Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Dexterity Game Review - Pitchcar
Sometimes, my kids get tired of playing games with me. I've never been one of those dads who lets the kid win just because she's younger and tends to cry when you take her last territory, or who goes easy just because the boy just got turned down by the girl he likes at school and is contemplating black eyeliner and droopy hair to show how horrible his life has become and how much angst is welling up within him. I think that when they beat me at a game, they ought to earn it. It cheapens the win if your opponent throws the game. Plus I like to win.
So they were pretty happy when we broke open Pitchcar. The old man's age, experience and wily nature is no good in a game where all you do is flick a wooden disc. And it helped my daughter's hormonal imbalance when she got to take all those little wooden roads out of the box and build a big winding course all over the kitchen table.
See, Pitchcar is one of those dexterity games where you don't need a lick of sense to win, just timing and accuracy and a little luck. I'm getting old and slow, so both the kids have better reflexes and muscle control than I do (except for when they forget that they have elbows and knock the entire track onto the floor because their gangly limbs fly all over the place like a Blue Angels show where all the pilots are dropping acid). And as far as not needing any sense - the kids have me there, too, because they're teenagers who think they know everything, and coincidentally have the common sense of a herd of Canadian geese.
Luckily for my teenage wastelanders, you don't need common sense to play Pitchcar (well, not a lot of it). You've got this big track made of interlocking wooden road pieces and plastic rails, and your cars are round wooden discs, and you take turns flicking your cars with one finger. The cars get chucked around the track, ostensibly sliding along the rails, but more likely winding up underneath the stove when my daughter gets angry because she still can't make that hairpin turn and my ludicrously-athletic-but-too-cool-to-play-sports son manages to fly through half the track in one toss.
There are a few rules about running into other cars or landing upside down or careening off the board into your father's nose, but for the most part, the rules can be boiled down to one sentence: Flick you car until you round the track three times. These are rules that my kids can understand, and never have to fall back on the old, 'you didn't tell us we could do that!' claim (when you know damned well it was one of the first things you said before the game started).
The divide in skill between the old geezer and his petulant children widens even further when you add in some extensions. You can buy extensions that let you create bigger, wilder tracks. You can create a second level of track so that your son can brood over it when he can't get up the hill, or an overpass with a tunnel that can make your daughter stomp her foot and whine when her car bounces off the front of the tunnel entrance. You can make intersections, cloverleaves, and a whole heck of a lot more, and even better, you can make a track so big you'll need to put three tables together in the back yard to hold it all.
The most important thing about Pitchcar (aside from being a game where my kids can beat the hell out of me) is that it's an insane amount of fun, even if you do spend five minutes scooting halfway up a hill and then sliding back to the bottom. In fact, once my daughter got past her mood swings and my son forgot to be coolly indifferent, I actually saw my kids smile. If you have moody teenagers in your house, you'll know how rare that is. Usually the only time my daughter smiles is when she's pretending to like someone, and my son only smiles when he comes up with a really horrible new nickname for his sister.
Pitchcar seems a little expensive when you first see the price tag, but when you open the box, you'll see where your money went. The boards are all laminated wood, and they're solid and heavy and damned nice. They slide together like they were greased, and stay in place even when your daughter overshoots her car and smacks the crap out of the overpass. In other words, the pieces in this box are really nice, and they're well worth the cost. Plus you may get to see your teenagers smile, and if that's not worth a box of wooden tracks, I don't know what is.
Sturdy and attractive track pieces
Cool game mechanic that has nothing to do with out-thinking anyone
Fun, fun, fun
Your teenagers might smile
Your kids can probably beat you (might be a pro - it is in my house)
I regret to inform you that you cannot currently get Pitchcar at Dogstar Games, probably because I just got it and they haven't had time to get it in. If they get it later, I'll change this blurb so you'll go spend money there. For now, you can get it here:
Posted by Matt Drake at 5:34 PM