Thursday, June 23, 2005

Strat v. ABPA

In comments to this post about Strat-O-Matic, reader arrScott throws down the APBA v. Strat gauntlet, which I can't really pick up. I never played ABPA, but neither was I a Strat diehard, even though I did play it for a time. Part of the reason I never joined sides in that war was that I owned and played nearly EVERY baseball board game that existed, including the following:

(1) Strat-O-Matic -- Bought this around 1975 from "Two Guys". Came with the 75 Giants and 75 Brewers (Hank Aaron!). This was the first time I met Von Joshua and Sixto Lezcano. Later I would buy all the teams, and my friend would try to always play the Phils and always pitch Steve Carlton, and only keep track of his strikeouts. This was 1979 or so. Our version of interleague play was picking two teams at random from the Acme bag that held my set, and play them. The big reason I did not become devoted to Strat was that I wanted to rate players myself, and Strat didn't let you do this.

(2) SherCo Baseball-- this was my favorite, because it used a board that was a 28 x 28 grid, and you could position fielders everywhere, and use real ballpark layouts, and plot where the ball was hit. You could also rate players yourself (one team took about 30 minutes to do, with just a calculator and baseball encyclopedia), though the stat engine was quite rough (all players with batting average -- yes, batting average -- betwen .250 and .299 had the same chance of getting a hit). It also had a neat rare plays chart, including a player being injured in home stove fire.

(3) Bill Rigney's Baseball Challenge-- This was very fancy, with a different kind of field grid for a board, similar to today's fielding zones for zone ratings. The thing about this game was it had a pitch-by-pitch mode! It took about 6 hours to play a game pitch-by-pitch, which dampened the excitement a bit.

(4) All-Star Baseball -- The classic, with spinner and discs, and pitchers were only rated for their hitting. We divided the cards into four teams and played several leagues with my friends.

(5) Statis-Pro Baseball -- Avalon Hill's stat based baseball game, that also let you rate players, though it was more cumbersome because it was more accurate. During the 1981 strike, Avalon Hill sent registered owners of the game some Japanese team sets. Riveting.

(6) Superstar Baseball -- Successor to Sports Illustrated baseball, this was one of the first games I had. Came with all-time great player cards, and is where I learned about players like Frankie Frisch.

(7) Baseball Strategy -- Another Avalon Hill game, but no stats here, though you could adapt the basic Topps card to the game. No dice either, the play was determined by the player ratings and the pitch choice by the defensive player and the batting choice by the offensive player.

(8) Thinking Man's Baseball -- I barely remember this one; only that the board was covered in clear plastic that you would write the score on with a grease pencil.

(9) George Brett Baseball -- This one was freaky. You rolled dice and stuff, but you didn't play baseball, you did baseball things and accumulated points. Really, really dumb idea -- I won this game at a carnival.

(10) Pennant Race -- Another game by Avalon Hill. It was a season replay game, where you picked lineups, made a few rolls of the dice, and the final score was determined. Not really that much fun.

(11) Charlie Brown's Baseball -- This one was pretty cool and a lot of fun when I was 6 or 7. It was like real baseball, just with Peanuts characters and a simple 3-dice chart for different plays. The stats seemed to come out about right.

(12) Baseball -- I had several variations of this game, which was pretty generic and got boring pretty quickly, but relatives kept buying it for me as a gift.

(13) Calculator Baseball -- This one was purchased from an advertisement in the back of Baseball Digest for about $5.00. It basically told you how to generate random numbers with an ordinary caculator, and gave you generic cards that you could use with basic batter and pitcher stats from real teams. Reggie Jackson hit a game winning homerun in the first game I ever played with this, which gave it some staying power.


At 12:11 AM, Blogger Yuda said...

Somehow, I never played any of these. I had a couple of personally invented baseball games using either dice or decks of cards, and I always wanted Strat-O-Matic, though.

And, for the record, I was -3 when you bought Strat.

At 3:03 AM, Blogger DM said...

That probably explains why you never played any of these. When computer baseball games started coming out in the early to mid-80s, I pretty much stopped playing board games like these.

At 9:08 AM, Blogger Carl said...

I had the game with the spinners and the round cards. I've been trying to remember its name for years; "All-Star Baseball" may be it, not sure. I would always pick my team to hit AS MANY HOME RUNS AS POSSIBLE. Rick Wise was always my pitcher.

At 9:24 AM, Blogger dexys_midnight said...

OK, I was a strat die-hard, so I guess I should weigh in.
I had All-star baseball when I was younger. And I had a really old version where the most current players were Yaz and Pete Rose. Although I seem to remember it having Rick Wise too, so Carl, I bet that was the game you had.

