Not Your Grandpa's Baseball Games

Friday, May 22, 2015 at 11:37:00 PM

Baseball team, Eymard Seminary, Suffern, N.Y. Photograph shows the Eymard Seminary (of Suffern, N.Y.) baseball team gathered around a clergyman wearing cape and biretta, all posed beneath a scoreboard showing that the Eymard team scored a run in the top of the twelfth inning to beat the Don Bosco team by a score of 8 to 7.

(Because if they had been, you'd be playing them)

There have been a lot of tabletop baseball games over the years. And even though there are a few that have become baseball household names, like Strat-O-Matic and APBA, baseball board games and tabletop games in general are flourishing like wildfire.

While it is true that you’d be hard-pressed to find a major publisher pushing a new baseball board game, you just might be pleasantly surprised to see the new and superbly designed tabletop baseball games that have emerged this year.

So far, just in 2015 alone, we’ve seen the birth of four new tabletop baseball games - each offering  a different take on a timeless tradition.

And while those loyal to the classics may turn up their nose at the new kids on the block, they might be pleased in seeing how each does not seek to replace the old guard, but how each offers a different perspective and play mechanic - without an ounce of tarnish to the baseball games that we love and were loved by our fathers.


A Little History

APBA Baseball has been a popular game since 1951.
CREDIT: http://www.museumofplay.org/online-collections/5/29/109.17545
Even a quick peek into the long history of baseball board games will reveal a surprising list of almost 1,500 tabletop varieties produced from 1867 until 2015 - even before ‘Base Ball’ was called ‘Baseball’ or widely recognized.  And these are only the ones that have not been lost in time or forgotten.

From William Buckley’s Game Board Base Ball and the ensuing McLoughlin Brothers games, to the recently emerged new guard by way of Indiegogo and Kickstarter, tabletop baseball, just like baseball itself, is not at all dying.

It's thriving.


If You Don’t Know, Now You Know

The sheer number of games that have been produced give us an invaluable insight into the character and persona of the tabletop baseball enthusiast, designer and collector.

While baseball is truly an intellectual game, tabletop baseball is an intellectual obsession. But to proffer either one of these declarations to someone who needs it to be explained requires so much time and effort that we’re usually prone to just bypass the explanation altogether and head for safer waters. Even though later we’re often weighted with an unmistakable feeling of loss in having not been able to make a connection.

There’s only one way to serve a discussion of baseball or, more precisely, tabletop baseball: Hot, steamy and right  into the eager hands  of  those who’ll vigorously take a bite and burn their tongue without a second thought.

This is because it truly takes a baseball fan to really understand the intellectual nature and passion of baseball on the tabletop.

Yes, of course, there’s action, but it needs to be understood that all action is a culmination of a very carefully crafted and meticulously instituted strategy. One single play that bursts into action before us and causes the non-believer  to look up from the phone is but the manifestation of many, many days of logistics.


Seemingly serene, baseball often explodes into unpredictable and furious bursts of action. CREDIT: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/07/Hunting_tiger_edit1.jpg

And while you could say this about a lot of sports - or any sport for that matter - you couldn’t do it to the level of baseball. Because while baseball is seemingly lazy and slow at first glance, it’s like the tiger in the grass that we see in serenity - the same tiger that in a split-second could be up and pouncing your way, fangs bared, muscles tensed and rippled with dynamic energy.

That’s baseball.


The Rise of the Tabletop

In this age of electronics, you might think that  anyone under 40 would have a problem playing or becoming interested in anything that doesn’t glow from a bright LCD or hum from a sharp retina ready screen.

Yet, board and tabletop games in general are on the rise. One look into any Google search will reveal that there are more board and tabletop games than we can shake a stick or a +4 staff at. So many, in fact,  that you could very easily be overwhelmed within minutes.


And symbiotic to the growth of the tabletop game is the transcendence of the underlying and fervent culture that is its' lifeblood. Once a subculture, geekdom has gained such a precedence in the creative world that the term, “geek” is now an honorable badge instead of that  pithy insult barked at a group of dispersing D&D players by a dense kid enroute to that ‘84 Camaro that his daddy bought him. (Yeah, that kid.)

