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Subject: Review of 2004 and 2005 editions rss

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Ken B.
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As a fan of both baseball and Sportsclix, hopefully I can be of some assistance with a review covering both editions.


Yes, both Sportsclix 2004 and 2005 are collectible. No getting around that. However, since the 2004 line was discontinued and it appears that the 2005 is as well, the demand for both are fairly low for the most part. This means that you can get them for a steal on ebay.


Here's the lowdown, as best as I can break it down, for picking between 2004 and 2005:



2004: This edition is definitely the more "complex" of the two games. There are rules for different depths of fly balls (to go along with customizable fence depths), and something called "scorchers", which are hits that are harder to field than normal.

You field a team based on points. An ace pitcher might cost you 134 points, while a decent glove with a bad bat may only run you 70 points. Each player agrees to a set level for play--the rules recommend 1,000 points, but if you want full pitching rotations and the works you're going to have to shoot much higher than that. We play 2500 point games with full benches and four-man rotations with three relievers each, and it works out okay.

Scoring in the 2004 is low. Really low. Unless you use house rules (and I will be happy to let you know of a few should you choose to play this edition), count on games being in the 2-3 run per player area.

Pitching and hitting are handled with a pair of custom dice per player, and each have symbols on them. Four sides are the "desired" result for that dice--for pitchers, Control and Velocity, and for hitters, Contact and Power. Then one of the other faces of that die is the opposite result you were looking for (Contact on the Power die, for example) and then the last face of each die is favorable to the other player.

You secretly choose and roll the die, and the two symbols will make a result that is referenced on one of the player dials, depending on what you rolled. Unlike MLB Showdown, you won't find very many "automatic" hit results--there will be results like "GB" for Grounder and "FB" for Fly Ball. A regular six-sider is thrown for where the ball is hit, and depending on where the fielders are a fielding attempt may be made.


All of this means that it can be difficult to tell what dice you should be throwing, and what favorable matchups are, etc. And because of a general lack of guaranteed hits, this keeps scoring relatively low.


That being said, 2004 brings with this complexity a lot more depth, as fielding positions are really important and knowing what to roll to get desired results is a tricky but more rewarding endeavor. There's a bit of Prisoner's Dilemma here--if you know what you should throw but your opponent knows it too, should you roll the other die? But then, he may stick with his original result. And even given that, you've got to look for the types of hits you need.

The "Clix" part comes in because when players do well (or perform poorly), they are clicked up and down their dials. Results on the dials get better as players get "hotter". It's not uncommon for a player who is on his "hottest" click to have lots of Deep Fly Balls and HR results, and Mark Prior on his hottest click is all Strikeout results.

It's fun, but games can take over an hour and a half, and there are times where you'll get locked in a 0-0 stalemate and have to play into extra innings with each side just trying to scrap up a run. That part can be frustrating, but again there are house rules that can give slumbering bats a bit of an assist.


Starters for 2004--there are two of them, a red and a blue. Every red and blue set is identical, so you'll only want one of each. Inside each starter is everything one player will need to play--the teams in each red and blue starter are a complete nine-man team including the pitcher.

Collecting from that point forward is done either buying singles or through boosters. Buying 2004 boosters can be a maddening experience, though--there were some coallation problems (some players reported getting two of the same figure in a booster pack), and for whatever reason the players that are in starters can also be found in booster packs...and having duplicates of a player does you absolutely no good.


So if you go this route, pick up one each of the starters (should be reeaaaaaally cheap) and then look for a decent sized lot of 2004 players in a bundle. I managed to pick up 60+ players in a single ebay lot for $15 a couple of months ago, so just keep an eye out for one of these bigger lots.




2005: The basic framework of the 2005 edition is very similar. You still field a complete team, it's still collectible, but they streamlined the game and gave the offense a much-needed boost....some in fact say TOO much of a boost.


The whole die system was tossed out and reworked. Now players and pitchers are rated in three color-coded categories (rather than having two). And each category is assigned a numerical value, so it's MUCH easier to see what batters are good in each sort of situation. Also, the hitter dice feature several guaranteed hits, so base hits are far, far less scarce.

