Introducing Pocket Basketball




Hamish Sterling started his series of PocketSports dice games in 2011 with Pocket Cricket. Since then he's added several other titles to this line-up of sports themed games, with Pocket Footy (Aussie rules football), Pocket Football (soccer), and Pocket Golf, all published last year. The latest two sports to join this distinguished company are rugby and basketball, with Pocket Rugby League being released in May 2014, at the same time as its newest companion Pocket Basketball.

While the games of this series are small and also quite luck-based, they also have some real strengths: they're extremely portable, inexpensive, and easy to play. But perhaps most importantly, they function somewhat like mini-simulations, and they generate a great deal of the flavour and theme of the sports that they are intended to portray.

So does the latest addition to this series live up to the standard of its older siblings? Basketball is certainly a very popular sport in many parts of the world, so undoubtedly a game like this has the potential to have a wide appeal. Let's show you what you get with Pocket Basketball, tell you how it works, and what I think.



COMPONENTS

Storage bag

The cloth drawstring bag that houses Pocket Basketball is typical of all the games in the PocketSports series. In this case the orange makes for an appropriate colour, given the subject material of the game, because it brings to mind the typical orange of a basketball. The small size helps the game be transported easily in your pocket or the palm of your hand. Essentially all the bag needs to do is house the dice and instructions, which make up the entirety of the game.



Component list

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



Court position dice

Pocket Basketball comes with eight dice, all in different colours. They're made out of some kind of sturdy plastic, with the lettering laser engraved in the dice, so they should prove durable. Five of these dice represent the five players on your team: a Point Guard (PG), Shooting Guard (SG), Center (C), Small Forward (SF), and Power Forward (PF). When one of those players has possession your roll the corresponding die.

Red = Point Guard (PG): Dribble, Pass SG, Pass SF, Pass PF, Pass C, Lay up 2
Orange = Shooting Guard (SG): Dribble, Pass, Jump shot 2, Pump fake 3, Down town 3, Open 3
Yellow = Center (C): Dribble, Pass/Tip in, Hook Shot 2, Set shot 2, Off the glass 2, Dunk 2
Green = Small Forward (SF): Dribble, Pass/Rebound, Jump shot 2, In the paint 2, Outside 3, Fade Away 2
Blue = Power Forward (PF): Dribble, Pass, Jump shot 2, Pivot 2, Jam 2 , Ally oop



Other dice

Three other dice are used to determine the outcome of aspects of the game relating to shooting and refereeing:

Brown = Defense (D): Draw, Open (2x), Cover, Dbl team, FOUL!
Black = Scoring: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
White = Referee: Personal Foul, Flagrant Foul, Charge, Travel, Dbl dribble, Ball Up



Instructions

A double-sided sheet of instructions is provided:



GAME-PLAY

Let's head to the basketball court with our dice and get playing!



Flow of Play

The game starts with both players rolling the Shooting die, and the highest roll wins the tip off and starts with possession. Five dice represent five different players on the court: Point Guard (PG), Shooting Guard (SG), Center (C), Small Forward (SF), and Power Forward (PF). These will pass the ball to each other until a scoring chance arises.



At the start of the game and after any basket or turnover, your Point Guard (PG) always begins rolling first. When rolling these dice, one of three options will result, either a dribble, pass, or shot:

Dribbling: When rolling a "Dribble", you need to re-roll that die. Three Dribbles in a row means you've timed out the shot clock and your opponent gets possession. Whenever you roll a Dribble, your opponent can attempt to roll a 5 or 6 with the Scoring die in order to Steal.

Passing: When rolling a "Pass", you can pass to any other player and roll that die next. The exception is the Point Guard (PG), whose die prescribes which player you pass to.

Shooting: When rolling a particular shot, you are attempting to score; your opponent will have a chance to defend and block your shot, and that's where the other three dice come in, as we'll explain in more detail below.



Shooting

● Open shot

A shot with a star counts as an special move or uncontested shot, and results in an automatic basket, with no opportunity given to the opponent to defend.



● Defended shot

On any other attempt to shoot, your opponent has a chance to defend by rolling the brown Defense die. You'll now need to roll the black Scoring die to successfully make the basket, with the required result dependent on what he rolled in Defense as follows:
Double Team: 6
Cover: 5 or higher
Draw: 4 or higher
Open: 2 or higher.
Rolling a Foul on the Defense die instead requires rolling the white Referee die next, which is explained further below. Draw also means you've drawn a foul while shooting; if you made the shot anyway, you get one free throw, otherwise you get 2 or 3 free throws.

