I’m pretty sure I’ve played the card game Pit before, but looking at the instructions make it sound pretty complicated. Well, maybe not complicated per se, but definitely different. Basically, it’s a game that simulates the stock market, with players seeking to corner the market on various commodities.
In order to achieve this, the players have to make trades with each other. Unlike with many games, there’s no turn system, with a player being able to propose a trade at any time. As such, it has the potential to turn pretty chaotic, much like the actual stock market. Advanced play also utilizes the two wild cards, the Bull and the Bear.
This game dates back to the beginning of the twentieth century, with its forbear being something called Gavitt’s Stock Exchange. Instead of commodities, this game used railroads. Its designer, Harry E. Gavitt, first published the Stock Exchange game in 1903. In the following year, Parker Brothers released Pit, with its credited designer being Edgar Cayce. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because he was primarily known as a psychic. I suppose that means playing Pit with him would have been rather boring, as he’d already know what cards everybody else had. Actually, Cayce’s primary method was to go into a hypnotic trance before giving a psychic reading, and I’m not sure he could have done that during a game. Anyway, getting back to the game, the commodities traded have changed a bit over time, but they’ve pretty much always been agricultural products.
The mention of Bull and Bear cards also made me wonder how these particular animals came to be symbols of the stock market, and apparently nobody really knows. One possibility that I’ve seen proposed is that bulls tend to gore upward, while bears swipe downward, hence the market going up for a bull and down for a bear. Wikipedia gives other suggestions, including that “bull” might actually result from a translation of some other word, like the French bulle (meaning “bubble”).