This afternoon two sad gamers met up at a local perveyor of caffeine products to consume hot beverages and attempt to fathom the sick twisted American mind behind baseball by playing Bottom of the 9th for the first time.
Being an Englishman, I've never played baseball. I have watched one or two baseball movies over the years, and even played the odd baseball game back in the mid eighties on the Commodore 64 (Hardball and Imagine softwares baseball game). So I'm familiar with some of the baseball lingo.
First up Dice Hate Me have done a fabulous job theming the game components, giving the whole package a wonderful retro baseball feel. Player cards for batters and pitchers are styled like old baseball cards. The large pitch tokens look like baseballs, as are the fatigue tokens. The 'at bat' card for recording whether a ball or strike has happened and how many, looks like a stick of gum. The expansion packs that came with game are done out like old baseball card packs.Theme just oozes from everything.
Jonathan and I played three games. Jonathan was pitching for the games while I was batting. The first game was a bit ropey, getting to grip with the steps involved with the game play.
“I'm thinking of a number, can you guess it?”
The first step is called the stare down, which does a good job of simulating that part of the game where the pitcher is deciding what sort of ball he is going to throw, while the batter is also trying to work out what to expect. This is a psi game like mechanic, ok yes that is me relating it to Netrunner psi games. Both players are performing a mentalist act. During this phase there is some information on the board that the batter can use to try and second guess the type of throw the pitcher will be throwing. Get it totally right and the pitcher is denied any sort of advantage on their throw, while the batter gets to access abilities to help make hitting the ball easier. Get it wrong and the pitcher has the advantage and hitting the ball gets harder. Get some of the guess right and both pitcher and batter each get an ability switched on.
I'm not going to through all the game play stages. There are videos that do that online. I'm just going to pick out bits I like or think need improving.
During the swing phase where depending on the results of the pitch phase you work out whether the pitch was a ball, strike or hit, we found it easier to reference the chart in the rule book (below)…
Than use the handy dandy reference card that is out on the table (below).
What do you think? I'm going to make my own baseball card sized reference table using the table above from the rule book, and the following information on when you roll a natural six as the batter.
If my fading memory from our games hasn't faded too much since the events that inspired this post happened, then Jonathan and I had maybe four or five times when we actually had to do the roll the dice to be the first to get a five or six to determine if the batter makes first base, or if the fielding team gets him out.
Out of those dice rushes I won one. The other times Jonathan rolled a six or five straight away, getting my batter out straight away.
The Rule Book
The rule book has had a few complaints about it, especially that it is not very accessible to those who don't know baseball (although I believe even then some have complained about it). It is jargon laden. Personally I didn't find the rule book as bad as I was expecting. It would have been better if it had a glossary of terms, I had no idea what a double was. Before Jonathan arrived I had to quickly do a Google search to find out. I shouldn't have to be doing this.
I also found apart from the opening paragraph, there is no explicate objectives, win condition explained in the rule book.
I seem to remember Jonathan talking about these points many moons ago now, and saying that the rule book was being rewritten to take on board the critisms say made.
Despite the points above, and I didn't win one game, I still enjoyed this one or two player game. It captures baseball as far as I understand it really well. The use of its mechanics really does give a feel of playing baseball. Or for this Limey how I think it would be based on the films and video games I have played. Could this be rethemed for the rest of the world as a cricket game? Mechanics wise I don't think much would have to be changed. But then I think cricket is about as exciting as watching paint dry or grass grow. Which I believe may or may not be the opinion some Americans have of baseball.
After Jonathan had beat me good and proper, we sat and chatted for a little bit discussing gaming stuff.
Don't forget folks if you are local the Fenland Gamers have their monthly meet this Wednesday. Contact us through the Facebook page if you want to come along to get the details.