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Subject: A Good Game but a Bit Unrealistic rss

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John Mitchell
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APBA Baseball will always hold a special place in my heart, as it was my introduction to sophisticated sports simulations. After seeing an ad for the game in Smith and Street's 1956 Baseball Annual, I talked my mother into purchasing the game for my 12th birthday--no small feat given that the game cost $10, a significant sum at the time. Thus my first APBA game set was based upon the 1955 major league season. My game boards and player cards from that edition are terribly worn, which is a tribute to just how many hours of enjoyment the game brought to me and my neighborhood buddies.

APBA is statistically based, and virtually all play results come from the card of the player who is at bat. The pitcher affects the play outcome only through his grade; outcomes that are hits against weaker pitchers are sometimes routine outs against better pitchers.

Pitchers can also have special ratings for higher-than-normal strikeouts or more or fewer walks than normal. Players are rated for defense and speed on the bases.

The gamer is cast in the role of a team manager or general manager. Although the game comes with players organized along their real-life major league team, the cards can be shifted around so that trades and draft leagues are possible.

As manager, the gamer sets his starting lineup, chooses his starting pitcher, and introduces certain elements of baseball strategy (bunting, hit and run plays, squeeze plays, etc.) during the game.

A game can be played easily in 20 to 30 minutes, and for the most part, APBA produces a realistic representation of major league baseball. However, the structure of the game introduces opportunities to game the game itself--that is, to use strategies that would never be used in real baseball but which work quite well within the APBA game framework.

The primary reason for this weakness is that play outcomes are determined by cross referencing the number from the hitter's card to a game board that corresponds to the runners on base. There are separate game boards for bases empty, runner on first, runners on first and second, runners on first and third, etc. A result that might be a double with the bases empty or with a runner on first becomes a home run with a runner on third. Players that hit a lot of doubles but few if any home runs can suddenly become a major home run threat if they bat with a runner on third.

Don't get me wrong--I still like this game and I recommend it as a good introduction to baseball simulations. But ultimately, if you are a serious baseball fan and strategist, you will want to move beyond APBA to one of the more advanced baseball simulations, such as Strat-O-Matic, Diamond Mind (computer game only), or Dynasty.
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Wendell
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Si non potes reperire Berolini in tabula, ludens essetis non WIF.
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Good review. My first season was 1973.
 
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David Gray
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It is about as realistic as SOM basic. The Master Game has a variety of elements which can be grafted on to vastly improve the less satisfactory elements of the game and the system is much more open to tweaks than SOM, either advanced or basic.
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Jim Nave
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I agree with the title... i just recently picked this up and have not been happy with the way pitchers are handled. Because the majority of the results will come off the batters card, it doesn't really matter how good your pitcher is. For instance, you could have the best pitcher in the league, consistently walk batter after batter... something we have had happen often. One game, a great pitcher walked 3 batters, and then balked someone home.

I'm interested in finding a more realistic game. I'm not sure though whether to sow more money into APBA and get the Master Symbols set, or just go straight to Strat-o-matic.

Ideas?
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Jim Dietz
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If talking about 'gaming' the game--Strat-o-matic isn't the answer. In SoM, there's nothing like taking a guy that went 4 for 4 on the year against lefty pitching and using him for 70-80 games against lefties...especially if he hit a home run that way. It's just a question of where you are trying to pimp the system.

If the 'best pitcher' walked three straight--did he have a 'z'. If so, each walk result should have been 'ball' instead. Otherwise it means his control wasn't great--more than 3 BB/9, so it isn't horrible that that happened. You can picture a pitcher getting wild--or disagreeing with a call and coming unglued--look at someone like a Mitch Williams, Nolan Ryan, or Carlos Zambrano. Besides, if they walked the bases full--why leave a pitcher in...clearly they weren't on their 'A' game!
 
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David Bohnenberger
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Quote:
I'm interested in finding a more realistic game. I'm not sure though whether to sow more money into APBA and get the Master Symbols set, or just go straight to Strat-o-matic.


Another fine choice not yet mentioned is Replay Baseball

Although the game is old, the new version is significantly updated and improved. Check out http://www.replaybb.com/
 
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Timothy Sullivan
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jackmitch wrote:
if you are a serious baseball fan and strategist, you will want to move beyond APBA to one of the more advanced baseball simulations, such as Strat-O-Matic, Diamond Mind (computer game only), or Dynasty.


Or the APBA Master Game APBA Major League Baseball Master Game
 
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John Patton
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I disagree with your analysis.

