Ballroom Blitz – Pong Tactics preview

Despite being in my mid-30s and having had a rather splendid career at university, I had never played the legendary party game that is Beer Pong. Hell, most people on this side of the Atlantic are barely aware of the thing, their only experience of it being in terrible movies and TV shows where college kids get too drunk and end up getting sliced into pieces by masked killers. If you’re one of those unaware folks, here’s the quick rundown…

First, get a bunch of plastic cups, generally ten per side. Set them up into a formation of your choosing – there are many, the most traditional being the triangle – and find yourself some ping pong balls. Pour an inch or two of beer into each cup and you’re good to go. The rules are simple, bounce the ball into the opponent’s cup and they drink the beer, putting the cup aside. Get rid of all the opposition cups and you’re a slightly drunken winner!

So far, so good, though I’m at a slight disadvantage. First off, as previously mentioned, I’ve never played this before (plus I suck at most dexterity games). Second, I don’t drink, meaning that I don’t get the advantage of booze-induced hubris. Now, with the arrival of Pong Tactics, I’m wondering if this could be the playing field leveller I’d require to become a champion in the field?

Being an evolution of the original game, Pong Tactics takes the basics and remixes them into something slightly more strategic. The rules encourage you to face off in teams of two, and rather than setting up your cups in a standard formation you’re allocated one at random from a deck of cards depicting many different possibilities. Once that is done, both teams take a hand of cards from the game deck and things are ready to begin.

Play runs as you would normally go, but this feels like a very different game thanks to those cards. At the beginning of your team’s turn, one is drawn from the deck and added to your hand. These can be played throughout your turn, either giving you an advantage or screwing things up for your opponents. Whether it’s bowling your ball and removing any cups it touches or getting extra attempts until you miss, mastery of these bonuses is essential. Of course, you’ll need to hone the ability to bounce that ping pong ball into a cup if you’re going to even get close to winning, but with the right cards you may not have to do that even once…

Pong Tactics is a curious little thing. While it’s not the kind of game that we normally cover here on The Little Metal Dog Show, it takes something that has been around for ages and brings it into our world. Sure, Beer Pong is a game played by countless frat boys and party girls, but with the elements added by designer Ben Mentzer it’s now become something a little more. While it’s far from the most complex enhancement – I mean, it’s a bunch of cards when all is said and done – it adds strategy and silliness into the mix. Dropping a bunch of stupid rules onto your opponents that forces them to close their eyes and throw their next shot over their shoulder is pretty damn funny. Yes, it’ll work much better in a party environment as opposed to the hushed rooms at your local games night, but perhaps Pong Tactics will bring this long-historied game to a much wider audience. I know we’ll be playing it next time there’s a bunch of folks round ours who are looking for something light and fun – and we don’t even need booze!

Designed by Benjamin Mentzer and published through Whiskey Jack Games, Pong Tactics is currently on Kickstarter with a campaign running through until September 22nd. A minimum of two people are needed to play, but I’ve found it best when you’ve got two pairs facing off against each other. A copy of the game can be yours for $25 (though there’s also an Early Bird deal for $22). Thanks to Ben for sorting out a preview copy!

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