Pit Crew - extended review

A race is not only won by virtue of the driving skills of the pilot, but it's the resulting effort of a whole team. "Pit Crew" illustrates this by focusing on the mechanics who are in charge of changing tires, refuelling and tuning the engine. Their intervention occurs in the blink of an eye, but it may be a decisive factor in achieving victory.

The game is played by 2 to 3 teams of maximum 3 mechanics each, so up to 9 players can participate. They will take care of 3 successive pit stops, each stop a bit more challenging than the previous one. 

At the centre of the table is the circuit board where the race cars are lined up. It's a simple oval with a number of squares where the cars can move around. Nothing fancy, but remember that the cars and drivers are not the stars here. Every pit stop is represented by a car mat indicating the areas requiring attention: the four tires, the fuel tank and the engine. These are serviced by playing cards one by one until all areas are handled or the team decides to release the car early in the hope of gaining an advantage. Each team starts with 40 cards, 4 sets numbered 1 to 10, two sets in black and two sets in white. 6 cards are drawn, divided over all players in the team. During a pit stop all players play cards at the same time, but a minimum of coordination is required to get the desired result. For each tire a sequence of exactly four cards is required, each card 1 higher or lower than the previous one. For the fuel tank the total value of cards played must match the value on the car mat. For the engine a number of pairs must be collected: 1 during the 2nd stop, 2 during the 3rd stop (no engine service required at 1st stop). If you have lousy card combinations you can always discard a card and draw another one, but this wil have consequences. For the record: drawing cards can be done at any time, as long as you don't exceed your hand limit.

When the first team has released their car, a team member may grab a die and start rolling it. For each 6 result the car may be advanced one place on the circuit. Note that getting first in a square is important: the inside lane is considered as being ahead in case of a tie. In a 3 team game, the second team can also grab a die and start moving, but when the last team is ready all dice are put aside and the actual race phase begins.

In this phase the work of the mechanics is evaluated. For each area that was not correctly serviced, a penalty is given. Let's take the tires for example. Each card that is not 1 higher or lower result in one penalty point, each card missing or too many scores 2 penalty points (tires should have exactly 4 cards). Similar penalties are given for other areas, and for each 2 discarded cards you also get a penalty point. Finally these penalties are converted to movement points for the other team(s), so if you make too many mistakes this can cost you dearly. Worst case scenario: if you accumulate 8 penalty points, the car crashes and you're out of the game. Fortunately you can also gain a Turbo bonus for excellent work. This happens if you manage to service an area with cards of the same color, and as a reward you may move your car 2 squares.
When all bonuses and penalties are processed, each team gets a Monkey Wrench card (last team picks first). These cards bend the rules a bit and provide benefits or impediments for the next rounds, adding some variety to the gameplay.
This is repeated for 2 more pit stops, and the team whose car is leading the race after the last stop wins the battle of the pit crews.

Playing the game feels a bit like a real pit stop. Since there are no player turns, all action happens at once and the pressure of finishing a car first is very much present. There is also the dilemma of perfection: should we try to get everything right or do we sacrifice some areas hoping to compensate this with the die? Clear communication and quick decision making are key here. That's why there's definitely a distinct feel between a multiplayer team and a solo team. Luck of the draw may also be an issue, but since there are 3 pit stops to complete this should level out a bit. 

"Pit Crew" is a highly enjoyable card game (with some board game aspects) that should find its way to many tables. Recommended to everyone who would like to experience the rush of a virtual pit stop.


Number of players : 2-9 (in 2-3 teams)
Age : 8+
Playing time : 15-30 min


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