rule to incorporate a "free hit" on the following ball as well, just as happens in ODIs and Twenty20 games. In correspondence with the designer, he's mentioned some other good suggestions that some people play with, such as not counting "Clean Bowled" as a wicket unless it is bowled in consecutive deliveries. Others prohibit the lower order batsmen from using the aggressive blue die. Certainly you can easily customize your game playing experience in simple ways like these in order to tailor it to your own tastes, or to add additional elements that enhance the theme.


The designer playing at an abandoned Japanese bunker

CONCLUSIONS

What do I think?

It's portable. Firstly, I love the packaging of the game. The small bag looks great, and is easy to carry around in your pocket, and even take to an actual cricket game or to a restaurant, where you can whip it out for a quick game with friends in a social setting. The size of the game makes it clear that the game doesn't pretend to be anything more than it is: a simple and fun dice game. Some of my dice appeared to be slightly oddly shaped and not consistent in size, and I am concerned that this is affecting the outcomes that are rolled. Aside from that the components look great.

It's geared to cricket fans. I suppose that a non cricket fan might still be able to play the game, but if you're going to play and enjoy Pocket Cricket, you really do need to understand how cricket works, and enjoy the actual sport to begin with. Pocket Cricket is intended to recreate something of the feel of a game, so if that doesn't interest you at all, there's likely not going to be enough "game" here to keep you amused. On the other hand, those who love cricket will really appreciate the fact that this game captures something of the atmosphere and excitement of the sport.

It's not a simulation. Don't be expecting a completely realistic outcome when playing. For one thing, the way wickets are determined means that there's a much higher chance of being bowled out (17% per delivery) than any other form of dismissal. Expect a similar percentage of your deliveries to be no balls, which isn't that realistic. And your tailenders have a chance to score just as many runs as your opening batsmen. Does this matter? Not really; just be aware of this going in.

It's very luck based. This isn't necessarily a criticism, but you do need to know going in that Pocket Cricket doesn't ask you to make many decisions. The only real choice is whether to bat conservatively or aggressively, but you could argue that a smart player with a basic knowledge of probability would never even use the yellow die. I haven't done a detailed calculation of the probability, but it seems to me that statistically the chances of losing a wicket when using the `aggressive' blue die aren't significantly higher than with the `defensive' yellow die. Especially considering that there's a 1 in 6 chance of getting bowled out to begin with, using the blue die seems to be the more obvious choice in a quest for runs, since this will typically yield more runs per wicket on average than the yellow die. The DRS gives players some more choices and adds some more tension but for the most part you just do what the dice tell you.

It creates a cricket feel. The luck element doesn't in itself mean Pocket Cricket is a waste of time. As with most sports games, most of the appeal is the sport itself, and the tension of the action. Most people who buy this game are going to be fans of cricket, rather than fans of gaming, and so for them the most important thing this game needs to do is satisfy their love for the game, and tap into that. Pocket Cricket brings enough of that action onto the table, that as a cricket fan we can be drawn into the narrative of what's happening, without needing to have too much control over the outcome. Just read through Sime Mardesic's excellent session report to see what I mean! The game becomes a sandbox for us to add our own players, story, and narrative of the action, and having a range of dice that reflect different aspects of the game really helps with this. Somehow it seems more exciting when you've got Chris Gayle swinging aggressively to a Muralitharan spin delivery!

It's fun. I recently played several sports dice games in the Sport Teasers series (e.g. Baseball, Football, Soccer, Basketball, Tennis, Bowling), and the key element that made some of those games work for me and not others wasn't whether or not they were luck-based, but whether they recreated the feel of the sport. That's what made them fun, and that's what Pocket Cricket does too. Yes, you are just rolling dice and you're more of a spectator than a participant; but it's fun because you're doing cricket, and the ebb and flow of the sport itself is what keeps you entertained! Just look at those who have favourable memories of Owzat (which is even more luck based and has less theme) to see the potential for this game to succeed. After all, there must be a reason why Pocket Cricket has already sold 15,000 copies. There's especially moments of tension and excitement when you have to roll to see the outcome after hitting an edge, or an appeal, or a review; or when your bowler gets a hat-trick, or when your batsman scores successive sixes. The high luck factor certainly hasn't prevented my children from really enjoying Pocket Cricket and having a lot of fun with it.

It's quick. Most innings only last between 5-8 overs, and typically you'll find your team scoring between 60 and 100 runs. Our highest team score so far was close to 140, although having a couple of favourable DRS decisions go the way of the batsmen definitely helped. Don't be surprised to see some of your batsmen get out for a duck, while others may even get close to a half century - our top score so far is 49. But the net result is that the game doesn't overstay it's welcome, and ripping through an innings each can be done quite quickly, and the short length feels right given the light-weight nature of the game.