To illustrate how shooting works, let's say our Small Forward rolls "Jump Shot 2" for two points. If our opponent rolls "Cover" on the Defense die, we need to roll 5 or higher on the Scoring die to make the shot, otherwise we miss, and our opponent gets the rebound and continues play with his Point Guard.



Other Plays

● Fouls

If the player on Defense rolls a Foul when attempting to block a shot, you roll the white Referee die, which has the following results:
Ball Up: Both players roll the scoring die with the highest roll taking possession.
Offensive fouls: Travel, Double Dribble and Charge mean that the offense turns over the ball to the opponent's Point Guard
Defensive fouls: A Personal Foul leads to a restart with the offense's Point Guard; a Flagrant Foul gives the offense two free throws and then possession.

● Free Throws

To make a free throw, you need to roll 4 or higher with the Scoring die. You'll be attempting free throws in one of two situations:
Drawn foul: The defense drew a foul while you were attempting the basket ("Draw" on the Defense die). In this case you get one free throw if you made the shot, otherwise 2 or 3 free throws if you didn't.
Flagrant foul: The defence made a flagrant foul before you could attempt the basket ("Flagrant Foul" on the Referee die). In this case you get two free throws, and then possession starting with your Point Guard.

● Secondary Moves

The Center and Small Forward both have a special ability that can be used after they pass and if the receiving player immediately takes a shot as the next action and misses:
Tip In (Centre): After your Centre rolls "Pass/tip in" and his teammate misses the shot, you can immediately re-roll the Scoring die to attempt to "tip in" by rolling the required defense level.
Rebound (Small Forward): After your Small Forward rolls "Pass/rebound" and his teammate misses the shot, you can immediately re-roll the Small Forward die to indicate that you got the rebound.



CONCLUSIONS

What do I think?

From player to player: In many ways Pocket Basketball really generates the feel of the sport itself, and one of the ways the game achieves this is the manner in which the ball moves from player to player. Unlike some of the other sports in the PocketSports series, like soccer and Australian rules footy, the sense of player position isn't quite as pronounced, because players won't be passing as often as they do in those games, and will usually be taking more shots individually. But in most cases your Point Guard is going to pass to another player, and this sense of moving the ball between players helps capture something of what happens in real basketball.

From one side of the court to the other: Having played quite a few games of Pocket Football and Pocket Footy, one of the immediate differences one notices with Pocket Basketball is how there's a real sense of up and down action, as possession changes often, and players trade shots and points. Just like the real game, the ball seems to go from one side of the court to the other, as players in turns attempt to score baskets. Not only does this keep the game engaging, but it evokes a sense of rushing from side to side, and you almost feel like a spectator first looking at a dunk on one end of the court, then a jump shot attempt on the other, then a fade away on the first player's side again, and a big rebound on the other. It really does create something of the back and forth action of real basketball in that sense, and the players who I showed this game to were all impressed by this. There are unexpected surprises, sudden turns, as the ball often changes possession, and as points are scored quickly or not; it really does evoke a great sense of basketball atmosphere that I really appreciated!

It's hit the rim! I also really like how the shooting feels varied. First of all the game adds thematic flavour by naming different shots, e.g. pump fake, jump shot, fade away, hook shot, etc. But even more importantly than this thematic paint, is the way this theme has been applied to the mechanics. On some occasions you're seeing defensive blocks, and both players are rolling a die to see whether the shot makes the basket or not. In these situation, you have the sense of the ball heading towards the basket or bouncing off the rim and the world is holding its breath to see whether or not it drops in. On other occasions you're doing an authoritative and uncontested special move; there's no uncertainty at all about the outcome, with the defense having no opportunity to prevent the points - this feels just like a big dunk or swished three pointer does in the real world. And yet in other instances you find yourself rolling a 1 and missing an easy open shot, or rolling a 6 hitting a tough shot when you're double teamed, and these swings of fortune feel as frustrating or rewarding as they do in the sport itself. It's thematic and suspenseful - just like the real thing.

Interaction: Most of the other team sports in the PocketSports series, like soccer and football, require one player to keep rolling dice until there's a turnover. The nice thing about Pocket Basketball (and to some degree also Pocket Rugby League) is that it changes this formula, by requiring the player on defense to roll whenever an attempted shot is being taken, which modifies the requirement needed by the offense's scoring roll. This really helps keep both players in the game throughout, and adds some welcome interaction and tension. You also have opportunity to steal by rolling a 5 or 6 if your opponent dribbles. These mechanics are very well implemented, and not only make the game more thematic but also more fun to play.

