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Be warned, PIT is not a game to play if you've just put your kids to bed and are hoping they'll sleep, if you don't want to disturb the neighbours or if you've lost your voice, as it involves a lot of shouting. It is however a game that is simple, and great fun to play with a group of friends.
It is a trading card game, but not one that can be played with a standard pack of playing cards. When you buy this game you will receive a pack of cards that consists of six commodities - in our set this is oats, corn, barley, cocoa, wheat and sugar. There are eight of each commodity and the aim of the game if to collect a full set - a bit like happy families. However the way of achieving a full set is far more exciting; it can even turn into a bit of a riot.
The game also consists of two others cards to add a bit of spice - the bull and the bear. The bull card is good to have for most of the game as it can be used as a wild card and represent any of the commodities, allowing you to be considered as having a full set with only seven of your commodities - very useful if some troublesome opponent refuses to release the last of your set. This is called a bull corner. If you are the first to gather together your full set of 8 commodities and also have the bull then it will earn you double points. (I'll explain the points bit later). This is a double bull corner.
The bear is just pure bad and you will spend the entire game moving this card along as quickly as you can if it falls into your hands. If you are not the winner and are left with either of these cards in your hand then sadly you will lose 20 points for each.
Each player will need a full set of commodities for the game to begin, so if six people are playing then six sets of commodities are required and four sets for four players etc. The rest are left out of play. Six is the maximum number of players for this reason. The dealer then shuffles the commodity cards and the bull and bear and deals to the players. Because of the added bull and bear players will have an unequal number of cards, two with nine and the rest with eight. Those with nine will need to remember to discard a card at the end - it has been known for a player to keep valiantly trying to collect their set when they already have all eight, because they can't count - very silly, and a mistake I'm sure you won't make if you're determined to win!
When all of the players have organised their hand of cards it's time for trading to begin. The dealer announces that the 'The Pit' is open and the fun commences. Trading occurs by calling out the number of cards that you wish to swap with another player and holding those cards out - this can be between 1 and 4 cards which must be of the same commodity, although don't forget to try and get rid of that bear in with them and the bull if you don't think you're in with a chance of winning. If another player is also calling the same number or willing to change the number of cards that they want to trade then you swap cards. This continues until finally you hear the excited shout of 'corner' or 'bull corner' from one of your opponents and that round is all over.
The round is scored by looking at the number that is printed on the commodity that you've successfully collected e.g. 70 for sugar, 90 for barley. These scores are recorded on a laminated wipe clean score sheet that you write on with felt pen. The ultimate winner is the one who is first able to rise to a score of 500 after playing repeated rounds of the game.
We first used to play this game way back in the midst of time when I was still at college and our set that we still play with was brought about fifteen years ago and was manufactured by Waddington's, the famous toy and game supplier. The original version of the game stems all the way back to 1904 though, so it really has stood the test of time and it's easy to see why when you play. Our box measures a petite 19 x 14 x 3cm, so is very easy to store away and inside has a plastic insert with a card shaped indent to keep the cards and score sheet in place. The box could be an awful lot smaller, literally the size of a regular pack of cards, but maybe it would be easy to lose then. This game always comes on holiday with us and I remove it from the box then and just keep the cards in a self sealing bag poly bag, so that it really travels light. The cards inside are white with bright red writing and a picture of the commodity printed in red on a yellow background - very simplistic.
The set that is now available from Amazon appears to be of a similar size, but is purple and has sepia photographs with the score written across the middle. It is called 'Trading Pit' and is produced by The Cowshed, who I have to confess that I've not heard of - I don't think that you could go far wrong buying this though as there really aren't any complex parts to cause any problems. It is retailing for £6.90 which does seem expensive for what is essentially a pack of cards.
We've had so much fun over the years with this game. The fun seems to increase directly in proportion to the number of players as there are more people shouting out and trying to make swaps or snatch cards off of each other. As you get carried away there can be a tendency to notice another player with an appropriate swap and swipe the cards from him before he is aware to ensure that you are first to get them. You develop an awareness of where the cards might be and remember where you passed the bear or an unwanted commodity to, so you'll also be trying to avoid those and pulling your hand away if it looks like you risk getting them back. My main reminiscences of playing this game are of spending ages shouting 'two, two , two', readjusting my hand, discovering someone's given me the bear and then sneaking this into my hand and off again with another call of 'three, three, three' with the person who has given me the bear keeping very quiet to avoid its return. You won't be able to staying sitting on your seat. You'll be compelled to lean over the table as you holler, as you join your fellow players making a complete cacophony of noise. It's amazing how competitive even the quietest of people can become. A word of warning - don't play while camping - you may be accused of disturbing the peace, as has happened to us, as we've become carried away in our supreme efforts to corner the trade.
Apparently a silent version of this game can be played, where you simply hold up the number of fingers of the cards you want to swap, but what fun would that be. The whole enjoyment factor of this game is entering into the high spirits and have a good old shouting match.
I would definitely recommend this game if you are meeting up with friends and family over Christmas, especially once the odd glass of alcohol has been consumed. You can play for as long or short a time as you like. Each round usually takes about 5 minutes and although the official winning score is 500 you can set your own lower or higher limits dependent on time, or just play by the round so that different players can swap in. A fun five stars for this game.
Summary: A fun and noisy card trading game for 3 - 6 players.
Advantages: Simple to play. Lots of fun. Great for group gatherings.
Disadvantages: Very noisy. Not suitable for 2 players and more fun with six.