First of all, there is no "more sophisticated" baseball game than APBA - if you don't compare unlike things, like comparing the APBA basic game to Strat-O-Matic's advanced game. When you compare the APBA basic game to SOM's basic, there is no contest, SOM basic is just a kids game. Diamond Mind is out of the (non-online) baseball sim business and hasn't made a dice version in over 15 years, and Replay uses the same lookup technique APBA does, with less nuance.

And there is nothing wrong with APBA's lookup system, it is known in the business as a "vector system" and is considered the best reproduction of the hitter/pitcher matchup. It has several advantages over the other popular lookup system, the "50-50" system (i.e. something like SOM or Dynasty uses), most significantly in the reproduction of extreme results. A guy who hit 1 triple in a full season, for example, can be carded exactly for that frequency, while in a "50-50" game he has only half-control over his results and a lot of special rules are needed to compensate, adding complication (always a problem in dice sims you want to play fast). The base situational outcomes in APBA are a strength as well, for they add depth and variety to outcomes. A control pitcher in APBA doesn't just give up X less percentage of walks as a straight reduction, but walks less in key base situations - like real control pitchers who give passes when bases are open and they're pitching around hitters, but hit their spots when they have to. SOM has Dennis Eckersley with the exact same walk chance with first open as with the bases loaded - that real-life unintentional intentional walk he gave up in May increases his chance to blow a SOM replay September game. Think about it.

As for gaming the system, I have never found a baseball sim that didn't get gamed (I can list scores of examples for any game). For your money, the APBA basic game is the quickest playing with the most accuracy and is ideal for solitare play - an experienced player can sim a game in under 15 min, important when you are playing 1,000 game seasons. The Master game plays more slowly, but has all the sophistication of any game on the market - L/R splits, rare plays, etc.

For the record I am not an APBA fan per se, just someone who has thought a lot about ways to sim and played nearly everything. The APBA system does not lend itself to feature-oriented marketing - the advantages are a lot more subtle than that, but very real. It is not perfect, and I'm not claiming it is, nor am I trying to convert anyone who enjoys what they are playing. There used to be a lot of these sims on the market, 30 years ago there were probably a dozen or more. Now there's only really two players in the card-and-dice sims, APBA and SOM, with Replay and couple other small games trying to make noise. In terms of card sales (as opposed to computer products) APBA dwarfs the others hugely both in sets sold and people still playing.


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Bill Eldard
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gjnave wrote:
I agree with the title... i just recently picked this up and have not been happy with the way pitchers are handled. Because the majority of the results will come off the batters card, it doesn't really matter how good your pitcher is. For instance, you could have the best pitcher in the league, consistently walk batter after batter... something we have had happen often. One game, a great pitcher walked 3 batters, and then balked someone home.


It's rare, but it can happen, even in actual Major League baseball. But it's much, much harder for a pitcher with a (Z) than with a (W).

gjnave wrote:
I'm interested in finding a more realistic game. I'm not sure though whether to sow more money into APBA and get the Master Symbols set, or just go straight to Strat-o-matic.

Ideas?


I've own APBA Major League Baseball since 1967, and the Master Game since 1984. I played literally thousands of the former, often cranking out 5 or 6 games while sitting in front of the TV watching an actual game.

The Master Game offers the Manager much more control while capturing more details of the game. Batters are rated for lefty-righty pitching differences, base running and base stealing, and throwing arms.

Pitchers no longer have ratings A through D, but 30 through 1, and that rating goes up or down depending on the batter. Pitchers are also rated for their ability to hold runners, and their propensity for giving up the home run, balking, and wild pitches. IN addition to the traditional (W), (X), (Y), and (Z) ratings, there are now (K), (R), and (ZZ), further refining pitchers' characteristics.

Catchers are rated on their ability to throw out base stealers and give up passed balls.

All players are rated for Injury duration.

There are also ballpark effects, reflecting the variety in dimensions of major leauge parks. So, now Boston's 'Green Monster' is a factor.

Managers call the steals and double steals (and the opposing manager determines which base stealer to go for), and determine which base the outfielders are going to throw to based on how deep the ball was hit and the strength of the arms of the outfielder and any relay you opt to employ. And as in the basic game, they still call for the hit-and-run, sacrifices and squeeze plays.

There are also a wide variety of Rare Plays for each base runner situation, featuring player collisions resulting in Injury checks, game interruptions or being called because of rain, unassisted triple plays, runner run-downs, pick-offs (successful and wild), catcher dropping the third strike, and more.

