As someone who watched Hong Kong action films from almost the beginning of them being a thing, let me state that the climactic fight scene in the 2nd Daredevil episode (“Cut Man”) is stunning. Not just for what it does; for what it leaves out. It is more “brutal” than high flying. And a long, single take fight, at least according to this interview (never believe anything in a entertainment rag, but it seems possible). It’s not massive 4 minute, multi-story Tony Jaa brawl but that took months to pull off. This had clarity and elegance.
And, unlike in the movies, people spend time catching their breath. Like you do.
I have no idea who thought a six player card-based WWII that plays in 60 minutes would be a good idea, but it is. Apart from the slightly persnickety naval supply rule, QG is simplicity itself.
- Play a card, resolve it
- You check supply
- You score 2 VP per supply center you control
20 rounds and done, with two sudden death conditions.
Most turns resolve in seconds. Each player has 7-11 units, one unit per space max (allies can coexist). Most cards just build a unit or fight, but there are also economic warfare (discard some opponents cards), one shot events, status cards (modifiers that apply for the rest of the game) and response cards (face down events that you can play when the conditions are met).
Strategy in the game is based on supply and tempo. Playing a great status card (that may, for example, let you attack then build) grants you 2 tempo a turn, but taking that one turn to play it (and do nothing else) may mean surrendering the initiative. You only have a limited number of cards, and a limited number of each card, in a deck. So if you’ve discarded all your build army cards, that’s it.
Each countries deck feels amazingly different. Russia can build, and build, and build, and defend. As Russia in one game I was eliminated off the board on turn 4 (due to playing a status on turn one instead of building an army), and played Status, Status, Response and then the “Russian Winter” event. And I’m back in it. Getting beat up and recovering is Russia’s thing.
The US is about Economic warfare. Germany’s blitzkrieg can roll across the board. Japan’s response lets it effectively “bank” turns and unleash hell at one point.
And then there’s the opening — you draw ten cards and discard three. Pretty much every event, status and response is unique, but you dare not discard too many build/fight cards. You can’t necessarily determine a strategy based on your opening hand, but you can cut several off by discarding. You never reshuffle your deck, so cards you discard are gone. It’s agonizing. And the play, for all it’s simplicity, surprised me each game.
Our first game seemed like a foregone conclusion … the Axis rolled too many VPs for too long, but Russia had a status that let them attack twice (with a card, of course). Italy had been bombed out of the game (no cards left, still scoring points but had to pass) and Russia attacked Rome and Berlin, then the US played a mass transport to invade as the final play of the game … and occupying two enemy capitals is a victory condition. Allied Victory.
There may be balance issues, there’s definitely a lot of variability. One official variant (that we didn’t know about) lets each player discard four cards to grab one. Painful, but that does mean you can always get a critical card. In our sessions, the variability hid balance issues. In one game the UK did nothing and the Axis ran away with VP (but lost) and the next game the UK played a card to build in India, then Australia, and racked up VP and the allies ran away with the score (and won). One game Japan ended fully expanded, other games Tokyo fell with several turns remaining.
I suspect that how Italy & UK (the “Minor” part of each alliance) plays will really swing the game. They have many more options than the main players). I also think that the economic warfare system, while it works, is somewhat boring. But on the whole, missing your last turn isn’t bad when the last turn takes 3 minutes total.
QG also plays with 2-5, but why? This is a team game, being able to see two decks of cards would slow things down and give you too much information. As a six player game, Quartermaster general delights. Fast play, six radically different positions, teamworks without one player being able to bulldoze his allies. Lovely.
Rating — Suggest
And as much as I love QG, I suspect there’s an even better game where you just Draw X, Play Y, discard the rest, repeat using the same basic system.
This article covers my (evolving) thoughts about Baseball Highlights 2045 strategy, tactics and planning. I’m not the best person to write this, but I’m not actually actually terrible at the game either. This does not discuss the expansion packs. I don’t consider this done, this is more of a draft to generate discussion, but I’m tired.
General Tips for new players
- Put someone on deck barring a good reason not to
- Be wary about releasing your last pinch hitter early. (I prefer to call them pinch hittable, since they go out of the game, but nobody asked me)
- Pay attention to your opponent’s drafts (and releases sent down to the minors). Obviously this matters more in a 2p game.