It improves on existing cricket dice games. There certainly are more complicated and strategic cricket board games on the market, and Pocket Cricket has no intentions of competing with these, so it's not entirely fair to compare it with them. But when compared with a couple of older simple cricket dice games that fill the same niche, Pocket Cricket does improve on the formula used in games like Owzat and Cricket Dice. I'll share a more detailed comparison with these games below.

It has further potential. While Pocket Cricket is superior to both of the aforementioned games, it has potential to be even better. Certainly you can come up with house-rules to make the experience even more rich, if you wanted to. But it seems as if the design could have been even better with the addition of another one or two dice to give some more variety in bowling/batting, or with some tweaked rules to make the frequency of being bowled or no-balled slightly more realistic, and to ensure that the risk/reward factors of conservative vs aggressive batting were more statistically balanced.

The rules formatting needs polish. One criticism I have of the game is in the rules department. Someone unfamiliar with cricket isn't the target market for this game, but even cricket fans may find themselves raising an eyebrow or two at the rules. They're very straight forward, so you shouldn't have too much trouble figuring out how to play the game. However the formatting isn't as clear as it should have been, and stylistically they are somewhat messy and almost disorganized; certainly a clearer presentation would improve on things. They also use abbreviated forms of what appears on the dice e.g. "Shot @ Stumps" instead of "Shot at Stumps" and "Thru the gap" instead of "Through the Gap", and this just makes the instructions seem amateurish and unpolished. Again, not a major criticism, but just a nit-pick.



How does it compare with other cricket games?

There's a lot of other cricket games out there, so the obvious question that cricket fans will want to know is how Pocket Cricket compares with other games. For an extensive list of cricket games, see this geeklist. You can also check out replaycricket.com, which is a cricket fan's attempt to archive information about a range of cricket games. Given the rich history of cricket, it won't surprise you to learn that some cricket games date back to the early 1900s. There are cricket games that offer a tactile and dexterity experience (e.g. the classic Test Match by Crown & Andrews from 1960), whereas others rely on cards (e.g. the popular Armchair Cricket from 1981) or on dice. Some games lean more towards the side of simulation (e.g. the excellent International Cricket from 1985, and Wicketz from 1989), while relying on statistics or dice rolling, whereas others lean more towards the side of game, relying more on a fun experience that isn't always cricket-like.

Pocket Cricket is one of several attempts to create a cricket-like experience using dice, and definitely leans to the side of being a lighter, more luck-dependent game, that sets out to be quick and easy, without taking things too seriously, and yet still retains enough theme to be fun to play. Occupying the same niche are two similar dice games, both of which were somewhat the inspiration behind Pocket Cricket, so let's see how Pocket Cricket holds up to its predecessors.

Owzthat

Firstly there's the very simple Owzthat, which comes with just two dice, one for runs and a `owzthat' appeal, and the other which determines if an appeal results in a batter getting out. It's completely luck based, but despite that many people have good memories of playing it in their childhood. Versions of it using pencils have existed for over a century, and in one place I read that the "Pencil Cricket" version has been played since the 1800s.



Perhaps the nostalgia factor accounts for some of its appeal. But despite the game's low ratings in view of the absence of decisions, you will find positive comments like these:

"A terrific game for rainy afternoons." - Steve Pratt
"No more a game than Snakes and Ladders or LCR, but still a wonderful way to spend a rainy afternoon..I have exercise books full of matches, tournaments, even round robin leagues." - Stuart Faulds
"Played endlessly on hot summer days as a child." - Steve Ramsden
"A brilliant way to stem any boredom as a child." - Ian Wakeham
"A roller game from my youth. Still find it enjoyable to play some 40 years later. " - Andy P
"I had many a happy hour playing this at school during rainy playtimes and dinners." - David Seddon

As Luke Morris demonstrates here, it can still be enormous fun, and much the same could be said about Pocket Cricket.

Cricket Dice

Then there's Cricket Dice, published in England by Dice & Games Limited, and part of their Sports Dice series, which also includes golf, soccer, cricket, or snooker. It comes with five coloured dice, a red die for bowling, a black die for batting, a blue die for scoring, a green die for appeals, and a yellow die for play conditions.



Cricket Dice almost certainly was the biggest inspiration behind Pocket Cricket. But while Pocket Cricket adds a small amount of decision making, Cricket Dice was entirely luck based, and this is one of the reasons most people didn't care for it. The yellow die which determined playing conditions was considered by many to be a weakness, and the game was often played without it; the remaining four dice give less narrative than Pocket Cricket, which uses six dice.

Pocket Cricket

One advantage of Pocket Cricket in comparison with the above two games is that it's readily available at a relatively low cost, thus making it an attractive option for many cricket fans. Moreover, unlike the above two games which partially inspired it, it's not entirely devoid of all decision making, even if your choices are still fairly minimal. But perhaps more importantly, it adds extra colour to the commentary of what is happening, giving the game some welcome flavour and theme. It's still no cricket simulation, nor is it a dexterity experience, so if you're looking for a cricket game that offers those things, or even tactical or strategic choices, you'll have to look elsewhere. But it does compare favourably with the other cricket dice games that have preceded it, and improves on them.