In the mid-80's with the advent of computers, I started playing what was for many years, the best computer game ever made, MicroLeague Baseball. I loved this game so much that when I got to college, I started a MicroLeague league with 7 friends, with a draft and a 40 game or so season. I was never exactly sure how MicroLeague used the stats, but you had to input a bunch of them, and additionally, you gave players fielding ratings and speed ratings from 1-5. I suspect now that it was trying to duplicate a strat-like system. So, DM, I wonder whether thios would have solved your need to rate players yourself.

In early 1994, a friend of mine asked if I wanted to join a strat league. Amazingly, I had never heard of it. We had an auction draft, and I went with an awesome pitching staff and no offense. Thankfully, due to a Brian Schneider like knack of getting big hits and going 11-1 against the friend that brought me into the league, I rolled to our league's best record ever, only to lose in the World Series. I was hooked. I played in that league for 5 years and loved every minute of it.
And for the record, strat also had a rare plays chart, DM (and we used to love to make up our own when a rare play came up, as long as you came up with the same result as the chart). Strat also had a punishing and truly great injury system. Ahh, the good ol days. I tell you, I would consider starting a strat league up again!

At 9:24 AM, Anonymous DMCj said...

I LOVED APBA as a kid ... and though I still play (mostly the computer version) - I have about 60 season's worth of cards in my basement.

The missus is in for a nasty surprise when I retire in 25+ years.

At 9:36 AM, Blogger DM said...

Dexys, MicroLeague couldn't hold a candle to Earl Weaver Baseball. I still recall a game in college between the 1988 As and 1988 Red Sox, where in the Bottom of the Ninth of a tie game the Sox hit a double and the runner from first tried to score. My buddy playing the Sox yelled as the little runner motored around third, sure to be thrown out. When the ball came into the catcher in plenty of time, you saw it bouncing between his legs, and the runner slid home safe, E2. The 8 guys watching this in my dorm room erupted in cheers.

At 1:25 PM, Blogger Mean Dean said...

I thought All-Star Baseball didn't have pitchers?

Definitely loved Micro League and Earl Weaver. Both had good player creation utilities. One thing I loved about EWB was that you could also create the stadium, a feature that surprisingly is often left out of games even today. Another great thing about the Amiga version of EWB was that it announced the players' names, even those of created players; it would take a stab at it, and then you could correct it phonetically if it was wrong. Naturally, we rarely told it to pronounce the players' name the actual correct way.

I am a long-time SOM vet (I was in Brad's league); however, I suspect that Diamond Mind Baseball is truly the best game. Its creator, Tom Tippett, is a serious sabermetric researcher. As I understand it, this has enabled him to improve on SOM in a couple of ways, such as accounting for pitchers' ability to keep balls out of play (in SOM, every pitcher is equally affected by their defense, be they Randy Johnson or Kirk Rueter), and basing defensive ratings on stats (SOM's ratings are subjective, based on reputation.) They also put out a "projection disk" before the season starts, which I think is really neat -- you can play 2005 in March 2005, as opposed to February 2006 as SOM requires! However, Diamond Mind is computer-only and I have yet to try it.

I've also heard good things about the computer-only "Out of the Park", but I haven't tried that either and don't know all that much about its intracacies.

BTW, Brad, I am in another league now. My first pick was Barry Bonds. I think this team has a bright future.

At 1:29 PM, Blogger DM said...

All-Star Baseball had pitchers but they were rated only for hitting, not pitching.

I think I may have to do a computer game post, too, which is probably just as long!

At 1:49 PM, Blogger Yuda said...

OOTP is excellent. I've occasionally thought of trying to get a simulation league going with some of the people around these parts, but haven't actually put forth any effort in that direction.

At 2:41 PM, Blogger dexys_midnight said...

who would have thought that we would get so many comments on this subject? Good job, DM, your ERV charts have really targeted our audience somewhere between geek and super-geek (just like we like it).
Remind me to add this to my list of reasons why Boswell is an idiot for calling guys like us (meaning the people who run this blog and our audience) not true baseball fans for getting on Guzman's case--we razz because we DO care, because we live and breathe this stuff.
And finally, Dean, how the heck are you?!? I hope Dean becomes a regular poster on this site because he has a really great knowledge base and insightful thoughts.
p.s. If you want people to know who you are talking about, I go as "dexys" here.

At 2:23 PM, Blogger nordclan said...

I like Baseball Strategy. With this game, I feel like I'm playing the game because I choose the pitch or swing, etc. With the random dice/rn generator games, I feel like I'm watching the game. I'd rather feel like I'm playing it once again. Much better.


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