- Designer: Bono Light
- Players: 1-6
- Ages: 6+
- Time: 30-40 minutes
In Pitch Fleet, players are new graduates from spaceship piloting school, and the game represents their final exam – a race to the final planet, with the path taking them through the asteroid belt! The board (and race course) is made up of 9 different double sided boards which are randomly arranged in a 3×3 array. Planet cards are shuffled and a starting and goal planet are drawn from the deck. A 3VP token is placed on the current goal planet. Teams are also randomly decided at this point. At the start of the round, you make a pile of 3 power cards for each player and then flip up the top card of each stack.
The game is played in a number of stages. In each stage, there are three rounds. In each round, there are 4 phases
- Starship allocation
- Move your starship
- Outbound examination
- Arrival examination
In the starship allocation phase, you decide whether to use your ship or the ship of your teammate. If the ship is on the board, you use it from where it lies. If the ship is not on the board, you place the chosen ship on the current starting planet (as based on the card flipped up at the start of the stage).
To move a starship, you choose one of the face up power cards – each of these has a different action or scoring bonus – and try to move your chosen starship in the method stated on the card. The card will tell you which fingers you can try to use to move your ship (though you can choose which of your hands to use). You may not move around the table though – you must stay in your current location at the table. The rules do say that you can stand up, but you cannot move.
Once the move has been attempted, then you do an Outbound examination – that is to check and see if any disc now touches the table (i.e. has left the playing surface of the 3×3 array of tiles). If so, that ship is removed from the table. Additionally, each team which has a disc on the table loses 1 VP.
Then, if the active player still has their ship on the board, then you do an arrival examination. You score points if you arrive at the goal planet or meet the requirements of your chosen power card. In general, only locations on the same tile as the goal planet are activated and able to be scored. If you touch multiple locations (i.e. on the dotted line around multiple places), you are “in” all of them. Only the active player evaluates their position and scores points. If an inactive disc was bumped by the active disc into a scoring zone, it does not matter and no points are scored for that inactive player. If you ended at the goal planet, move the marker of that particular ship onto the goal planet.
If after moving your disc, you did not hit another ship or a magnetic beam (wooden bar), you could choose to play your restart card. Each player is given one restart card per game. If you play the card, you put your ship back where it started and try to move it again. Even if your ship ends up Outbound (i.e. off the board), you can play your restart card as long as you didn’t hit anything on that move. This would also negate the 1VP penalty.
Once through the four phases, then the next player goes thru the above 4 phase. Once all players have taken their turn, all the power cards should be discarded. At the end of each round, if one team has all their markers on the goal planet, they pick up the 3VP token that lies there, and each player on that team gets 3VP in tokens. If both teams have both markers there at the end of a round, no one gets the token. The first player marker then moves on position to the left, the top cards of each of the power card piles is revealed and the process is repeated. At the end of three rounds, there will be no more cards to flip up, and the stage ends.
To reset the stage, new 3 card piles are made for each player. The old goal planet becomes the new start planet and a new planet card is drawn from the deck to serve as the new goal planet. All starships are removed from the board, and the teams are again randomly distributed. So, you’ll have new partners each round in the game. The player(s) with the lowest current score are allowed to draw a restart card from the supply, but you may never have more than 1 restart card in your hand. The game continues until the planet card deck is exhausted – in a 4 player game, this will be 5 stages. At that point, the player with the most VP tokens wins.
The rules include a number of variants including a mode for solo play or family play for younger gamers. This version of the game uses a special deck of challenge cards that gives you different challenges to try to achieve while playing the game. There is also a deck of advanced power cards
My thoughts on the game
Pitch Fleet is a lighthearted fun combination of strategy and dexterity. On any given turn (especially if you are going first in turn order), you’ll have to decide which power card works best for you on this particular turn. Then, once you have chosen that, then you’ll have to execute the dexterity part by flicking your chosen ship to the place you want it to go. There is also a bit of room for some defensive play as you can even try to carom off an opponent’s piece to both knock them off the board while positioning yourself to score at the same time.
The rules are fairly well written, and the rules even include a short FAQ to try to account for all of the different possible things that can happen when discs are being flicked all over the place. In my first few plays, we’ve really managed to do just fine – and we didn’t really have any arguments about where a disc happened to be or what had just happened.
The modular board and the different sets of Power Cards (and the order that the cards come up), there is a lot of variability to the game. I mean, sure – in the end, you will probably do well if you can flick from the start planet to the end planet with high accuracy – but you might be able to score more points by using the right power card at the right time.
The art on the components is clean and functional. The modular board is nice for its variability, though it does create seams on the playing surface which can sometimes derail the best of flicks. However, the rules already address this and simply write it off to the vagaries of space travel. The cards are a little busy, but it’s easy enough to get the needed information off of them.
I’ve also had a chance to try the solo version of the game, and the challenges on the cards provided a nice rainy day afternoon diversion. Though I’m not normally one to sit around and play solo games all day, Pitch Fleet is one of a number of Essen 2015 games that have included a solo version, and this one stands up well to the recent solo competition.
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor