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Brad Tritone

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We played our first game of Pizza Box Baseball tonight AND we had pizza for dinner! I only bought the game this afternoon at my FLGS so I didn’t take my usual week or more digesting the rules, checking BGG for strategy and reviews, etc. The game comes with a Quick Start guide that was super easy to follow, so we just pulled out the components, shuffled the cards, and started right into the basic game.

The (basic) game could not be easier to learn or play. You decide who will be the Home and Visiting teams, and away you go. When your team is batting you have a hand of only two cards. One says “Take” the other says “Swing”. The pitching team likewise will have a hand of only two types of cards… either “Ball” or “Strike” cards. Both teams pick one card to play facedown to the table. Then they’re turned up simultaneously and a result is determined. There are 3 possible results of this matchup; a Pitcher Advantage, a Batter Advantage, or a No Advantage. There are 3 separate decks of cards for each of these eventualities, and you just pick the top card from the appropriate deck and do what it says. Results are modeled from all the various things that can happen to a batter in a game… walks, home runs, singles, doubles, triples, double plays, errors, fly out, ground out, strikeout, etc. What’s cool is that the game doesn’t get bogged down in the minutia of strikes, fouls, balls, etc. so it moves very quickly. We played all 9 innings in less than an hour!

Some comments about the components. The board itself is possibly one of the nicest boards for a boardgame I’ve ever seen. It folds into four sections, and is absolutely flat. I wish my Railroad Tycoon board was this flat! One fourth of the board is taken up with the diamond, and there are holes drilled about halfway through the board for the pegs that track the runners on the 4 bases, placeholders for the runners in their respective dugouts when they’re not on the field, and scorekeeping tracks for Outs, Runs, and Hits. The plastic pegs don’t sit very far down into the board, so I hope they hold up for repeated plays. I kept wanting them to stick all the way through the board, but decided that just a slight amount of pressure was enough for the peg to say in the hole. Because there are so few pegs on the gameboard during a game (relative to Pizza Box Football) I can easily see us using little wooden blocks or glass beads to represent the runners and markers for the scoring tracks if it ever gets to be a problem.

I also really like the cards. They have a nice smooth finish and are extremely easy to shuffle. The cards are not as thick as Bicycle cards for example, and I appreciate that. There are a LOT of cards and the slightly thinner material makes them very easy to shuffle. I think they will hold up rather well. The most-handled cards in the deck will be the two batter cards (per player), so I could see maybe putting them in sleeves for protection.

It isn’t noted on the back of the box, but the game also comes with a bunch of black-on-white counters to use on the scoreboard if you like to keep track of runs per inning, and runs/hits/errors over the course of the game. They are typical cardboard “chits” about an inch square (I didn’t measure them) but they are double-sided (with different numbers on each side), so I can see it might take a little shuffling and hunting to find the exact one you need to mark the scoreboard. However I think this is a cool looking addition to the game that makes it look more “professional”. Alternatively there is a pad of scoresheets (double-sided) you can use to keep more detailed results. We actually kept just a tally of runs per inning on a small spiral notebook, and there is supposed to be a downloadable PDF of the scoresheets on their website. Just about any way you want to keep score, they’ve got you covered.

There are 4 levels of play in the rulebook, but I haven’t had a chance to look at any of these additional rules yet. But scanning through the booklet I saw base running and stealing mentioned, and I suspect there is a lot more you can add strategy-wise to the game if you want. My wife and I are not avid baseball fans, but we do watch games on TV on occasion. This basic game is just about perfect for our level of interest. She already challenged me to a double-header tomorrow (I won our first game 4-3) so that’s a good sign!

Our first game was a lot of fun. Even though (as a batter) you always have complete control of your two options (take or swing) the pitcher has a slight disadvantage. He draws from a deck of 25 cards that say “Ball” or “Strike” and starts the game with just 5 cards. If an inning lasts more than 5 at-bats, he can “dig deep” and replenish his hand with just 3 cards this time. If the inning still isn’t over (lots of runs for the other team!) now the pitcher must simply draw off the top card of the remaining pitcher strategy cards and play them blindly! What’s also interesting is that all the pitcher's previous pitches (cards) are left faceup on the table, so as the deck of 15 balls and 10 strike cards dwindles, if you’re a card counter par excellence you have a pretty good idea of what the pitcher is going to do next.

But even without the card counting there is still a “feel” of bluffing and psych-out between the pitcher and batter. Sometimes just a slight “smile” can be a tip-off of what card my wife played. That is, until she learns she’s doing it...

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