- Drafting two way players (with hits and defensive actions) may not be better, but it will make your decisions easier.
- The value of revenue decreases over time. Skills that cancel all hits by a specific type of player increases over time (as players get better).
- Strongly consider drafting two players instead of one (if that’s an option).
- Don’t underestimate the difference being a PH makes.
The Starting Teams
All four starting teams have 10 rookies and 5 veterans, the Rookie lineup is identical for each team. Unless otherwise noted, a player’s speed is average and they aren’t pinch hittable. Since this is baseball, I’ve given them nicknames for reference.
Format is Type (Cyborg, Natural, Robot), $Income, Hits threatened (S/D/T/HR), Skills, PH or Speed
- “Pickoff Guy” — Cy, $2, none, Pickoff, PH.
- “Intentional Walk” — Cy, $1, none, Walk, PH.
- “Hitting Fielder” — Na, $0, S, Glove.
- “Whiffing Fielder” — Na, $1, none, Glove, PH
- “Crowd Pleaser” — Na, $2, S (2 Copies)
- “Regularbot” — Ro, $1, S + S, Slow (2 copies)
- “Slowbot” — Ro, $1, D
- “Doublebot” — Ro, $2, D, Slow
Each team’s five veterans differ, but there are consistencies. All teams have $6 on veterans, 2 PH and 3 immediate skills. Most teams have 2 Na + 2 Ro + 1 Cy (making the basic full team 6 Na + 6 Ro + 3 Cy). Most teams have “average” speed (meaning for each slow they have a fast player) and four or five hits for 8-11 bases.
So, the average starting team looks like:
15 players, 6 Na/6Ro/3Cy, $19, 14 hits for 19-22 bases, 5 Pinch hitters, and 7 skills, and is roughly average in speed, but with 3 slower players.
Judging card attributes
In theory card attributes are easy to judge. More hits are better, having an immediate skill is better than not, faster trumps slower, more revenue is better than less. Being pinch hittable is better than not. However, it’s difficult to judge tradeoffs. Would you rather go from average to slow and gain PH? Is it better to hit another single (or a double instead of a single) as compared to a point of revenue? Those are the questions. So, skipping the obvious (more is better), let’s examine the card attributes.
Race and the Arms Race — Robots and Cyborgs and Naturals, oh my. Race is a neutral attribute, however, there are three pitching skills that will cancel all threatened hits of a batter. Robots have trouble with curveballs. Naturals cant hit fastballs, and Cyborgs can’t handle spitballs (I wish they’d picked sliders, as ‘cyborg slider’ sounds good, but slider is an expansion skill). In theory this is all rock/paper/scissors, but curveball is much better than the other two. Most starting Naturals have roughly a single. Some of the veterans hit for extra bases, but that’s cancelled by a few rookies that don’t hit at all. Early in the game a spitballer is practically worthless. Each team has only three cyborgs, and two of them don’t get hits at all. But each team starts with 6 (or 7) Robots, and all of them hit doubles or better (or multiple base hits). Those are hits worth cancelling.
How do I rate the other pitching/defensive skills:
- Walk is reasonable. It neutralizes speed and can save a run or two in the right situation,. Sometimes it will save a run against a single, since average/fast runner can’t stretch from second. Against single hits it is inferior to glove and against multiple hits its inferior to the curve/fast/spit ball, but it always applies.
- The Knuckleballer reduces all hits by one base (and cancels singles). This totally nerfs singles, and each team has two who start with S+S. But you’d much rather have a walk against home run/X.
- Glove cancels a single hit, but against anyone. Early on, this trumps the pitchers, but you’ll draft people who have multiple hits, so it will become weaker later on.
- Pickoff is substitute glove. This can be useful against leadoff batters (who always get on base if played first) and against a runner in scoring position (RISP) instead of cancelling a mere single. An average/fast baserunner on second is usually a run. They make it on a single. Also leaving any base runner (even slow) in scoring position is asking to have a clutch played against you. So yes, it’s better to cancel the hit (because it may have scored other runners) but if you can’t pickoff is a fine substitute.
- Double Play is a conditionally superior pickoff. You can get two baserunners, but not fast ones. But conditionally superior also means conditionally inferior (said the man who just lost game seven of the word series when his double play caught exactly zero runners).
All things being equal, my feeling is
Curve > Glove > Fast > Double Play > Pickoff > Knuckle > Walk > Spit (early)
Curve > Fast > Glove > Walk > Spit > Knuckle > Pickoff > Double Play (later)
I’m not sold on this. This is open for debate. And as the Hideous Hog noted: ceteris is never parabus. If everyone drafts naturals early, fastball is king that game. Pay attention.
Clutch is my favorite offensive skill. Yes, you need to trigger it. You get an extra single, you score at least one run. About the only deck it’s pointless in as an all HR deck, and those aren’t easy to build (and are still vulnerable to knuckleballers and walks). A conditional unblockable hit. Having a clutch or two in your deck will also cause the opposing manager distress. A manager may save the final glove but then you score before it matters…
Quick Eye works well, especially on a robot heavy team. No opposing cyborgs means no opposing curveballs. You are willing to forgo a single or double if every robot gets their hits. If they do have cyborgs, you get some value from your robots, even if cancelled. Quick Eye only looses to clutch because some teams may drop to 1-2 cyborgs.
Stolen Base is ok. It may grab a run (if you are on third) that you couldn’t get, but often those base runners would likely score. Stealing an average runner from 1st to 2nd is good, as is stealing a runner home. Everything else is ok.
Leadoff is easily the weakest skill. One single can’t be stopped, sure, but only in the first play. Worse, if you are the home team forgoes a defensive play (thanks to Mark Delano for pointing that out). Useless in extra innings if drawn randomly. Useless if you top deck it for a pinch hitter except in the first inning. Every other skill may be worthwhile if drawn in extra innings or as a pinch hitter. For all this you make a single not gloveable (but pickoff-able). Even after as few games as I’ve played I think leadoff should work whenever bases are empty (or in extra innings, empty or not). Having a PH instead basically means “Play a random card instead” which isn’t great for planning. Avoid leadoff. (I’ve got a variant proposal). I will note that Leadoff (as home team) can be followed up by Double Play as a possibility.
Unlike defensive skills I don’t think this is particularly open for debate.
Clutch > Quick Eye > > Stolen Base > Leadoff
Revenue depends on the format you are playing, but it declines as the game goes on. A high revenue free agent (like Dave Trout) may be a great first acquisition but a mediocre final one. The revenue of the player (hopefully rookie) you send down to the minors also matters, but a bit less, since they only come back after a shuffle.
Hits are the offensive side of the game. More hits are better because they stop gloves. You can get shut down by the appropriate pitcher, but get through. Extra hits mean extra runs (assuming you can bring them home). Four (average) singles score two runs and are harder to cancel than a single HR (barring a Knuckle ball). Of course, you want a density of runs, since you only get six cards. But hits differ from other aspects of the game in that they really don’t have diminishing returns.
Marginal Utility and Deckbuilding
If you have one single, you don’t score. Two singles, you don’t score. Three singles scores (average runners), and every single after that scores. A double play robs two runs. A glove robs one. Assuming average defense, you get two hits cancelled and a pickoff. 6 average singles yields one run and strands two. If you can convert the last single to a HR you get four runs, unless it gets cancelled. Every thing past that gets converted, although some pitchers cancel multiple hits. At the margin, every increased hit is a run.
Fall to 5 singles, and average defense shuts you out. There’s not much difference between 5 hits and 3 hits. At that margin, you aren’t going to score against average defense. You have to play to go into extra innings (and which point you’ll still likely be in a bad position, due to baserunners). You may very well score against a low defense’ if your opponent isn’t drawing (or playing) defense he’s pounding offense. But if you have so few hits you should have defense…
Marginal utility applies to defense and most skills but those suffer diminishing returns. 5 Quick eyes doesn’t help, you aren’t likely to hit more than 2-3 cyborgs a game. Six gloves are OK, but you’ll let a steady stream of hits from free agents who have 2-3. Better to have 4 gloves and one curveballer or fastballer to cancel a few extra hits by a single batter. All stolen bases doesn’t help if you don’t have enough hits to get on base.
This isn’t to say that you can’t angle your team. Just that many skills suffer diminishing returns. Being one dimensional makes you easy to manage against. If you knew your opponent would field six gloves + hits, you could draft a great team to beat it. Having all the same hit type is also a bit problematic. Even a team of 7 HRs (all with one and a two bagger), you’d probably only score 3-4 runs (after two gloves and maybe a walk/pickoff). A team with HRs wants cards generate RBIs. A team with singles wants extra bases to clear them out at the end. Multi-hit cards stop gloves and threaten points and big hit cards and clutch bring them home.
