History Maker Baseball

Inspired by the start of the new baseball season, I decided to set up and play some tabletop baseball, using the teams that competed in the 2015 World Series (Kansas and the New York Mets) in a best of five encounter, matching the actual World Series startups.

I used History Maker Baseball (HMB), an innovative game from Keith Avallone at PLAAY. Most baseball replay games convert player statistics into a numerical rating. In HMB, however, there are no numerical ratings, only characteristics. For example, a pitcher may be a STAR, or a STRUGGLER, and a batter may be a SLUGGER, or a WHIFFER. Each at bat starts with a 3d6 roll on the main game tables. This generates a result – a characteristic – to compare against the pitcher. If there is no match, there is a different result to compare against the batter. If there is still no match, there is a result in the final column.

There are two important points. First, some characteristics are “half” value, which means they only apply if the decider die (a custom d6 with half of the sides blank meaning “no,” and half of the sides with a circle meaning “yes”) says “yes.” This adds depth and variety. But more significant is the second point: many of the results send you off to various other tables that take account of a wide, wide range of factors and recreate key situations. For example, experience, team chemistry, umpire profile, infield, outfield, and plate drama, and so on. So, the flavor of the real game is very well delivered, and so far as I can tell, the game play gives believable outcomes. It means that it can take a little while to resolve a single at bat, but the compensation is the extra depth to the game.

The 2015 cards came with a very handy transactions summary. The team sets show the situation at the start of the 2015 season, and you can easily work out what the roster looked like mid or end season. This was especially helpful in putting together the right players for a World Series rematch.

The player cards come in perforated sheets. No matter how careful I was, the perforations were not perfect, and some cards came out with minor damage. Annoying, and not crucial. But the card quality is the weakest part of the package.

In play, because of the wide range of possible results, you need to be able to see all characteristics of all the players. That means it takes up more table space. Again, it’s more a minor nuisance, but it is a price well worth paying for the rich and realistic atmosphere.

You can get through a single game in thirty to forty minutes, approximately. I compile the statistics at the end, by hand, so you may be able to get through things faster if you use an Excel spreadsheet set up in advance. (Incidentally, I prefer to play these games as board and not computer games.)

So, how did it go? See here.