As a result, we see vibrant businesses thriving, like Chris Cormier’s well designed and popular Geeky Goodies, where geek culture and the universe of tabletop gaming highlights the dominance of the culture that, as a business, might not have thrived 25 or 30 years ago.


Why Tabletop Games?

But the question always asked by those who are not players of tabletop  baseball or board games in general is, “Why board games?”


Tabletop games are flourishing more than ever in our digital age. CREDIT: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/be/Role_playing_gamers.jpg

And just as an explanation might be lost on anyone needing an explanation, it might not be. In fact, it probably won’t be -  as indicated by the blatant statistic that tabletop gaming is recruiting more and more adherents every year.

The essential allure of the board game is that it highlights interaction between people and serves as a platform for people to  compete socially - just like we were meant to do.


Why Tabletop Baseball?

But for the tabletop baseball aficionado there is a widely treasured and additional caveat: Tabletop baseball is often centered around real players - modern or legendary. Real players from a real history rich in tradition.


A tabletop baseball manager for Boston might not sell Babe Ruth to New York in 1920: Would Boston have won a World Series without the Curse of the Bambino? CREDIT: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9e/Babe_Ruth_Red_Sox_1918.jpg

Thus, the tabletop manager is endowed with the extra ability of time travel and the power to change it - at least in his own living room - or yours.

What if The Boston Red Sox had never traded Babe Ruth to New York in 1920? Would Boston have won a World Series in the twenties with Ruth - or at least before 2004?

How would Bruce Bochy’s 2014 San Francisco Giants stack up against Bobby Cox’s 1995 Atlanta Braves?

Could Connie Mack’s 1930 Philadelphia Athletics beat the 2003 Florida Marlins under Jack McKeon?

As managers of simulated games, we’re able to answer these questions - time and time again: Each answer different according to the brains and skill behind the time traveling manager.

And, conversely, as managers of today’s players in the modern day setting, we’re gifted with the ability to put our own modern theories of strategy to the test against current major league baseball managers.


The Future of Tabletop Baseball

As we plunge into the years ahead, we’ll not see a decline of tabletop games and board games (baseball or otherwise).


Modern tabletop baseball games merge the old world with the new. CREDIT: http://www.rollsaga.com

What we will see is the emergence of new games that embrace the future and harness new technology - sometimes enhanced by that new technology and sometimes, as hybrids, living within it. But that’s another story.

In closing, we  leave you with the four tabletop baseball games that we hinted about earlier in the post. In lieu of descriptions, we'll invite you to take a look at each one yourself. Because in the end it is you who will ultimately decide which game will propel you into the new generation of tabletop baseball.

So, without further adieu, here are four games that now stake 2015 as the foundation for your journey into the tabletop baseball world of tomorrow:

(Listed in chronological order from the oldest to the newest of 2015)

#4. Baseball Highlights 2045

Release date: Successfully funded on Kickstarter on April 3, 2014 and released in 2015

#3. Bottom of the Ninth

Release date: March 26, 2015 on Kickstarter


#2. Platinum Series Baseball

Release date: Funded on Indiegogo on May 6, 2015

#1. Roll Saga Baseball

LinksWebsite | Kickstarter Project (Coming on July 11, 2015)
Release date: Coming Soon on Kickstarter


Article Credits: 
Title Image
Baseball Games (List of almost 1,500 in alphabetical order) 
A Brief History of Tabletop Baseball 
Baseball on the Table-top
What's New at the OLD Ballgame? (5 Part Series) 
Geeky Goodies (Chris Cormier)
Baseball Is Dying? Don't Be Stupid
Strat-O-Matic
APBA Baseball
WHAT IF… the Red Sox Never Traded Babe Ruth? 
Curse of the Bambino
How tabletop games won a place in a digital world
After 40 years, popularity of tabletop gaming rises despite high-tech competition

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