Pundit is defined as 'an expert in a particular subject who is called upon to provide their opinions to a wider audience'. It is derived from the Hindi word pundit, meaning teacher. Thanks Jeff. Now if you didn’t get that reference, then I think it is probably fair to say that this game is probably not for you and perhaps you want to move along to the next review :-)
So, let us posit the key question here: can anyone elevate the humble 'trivia' game above the less than lofty heights of the often-cited grandaddy of this particular genre, good ol’ Trivial Pursuit (Hasbro) and all of its crushingly annoying flaws? Pundit attempts to tackle this somewhat tricky challenge and manages it with all the finesse of Graeme Souness ploughing through the back of his opponent and taking both legs away from him.
Pundit, if you hadn’t realised already, is a football trivia game which has a thin veneer of gameplay that elevates it above a social activity and into a game. It's designed to be played by two teams of players, and it's probably going to play best if you have 4-6 people of varying ages on each team. Read on and you will see why...
There is a game board that looks like a football pitch, and each side has 8 circles representing positions on the board. Please don’t ask me why it is not 11-aside. The aim of the game is to move the ball - a large blank 12-sided die - up the pitch by answering questions correctly, and if you get the ball to your centre-forward and answer a question correctly then you score a goal! If you get a question wrong, the ball is passed to the corresponding opposing player. This back and forth of posing and answering questions continues for 45 minutes, and the team that has scored the most goals takes the trophy as the winner.
The components are good enough: the cards are a good stock, the board is fine, if somewhat bland, and the dice - both the d6, which you do roll, and the blank d12 which you don’t - are both chunky, oversized and decent quality. In the English edition of Pundit shown here on Board's Eye View, the football trivia is divided into several categories of questions: English Football 1990s; English Football 2000s; English Football 2010-2019; World Cup; Champions League; Football League; English National Team and International Players. There is a reasonable stock of double-sided cards in each category, and between the teams you decide if you are going to answer 'Easy' or 'Hard' questions. Trust me when I say some of the 'Easy' questions are suitably tough. Each time you get a question right you either move the ball forward or you gain a tactic card. The tactic cards add a bit of 'take that' to the game, and that is pretty much it. The rules literally take five minutes to read and two minutes to teach.
Pundit is published by an independent publisher (Pundit Games) but it has the feel of a mass-produced Hasbro-esque game: there is no designer credited on the box, or indeed credited in the rules, the art is minimalist or almost non-existent. However, for me the shocking point is that there are elastic bands included in the box to hold your categories of cards! I can almost feel the whole board gaming community simultaneously cringing at the thought. Yes, that’s right, you’ll play this game during the upcoming World Cup, pack it away for 12 months and when you return to play it again next Christmas those elastic bands will have perished and stuck fast to the top card ripping the top layer of cardboard and the writing. Ugh! I’m sorry, this is too traumatic to discuss, I need to move on.
When I read the rules for the Tactics cards, I started to think there was a lot of potential ambiguity in how these would be implemented in the game but I was pleased to see that all the rules were written on the Tactics cards themselves and were actually very clear. The questions are well researched and there are a lot of statistics on the card to help your team work out the answer, which is a nice touch. However, coming back to my earlier point, even the 'Easy' questions are tough and you are likely going to need a good range of ages on both teams, with solid knowledge across the footballing world, to be able to do consistently well in each category of question.
Tho' it was being demoed at this year's Spiel (Essen) board game fair, Pundit is squarely aimed at the family market and not hobby board gamers per se. It is much more a 'beer and pretzels' game for you to play with your group of football-loving friends. It could be an ideal choice for a soccer-mad crowd, especially during the World Cup and similar tournaments when the airwaves are awash with experts and every football fan fancies themselves as an amateur pundit. With Pundit you'll be able to put yourself and your mates to the test! In the hands of my game group, however, Pundit is likely to turn into a frustrating nil-nil draw. So, I suppose I can say that the theme comes across well then!
If you can't find Pundit yet at your local game store but want to get hold of a copy now in readiness for the Qatar World Cup, click here to order it direct from the publishers.
(Review by Jason Keeping)