Which is a long winded way of saying I’m not sure how to value various hits. So let’s add speed to the mix.
Slow runners conflict with stolen bases. And they want a few triples and home runs. Average runners (at least, enough of them) are content with doubles. A team of all slow runners and all average probably only differs by a run, unless you have lots of stolen bases.
General Thoughts and the On Deck Circle
The big drafting choice is offense versus defense. More hits or stop their hits? All the teams start with two gloves, a walk and a pickoff plus 3 more skills (which are usually 2-3 defensive). Expect to see about 2-3 defensive plays by a starting team. Your opponent isn’t playing randomly, expect those gloves to hit a double or better; expect the pickoff/walk to count. A starting team generates ~6 hits for about 8 bases (although this depends on which veterans show up). A perfectly average starting team would be about 2-2.
In the real world, average rarely shows up in individual contests. You draw hitters one game, defense the next. Even with starting teams it varies wildly. But look at your six cards and imagine the game against an average team. Particularly in a regular season game, you can accept a loss if you get a better position in the market and put a good player back on top of your deck (or discard a weak player). It’s more painful in the playoffs, but sometimes you punt a game.
Who to put On Deck is a big decision. Putting a player on deck can be done for a number of reasons:
- The visiting team can play the on deck card without needing a PH to use the defensive action (only) against the home team’s sixth card. As the visiting manager, the whiffing fielder is a great choice since its a glove and no hits anyway. Nothing wasted. As visitor you need a strong reason to not put someone in the on deck circle.
- You have a high variance player – one that is useful in some situations and useless in another. For example, the Intentional Walker is great against the HR hitter (and many free agents), but he doesn’t do anything against a single guy. He is also a PH, so you can keep him out and put in a different situation guy on deck and use one or the other. For example, a decent (not great) batter. If you need the variance guy, you play him, if it looks like you wont, you put in the hits.
- Knowledge — You can always PH for a random player, but having a player on deck means you know a bit more. You get one pinch hit where you know what you are getting. Pinch hitting for a random player is often a desperation move, but desperation moves sometimes work. And by putting someone on deck you’ve reduced the # of players the top card could be.
- Notice that the visiting team’s first card can’t use an ability except for leadoff and their on deck card is often used for the defensive ability only. The home team can use many defensive abilities one their first card, but can never use on deck except via pinch hitting. The visiting teams advantage is being able to use two mediocre cards efficiently (assuming that one is mediocre offensively and the other defensively). The home team’s advantage is tempo, being able to decide what to do after having seen one more card. You can’t control where you play much, but being aware of it may help you make a better decision.
- Similarly — As the home team, expect one hit to be cancelled from your final card (or worse). The visiting team can often save a home run for the last card and hope that the home team can’t cancel (or PH), but the home player should probably play his on card five unless he absolutely needs the run scored on his other card.
- When you are a dollar or two short of a good acquisition: put a player on deck to try and bump up your revenue. Then you have to be careful not to pinch hit your revenue back down. Or you can protect some money for next game if you have extra by putting in a $2 player on deck. (Which also helps lower your revenue to go first for a key player or choose to go second in hopes of letting your opponent take a non-key player and giving you a new option, if there are many acceptable drafts).
- If you have a superstar and 5 shlubs, consider putting the star on deck and then back on top of your deck for the next game. Or if you have 2 future minor-league-legends, put one on deck and discard him at the end to cycle your deck a bit faster. In general (particularly when purchasing) cycling is good. Don’t put a solitary shlub on deck, you need to send someone down to the minors! (This is assuming you plan on making a single purchase. If you plan on making two, you’ll want two shlubs).
If you’ve got a few PHs you may can be liberal in ‘conceding’ a game or protecting a player. If you find yourself in a close game and want your on deck player back you chuck a PH and put him in. The loss for doing this is that if you hadn’t put your player on deck, you could use your PH for a random player.
