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Pitch Out

Sometimes you fancy a game but you don't want to get bogged down in anything too cerebral. You're not in the mood for weighing up strategic options; you can't be bothered thinking up clues for connecting words; even counting up the dots on a handful of dice feels like an effort. That's where a plain and simple dexterity game is called for. We retain a soft spot for the fabulous Flick 'em Up! (Plan B/Pretzel) but its Western-themed shootout scenarios do require a bit of setting up. Four Elements (Bomber) is quicker and easier to set up but copies can be hard to come by unless you buy direct from the publisher. Time then to reach for Pitch Out from Gigamic, distributed in the UK by Hachette BoardGames UK.

For some reason, game designers seem to be obsessed with adding backstory. Adrien Charles is no exception. You'll find a panel in the rules sheet describing the history of the battles between 'the great clans' over control of 'the Eternal Mountains' and 'the mine of Rochevie'. All nonsense and entirely irrelevant because this is a two-player game where each side has a set of five plastic pucks that they'll be flicking at each other in order to knock them out of the playing area.

There's a bit more to it because each of the pucks has a special ability. For example, the Runner puck can be given a second flick, and the Assassin puck only has to touch an opponent's puck in order to eliminate it. If you tire of these particular abilities or if you just want more, there are additional pucks with different 'powers', and, unlike the basic five, these are asymmetric. In either event, the objective is to eliminate your opponent's Captain puck. There's an alternative victory condition of eliminating all other pucks with the exception of the Captain but we found it hard to square this with the special ability of the Immortal puck, which 'cannot be eliminated', so we just stuck with 'attack the Captain'.

The pucks are well designed so are satisfying to flick on any reasonably smooth surface (the rules recommend 80 cm x 80 cm). Be warned tho', a strong flick can send a puck careening way outside that 80 cm play space, so this is probably not a game to be played within range of your priceless Ming vases. The game comes with a five-layer storage case that conveniently accommodates the pucks but which also doubles as five 'obstacles' that players can position their pucks around. This, and the special abilities, introduces a modicum of 'strategy and tactics' into what would otherwise merely be a mindless but highly enjoyable flickfest. There's also a 'travel bag'. Our one gripe was that there are 18 character cardboard 'character tokens' but only 16 plastic pucks. If you want to try all the variant special abilities, you'll be expected to prise a token out of a puck to replace it with another. Do that and this otherwise hardy little game will quickly show wear. It's just a pity that such an otherwise lovingly produced game didn't come with a puck for all 18 tokens.

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