Chris texted me a few weeks ago saying that he had been playing some chess. I chuckled and responded that I had downloaded an app for the New York Times crossword puzzle. More recently, I teted to him, “Speaking of old man games, I found my APBA Baseball game in a closet and started playing it.” He probably had no idea what I meant because he didn’t even reply. It made no difference. I was, and remain, excited by my discovery.
So, what’s the big deal? Well, my interest in sports replay/simulation started in high school. It would appear that the new year has me reminiscing. A trip to my old high school hangout in the Quarters, a year in review post, and now reliving my tie as a hockey league founder.
Inspired by my lack of a social life, I created a competitor hockey league to the NHL. I envisioned it like the USFL (another of my past and maybe future sports sim projects), but more ambitious. I went way back to the origin of the NHL and started my league there. In addition to games, I created rosters, rivals, and even dynasties.
With all of that in mind, you have probably deduced that the APBA baseball sim is right in my wheelhouse. You have deduced correctly. There is so much that I love about this game. Some of you might wonder why I prefer dice to computer simulations. While the computer games allow you to simulate many more games at once, there’s just something about rolling dice that brings me back to my wild and crazy high school days. Admittedly, I did simulate a season of the USFL on the computer, but the pace of baseball, as the saying goes, is much more deliberate and it fits in with the slow roll (so to speak) of the board game.
Plus, the game is very easy for as complex as it can be. I haven’t played it in probably 10 years, but I was able to pick it back up and play through a best of 5-game series in a few hours spread out over two days. While not at the level of simulating entire seasons in a couple of hours, it’s still a quick game and I could probably do an entire team’s season in a couple of weeks.
Aside from those, the game combines the two things that I enjoy about sports. I’ve played sports in middle and high school. I coached Aiden’s soccer team this past fall and might do it again in the spring. But, my interest in sports starts with watching games with my father and it is a legacy that I, sadly, haven’t yet been able to pass on to my children. Both Quinn and Aiden have sat with me during this most recent bowl season, but their heart isn’t really in it.
I watch sports to have fun and unwind. I simulate sports to satiate my need for statistics. I’m so happy to have grown up in the era of advanced metrics, better statistics (both in the predictive and measuring sense of the word), and GPS on players. As a math guy, the more the merrier when it comes to numbers. APBA lets me get as deep as I want into the statistics. I didn’t think to do it this time, but my next simulation I’m going to keep score like it was a real baseball game. That score sheet tells the whole story of the game and keeping score when I was a kid was when I first started to fall in love with the game.
But, it’s not all about numbers. Even though I’m not much of a history person, I can appreciate the history of sports. I can’t tell you why I hate the Browns, their players, and their fans. Well, that’s not entirely true anymore. The Browns have been so terrible for so long that I don’t feel anything but pity for them lately.
APBA Baseball allows me to either rewrite or relive that history. I can explore “what if” scenarios. The one that haunts me to this day is “Slow” Sid Bream crossing home plate in the NLCS to beat my juggernaut Pirates. If only I could replay that game and the subsequent series. Oh, wait! I can! I haven’t yet, but it’s time to research the 1992 season card set and get to changing that result.
I could witness history. Maybe that game was just meant to be and no matter how many times I replay it, the Braves will always win. I would also love to be able to watch those same Pirates. Well, not really the same, but you get the point. Maybe I could watch them win either of the 70s World Series or the one against the Yankees with Bill Mazeroski getting the game winning home run.
Or, I could just mash a whole bunch of players together in an attempt to create an all-time all star team. I sort of did that with the games that I played to acclimate myself with the rules again. I didn’t create either team, but I found all star teams for both the MLB and NeL from 1933. I got the idea to play them against each other in a series because I’ve always heard about how great the Negro League players were and what a tragedy it is that none of the players ever got to play against major league competition. Not that I ever doubted it, but I wanted to see for myself. I will include a link to that recap at the end of this article.
Initially, when Christine saw me looking at the game, she mentioned that Aiden might be able to play it with me. I said, “No, it’s just a one player game.” It technically might be and everything that I’ve seen about the game would suggest that many people only play one player. And, that goes to show how much I know. I just looked up the game on the web page and they are designed for 2 players. It’s just that most of us must be loners and play solitaire. So, I missed out on an opportunity to play a new game with Aiden. That one is easily remedied.
The only other negative is my fault, too. There’s a master set to the game that allows you to do things like account for wind and park effects. I used to have the master set, but I must have misplaced it. All I could find was the wind effects chart and that made almost no sense to me. If I’m going to keep playing the game, that’s definitely something that I want. It stinks that I will have to pay for it again.
Speaking of paying for things, this is where I discuss the worst part of the game. Usually, this is price and it’s no different this time. The game itself isn’t too expensive. You pay 50 dollars and get everything you need to play the game, plus you get the previous year’s two World Series teams to get used to the card layout. Even the Master rules are only 25 extra dollars.
After that, though, is when the cost starts to add up and become slightly prohibitive. Each replay season costs anywhere from 40-75 dollars depending on the number of player cards. Granted, you get all players for all teams plus any updates that might happen later, but that’s a crazy cost for some cards. I haven’t found any place that pirates them and I doubt that I would even take advantage if they did. It’s not that I’m above that sort of thing, as we’ve seen. I ‘m just impressed that they are still this little company plugging away at something they love and haven’t had to sell out like many of the other games from my childhood.
This game is so much fun. I had a blast simulating that series that I talked about earlier. I think that it could even be more fun playing against someone else and I plan to test that with one of the boys this week. Tomorrow might be good as everyone has a snow day. I don’t know how much historical replay I will be doing as the 75 dollar price tag is a bit too rich for me right now. However, I will probably get the 1992 season to replay that dang NLCS and I’ll keep on looking for free cards to keep me occupied in the meantime.
Click here for the 1933 MLB/NeL All-Star Series recap.