I love finger flicking games.
I love that the best of the genre are close to being a sport, not just a board game.
I love that they are games where skill wins out, so you can get better at the game by practice and dedication.
So I was more than a little excited to get my hands on a pitchnut board.
Pitchnut is a game with its exact origins lost to time.
It is credited to French Canada, with an origin around 1900.
The game owes some pretty obvious family-connections to crokinole, also created in Canada in the late 1860s, and to carrom. In the case of carrom, which remains huge in countries such as India, several games have sprung from it, including American carrom and Norvuss the national game of Latvia.
Pitchnut, which is now actually a trademarked name, which seems a bit unusual for a game so old but according to www.pitchnut.com, is a game of pure skill.
Like carrom, players must use a flicking motion of finger and thumb to use a shooting disk to hit other disks into four corner pockets.
There is a French game pichenotte which is similar, the name actually referring to the finger-flicking action. In the case of pichenotte it is nearer carrom but with larger 'pockets'.
Pitchnut adds pegs in a circle in the centre of the board, a direct connection of crokinole.
There are also two pegs guarding each pocket, which should make the sinking of disks more difficult, but really doesn't since there are channels along all four sides. Once in a channel a piece is essentially 'a gimme' in terms of sinking it on the next shot, the channel really being a guide to the pocket.
Like many older games rules do vary.
The pitchnut website has it pretty simple. Each player has a set of disks he must sink, and once those are cleared you shoot the one odd-coloured 'poison' piece for the win.
Scratch your shooter you must bring a piece back to the board.
Sink the poison before you clear your pieces you lose.
A variant which favours good shooting has you playing to score 50-points. You can sink the poison at anytime, worth 15 points, plus five points for every opponent piece still on the board.
In another variant you must 'cover' sinking the poison by then sinking another of your own stones before ending a round.
While the variant rules up the 'skill' level, the channels really are a balancing mechanism which means players need not always make precise shots to sink pieces. As a result I would not rate the skill level of pitchnut as equal to crokinole and carrom, which require more finesse.
That said pitchnut is a great game which is quick to learn and to play.
In the case of boards from www.pitchnut.com they are high quality. They have surprising weight, and barring a hurricane the board should become a family heirloom. This is a board which will easily be handed down generation-to-generation with family enjoying it for years.
Check it out at the aforementioned website.
If anyone is interested in this game, or other board games feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org
-- Appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov 28, 2012