tabletop baseball games … a dying addiction   2 comments

i tried to get my son, who LOVES baseball, into my hobby.  i’ve been playing tabletop baseball games for over thirty years now.  in one format or another, they’ve occupied a great portion of my life.  the idea of me being able to manage the “big leaguers”, setting lineups, adjusting rotations, calling for a stolen base or hit and run in critical times, or simply making a defensive adjustment late in the game are all things that keep me coming back.  i’m the founder and commissioner of the Fat Elvis Baseball Collective, but it’s far from my first venture into tabletop baseball leagues and probably won’t be my last.

as i started this blog i mentioned that i tried to get my son into sharing my hobby of tabletop baseball games.  he LOVES baseball.  maybe more so than me even (if that’s possible).  but he hated playing the board games.  it bored him.  give him a sports video game and he’s happy.  who cares if the scores are ridiculous?  who cares if stats are outrageous?  who cares if the results are preposterously unrealistic?  he doesn’t.  but i do.  my hunt for the next great game on the market continues year after year.

it started in 1979 when a friend of mine loaned me his 1978 set of Statis Pro Baseball (called Major League Baseball back then) by Avalon Hill.  the cards were based on the 1978 season.  my Yankees against anyone was a great game.  Guidry winning 25 games.  amazing.  Munson, the gritty, hard-nosed catcher, incredible.  the rest of that lineup.  i loved it. even now i want to dig it out and start flipping those fast action cards.  how realistic was it?  more so than today’s video games.  i’m sure it wasn’t as close to realistic as it COULD have been (there’s a newer version out that is touting extreme accuracy as it’s morphed into a more potent game).  but at the time, it was very cool.  not as popular as strat-o-matic.

i tried SOM.  whether it’s because i never gave it a GOOD try or maybe i overlooked some stuff or maybe i just needed to play against someone else who knew the game better than me.  i didn’t care for it.  the fact that there was a basic and an advanced version was automatically a turn off.  baseball should be full on from the get go.  here you could play kiddie ball (basic) or the real deal (advanced).  i think there was a play with bases loaded with on outs.  my batter hit into a double play, but i couldn’t find which players were out and if the run scored.  that was the end of that.

APBA was another one that crossed my path.  it bothered me that i couldn’t look at a card and tell whether the player was good.  allegedly if i had played the game long enough, i’d be able to figure it out.  it wasn’t enough to keep my interest and it hit the closet quickly (then eventually the trash can).

Longball was cool, though i never got through the rules in order to play this game that had Reggie Jackson donning the box cover.  oh, the pangs of an ADHD mind.  i’m sure it’s kept me from many fun activities and this game may have been one of them.  even as an adult i bought this game on ebay hoping to recapture my youth and finally figuring this game out.  now the H is gone from my ADHD body, but the ADD is still there and the “new” old game is setting in my office closet.

Sherco was cool with it’s field lay out.  with some “simple instructions” you could even design your own ball field.  but it did give you the 26 current stadium dimensions and using a string you could outline the “wall”.  then you could position players where you thought they’d be best suited for each play.  did they have enough range to get to where the ball would fall?  could they make the throw to keep the runner from advancing?  it all seemed too mathy and found it’s way to the dust pile.

Pursue the Pennant is the game that pulled me away from Statis Pro.  the beauty of the walls allured me much like the confines of cozy wrigley entice power hitters.  it’s still a thing of beauty and i only wish the game had been so popular it could have continued.  a former FEBC owner bought the rights to the games with promises to bring it back, but it remains a historical mark in the baseball game world for the last two years since his purchase.  i’m confident in my knowledge of this man that the game will never be revived — at least not by him.

after PtP went the way of a disbanded company, i fell in love (sort of) with Dynasty League Baseball.  over the years i’ve come to see it’s flaws and wrinkles.  whether it’s because i’m older now or just because there’s nothing on the market touting to be better, i’m inclined to stay with it even if i do find the elusive “next greatest thing”.  whether it’s the roll of the dice or the various leagues i’m in (or have been in) — this game has become as much me as i’ve become it.  whether i’m playing a game with players from the 1970s, 1990’s, 2000’s, or 2010, i know how to “evaluate” the player and try to get the most of him in whatever situation i find myself managing.  when i first started playing i simply went by players reputations and hard stats.  but over the years i’ve become a numbers counter.  in a way it takes the mystique from the game.  even with all this knowledge, i still find myself with only one championship in 20 years worth of league play.  so knowledge isn’t everything.

