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Introducing PitchCar - Extension 4: Stunt Race

PitchCar probably needs very little introduction here on BGG. But if you are unfamiliar with the base game, start by checking out my pictorial review "Furious fun as Crokinole finger flicking goes to the races!" PitchCar is easily one of the greatest and most fun dexterity games of the modern era, and as a race, is brimming with theme and excitement. I've already reviewed Extension 1 here, but now let's check out Extension 4: Stunt Race. Isn't PitchCar all about stunts? Of course it is, even the base game, but this expansion takes it to a whole new level - literally! In PitchCar 4, we go upward, with elevated track! If you're wondering what's included with this expansion, and whether or not it's worth getting, then this review is for you! Let's go to PitchCar: Stunt Race!



COMPONENTS

Game box

The box has a slightly different size and look than the base game and expansion 1 of the series, so if you're the OCD type bothered by this kind of thing, you'll find this something to nitpick about. It would seem sensible to have all the boxes in a series look more or less the same, if only for aesthetic value when piled on a shelf, but Ferti evidently had their own reasons for adopting a different look.



The reverse side of the box shows six possible tracks that you can make using this expansion and the base game.



Of course if you have any of the other expansions, there's even more possibilities - it's limited only by your own imagination!

Component List

Here's our first look inside the box:



Actually there's not a huge amount of components here:
● 10 foam pylons in two sizes
● 6 pieces of track
● 4 wooden connectors (2 for the top of each ramp, 2 for the bottom)
● assembly instructions

If we haul everything out of the box (except for the foam pylons), here's what you get:



Assembly Instructions

A single sheet gives illustrated instructions about assembling the track. It explains how to cut the rails to size, and assemble the ramps on the pylons.



Track

There are two pieces of straight track, and these are used as the up and down ramps. They are made out of sturdy wood, and match the track pieces from the base set. Note how the ramps have flat ends, because they will attach to the wooden connectors at the top and bottom of the ramp.



In addition there are four pieces of short track with an end that's flat and an end with a puzzle piece connection. The flat end will be placed against the wooden connector at the top and bottom of the ramps, and the puzzle piece ends will connect to the regular track from the base set.



Wooden Connectors

Two wooden connectors will sit on the top of the pylons at the top of the ramp, to connect the ramp to the upper level track.



Two wooden connectors will sit on the table at the bottom of the ramp, to connect the ramp to the lower level track.



These are made out of wood, and are solid and of good quality.

Foam Pylons

There are ten foam pylons which take up most of the space in the box.



They come in two sizes:
● the two smaller pylons (7.4cm high) are used for the top of the two ramps
● the eight larger pylons (9cm high) are used to support the upper level track



ASSEMBLY

Cutting the Rails

Our first job is to cut the rails to size, which is quickly accomplished with a scissors.



The ramp section of track is slightly shorter than a regular sized piece of track, so even it needs to be cut to size.



I'm not sure why this wasn't already done in the factory. Still, there are only a few pieces to cut, and since it only needs to be done once, it's quickly accomplished. The first extension also had some shorter rails, but had too many short ones and not enough long ones, so at least this way it's your own fault if you end up with too many short pieces of rail!

Setting-up the Ramps

Put the top wooden connector on the small foam pylon, and then you can attach the ramp along with the bottom connector, which lies directly on the table. The two short pieces with puzzle ends will be used to connect to the existing track on both sides. The one at the top of the ramp will be placed on one of the large pylons. And there's your up and down ramp!



Do the same with the other ramp, and that will leave you with 6 large foam pylons that you can use for the upper level of your track. Note that you don't get any extra pieces for the upper level track - you need to use track pieces that you already own for this. Here's how it looks in practice, as part of a larger track:



Because there are 6 extra large pylons, the upper level of your track can consist of up to a maximum six track pieces. These need not be from the base set, but can also be pieces from one of the other expansions. In the example below, a track has been made using track pieces from the base set and from the first expansion.



CONCLUSIONS

What do I think?