Beyond this, what do I look at? If you have below average hits, you may throw a big hitter into the on deck circle, particularly if he’s zero revenue. This is because of the marginal utility discussion above. If you draw another hitter you can PH to above average hits. If you draw defense you may be able to hold off. If 4-5 hits won’t score a run dropping one hit on average to get a better fielder may let you escape into extra innings with 0-0. Similarly with too little defense, switch out some defense for more offense and bank on a high scoring game. Consider the marginal utility. A 3rd curveballer or 2nd spitballer is a reasonable on deck play …. there is diminishing marginal utility and what if your opponent drew few/no cards you can cancel? With a bad draw, try to be unbalanced and hope for the best. Sometimes you get lucky because your opponent is also subject to variance, and you are hoping that by reducing your mediocre offense they’ll waste their extra defense. You’ve already conceded the point. (You can also try to small ball and get a run or two without any hits, leadoff/stolen base/clutch).
When do I not put a player on deck? Rarely. The only example I’m positive it was right play was when I had $11 and Max Verlander (an $11 cost player) was a free agent. I could have put a $1 player on deck but I didn’t risk drawing a $0 non-PH player.
Tips for Playing the Minigame
- As the home team, expect the visiting manager to play a defensive card in the on deck circle (or curveball). Plan accordingly. The home teams Home Run batter should often go fifth or fourth.
- The visiting team can often risk keeping the last batter as a big hitter, since the home team will only have one card left. Of course it may still be a PH, but it often isn’t.
- Consider playing your best robot early, especially if your opponent knows you have a better one in your deck. Your opponent may sit on their curveballer. (Ditto other aspects).
- Don’t casually release your last PH unless it’s a crushing play or you were never intending to use your on deck player.
- All of the above points are bluff and counterbluffable … I know that he knows that I know. As a home team, you may keep your last player as a double play, and hope to just give up the hit but clear the runners out. If you have two players without hits, you may try playing all four of your hitters hoping to pressure your opponent into saving a card for the end.
- Sometimes you have to just try the top card and hope. Particularly in the last few cards. But see below.
- You only have to win by one run, but runs come fast.
- Don’t be afraid to slap down a 2-3 hit card early even if you don’t get to use the skill. (Obviously, the less useful the skill is, the more the advice applies). Early runners have plenty of opportunities to convert. Singles in the fifth inning, however, only get one more card.
- You know at least 1 card in your opponents hand — the free agent he just bought. Do you remember what it does? (Bonus question — Is it a PH?) Similarly, holding your free agent to your last card (especially as visitor) can let your opponent make guaranteed plays, particularly when he remembers that your free agent does not have PH. This is not theoretical. In my first tournament, I knew one card order guaranteed a victory and the other a draw, because I knew what my opponent’s final card was.
You go through your deck in (roughly) two games. I’m assuming that you always put a card in your on deck circle. When you are buying free agents it slows down a bit because each one you buy goes (effectively) from discard to on top.
If you aren’t buying free agents that means that if you didn’t see someone in game one, you are seeing them in game two. If your opponent fields mostly rookies + veterans in the first game, you’ll hitting all free agents in game two. And if you are down to one card on your deck you should be able to remember if you haven’t seen your stud yet or if you (I personally would not allow note taking in a tournament, to prevent tracking and to keep the game moving).
In general you want to discard your on deck card at the end of the game if it’s a base card (even a veteran) and keep it if it’s a free agent. If a game is decided you may PH to cycle bad cards off your deck (more base cards than upgrades) or to trigger a reshuffle if most of your shlubs are in this game, to keep them out of their deck for next game.
For the love of Pete (Rose) know the last card in your deck is. This can make your PH (or on deck decision) obvious. I lost a tournament on this point.
If you have less money, the decision to go first or second is yours. If your opponent has an obvious play you can’t block, you should probably let them go first, particularly if you have a nice middle range of money (say, 6-8, particularly on boards with a bunch of 5-7 cost guys and the one $9 guy your opponent will get). Maybe they’ll flip up another player. If you are tight on money, and there’s only one player (or combination) you really want, then go first, or risk getting blocked.
Going second may also let you react, remember that all players acquired will be put on top of the deck.
If you have $9 or more, you may be able to buy two players. This is a good idea. You’ll upgrade two rookies (or rookie + veteran). Sure the single $9 guy will be awesome, but you’ll still have a rookie and you’ll get two new players next game.