i’m always looking, though.  several companies started up after PtP went under as they re-invented the game by building it backwards and figuring out the game engine.  one is free, another couple charge, but they’re all very similar.  each game out right now has it’s own little quirk that i like. for instance, Triple Play Baseball puts a dollar amount on each player’s card.  that’s the “value” of that player.  it’s for league play where a salary cap is involved.  the number is for beginning bidding purposes.  interesting.  i like it.

the latest game i’ve heard about is Ball Park Baseball.  it’s been around since the late 50’s and was even played by Bill James.  allegedly it’s the closest game to realistic results as any out there.  at least according to it’s followers.  and while i’d like to see if it’s true, the price is something ridiculous.  i tallied up the parts, cards, charts, ballpark cards, dice and for one season it’s something like $140.  even now that number makes me choke.  i got a couple of teams and the pertinent game parts and tried it out.  but that was like sniffing a cherry pie and deciding whether it’s going to be good or not (i decided it wasn’t for me, “no thanks, i’ll pass on the pie and coughing up a lung to pay for it”).

what is your experience?  played any of these games?  played ones i didn’t mention?  when did your hobby begin?

i don’t know of any kids that play these games.  seriously, i don’t know of any.  they all love the video arcade games.  i can’t help but look at the stats and think, “that would NEVER happen.”  i tried playing my son in one of his games on play station.  somehow i’m a horrible baseball player/manager because i can’t remember which button is for home or second base.  it shouldn’t be about timing a joy stick.  it shouldn’t be about hitting the right button to throw the ball to the right base.  so i’ll stick to the table top games.

and lastly, as i eluded earlier, there is a new Statis Pro game on the market called Statis Pro Advanced.  i’ve recently bought the 75 season and am playing out the American League.  this will give me a good idea if the game has really improved (and i think it has), is closer statistically than the 50/50 split games, and still has the same flow of action.  if all that works out, then i’ll be working on getting enough playing the game to start a league.

maybe you play some of the games i mentioned.  if so, please realize that the views and opinions are strictly my own.  maybe those games work for you.  but for one reason or another most of them didn’t fit me (reminds me of some 36″ waist pants i still have in my closet).  the only thing i know for sure is life without tabletop baseball gaming would be boring to me.

-chief

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Posted 08/06/2010 by rick in Baseball, Tabletop Games

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2 responses to “tabletop baseball games … a dying addiction

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  1. dude – for me, my journey with tabletop baseball also started in 1979, just like yourself. i was 8 and a half years old, and i spied an ad for Strat-O Baseball in an issue of Baseball Digest that my Dad had bought me. i saved up so much lawnmowing money that summer. and i can remember buying the game plus i think the 1978 set along with it.

    i’m really digging your blog, bigtime. i’ve subscribed to it and have a RSS feed to it on my iGoogle page. keep up the amazing work, you’ve got a big, big fan in me. :) you’ve also inspired me to go ahead with my WordPress blog for my 1990 Second Season Football replay project that I currently have in the works that will begin later on in September

    TTYL,
    Travis

  2. im thirteen and i fully understand your frustrations with kids today i tries to start a keepers league in school based solely of paper but draft day was a disaster we were t are lunch table when the group decided that a salary cap was bogus . the ringleader ( a phillies fan arrg why do i hang out with that guy) argued that the fact that he couldn’t have Ryan Howard on his team (cuz the bum stocked up on pitching lincecum and Cain unfair) was stupid i then told him that he would run into this if he was playing a video game too. long story short i ended the salary cap but the point is that most young fans aren’t sophisticated enough for tabletop baseball games i am though and im eager to play a table top game.

    kit
    Marv
    PS: Yankees suck #put a bird on it go O’s

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