The ramps and upper level are a lot of fun. In a sense the gameplay is completely unchanged when you're playing on the upper level. But there's something intangible about playing on an upper level that's hard to explain - somehow the fun ramps up, literally! The ramps are also a bit more forgiving than the jump of the first expansion. There was a lot of laughing and whooping and cheering when going up and down the ramps - even more so than with the jump. The jump can be quite hard to negotiate, and so can stall the game somewhat, whereas the ramps still require an extra dose of skill, but not to the point where they make the game too difficult.

The ramps and upper level are all that there is to it. In other words, that's all you get with this expansion, and nothing else. In that regard the first expansion has better value, because it comes with a jump (which could also function as a tunnel), and with extra curved track (e.g. chicanes), whereas Expansion 4 only comes with the ramps and upper level. Having said that, my family enjoyed the ramps and upper level even more than they enjoyed the jump. But they also loved the chicanes and curved track of the first expansion.

The pylons aren't as bad as some people seem to think. I haven't seen a lot of love for the foam pylons - more than one critic has expressed disappointment about them being merely styrofoam, and the suggestion has been made more than once that because they are light they can move too easily. I suppose the white foam look can give the appearance of looking cheap, but in actual fact I think the publisher has made a decent choice. Really, what else would you use? Surely you wouldn't expect a box full of heavy wooden blocks? For one thing, they'd still have to be the same size in order to give the necessary support, and that would quickly make the entire package rather heavy. In reality I find them the foam pylons to be quite sturdy, and fortunately they're not the cheap type of foam that disintegrates when you touch it. It may not look the most flash, but they do the job just fine, and while they are somewhat lacking in aesthetics, they are very functional.

It's not cheap. All of the PitchCar products are fairly pricey. On the other hand you do get a lot of value and replayability out of them, and a complete PitchCar set can last for many years and provide hours of enjoyment. There are many games that are arguably finer "games" than PitchCar, but I can think of few games in my collection that have been played as often, by as many different people, and consistently have provided as many thrills and spills, joy and laughter for all ages. If you're finding the base set more than satisfactory and don't pull it out very often, then don't expect this expansion to change that significantly, because it doesn't add a huge amount to the PitchCar experience. But for those who really enjoy PitchCar and get a lot of play out of it, this expansion is likely going to be money well spent.



What do others think?

Reviews and feelings about this expansion are mixed.

Criticism

Of all the PitchCar expansions, this one has the most negative feedback, including comments like these:
"Possibly the worst value for money ever." - Mark Rollings
"Very difficult, very instable and the price ... !!!!" - Grognard David
"Doesn't improve the game. Not sturdy and increases the set-up time. " - Chris Barnard
"I feel like I've paid too much for this expansion. The styrofoam braces that the elevated tracks stands on make me feel ripped off. My worry is that the braces being styrofoam, they will get picked at, and eventually destroyed. I'm not sure these parts will stand up to repeated years of use, and for the price tag I expected a bit more." - Brant Benoit
"The blocks should have been something else than Styrofoam." - Mike Tavenner
"Severely overpriced game, the Styrofoam bits aren't as fragile/brittle as some comments would lead you to believe but still a weird choice of material to me." - Doomfarer
"Least favourite and least necessary expansion. The ramps are quite tricky to get up and some players can fail to get up the ramps to the top level. Having another level is actually a bit gimmicky and doesn't add much to the experience. Using the ramps simply to make a mega jump is pretty cool." - Jeff Goris
"Interesting expansion. The expansion could use some more blocks to make the upper track more stable." - Randy Schmucker
"Really not worth the asking price for what you get but adds a lot of variation to the tracks." - Mark Lockett
"Quality and content of this expansion is not on par with previous efforts in this series." - Andrew Maly
"I'll get my moneys worth out of it, but it was still very expensive for what is in the box. And it won't go into every track, because sometimes it just slows it down too much." - Kendall Merriman


To summarize the basic concerns:
● inferior components (foam)
● over-priced
● increased set-up time
● not stable enough
● doesn't really add much to the game

Some have even come up with ways to replace the foam blocks with wooden ones (details here), as pictured here:



There is some validity to the criticisms, although in my estimation they're sometimes overstated. I don't find the concerns about set-up time or stability to be huge issues, and even the foam pylons I don't mind. But I have to admit that this expansion doesn't add stunning changes to the game, and the cost is high. That won't matter if money isn't an issue for you, but for most gamers on a budget it's a valid consideration.

