Saturday, 3 March 2018

Pit Crew

Plays: 7Px1.

The Game

Pit Crew is a simple team-based real-time game. You are pit crews of 2 or 3 racing teams, and you compete to complete the pit stops in the shortest time possible, allowing your team's race cars to speed off as early as possible.

The game supports up to 9 players. You play in 2 or 3 teams. Each team has between 1 to 3 members. The game is played over 3 rounds. When a round starts, all teams repair their respective cars simultaneously. Once you complete your repairs, your car drives off and tries to go as far as possible. When the slowest team finally completes repairs, their car doesn't get to drive off. Instead they cry halt, and all cars already on the race track stop. The distances they have traveled are their scores. Now you do the end-of-round scoring. All cars are inspected for errors and imperfections. Penalties are applied. When you are penalised, all your opponents get to move their cars forward.

In Rounds 2 and 3, you use different cars, and your team also gains special abilities. After the third round, whoever's car has traveled the furthest wins.

Everyone uses the #27 car in Round 1. The 27 means something. I'll come to that. In Round 1, you need to replace all four tyres, and you need to refuel. Every team has its own deck of cards. Cards are numbered from 1 to 10. The total hand size of a team is 6. In a team of three, everyone holds 2 cards. In a team of two, everyone holds 3 cards. In a team of one, you hold all 6 cards. You perform repairs by playing cards. To replace a tyre, you need to play four cards next to the tyre, one after another. Each card you play must be numbered one higher or lower than the previous number. In the photo above, if you want to replace the tyre at the lower right, you start by playing a 1 or a 3. Let's say you have played a 3. The next card you play must be a 2 or a 4. The big 27 on the roof means the fuel tank capacity. To refuel, you play cards to the rear of the car. There is no restriction when playing cards, but at the end of the round, if the sum of the card values differs from 27, you are penalised. The bigger the difference, the larger the penalty.

The board is not your main playing area. It is mostly a scoring track. You do not race to complete five laps. Instead you try to move as far as possible within the three rounds. You are just trying to score as high as possible.

You use these 6 cap cards to mark sections which are fully repaired. There is one cap card for the engine, one for the fuel tank, and four for the tyres. The engine card is used in Rounds 2 and 3 only. Whenever you complete the repairs for one part of the car, you must place the corresponding cap card there. Once the cap card is placed, you cannot change the cards already played to that part of the car.

Take a closer look, and you will notice that some numbers are white, and some are black. If all cards played to a section have the same colour, you gain a turbo bonus. Your car moves two additional steps. It's not easy to do though. When you are scrambling to find the right numbers, sometimes you don't have the luxury to get the exact colour you need. In this photo you can see we have failed to assemble consistent colours in all six sections.

Car #31 is for Round 3. The XX YY at the engine means you need to play two pairs of cards to repair the engine. We have played a pair of 3's and a pair of 9's. All of them are black, so we are getting the turbo bonus.

When you don't have any cards you can play in hand, you may discard and draw. In fact, you must. However for every two cards in your discard pile at the end of the round, you suffer one penalty point, i.e. your opponents get to move one step forward.

These special ability cards (called Monkey Wrench cards) are gained at the end of Rounds 1 and 2. A number of cards are drawn according to the number of teams in the game. Each team picks one card, starting with the one furthest behind. So this is for balancing in addition to spicing up the game. That card on the left can be used as a 4 or a 5 during a round. The card on the right increases the hand sizes of two team members.

You "drive" your race car by rolling a die. When your team is done with repairs (and you are not the last to do so), one of you becomes the driver, and you keep rolling the die to move your car. You move one step ahead each time you roll a 6. This can be nerve-wracking if you keep failing to roll a 6. If there are three teams, the second team gets to move their car too in the same way. Once the last team is done with repairs, they declare the end of movement. You then do the round-end scoring.

The Play

We did a 7-player game. I was on the same team as Abraham and Allen. The other two teams had two players each. Having three players is probably more challenging, and I'm not saying that just because we lost horribly. Really. With three players, there is a higher need for coordination and communication. Playing Pit Crew is a tense experience. There are multiple parts of the car you need to worry about. You need to coordinate your card plays to avoid getting stuck with no card to play. Finding a valid move doesn't mean it will be a good move. You shouldn't blindly play any card which is technically valid. You need to consider the other cards your team has in hand, and whether your next move can help getting those cards played, and will keep your options open. Then there is also the colour to think about. None of these are particularly complex, but when you are under time pressure, it becomes very hard to keep your cool and to stay rational.

If you find that you really are stuck, waste no time in finding impossible moves. Just discard and draw. Time is precious.

The most stressful part of the game turns out to be also the most brainless part - when you are driving. It's just rolling a die over and over hoping to roll a 6 as many times as you can. There is no skill and no strategy (unless you are trying to cheat). It's all luck. Yet this is when you and your teammates will be holding your breaths, or cheering, or groaning.

My team had a poor start. We were last to complete our repairs in Round 1, and we also had a huge discard pile. Our opponents sped far far ahead of us. In Round 2, we managed to not be last. I took the driver's seat, and hard as I tried, I could not roll a single 6! By the time the bell sounded, I was still in the pit. What a waste! Needless to say, despite having first picks of the Monkey Wrench cards in both Rounds 1 and 2, we still came last. By far.

The Thoughts

Pit Crew is a party game. I think it will be best with 9, i.e. the full complement. The more chaotic the better. The rules are simple so you can easily get casual gamers and non-gamers to play. It will work as a children's game too. It is not a particularly deep game. You shouldn't be looking for depth here. It's a face-paced, heart-pumping fun kind of game. There is also a sense of satisfaction when your team manages to work well together.


Lord of Midnight said...

Haha you are just lousy in driving the car (aka chucking one die) out of the pit la. I lost count of the die rolls but must be over twenty. But that was hilarious!

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

They never told me the race car was manual gear what, not my fault! :-P With my driving skills, we ask the floor sweeper auntie to push the car also it would have moved further.