Hamish Sterling with the People's Choice award won by Pocket Cricket

Recommendation

So is Pocket Cricket for you? You'll need to be a cricket fan to enjoy a game like this, but if you're in that niche, and are looking for a simple, quick, casual, and largely luck-driven game that recreates some of the feel of a cricket game, then definitely consider picking this up. After all, there must be a good reason why it's sold 15,000 units so far.

If you're looking for a cricket game that requires dexterity or deeper decisions, you'll have to look elsewhere. Pocket Cricket doesn't pretend to be anything other than a light luck-based dice game offering us a taste of cricket in a bag. But that's exactly what it delivers, and so it does a good job of accomplishing exactly what it sets out to do!

Availability: Pocket Cricket is available for around $10.00 from the publisher (plus shipping), the Cricket Australia store, and many other places online.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

For my reviews on other dice games in the PocketSports series, see the following:

Pocket Cricket: A fun light dice game for cricket fans
Pocket Football: A fun light dice game for soccer fans
Pocket Basketball: A fun light dice game for basketball fans
Pocket Golf: A fun light dice game for golf fans
Pocket Rugby League: A fun light dice game for rugby fans
Pocket Footy: A fun light dice game for Australian rules football fans

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mb The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596

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Bob Hansen
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Thanks for this review. After working with people from India for the past few years I have come to start watching the IPL and learning about cricket. I actually prefer it to baseball now. I still have not gotten into the longer test matches, preferring T20 and ODL play.
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Thumbs up and GeekGold to you Bob, for being a North American who actually understands how cricket works!
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kixdsky wrote:
Thanks for this review. After working with people from India for the past few years I have come to start watching the IPL and learning about cricket. I actually prefer it to baseball now. I still have not gotten into the longer test matches, preferring T20 and ODL play.


test matches are great. seriously
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Bob Hansen
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grafpoo wrote:
kixdsky wrote:
Thanks for this review. After working with people from India for the past few years I have come to start watching the IPL and learning about cricket. I actually prefer it to baseball now. I still have not gotten into the longer test matches, preferring T20 and ODL play.


test matches are great. seriously

I got a little taste of them this year watching the Ashes. I am still an American that is conditioned to like a quick outcome to his matches
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john guthrie
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kixdsky wrote:
grafpoo wrote:
kixdsky wrote:
Thanks for this review. After working with people from India for the past few years I have come to start watching the IPL and learning about cricket. I actually prefer it to baseball now. I still have not gotten into the longer test matches, preferring T20 and ODL play.


test matches are great. seriously

I got a little taste of them this year watching the Ashes. I am still an American that is conditioned to like a quick outcome to his matches ;)


i lived near leeds for a few years and got to go see a couple of test matches at headingley. they sold these nice little jugs of beer and you'd just sit there and get potted and enjoy the day, very much fun.

nowadays i mostly just listen to them on the BBC internet radio thing
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The tagline should be "All the best of cricket without taking 3 days to play it."

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Hey - Hamish here from Pocket Cricket

Nice review and all points taken on board. Pocket Cricket has been our little flagship and we do have plans to overhaul the dice in the 15/16 season when our current Cricket Australia contract is up....

Can't reveal too much at this stage but new bowling dice are on the cards and perhaps another 'League' with team colours.

If I only have one criticism is the silly faces I seem to have in every photo.....I'll blame the journalists and few glasses of wine

PS - We've just released Pocket Rugby & Pocket Basketball too!

Thanks everyone for their support of our independently published games
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krechevskoy wrote:
The tagline should be "All the best of cricket without taking 3 days to play it."



the best of cricket is that it takes 5 days to play it. test cricket is the classic, the 8 course meal, the intellectual novel, the 5 season boxed set, the £10 beer that takes over an hour to drink instead of 15 minutes. other forms of cricket are the junk food, the reality tv, the magazine about celebrities, the fizzy lager. i do enjoy 20twenty, but oh boy, test matches - nothing else remotely like that in sports.
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Super review of the game - thanks for posting!

A couple of house rules I've introduced was the "Clean Bowled" - only confirmed when the umpire die rolls LBW immediately after thus showing the ball was on the stumps; and the "No Ball" - only confirmed when the umpire die rolls "Run Out" immediately after thus showing that the foot was on the wrong side of the crease.
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Hamigua wrote:
PS - We've just released Pocket Rugby & Pocket Basketball too!

These are great too! I've posted reviews for the first edition of both of these titles here:

mb Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: A fun light dice game for rugby fans
mb Ender's Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: A fun light dice game for basketball fans

 
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