So, APBA has evolved a lot since those early days in the Fifites, and I think it's a good a tabletop baseball game system as its peers.
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Richard Berg
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All of the table-top baseball games are pretty good . . . and they all, with some exceptions, produce reasonable accurate statistical results. (Having played all of them since 1954 - including my own, and even Bill James's one-time production- I speak from much experience.)

The true test is replaying an entire season, which I have done (once or twice).

I have found the game I enjoy the most is Replay, as i find the pitcher-batter interaction quite good, the game does reproduce the far end of the spectrum results (something S-O-M, with it's either/or mechanic does not do well), it's as easy as the others . . . . and they do great seasons providing almost all the players.

Every one has his favorite . . . and they have much to do with their investment in time and money in the game (not easy to switch over). But it is still a fairly zen/micro-managing way of relaxation.

RHB
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Bill Eldard
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jman wrote:
A control pitcher in APBA doesn't just give up X less percentage of walks as a straight reduction, but walks less in key base situations - like real control pitchers who give passes when bases are open and they're pitching around hitters, but hit their spots when they have to. SOM has Dennis Eckersley with the exact same walk chance with first open as with the bases loaded - that real-life unintentional intentional walk he gave up in May increases his chance to blow a SOM replay September game. Think about it.


The phenomenal low-walk performances of guys like Eckersley has been captured in both the Basic and Master APBA games with the introduction back around 1990 of the (ZZ) rating. Against a ZZ-pitcher, a roll result of "14" -- which is was always a base on balls with the Bases Empty -- counts as 2 balls. In other words, you'd need two roll results of 14 in order to walk the batter.

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Richard Berg
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One of the problems with APBA and pitching is that the base ratings of the pitchers - be it A thru D or 1 thru 30,the latter which is only a somewhat fleshed out version of A-D) are based not on important statistical factors, such as ERA, Hits per innings, et al., but ony won-and-lost records adjusted by a number of appearances.

RHB
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John Mitchell
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My advice would be to upgrade to Strat-O-Matic or Dynasty, both of which offer more sophisticated and realistic play than even the Master version of APBA. Please understand, this is not a knock on APBA. It is a good game and served as the forerunner of the more sophisticated sports games that followed. APBA deserves to be in the Tabletop Sports Gaming Hall of Fame. But the truth is that there are better baseball simulations available today.

However, keep in mind that even in the most realistic games, you can occasionally encounter odd sequences of plays and unsual performances. That happens in real life as well.
 
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Clay Woody
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Thanks, John, for setting the record straight about the comparisons between SOM and APBA. I too have seen posters criticize APBA for being too simple and unrealistic, particularly in comparison to SOM, and wondered if they had ever heard of, much less played, the advanced version of APBA.

As I have only a passing familiarity with SOM--I have a copy from the 1970s with about five or seven teams, picked up at a garage sale, and have never played it--I was reluctant to make comparisons of my own.

But I am bothered to find out now that some of those who have been making the comparisons have been doing so unfairly--comparing the advanced version of one game with the basic version of another.shake

I won't hold this against SOM--it obviously has its good points. I've bought several basketball seasons from the game company and plan one day on buying the SOM basketball game.

But I have been, and will remain, a devoted fan of APBA. I own over 40 complete baseball seasons and about ten football seasons, as well as the boxing, horse racing and hockey games.

Thanks again.
 
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Ralph B
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John -

When you wrote "A guy who hit 1 triple in a full season, for example, can be carded exactly for that frequency" were you referring to APBA specifically or to vector systems in general?

I'm asking because, like you, I enjoy discussions of game engine design. I don't actually know APBA well enough to know the answer to my question, above.

Thanks.
 
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I'm impressed with all of them: great games: APBA, SOM, Replay, Dynasty, 4th Street, even Statis-Pro (now defunct). My favorite is 4th street baseball. I stopped doing business with Dynasty after years of extremely poor service: would you believe they sent me floppy disks instead of a CD-ROM!!! Sent me black/white season sets instead of color sets (they advertise color on their site), and the worst... lying to me. I continue to support by buying seasons every year from APBA, SOM, Replay, and 4th Street. Dynasty dug their own grave and their quality and service is their coffin.
 
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Brad Antone
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When your playing a more realistic sim of baseball, such as SOM, you don't need 'tweaks'.
 
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Brad Antone
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I've tried Replay baseball, but it has too many gimmicks to try and make stats come out realistically. SOM is more like real MLB because it's 'right there in your face' batter vs. pitcher with no gimmicky letters and/or numbers to add to a play. The pitcher and batter stats are far more close to real life for the player cards involved than either Replay OR APBA. It's just an all round better sim of MLB and MLB players. APBA is decent and Replay is more a 'kids game' for 10 year-olds.
 
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