How to Play
In Pounce the object of the game is to have the most cheese at the end of the game. Before the game begins each player gets 10 cheese markers. All of the players then roll the dice. Whoever first rolls the plunger icon gets to be the pouncer first. All of the other players put their mouse into the center of the board.
The pouncer rolls the die making sure it stays inside the die cup. The pouncer then lifts up the die cup revealing the die. Actions are then taken based on what symbol was rolled.
- Plunger: If a plunger is rolled it is time to pounce. The pouncer slams the plunger down as fast as they can on the cheese board trying to trap as many mice as possible. The other players try to pull their mouse off the cheese board as fast as possible in order to try and avoid being trapped by the plunger. The owner of any mouse that is captured has to pay the pouncer one cheese.
- Cheese: When the cheese is rolled no action is required. The pouncer is able to try and fake out the other players though. If the pouncer is able to get one of the mice to leave the center circle, that mouse’s owner has to pay the pouncer one cheese. If the pouncer ends up touching the cheese board or any of the mice during their fake attempt, they have to pay one cheese to all of the other players.
- Hand: When the hand is rolled the player to the left of the pouncer becomes the new pouncer. The former pouncer now becomes a mouse.
When one player has run out of cheese, the game ends. All of the other players count up how much cheese they have. Whoever has the most cheese is declared the winner. If two or more players are tied, the players who are tied roll the dice. Whoever rolls a plunger first gets to be the pouncer. The game then is played (with only the players who tied) as normal but if a mouse is caught or the pouncer touches the board or mice during a bluff, they are eliminated from the game. The last player remaining is the winner.
Before playing Pounce I didn’t give the game much thought. It mostly seemed like a quirky game that might provide some laughs but not much more. As it turns out Pounce is actually quite a bit older than I was expecting. According to Board Game Geek the game first came out in 1963 and has gone through many versions and names throughout the years. Despite having a simple concept and some quirky gameplay, I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by Pounce.
It is hard to explain but Pounce is just a fun game. Maybe its’ the game’s simplicity or maybe it is the game’s quirkiness, but I had a lot more fun with the game than I was expecting. Not surprisingly it is more fun to be the pouncer but it is fun to play as a mouse as well. Pounce excels in being easy to learn and play. It probably takes a minute or two to explain the game to people who have never played the game before. The game takes between 10-15 minutes to complete so it works well as a warm up game.
One thing that works in the game’s favor is the ability to try and fake the other players out. You wouldn’t think the fakes would work very well but they do work. If you use the fake sparingly and at the right time you are able to fake out other players. As the pouncer you might as well try the fake from time to time since unless you oversell the fake you really aren’t in any danger or incurring the penalty of touching one of the mice or the cheese board. In addition to the pouncer, mice are even able to fake out other mice by slighting tugging on the mouse string. A couple players were actually faked out by another mouse in one of the games I played.
Overall the contents are pretty good. The plunger makes no sense thematically since who would trap mice under a plunger but it works really well in gameplay since it is easy to handle and is quite sturdy. At least in our game it appears that only in rare occurrences mice were able to escape when they shouldn’t have been able to. The cheese pieces could have been made out of thicker cardboard in my opinion but since they are only used as score keepers it is not that big of deal. The mice are pretty good but the strings on my copy are starting to fray at the ends. My copy for some reason had one extra cheese sticker for the die and one fewer plunger sticker than it was supposed to have. I don’t know if this is a wide spread issue or not.
While Pounce was better than I expected the game has a huge issue with regards to luck. The game relies too heavily on luck when it comes to rolling the die. Based on how the game is set up, the winner will for the most part be the player who got to roll the die the most. The die rolling is so important since you get to keep rolling until you get the hand symbol. Theoretically a player could win the game before any other player even gets to be the pouncer since a player could avoid rolling a hand symbol since there is only one of them on the die. The die should have had at least two hands since with only having one hand symbol, one player generally gets to keep rolling the die and that player almost always ends up winning the game.
For example in one game one of the players ended up with more cheese than all of the other players combined. The mice players actually didn’t even do that bad but the pouncer got so much cheese because they kept rolling plungers and cheese so they eventually got cheese from every other player.
I think this issue could have a pretty easy fix. While I did not test this, I think an additional rule that should be added should be that the pouncer loses their turn if during a plunger roll they are unable to catch any of the mice. This would eliminate some of the luck of the die roll and make skill as a pouncer more important to the outcome of the game.
If you don’t have a fast reaction time, you will not be good at Pounce. If you are slow with the plunger you will never be able to trap any of the mice. If you are too slow grabbing the mouse you will almost always get caught and you will lose quickly. This is not a large problem if you have at least an average reaction time. I think Pounce is the type of game that can be enjoyed by both children and adults. Pounce is more the type of game you would play a couple times and then put it away for a while. I see getting bored with the game if you play it for extended amounts of time.
One last issue with the game is the slight possibility of getting hurt while playing the game. While trying to avoid getting caught, you can yank the mouse back pretty quickly. The mice then sometimes fling into the air and may end up hitting you. In the games I played a couple players ended up getting hit by their own mouse as they yanked it back. The mice only sting a little if they hit you but if they would somehow go up into the air and hit someone in the eye they could cause some damage. As long as players don’t whip the mice back I don’t think this is a huge issue but players need to keep it in mind.
I didn’t expect much out of Pounce. While it is not a great game, it was actually quite a bit better than I was expecting. Unfortunately the die rolling adds too much luck to the game which makes Pounce an average game when it could have been an above average to good game if some of the luck was eliminated. If you don’t like the concept of the game or quick reactions games, you won’t like Pounce. If the concept of the game sound interesting to you, I think you will enjoy the game and would recommend picking it up.