I happen to like (perhaps too much) natural hitters with gloves since the balance offense and defense. You can put your weakest hitting glove on deck (as visitor). You’ll still want a few other skills (diminishing marginal utility) but natural players also tend to have decent revenue and speed.
Avoid anti-combos, like slow players and stolen bases, or multple leadoff hitters. (Avoid leadoff hitters in general).
When chucking players consider marginal utility and not just your own. Dropping a cyborg (or two) can be surprisingly effective if your opponent has spitballers/quickeyes or even if they are on the board. If your opponent drafts them no harm, and you can draft them later. Even dropping a single cyborg means you’ll average one a game, and sometimes none, making all those skills useless. Swapping out naturals and robots can also be done. There are only so many curveballers/fastballers.
There are so many combinations I’m loathe to go into more specific advice
The Starting Teams in Detail
New Yorks’s Veterans:
- The “Double Play” — Na, $1, Single, Double Play
- The “Fastballer” — Cy, $1, Single, Fastball
- The “QuickEye” — Ro, $2, Double, Quick Eye, Slow, PH
- “YardBot” –Ro, $0, HR, PH
- “Triplebot” — Ro, $2, Triple
NY’s veterans have five hits for eleven bases, an offensive powerhouse. I initially thought this team was dominant, but …
- They are below average on speed (no fast player to compensate the slow players),
- They have an extra robot (more vulnerable to curveballers, already the best of the three pitching skills).
- Yardbot has one of the PHs and $0. That’s an anti-combo. If you are routing the other team you may pinch hit for him to up revenue, but usually he’s going to hit and that means $0.
- Mediocre skills. Fastball early on is worse than a glove (as you are probably cancelling a single, maybe a double). QuickEye should usually trigger, but slow means you’ll need another double to bring it home. DoublePlay can’t pick off fast players but is usually at least as good as a pickoff.
- “Mr. October” — Na, $0, Single, Clutch, PH.
- “Charly Hough” — Cy, $2, Knuckleballer, PH
- “Mr. Two Way” — Na, $1, Triple, Slow, Glove
- “YaahdBot” — Ro, $1, HR
- “Speedbot” — Ro, $2, D, Fast
Four hits for ten bases, but great skills make this my favorite team.
- Glove is great, and on a triple hitter slow isn’t much of a burden. You can’t steal home, and can get caught in a double play, but there’s only one guy on base. I like Glove + Hit guys, as noted above.
- Clutch is usually an extra hit. Having a PH on a $0 clutch guy means if he isn’t useful you can top deck.
- Speedbot can score after his hit on a single.
- Knuckleballer is weak early on, but great against RegularBot (S+S) in the opening series. And he’s PH, so if he’s not useful you can top deck.
Los Angeles’s Veterans
- “Meh” — Na, $1, None, Leadoff, PH
- “Curveball” — Cy, $2, none, curveball, PH
- “Hitbot” — Ro, $1, Single + Double
- “Boomboy” — Na, $1, HR
- “Theftbot” — Ro, $1, Single x2, Stolen Base
4 Hits for 7 bases, but a stolen base and leadoff is another single (bringing it up to 5H, 8 bases) that can PH. (All average speed). LA plays the small ball. In general I don’t like LA, although if you get your leadoff player as a visitor (you want one player with all offense for your first play) it’s fine.But you don’t control that. One nice thing is that there are no $0 people, which means you only have one in the deck. Variance may be nice, but this lets you PH a bit easier. My instinct is that LA is the weakest team, but in the variance noise.
San Franciso’s Veterans
- “Mr. September” — Na, $0, Single, Clutch
- “The Fastballer” — Cy, $2, none, Fastball, PH
- “Shoeful Joe” — Na, $2, Single, Glove
- “Cove Rover” — Ro, $0, HR, PH
- “Regular!Bot” — Ro, $2, S+S (Like RegularBot, but a crowd-pleaser)
Five hits for 8 bases, but clutch is often another hit. Again all average speed. High variance revenue lets you make drastic revenue adjustments if you focus on that instead of winning games. That’s a plus early on. Fastball gets steadily better, particularly against people like me who draft naturals with a hit + a glove. As mentioned before, I like clutch, but the PH could be on better people.
