Race to the Finish! Review of ‘Pit Crew: A Geoff Engelstein Game’
There are many board games and card games out there that dramatize the high-speed thrills of automobile racing—we’ve reviewed many of them on The News Wheel—but these simulations heavily focus on the drivers and the movement of the cars on the track; the efforts of the pit crew, who keep the cars running, go largely unnoticed, despite the level of nail-biting tension their duties involve.
Game designer Geoff Engelstein had the brilliant idea to create a tabletop title that pays homage to the work of pit crews. By capturing the fundamental aspects of the pit crew—the lightning-fast movement, the precision of completing fixes correctly, and the necessary teamwork—Pit Crew provides a fast-paced, real-time cooperative experience.
Review of Pit Crew: A Geoff Engelstein Game
Publisher: Stronghold Games
Designer: Geoff Engelstein
Box Dimensions: 5 x 6.75 x 2.25 inches
# of Players: 2-9 mechanics
Ages: 8 or older
Category: Real-time cooperative card game
Play Time: 20-30 minutes
How to Play
Players of Pit Crew are divided into two or three competing teams, depending on how many people are playing. Each crew is in charge of maintaining a different stock car in the race; each team gets a deck of cards that will be used to refuel the vehicle, change the tires, and tune the engine.
The game consists of three rounds; each round begins with crews performing maintenance on their vehicles simultaneously in real time by playing runs of cards on their respective vehicle mat following specific rules. When a crew completes work on car–or decides to quit working early and move on–that team gets one die to roll repeatedly to advance their car around the track until the other teams are done. Once all teams finish, each crew’s car is evaluated for mistakes, which earn them penalties that benefit their competitors.
After the three rounds of play, the team whose car has advanced the furthest on the track wins.
Pit Crew includes:
- 1 race track board
- 2 dice
- 3 lap marker cubes
- 3 wooden car tokens
- 2 double-sided car diagrams per team (6 total)
- 156 small cards (Action, Caps, & Monkey Wrenches)
- Rules pamphlet
Pit Crew clearly was made with the intent of providing a lot of quality components for a lower price than you’d expect. In this small box fits a lot of cards with detailed artwork, printed on quality cardstock. The choice to use smaller-than-normal cards is effective, allowing them to fit in a small box and not clutter up the table when playing the game. It would’ve been nice to have the cap cards and monkey wrench cards bigger than the action cards to differentiate them, since they can get mixed up easily. The box doesn’t come with any methods for storing the components, so I highly recommend rubber-banding the cards.
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Thoughts on Learning Experience
Pit Crew is a relatively basic game, which is advantageous considering it requires convincing and teaching a large group to participate. It’s not a game that can be taught as it’s played, thus it involves a complete information deluge before playing (as it’s crucial to play without interruption), but once the game starts rolling, slower-learning players should catch on. I’d recommend playing through a trial round to show everyone how the cards are played beforehand.
The rule book included includes a couple supplementary diagrams and example scenarios, but is mostly word-heavy; those teaching the game for the first time would benefit from watching a video of the game first instead of relying solely on the written instructions. The directions are through, thankfully, and should resolve any rule disputes.
Thoughts on Playing the Game
I’m a big fan of short, fast-paced party games designed for groups, but I have trouble finding titles that are easy to teach and don’t follow the same Apples to Apples card-laying format. Pit Crew not only offered a gaming experience that filled that void, it also addressed a subject that appeals to us gearheads. It’s a compact, fast-paced take on a racing game that’s refreshingly different than most of its type and a clever way to simulate a pit crew.
From my experiences, Pit Crew is best played in teams, necessitating communication among players and requiring cooperation to win, rather than playing individually with two or three total players.
If you play the game multiple times in a row with the same teams, you may run into a rut that the quicker players will continually finish first and do better, as the game isn’t forgiving to slow players. It is certainly a speed game, but does offer flexibility to assist slower players. There’s freedom to risk penalties to advance one’s race car sooner, and players are given the freedom to draw replacement cards as they prefer. Still, that’s not always enough to prevent runaway winner scenarios.
While I wouldn’t rank it as one of the top team-based or real-time games that I’ve played, Pit Crew offers a quality gaming experience for fans of automotive racing who are looking for a lighter, more stimulating title they can play with family or friend groups who don’t normally like playing intensive strategy games. We definitely had an exhilarating time playing with The News Wheel staff.
Pit Crew can be purchased through Amazon, the publisher’s website, and other online retailers.
Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a 1995 Saturn SC-2 (knock on wood). He gleefully utilizes his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles to nearby youth. Mr. Widmar happily resides in Dayton, Ohio with his magnificent wife, Vicki, but is often on the road with her exploring new destinations. Aaron has high aspirations for his writing career but often gets distracted pondering the profound nature of the human condition and forgets what he was writing… See more articles by Aaron.