Components: I love the choice of orange for the bag, and of course the dice look great. Sadly the spelling errors that have riddled some of the instructions in other PocketSports games are also found here (e.g. "Scroiing die"), the most regrettable one being the unfortunate spelling "Ally oop" on one of the dice instead of the correct "Alley oop". One would think a simple spell checker should have picked up these kinds of errors, and such obvious mistakes could have been easily avoided. The capitalization and wording on the dice isn't always consistent either, for example most of the dice have "Jump shot 2", but one somewhat inexplicably is "Jump shot 2pts". In contrast "Ally oop" has no point value at all. And there are also instances in this game and a couple of other PocketSports titles where the engraved lettering has no colour (e.g. the letter "d" in ""Rebound"). But these are minor blemishes that can be attributed to the game being created by a one-man operation. The reality is that the bag and dice still look great, and the gameplay itself is unaffected and that's the real reason we're playing this in the first place.



Recommendation


So is Pocket Basketball for you? One thing I really like about the games in the PocketSports series is how each one has its own character and style of gameplay, and they all rely on slightly different mechanics that reflect different aspects of the sport they are intended to reflect. That's certainly true also with Pocket Basketball, which does a really good job of bringing out the basketball theme, by introducing mechanics that we haven't seen in the previous games.

Like other titles in the series, this isn't a game that is going to ask you to make many decisions. But it will certainly grab your attention, soak you with theme, and immerse you into a gripping basketball contest, with highlight-reel dunks and last-gasp three-pointers, or big blocks and free throws at key moments. For basketball fans, picking this up is a no-brainer, not on account of the mental acuity or strategic skill required to play it, because the threshhold is quite low, but rather in view of the convincing narrative it creates, as dice are rolled, and baskets drained or missed. It's not hard to imagine yourself on a court, tearing back and forth against your opponent, and it's this sense of story that sports enthusiasts will really enjoy. If you're a sports fan like me, the fact that the voice of strategy and skill is largely absent won't really bother you, because you'll be having too much fun playing anyway.

With Pocket Basketball, Hamish Sterling has added another wonderful member to his line-up of pocket games, with new concepts that do a good job of translating the feel of the sport into a game that you can fit into the palm of your hand. Along with Pocket Football and Pocket Footy, this easily ranks as one of my favourites in the series. Well done PocketSports!

Availability: Pocket Basketball is available for around $12.00 (plus shipping) from the publisher and elsewhere 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

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

Subscribe to this list to be notified when new reviews are posted.

If you made it to the end of this review and found it helpful, please considering giving a thumbs up at the very top of the article, to let me know you were here, and to give others a better chance of seeing it.
16 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ryan Lorence Syfargo
Singapore
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Wow! Thanks for reviewing this! Heading to the publishers web page now
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ryan Lorence Syfargo
Singapore
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Aaaaaaaand bought it Thanks Ender!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Hamish Sterling
Australia
Cairns
flag msg tools
designer
mbmb
Swish! Order received. I'll post tomorrow Ryan.

Big up to Ender for taking the review all the way to the hoop!
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Hamish Sterling
Australia
Cairns
flag msg tools
designer
mbmb
Here's a tip if one of the letters on the dice is not completed inked in.

Remember the old days when the D&D dice came with a white crayon and you had to rub/press the waxy crayon into the letters?

Well, that's an option. Another way is to use 'White Out' or a white art paint, smear it on the die face and leave for 20 mins or so. Come back to it, wipe with a damp cloth to clean off the excess paint and you'll have it looking like new.

3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Hamigua wrote:
Here's a tip if one of the letters on the dice is not completed inked in.

Remember the old days when the D&D dice came with a white crayon and you had to rub/press the waxy crayon into the letters?

Well, that's an option. Another way is to use 'White Out' or a white art paint, smear it on the die face and leave for 20 mins or so. Come back to it, wipe with a damp cloth to clean off the excess paint and you'll have it looking like new.
Thanks for that suggestion Hamish, I'll definitely give the `white out' trick a try - there's only one letter this affects in my copy of the Pocket Basketball anyway.

Any ideas for what to try if the missing lettering/colour is black, such as on the two sides of the Pocket Rugby League die shown below?

2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Hamish Sterling
Australia
Cairns
flag msg tools
designer
mbmb
Black art paint.....black crayon....whatever colour the letters should be.

4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ian Murphy
Spain
flag msg tools
Great review, wholeheartedly agree with your positive appraisal. For me, it's the constant involvement of the defending team that really makes this game - maybe a similar mechanic could be used to create a Pocket Football Mark II?
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Lush Chords
United States
flag msg tools
mbmb
Thanks for the review. Making a purchase.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls