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Subject: Topps Attax: An Initial Review rss

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J.L. Robert
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Sports-themed collectible card games have not had a strong history of success. The longest-surviving ones have been MLB Showdown (which survived due to contractual obligations), and a couple of football (soccer) games which were in limited release in Europe.

So, why has Topps, Inc. jumped into the collectible card game market with Topps Attax? They're producing the similarly-designed Match Attax in England, so there wasn't much time spent developing a new game.

But you here don't want a history lesson. You want to know about this game. So, let's go...

Components

The game is simply a collection of baseball cards. No action cards, no dice. Each card has an action pose of its featured player, including players who have moved during the off-season being in their appropriate new uniforms (C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira--both new signings with the Yankees--were the most notable such examples that I've seen with my limited sampling of cards). Each card has 4 ratings, 3 scores (Fastball, Changeup, and Specialty) ranging from about 60 up to 100, plus a Star Value, ranging from 2 to 5 stars.

Some cards are foiled, silver and gold. Also, there are a number of (non-foil) cards with unique codes printed on the face. These codes can be entered online at Topps, Inc.'s website for added features and online play options; some of these cards feature the same players as other cards, but with different stats.

All card backs are the same, except for the player's team logo. This is important for squad-building purposes (see below). The 2009 set has 320 distinct cards, featuring 230 differnt players

As of this writing, I'm aware of 4 packages:

-A 41-card, two player starter set, which includes one of 9 gold foil "Legends" cards, Hall of Famers including Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, and Nolan Ryan. You'll also get 2 silver, 2 standard gold foil, and 2 online cards, plus a play mat with rules.

-A 5-card pack, which includes 1 silver or gold (non-Legends) foil and 1 online card.

-A 20-card fat pack, with 1 silver foil, 1 gold (non-Legends) foil, and 1 online card.

-A collector's binder (the one product I haven't seen in-person), which includes two 5-card packs.

These packs seem to be affordably-priced compared to much of today's baseball cards. A starter set retails for under $10, while the 5-card packs are sold for around $1.

Gameplay

Deckbuilding is simple. Each player selects a "team" of 9 hitters and 4 pitchers. Optional rules may limit the number of players from a specific team, the number of stars allowed on a team, or even allow for more players on a team, for longer games.

A player's turn (or inning) consists of 3 pitcher-hitter matchups. Player A selects one of his 4 pitchers, and sets it face-up on the table. Player B then chooses one of his hitters, setting it face-down. Player A then picks one of the 3 stats (Fastball, Changeup, or Specialty), Player B's hitter is revealed, and the chosen stat is compared between the two cards. The higher stat wins: if the hitter wins, the card is placed in the "Runs" stack; if the pitcher wins, the hitter's card is placed in the "Outs" stack. For the second and third matchups, different pitchers and hitters are selected. 4 pitchers are available to choose the 3, to allow for some flexibility and matchup variation. A hitter's card can only be used once per game, while the pitchers are available each turn (one use per inning).

Players alternate innings, and play out a total of 3 innings apiece. This means each hitter card will be used once during the game. The winner is the player with the most runs. If the score is tied, players alternate "extra innings," reusing hitter cards (in any order, not necessarily the same order used before) until one player has scored more Runs than another (playing equal innings).

The Low-Down

This is not a technical game. There is no managerial decisions to be made. It's a straight numbers comparison game, much like Top Trumps.

However, there seems to be some balance. No player card has absolutely dominating stats in all three categories. And every card has at least one strong category (80+), so most card-to-card matchups offer some chance of winning to both sides. Match Attax plays very similarly, but only uses 2 stat categories.

The cards are baseball card-designed, not CCG-designed. Matte paper with sharp, square-cut corners. While this will make the cards look more like traditional baseball cards, it will mean that these cards will take on damage more easily, with rounded corners, and split paper. Collectors will need to be very careful when obtaining singles in the open market or by trading.

The Legends series was a pleasant surprise in the starter, reminiscent of the Cooperstown Collection from MLB Showdown. Even Babe Ruth is beatable with the right pitcher and the right category chosen.

I haven't used the Topps website, so I cannot comment on the content or features there.

Overall, this isn't a great game, and it's marginal as a set of baseball cards. It's a quick game that's targetted at youngsters, but could be a mindless filler for those who enjoy baseball, and a collectible card game with an affordable price point.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being best, I'd give Topps Attax a 4.5.
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fightcitymayor
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This game had me scratching my head from early on. Peddling a baseball CCG to the pre-teen crowd seems kinda like selling bibles to Muslims. How many 9-year-olds care about Ty Cobb? And if you are a 9-year-old that cares about Ty Cobb, wouldn't you be insulted by the weak sauce that Topps is serving up as a collectible baseball game?
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J.L. Robert
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fightcitymayor wrote:
This game had me scratching my head from early on. Peddling a baseball CCG to the pre-teen crowd seems kinda like selling bibles to Muslims. How many 9-year-olds care about Ty Cobb? And if you are a 9-year-old that cares about Ty Cobb, wouldn't you be insulted by the weak sauce that Topps is serving up as a collectible baseball game?


The kids don't care about Ty Cobb. Those are obviously for the adult baseball card collectors, an attempt to generate additional sales for this game. But this is a game they can understand and play (bigger number wins), and if they're impressed with the 100 rating Lou Gehrig has in his Changeup stat, maybe that 9-year old will look up Lou Gehrig on the computer and learn something about him. Besides there are a grand total of 9 Legends cards. There are over 300 other cards to be had; think of the Legends as a chase set.

As I suggested above, this game is nothing more than filler for adults.
 
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fightcitymayor
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I still think one of the most important maxims to any game-maker (or peddler of goods) is "Know your customer." If pre-teens can handle Yu-Gi-Oh they can certainly handle a more involved brand of baseball CCG than Topps is providing. Kids aren't dumb & will know when they're being dumbed-down. Heck, I played infinitely more complex games when i was younger than now, when i barely have the energy to make it to the couch after work. I say 'Fail' though i really wish Topps would have the wherewithal to make a better game.
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Gene Cooper
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I think the game works if you look at it as a small simple collecting set that happens to let you play a light game as well. Although the game is mindless, I applaud the fact that it is cheap and could appeal to youngsters. One of my fondest memories is hitting my mom up for 40 cents, walking down the street to the liquor store and buying a pack of cards. With packs available for a buck, that's a pretty similar price range.

Also, I just tried the online game. Its cool I guess. They start you with a free team just by registering and if you enter the code from one of your cards you get eight more random players (not necessarily the one on the card or in the pack). They also let you keep a virtual binder to collect the cards online and you can even trade virtual cards. This is similar to the MTGO setup, although there didn't seem to be any way to redeem the virtual cards for real ones ala MTGO. Opponents were easy to come by and you can choose from all your cards to make your team for each game which is cool. You get points for playing (more for winning) which can be used to pimp out your avatar (lame IMHO). The games play quickly tho so that's cool.

All in all, although I don't see myself playing this alot I think its a nice effort and the online game is great given the price (free).
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a l

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I remember JL from the MLB Showdown days. I was FBI/victim on showdowncards

Anyway, I think whoever developed Topps Attax had a certain genius when it comes to serious play BUT not having some kind of limiting cap makes almost all players completely unusable

And, if you just want to just play with whatever random players you have on hand, it can really get dumb

However, there was/is a VERY competitive online play at toppstown.com. There is quite a bit of strategy involved. For example I managed to take my account to about 130-20 before losing interest.

But so little of the set is playable. And, as Sportsclix proved using a 5 star system to generate a cap is another good way to make most players unusable (since there will be standouts at each star level who are better than all the rest)

In person where you have limited player pools to access, I found Topps Attax to not be that appealing. Its kind of a guessing game. Topps Attax Online however, if you enter enough codes to build up your account and get all the cards (which admittedly takes a while to do) then it becomes ALOT of fun if you find good opponents. There are a lot of quitters unfortunately.

On the online game, there is only one card for each superstar and they have their foil stats. This is pretty nice because when you open physical packs you often get their regular card with slightly reduced stats which is more annoying than anything

Also, make sure to buy starters and not boosters. You are guaranteed to get more foils and more golds that way. I got more playables out of 4 starters than I did an entire booster box.

Overall, the game is alot of fun and I will definitely play in 2010 if they make it next year. But right now I am eagerly awaiting my Puck Attax Starter Box, it appears that the hockey version will be extremely similar to Match Attax Soccer

Can't wait!
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Jason Robinette
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The thing to remember is that this isn't a true CCG. It is a mass-market release, and the CCG aspects of it are severely downplayed.

Comparing it to other CCG's isn't really fair to this game (or what it's compared to)

J
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a l

Florida
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Topps Attax 2010 is out. Legends totally distort/warp the game this year.

Last year, the uber-strategy was to throw the same pitch 9 times and if you had the best pitchers for that pitch your opponent was unlikely to score more than 4 unless he totally overloaded his lineup against that particular pitch.

This year is something totally different but is equally linear in its own way.
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J. Alan Hatcher
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My son is 5 1/2, and is a baseball nut, so I picked up the starter kit for Attax 2011 at Walmart this week for around 7 bucks. It seems to be a much different game from the 2009 and 2010 version that has been described here.

The starter kit comes with 60 cards total, 25 batters per side, 3 pitchers each, 1 stadium card each, and 1 mascot card each.

After flipping a coin, the winning player gets to play their chosen Stadium card, which decides which park the game is being played in. Each park has a different ability, which can be to draw extra cards at the beginning of an inning, or each player reveals two cards to their opponent at the beginning of an inning. Mascots start face down, but can be brought into the game to add to a single at bat and then have a continuing ability.

At the beginning of each side change, each player takes 4 cards from their lineup deck and then 1 extra card before each batter.

Each card has a special offense or defense ability that can be played after the pitcher and hitter are revealed. Most abilities require you to discard the card in your hand to use the ability. So if a player on offense gets a single, you may have a card in your hand that you can discard to actually cause them to be out.

Each pitcher pitches for one inning, and cannot throw the same pitch twice in a row.

Deck strength is limited to 100 Stars per side. Each card is rated up to 5 stars.

All in all I think it is a pretty fun game, although a bit basic. My almost six year old son understands most of it, although he tends to pick the highest score the pitcher has to start with each time so I have to be careful not to pick on him too much.

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