One of the joys of the Gathering is the rare game. The prototype (though I no longer play those) or the obscure or Out of Print. I haven’t paid much attention to Japanese games, excepting the ones that get republished in the US. Japanese games are tiny morsels, the one delightful bite and finished. The amuse-bouche of games. If you examine Japenese games, you find efficiency. Short games in minimalist packages, not necessarily deep but not as shallow as a dozen or two cards and perhaps a few cubes would lead you yo believe. Sail to India squeezed a Euro into two dozen cards and some cubes. Love Letter is a replayable gem with 16 cards, and it’s not alone.
The Japanese also play baseball, and they shrank the strike zone and game length. The Japanese, perhaps due to resource constraints or cultural differences, make things small.
So it surprised me that it an American compressed baseball down to six cards.
Baseball Highlights: 2045 imagines the American pastime as an ESPN highlight reel played by cyborgs, robots and the rare unaugmented human (“naturals”). Each type specializes in expertise (pitching, hitting, and fielding) but some are all around players. Each mini-game consists of six cards out of your fifteen card roster. (Each card is “one inning” the game having been shortened due to increasing pressure from so many forms of entertainment).
In those six cards you have knuckleballers, hits, stolen bases, walks, intentional walks, double plays, diving catches, pinch hitting, pick offs, leadoff hitters and smallball and robots going yard. My first mini game, my very first, featured a six extra inning affair that ended on a bases loaded walk.
The mechanics are elegance itself. You play one of your six cards (or pinch hit for it, if you can). If it has an immediate effect it takes place, then you threaten one or more hits. (Such as “Single, then Triple.”) Your opponent plays a card, resolves his immediate effects, then any hits you played resolved. The most common immediate effects are to cancel one (or more) hits, perhaps conditionally. So if I played a “Single, then Triple” and my opponent played “Cancel a hit” card I’d get my single (the triple being cancelled). And my opponents card may also threaten hits I have to deal with.
There are twists (pinch hitting, the on deck circle, runner speed, extra innings after a tie) but the core is simple. Elegant.
After your game, your six played cards produce revenue and you hire a free agent. You send one player down to the minors, put the free agent on top of your deck and go. BBH2045 is a deckbuilder; but the decks always stay the same size.
Amazingly, it captures the feel. I’ve seen a series with a pitcher’s duel (0-0 in the fifth with a runner finally getting in scoring position!) and a shellacking worthy of an aerial bombing campaign (9-7). I’ve seen close games and hopelessly lopsided affairs. The starting teams subtly differ but even 1-2 free agents give a team character. Do you get robots and go for offense, but leave yourself open to cyborgs who can blank any robot? Do you focus on pitching and defense and sneak a few runs through?
I suspect that the futuristic theme was to preserve the purity of baseball while allowing the designer (Mike Fitzgerald) to dodge all of the “But how can X get two at bats in an inning that only produced two runs, and maybe zero?” Claiming to be a highlight reel (and cyborgs, and all that) allows for an end run around those who would argue for mechanical purity over feel.
It must be admitted the ‘capturing the feel’ of baseball means sometimes having a rough go of it. But to me that’s part of the charm. Better management will help you win more of the winnable games, but somedays they’ve got all their pitchers lined up and you shrug. I played a 20 game season of Bunco for Boys and I enjoyed it despite making no decisions for most of each 45 minute game. So dealing with some bad hands for a five minute game doesn’t bother me. (Incessantly complaining about rotten luck more than compensates). If you demand that better skill translate to a win and not just a better percentage of winning, this is not your game. Stick to chess. I think I’m pretty good at this (and intend to get better) but some days you just pray for rain.
The full game is configurable from 30 minutes up to hours, depending on how long you play. If you have enough copies in your group, you could play a tournament with dozens of players. A 26 person league ran in 5 hours, and that’s with 8-12 new players and some delays. (Obviously it required 7 sets). It even plays three, which has historical precedent. There are already five mini expansions which I haven’t even opened and plans for more (including new base teams). There’s even a solitaire game, which I haven’t played. I’m going to analyze the hell out of it (which fits the theme). If you have a glimmering of interest in deck builders, sports games, and big things in small packages, you should try it.
Rating — Wildly Enthusiastic. I hope my son is as well.
Caveat — I am friends with the designer and developer, and many playtesters. I won a copy of the game in a tournament, although I would have purchased it instantly if I hadn’t.