Praise

Many people can look past any of the alleged weaknesses of this expansion, in fact the current average rating for this expansion is 6.93, which is still quite respectable and reasonably high. Some of the more positive comments are these:
"Cool idea for multi-level racing." - Rygel
"My favorite of the expansions." - Steve Bauer
"The additional set up time hurts the rating a bit, but it's a lot of fun once everything is all together." - Dave Refici
"A must have expansion for any serious Pitchcar fan. Ramps take the game to the next level." - Neil Thomson
"Not completely convinced of the longevity of the Styro track supports - but they're reasonably robust, and satisfyingly slip resistant. Looks like a reasonable addition." - Dave Peters
"Strongly recommend it." - Jesse
"I find it adds a new dimension to PitchCar (literally) by elevating the track. This injects more difficulty, and a lot more variety into an already superbly designed, and fun game." - Brant Benoit
"Another great addition to PitchCar." - Olivier
"Awesome! The ramp up is tough, but easier than the jump ... This adds more to the game, good for people with smaller tables, or for fans like that just like stupid additions that bring nothing but fun." - Morgan Dontanville


So it has to be admitted there is a reasonable amount of enthusiasm for this expansion. It's certainly not a `bad' expansion or something to avoid by any means. In fact, if it wasn't for the hefty price-tag, it probably would be more well-received and appreciated.



Recommendation

Is PitchCar: Stunt Race for you? For most people, the basic PitchCar set will already have been a considerable investment, and so they're not going to be thrilled about spending a lot of money on an expansion which doesn't seem to add a whole lot to the original game. But if you're a big PitchCar fan and looking for some new challenges, and if the cost of this expansion isn't too much of an obstacle for you, then chances are you'll find yourself getting a lot of enjoyment out of the Stun Race expansion, because it will take your PitchCar experience up a level - literally! If you don't yet have any of the expansions, a better first choice would be Expansion #1. But for the PitchCar completist with a well-padded wallet, Expansion #4 Stunt Race is certain to add a new element of fun to the great experience that only PitchCar can create.

mb Another pictorial review by EndersGame



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mb The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596

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Just call me Erik
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It should probably be noted that "Wood" in this case is "Medium Density Fiberboard."
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Morgan Dontanville
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I do have some issues with it. I wish that they'd lengthened the ramp to create an easier grade. The wood is hard fit to keep that angle, that I'm not sure if I can modify it. If they were to keep that angle I'd prefer a shorter piece. This would mean that the entire second level would be lower, but so be it. Either of these modifications would make the expansion more worthwhile.

My biggest issue is that there are more pieces that people actually want, and while this is cool I'd much rather that they'd focus on creating new kinds of pieces.

For example, I was quite pleased that they put out The Cross.
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My opinion concurs with that of the author. It's a good expansion that is a lot of fun. We don't use it for tournaments because one small error could cost you too dearly. For parties, however, we love it. It looks spectacular and makes for some amazing high risk shots when they come off.

The key to the Pitch Car expansions for me is not to overuse them. We try to make tracks that are not overly complex - keeps the pack together by reducing breakaways, reduces construction time and lap times.

I've also got the 4-way expansion from essen 09, although I must confess we haven't got it onto the table.

Well done to Endersgame for such an excellent review; that must have taken quite some time to put together.
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PitchCar: Stunt Race » Forums » Reviews
Re: A Comprehensive Pictorial Review: Taking PitchCar to the next level – literally!
On the supports issue, I would have preferred pourous, coloured foam to syrofoam. Styrofoam looks bad, feels bad and is lighter than foam - it looks cheap and it is cheap. These games are quite expensive already. I can only speak for myself, but a few extra dollars would certainly not have deterred me from the purchase.
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