Have you ever wondered what would happen if you took classic flick-football game Subbuteo and smashed it together with the iconic miniature racing sets of Scalextric??
Well, wonder no more because for this week’s Tabletop Tales I want to draw your attention to a classic board game that delivers something far more fun than anything Subbuteo or Scalextric could ever hope for in the form of a wondrously simple dexterity game.
The original concept appeared in 1995 when designer Jean du Poël produced Avus. It was rebranded as Carabande the following year after being picked up by publishers Goldsieber Spiele and would go on to win a host of awards during 1996, including a special dexterity award at the prestigious Spiel de Jahres.
Fast-forward to 2003 and French publisher Ferti was very much in its infancy, but secured the license to Carabande, rebranding it into the most recent and recognisable version of du Poël’s creation, PitchCar.
PitchCar is a dexterity racing game for up to eight players, who take it in turns to flick their car marker around a track they have created – with multiple possible options for tracks. And that’s basically it.
Sure, there are a few more rules to digest; like what happens if you hit another player’s car marker or go off the track; how many laps is a race; and who goes first. While the official answers to they questions are; go back to where you originally started; three; and through a qualifying lap; they really are all semantics and can be answered any way you see fit. Play a 20 lap race if you choose! The official rules do offer some variations in gameplay, but for me, it is no more than a suggestion, house rules should be king in a game such as this.
What is such a beautiful thing is this is a game that takes much longer to set-up than it does to learn, making it an accessibility dream – something anyone can play and quickly master, giving it a truly unmatched appeal. Play time is dependent on the number of players and the time to construct a track, but 30 minutes all in per race is the average.
However, creating the track is very much part of the game’s charm. The wooden boards fit together seamlessly, with a guide included of the track options you can create. Again, feel free to try your own idea – and don’t feel compelled to use all the track pieces. The red crash barriers are added to the track, and then qualifying can begin ready for the race.
And once that race is out the road then why not build the next track and treat it as a Championship?
The end result is a fantastic, fun for all game that is an absolute utter delight to play! It’s one of these rare games that will put a permanent smile on anyone who plays its face for the duration of the game. With genuine moments of hilarity – usually at the misfortune of others – this is quite possible the most unadulterated fun you can have with a board game. Not only will kids absolutely love this, but so will the parents. It is a game perfectly catered for social gatherings of friends, to bask in the silliness of hopelessly flicking a little wooden disk around a track. A game perfect for the garden on a warm summers day.
Another thing that becomes immediately obvious is the quality of the game. The track pieces are well made; sturdy, well finished and extremely durable. Likewise the plastic barriers and the wood cars. This is a game that you just know will stand the test of time.
Which in a roundabout way brings us to the downside of PitchCar, and it’s a big one that you can’t ignore.
This is not a cheap game.
With an RRP over £50 for what is basically 16 painted chipboard track sections and eight race-car markers, you can’t shake the feeling you are paying way over the odds for what you are getting. I’ve never been one to shriek at the cost of a game, a few I have are more expensive than PitchCar…but I feel they are more worthy given the amount of components, level of detail and complexity. As my friend pointed out when he heard what it had cost me, this is something that DIY enthusiasts could rustle up themselves in a few hours, with probably more variation in track sizes, etc. And that knowledge that he was right, a game that I could probably make myself just as good if not better, further devalues the game and makes the price point more outrageous.
However, this game very much feels like Subbuteo meets Scalextric and to build up your collection of either of those will fair hit the bank balance, so maybe when you consider it that way the price isn’t too bad? I’m not entirely sure…
A total of six expansions have appeared since Ferti took control, with the most recent released last year. These all bring more track to the table, in the form of chicanes, ramps, jumps, tunnels, long straights, split tracks, obstacles and more. They are all sublime for greater track variation, and offers many challenging obstacles that can greatly enhance the difficulty, supercharge the hilarity and provide and abundance of opportunities for downright silliness.
But again, they just highlight the pricing issues. To buy all these expansions direct from Ferti would cost you €160.90, excluding delivery. With each expansion containing no more than a half dozen new track pieces, it’s almost impossible to justify.
Ferti Games did release a “mini” version that is a third smaller than the original. However, for this subtraction in size you are only saving around 20%, and pushes the game into the fidgety territory for those larger handed people. There is also only two expansions for it, and every comparison between the two you will find online indicated PicthCar Mini is only great if you haven’t played its big brother. Unless table space is an issue, then I’d always go with PitchCar, bearing in mind that even with only a few of the expansion it takes up a hell of a lot of space.
So no question PitchCar is brilliant. Arguably one of the finest and enduring dexterity games ever to grace the table. However, despite the fact the production of the game will stand the test of time and ensure you get your monies worth, the money in question is definitely a little much.
But I suppose you could always sell your old Subbuteo and Scalextric to fund your PitchCar collection, as this takes the best bits of both.
NEXT WEEK: It’s time for one of my most hyped games ever to feature on Tabletop Tales, where I will be sharing my thoughts on the solo play. Prepare to die…