In the batter/pitcher matchup, each side selects one of the three color-coded dice and rolls it, then adds it to that color on their dial. For example, Roger Clemens has a 7 in his Red portion of his dial and chooses to bring the heat by tossing his red die. He adds the result to his number, and that's his value for this at-bat.

Each face of the die not only features a number, but also the result of the play--if you are the player with the higher total for the at-bat, it's your result on the face of the die you rolled that gets carried out. No more trying to figure out which combination of results is where--it's VERY easy to see and read, and therefore plays faster overall.

But watch out--hitters get a bonus for guessing which pitch is coming. If the batter ends up rolling the same colored die as his opponent, he gets +3 to the swing. So there's still quite a bit of guessing going on. Should your power fastball pitcher risk throwing a 96 mph fastball if he thinks the hitter is "sitting" on the fastball? It manages to keep the guessing game of the previous edition, and is fun.


However, the complexity has been toned down quite a bit. First, players no longer have "points" to be placed on a team but are instead rated from one to four stars. Each player agrees on a number of stars for their team, and each must stay under that. It makes adding up your points much easier--no more calculators to see if you're squeezing in under the salary cap--but it did have the negative effect of making some players at a given star rating flat out better than others--with only four tiers, it can be hard to cover the whole range of MLB talent and still make them balanced. Just accept that you'll see a few players at a given star rating and scratch your head why they were rated so highly, or even AS highly as another obviously superior player.


The clicking aspect remains, but some of the results that actually generate clicks up and down have been removed, so you'll be clicking far less frequently in this edition. To some that's a plus, to others a negative. For example, there was a rule that if you rolled doubles at any time, you were subject to clicking up and down based on whether the play was successful. Now it's just double 6 or double 1 that generates this result, so it's far less likely to happen. And runs no longer click batters up, only hits, so the days of a player jumping up three clicks on a home run ball are gone.


Also, due to the higher number of base hit results on the dials, scoring is much higher. Marquee pitchers like Clemens can still keep games on the lower-scoring side, but less-renowned pitchers will find themselves hammered. I've read of scores in the double-digits with weak pitching, which unfortunately has the side effect of rendering most of the low-end pitchers useless. In 2004, even the least-expensive pitching could still pitch a decent game....but since 2004 favored pitching so much, I'd say many of those guys performed too well anyway. It's a tough balance.


Again, there are lots of house rules to help you with these issues--the biggest one tossed around is eliminating the "batter wins ties" rule and force a re-roll in that situation.



Starters--there's only one starter for 2005, and it includes four players not found in the booster packs--Sosa, Ichiro, Jeter, and Griffey. The rest of the team have cardboard tokens to fill in the positions. These players are lame and have names like "Outfielder 1". The nice part is that you only need the one starter for two players to try the game (in 2004, you needed two starters for both players). However, those cardboard tokens are only going to hold you for so long--if you're playing baseball, you want the star players!

Collecting them from boosters is much easier this time around. Fewer duplicates in a series of boosters, no duplication of the starter figures (there are more powerful versions of these players in boosters, but they cost more to put on your team, too.) The set is a bit smaller, and all in all it's pretty easy to collect. Again, I'd recommend buying a decent sized lot off of ebay or buy a whole box of boosters at once along with a starter. This should--SHOULD--give you everything you need, but I should warn you--it can be difficult to pull players for some positions (2B, I'm looking at you), so even after buying a box of boosters you may still want to buy a couple of singles to flesh out your team. It probably won't come to this, but it is possible (unlike 2004 with the "complete team in a box").




-----------------


So, the figures are nice and well-sculpted, and there's a nice amount of depth and fun for each edition. If you're going to be playing with a younger player, I'd almost have to say you should go with the 2005 edition. Easier to teach, and certainly for younger gamers higher-scoring games are going to be more exciting than a 11-inning pitchers' duel.


For older players who are fans of baseball, both editions offer solid gameplay and either should do you well, depending on your general preference for higher-scoring games or grueling pitching duels.
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