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Baseball Highlights: 2045» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A work of art rss

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Antonio B-D
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I have been playing recently A LOT of Baseball Highlights 2045 on my iphone. I have some commute to work and I am new at my work so I normally have lunch on my own. Those are great times for a quick game or two.
Also recently I heard a Ludology podcast analyzing one game (Via Nebula) and considering doing this kind of thorough analysis for the future.
Mix both things in my head and what you get is the idea that BH2045 should get its own thorough analysis on Ludology. But, as I have 0 influence in Ludology I have decided to write the reasons down why I consider this game worthy of a ludological analysis.
But let me start by saying that this is not the greatest game ever. It is not my favorite, and I would be even pressed to consider it my best purchase at Essen (A Feast for Odin is wonderful). So why do I consider it worthy of analysis, and, spoiler alert, a work of art?
Well the reason are multiple.
1. First of all, its inherent simplicity. The game is one of the easiest to teach in my collection. Each turn you play a card, the card can have an immediate effect that takes place immediately, and can have a number of hits that only get into play after your opponent plays a card and taken his immediate effect into consideration. That’s all folks.
2. But where it shines is in its hidden complexity. When you play the game for the first time, you don’t realize how many variables are hidden within the game, and like an onion (or an ogre), each layer slowly appears to the player as a revelation. The last game that gave me that “every time I play I see a new level I have to consider” was Alhambra. Let see some of them.
a. Team variability. The four teams that are in the box (normal or deluxe) are different. The differences are minimal but they lead you to different ways of playing the game for the first rounds before the buying kicks in. But not only do you play differently according to your team you have, you also have to consider your opposing team.
b. Defense or offense. When deciding which card to play, the first decision is whether I want to play and offensive card or a defensive card. And this decision can be agonizing. Should I cancel all the hits, or benefit from the fact that he played a Cyborg and score an immediate single? Should I play my defensive cancel all against Robots now, or wait until a heavier Robot hitter appears (if ever)? It is agonizing.
c. Pinch hitters. Probably the most complicated and were the true master of the game shows is in the use of pinch hitters. They have two obvious uses, when you are the Visitor and you are going to have the last “save”, and to get rid of a card you might not want in order to try to get a better one. But there are some more subtle uses. You can simply do it to give you an added card. You can save a good card to be played only if needed (or saved for the next game if it is not needed). You can simply discard a PH to see if you are lucky… As I say this is what might distinguish a casual player from a pro.
d. Money. Each card that you play has a money value from 0 to 3. After the game you will use that money value to purchase a new card. The first time you play, you are not going to worry about it, until, more or less halve into the finals when you will see that you cannot buy the players that you need for lack of money. Then you will start to think about your purchases, your cards played, and your Pinch Hitters. Putting a 2 (or higher) value card on the On Deck will make you suffer, thinking that you might not be able to buy later a player you really want.
e. Speed. This is one of the last things you learn to consider in this game. Normally you will just play a card with some hits and hope for it to survive. But one day, you will play a slow player just before a Fast player, and you will realize that if played the other way round you might have scored a run. And then you will start looking at the speed of players! Also it is important to get some benefit (advance all average or fast) or avoid penalties (take out runners that are not fast).
f. Natural, Robot or Cyborg. The final level of enlightment comes with the type of player. At first the qualification as Natural, Robot or Cyborg does seem to be just theme, but once you start seeing the cards your start to realize that there are cards that affect one type more than another and then you start to carefully consider if you want another Robot, when your opponent already has 2 cancel all robot cards in his deck.
g. Summary. To sum up, from the 2 things you look at a card when you play your first game (immediate action and hits) to the 6 important tidbits of information that you have to really consider (Immediate Action, Hits, PH, Speed, Money and Type) the strategy of the game multiplies exponentially (I think this is for Geoff to calculate).

All the above comments are just to consider whilst playing the mini-game, which in itself is fun. But where the game completely hits it out of the park (J) is with the purchase phase. The fact that after every game you can deck build is a stroke of genius.
3. Buying AND selling. The deck building in this game is done by buying AND (capital words) selling. With the money earned in the previous game you can buy as many new players as you want but you have to “sell” (send to the minor leagues) as many players as you buy, to keep your deck always at 15. The new players that you buy go directly to your deck so you now they will be picked up for next game. This is the most important part of the game, and were you have to consider the 6 elements mentioned above. Go for the best hitter all the time, and you might find yourself with no defense possibility, get all robots and you are setting yourself up for your opponent, etc…
4. Your opponent. At first glance you might consider this game as full of luck. You are not seeing what your opponent has drawn and you are playing blindly. But that is true for the first card of a mini-game. After that, you have to be constantly watching your opponent. And especially during the buying and selling part of the game. Whatever he buys you are going to see it facing you soon, so decide what you want to do. Do you want to exploit the whole in his purchases? Or do you want to defend from his attacks? I have been forced to pray for good cards to cancel Robots in more than one game, so don’t be trapped there!
5. Theme. I am not a baseball fan. I barely know the basic rules of the game and I consider, quoting Homer Simpson, “I’ve never realized how boring this sport was without alcohol”. But this game is pure baseball, and it is pure fun (I know, contraction in terms). First of all, the mini-games play like a game of baseball. You have innings where one side is hitting all around and innings where nothing happen. The result are plausible and the feeling is baseballish enough (for me). The addition of Robot and Cyborgs seals the deal for me. First because of the strategic options it opens (see above) but also because it makes the theme more palatable to me. Just the decision of creating this 3 types of players opens up the design tool to many small differences.
6. Expansions. Particularly, in expansions. This game is prone to have dozens of expansions that only make the game better. More cards is a simple way of expanding, with added defined terms (magna glove, benefits if you had played 2 cyborgs, etc..) but also team expansions to add a small variety at the beginning of the game (and if you are in the US to defend your favorite team), and, even “external” expansion like coaches that give an added benefit for a game. The possibilities are big, and I have only scratched the surface.
7. The solo version. Finally I want to give a shoutout for the solo version. At first it appears to not have been very well thought out, you simply give the “bot” 15 cards from the free agents (the ones you purchase) deck. But once you start playing you realize that you are going to lose probably the first couple of games, and if you want to win the finals you will have to play very intelligently, using all the resources in your toolbox and being fully aware of what the “bot” player has on his deck. And it is really, really, enjoyable.

All in all, I highly recommend that you take a look at the game and, to Mike and Geoff that they consider doing a more insightful ludological analysis of this masterpiece.



Antonio
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Jack
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I didn't think I'd like it because of the theme, but I gave it a spin on the iPad and immediately fell in love. It's excellent and one of those games I can safely say that I'll never get rid of.
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Tom Servo
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Great summary of what makes this game so fun! I am a baseball fan and love the fact that this game lets me play, in a very short amount of time, a series that gets the feel of a much longer game. Certainly there are much more detailed sims out there that are great fun too, but honestly I don't have time to play those often. With Baseball Highlights, my sons and I can make a league and actually finish it by playing a few games a night.

Currently I'm loving the app and its expansions. Best few bucks I've spent in a long time.
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Evan
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Great review and I agree with you wholeheartedly.

This is definitely a game of skill, not luck. Also, if you are not familiar with how deck builders work, you will get crushed. I've introduced this to a ton of my non-hobby gaming friends. They like the baseball theme and as you have stated, it's very easy to teach. This is what typically happens: I end up losing two of the three "play in" games and sometimes I'll lose the opening game of the World Series as well. This is because while my opponent is getting rid of his $1 and $2 rookie and veteran cards and purchasing the highest dollar cards (cost, not value) they can find, I am getting rid of every $0 card I can find and trying to purchase cards that give me the most spending power. I will leave a $7 card in the free agent deck if it only gives me $1 in spending power in future rounds. A $5 card with $2 or $3 spending power is much more valuable. Therefore, in the early rounds, my deck is a bit underpowered and I will lose unless I play nearly perfectly. But by the second game of the World Series (after four purchase rounds have been played), my deck is demonstrably better than my opponents and I usually steamroll through the rest of the series. The last time I played with my buddy, by the second game of the World Series, I had $10-12 of buying power each round to his $5-7. That makes a huge difference in the long run.

This is a game that gets more rewarding after multiple plays and as my opponents become more familiar with how the game works, I expect more challenging and rewarding encounters.

It helps that I LOVE the sport of baseball, so when you combine a great theme (for me), a very interesting take that mechanic with deck building elements, this is a top 5 game of all time for me.

My only complaint with the game is that there were no rules provided for the errors expansion and the cards in that set are counter intuitive in how they execute the immediate action. Not sure why they wouldn't include specific rules for that set (although you can find them here on BGG, but players shouldn't have to go to the internet for this). I have also never used the Coaches expansion in my games, so I'm not sure how well that one plays.
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Darrell Hanning
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The theme is what drew me to this game, having been a baseball fan for many decades.

The gameplay is tense and entertaining.

But honestly, the game resembles baseball about as much as finger football resembles the NFL. In fact, I'm hard-pressed to think of a single, other baseball board game that bears so little resemblance to the actual sport.

It kind of reminds me of the old, baseball pinball machines that were around in the seventies and eighties - "Look, I got two doubles and a triple that time, plus a free ball!"

A fun game, but not a baseball game so much as a baseball themed game. (Yeah, there's a difference - a huge difference.)
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Martin G
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DarrellKH wrote:

A fun game, but not a baseball game so much as a baseball themed game. (Yeah, there's a difference - a huge difference.)


I'd say not a baseball simulation but a baseball abstraction. The way games swing on a single key moment, and you can have a 1-0 defensive duel immediately followed by an 8-7 slugfest feels like baseball to me.
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Darrell Hanning
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qwertymartin wrote:
DarrellKH wrote:

A fun game, but not a baseball game so much as a baseball themed game. (Yeah, there's a difference - a huge difference.)


I'd say not a baseball simulation but a baseball abstraction. The way games swing on a single key moment, and you can have a 1-0 defensive duel immediately followed by an 8-7 slugfest feels like baseball to me.


There are many ways to get variations in outcomes such as that. The mechanisms by which you get there, though, should resemble how baseball is actually played (i.e., one at bat per player at a time, nine players in lineup, etc.), rather than a mashup between baseball and a home run derby. One doesn't need the game to simulate - just better resemble. My point being this game is most definitely not baseball, it's something that kind of looks like baseball, if you squint your eyes and turn the lights down.
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Antonio B-D
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For me is as much baseball as Time of Soccer is soccer. Is it a simulation of a game? No. is it a simulation of a season? You can bet!
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