I posted My GoF 2015 Geeklist a few minutes ago (yes, I am taking today off).
There are as many reasons as gamers. Usually gaming provides a release after a hard day. The game starts and ends and is put away; the experience no more remembered than the random sitcom it replaced. A few laughs and time pleasantly murdered.
For most people the question itself surprises. Games, to them, means “sport” not board game. Ludus translates several ways, but a Roman would think of gladiators. Nowadays a sports fan means a sports spectator. I understand why Romans preferred watching over participation, but people watch sports and games (including videogames) for just as many reasons as they game.
I shouldn’t answer. My steadily growing impulse is to reject the premise and not game at all. But when I do game its to solve a puzzle, one that fights back aided by clever opponents trying to thwart me. They never do, except by wildly improbable maneuvers that I can only laugh at incredulously the few times they succeed.
That’s how I remember it, anyway.
I game to spark creativity, to play with words, to explain drawings, to find connections. I settle Catan, I find one word hints to obscure celebrities, I trade goods across Europe (as long as they can be packaged in small, colorful cubes). I explore new worlds. I examine the subtle nuances of gesture and phrase that led to your tragic lynching. I explore +1/+1.
I explore — I play games — at the Gathering of Friends. But even from my first the languid meals and chats linger in memory, even as I devoured new titles most of my waking hours. My gaming passion has dimmed, but my joy of camaraderie and fellowship has grown.
As has the Gathering itself. Now I grab my badge to a barely opened convention already larger than the first several attended. It will, over the week, triple in size. But my first Gathering was almost 10x larger than the first. The growth shames me. I don’t know everyone, I may not know half of the attendees because I’m too busy catching up with old friends. I do try to introduce myself, to make new friends. Greedily I want to keep attendance low and this shames me, that I want to deny this experience to all who would attend. I have no illusions; I am no more deserving of this than the next gamer. I am merely lucky.
(Everyone agrees, especially after a game).
Gamers such as us are rare; play is universal. Young mammals of all species frolic and play, hide and seek. They engage in mock battles for no stake other than glory. Play is safe, enjoyable learning. Players imagine their glorious futures, players act, discover, laugh and tolerate imaginary losses. Play is surprise, free form or ritualized. Players set up the pins, knock them down and delight in how they spin and bounce. Players say “Did you see that?”
Sometimes I play; but I am old. Sometimes I decline. Most days I remember fondly the instinct to play; others I recoil at my folly and chastise myself to grow up. Still others I gasp at that folly, the belief that work is somehow privileged over play.
And these days, these too short glorious days at the Gathering, I greedily clutch my luck and briefly glimpse the hundreds of reasons. Though I do not understand most, they are all made manifest before me and I do not feel guilty anymore. Our reasons are all different, and it is not a problem that I do not understand why I no longer enjoy games I used to and that we do not enjoy any games in common. It is not a problem, merely a fact that we have different tastes. I do not question why.
(Originally written April16th at the Gathering).
Population — Me
Every day I bother to log on I’ve gleefully watched my “Games Played for last 30 days” count fall. Ignoring bridge (2 sessions) and solo games its now two, both played with my kids. When I took my son to game night, I didn’t play a thing and felt good, that meant my number would go down. I took the time to call people and chat.
Sometimes I get looks when people invite me to play a game and I decline. I won’t lie, sometimes it is personal, but that’s a small percentage of the population and gamer stereotypes exist for a reason. I found the “courage” to duck boring games a decade ago; now I’m ducking games I like.
Hopefully, Hopefully, this is my Lent to enjoy belated Fat Fridays. But I don’t actually like conventions. I discovered this at Austin Game Fest a few years back – a ‘meh’ day I spent ducking games – but I apparently never posted about that day. I sat with friends and didn’t play more than a handful of games over 30 hours and I’d paid money (quite a bit, counting hotels). And its not just gaming conventions, my best WorldCon moments involved watching my kids have fun.
I am looking forward to next week, even if I continue my perverse gaming hate I’ll catch up with old friends, stay up late and oversleep and generally relax. Maybe I can route my schedule back to normal by regressing via collegiate debauchery, at least clock-wise. (Working an odd shift for the Q1 contributed to my mood). Games, right now, are just a bonus.
Perchance I’ll have something interesting to say then, too.
So consider this a pre-apology and confession, if I duck out on a game.