When I was a kid, and we’d have family gatherings, there would be a time, after I was in bed, when the adults would sit downstairs at the kitchen table doing odd things. They would shout numbers at each other ”two, two” or “three, three” and trade off orange cards with strange pictures. Then someone would hit a bell, ding! That produced much sighing and some addition and subtraction of numbers. It was very mysterious and strange.

The version my family had, orange bell and all!

The version my family had, orange bell and all!

Well, at some point I was old enough to be let in on the big secret. It turned out that the adults were all playing a game called Pit. In Pit, you are all in a trading pit trying to corner the market on some commodity. The game has been around in various forms since 1904 when it was first published by Parker Brothers. The version that my parents had was from about 1973. I think that makes this our oldest throwback so far.

Playing The Game

The way Pit works is that there are a bunch of commodities, such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, and flax. Each player starts with nine random cards, and the objective is to get nine of the same cards. You do this by blindly trading cards with other players hoping for something that will help you. This is where the shouting of numbers comes in. You have two oats that you don’t really want? Well, you shout “two” and someone else shouts “two” and you make an agreement to trade usually by making eye contact and nodding. Then you trade cards and hope that those two match other cards in your hand. Keep going like this until you have nine of the same card then hit the bell. Finally, smile victoriously while the rest of the table sighs.

Playing the game. Thanks to Evil Erin for the picture.

There are two more things to worry about in the game, and that’s the bull and the bear. Two people in each game have ten cards to include these two cards. A bull market can be either good or bad. If you corner the market, you can use the bull as one of the nine cards to win. If you have ten cards, you can get nine plus the bull to double your winning points. However, if you have the bull when someone else corners the market, you lose points. The bear is just bad news. You can’t win with the bear and you lose points if you are holding it when someone else corners the market. The nice thing about both the bull and the bear is that you can trade them with other commodities as wild cards so that people don’t know that they are coming.

Why It’s Fun

Pit is uber-competitive. It is not only about being the one to corner the market, but about leaving someone else with the bear market in the process. It’s a little bit about being deceptive and a little bit about needing to trust each other to make trades. It’s extremely social, you have to communicate with your fellow players. In fact, you get to shout, point, push over people, and generally do the same things that my family does at the dinner table regularly. I suppose it’s not a surprise that we love this game. Pit is one of my favorite party games.

The new version. Less orange, but more oranges.

The new version. Less orange, but more oranges.

How You Can Get It

As with many other throwbacks, Pit has been updated and re-released. It no longer has an orange bell just a silver one, and they updated some of the commodities so instead of flax and hay there are now oranges and coffee. It’s still fun, and you should buy it and give it a try with your gaming group. Be part of the secret cult of Pit. Wheat, it’s all about the wheat.

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