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Subject: Surprisingly good two-player game [review] rss

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Simon Lundström
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I don't really have time for a review proper, also I haven't played the game enough really to given an analysis (just twice). However, as I was pleasantly surprised by this indie card game, I figured I'll post what I experience when playing this.

As I've done lately, I'll post the paragraphs in reverse order.

Verdict
I really like Manifest Destiny's games, because they're weird and strange and remind me of nothing except of themselves. But in all honesty, a lot of his games are too unpolished and are fun to play… now and then, for the strange theme. But I was very pleasantly surprised with Unlimited Nine. As a pitcher, I sat there really trying to get a feel for what my opponent thought I'd play, sighing with relief when I got his biggest slugger, howling with despair when he got a +5 homerun hit. We laughed when I finished a match with 0 points, despite the fact that I'd had full bases every single inning but never managed to get that last hit. It was fun to win and fun to lose; shortly, fun to play. I have much too many games, but there's always a shortage of good two-player games for me; I don't like non-random two player games, they become too brain-straining. I want something half meaty, with a small but spicy part of randomness, but leverage for tactics. That's why I like Yomi, Starship Catan and Greedy Kingdoms. Now Unlimited Nine can line up there too. Very, very good.


All the cards in the game

Game overview (rough rules explanation)
Players are captains of two rival school's baseball teams. They should first recruit and train, and then play out a match. So the game is divided into two parts, the latter being the main game, and the former being the preparations for it.

There's a deck of 27 players with varying abilities. Each player has a position, a colour and skills in three fields: batting, catching and pitching. Only pitchers have a value in pitching. The players also have a recruit cost (between 1 and 3), a hit chart (how good they hit if they hit) and one or two special abilities. Each player starts with one player, their captain.

In hand, the players have "playing cards" which are dead simple: they're one of three colours, either red, blue or green. They don't even have numbers on them, just a colour. Each player starts with 6 cards.

During the recruiting part, there are a number of baseball recruits on the table, most face down. Players take turns either recruiting one (discarding as many cards as the recuit costs) or training. Training means you put all your current cards in hand to the side and draw 6 new. The cards that you set aside can be "activated" during the match for special abilities. They are (as I was to learn) hugely powerful, but you can only activate one of each colour per inning, and as you're only playing three innings, setting aside more than three of each colour is just a waste.

Players take turns recruiting the baseball players; the face down ones being revealed one after the other until all are revealed, at which point recruiting stops. Any positions still unmanned by the players are filled out with "generic guys", which basically stink (low values, no special abilities at all).


Example of baseball players. Here, all are blue

Once recruiting is done, the match can start. And here's where the game starts to be complicated, but just enough not to be too much. First, you decide who should attack first.

Again, you use just the "red/green/blue" playing cards to play the game, but the number of cards you have in hand depends on your current player. As the pitcher, you'll have [pitching skill plus catcher's catcher bonus] amount of cards in hand. The attacking player will have his [batting skill] amount of cards in hand. And here's the catch, each player gets a +1 bonus on this if he's of the same colour as the captain.So if both your pitcher AND your catcher is of that colour, you'll sit with a very strong hand.

First, the pitcher decides if he'll just let the batter walk, or if he'll pitch. If the latter, he picks any number of cards from his hand, and holds them face down before him. They have to be of all the same colour. The batter then does the same. Both reveal at the same time. Now, the batter will hit depending on what the diff [batter's cards minus pitcher's cards] will be; some sluggers can hit even on a zero diff, but most need to have at least 1. However, the trick is that if the batter chose the same colour as the pitcher, then the pitcher's hand counts as zero - so even the most plain "generic guy" can get a hit if you choose the right colour. And though you have no idea what the pitcher will throw at you the very first pitch, it's unlikely (or is it?) that he'll throw the same colour the next pitch.
If the batter failed, he's automatically out (no strikes or balls here, just out), and it's the next batter's turn; both players replenish their hands and begin anew.
If the batter actually managed to hit, you check his hit chart, to see where the ball flies (a position), and how many bases the hit was. For example, the hit chart may say "0-1, short, single" meaning that on diff of 0 or 1, you'll hit a single hit to the short. Now, the defending side checks his short's Catching skill. The batter checks again his batter's Batting skill, adding the diff. If the batter had higher, it's a hit, and the batter advances as many bases as his chart says. However, the defending position can discard cards from hand to add to his defender's Catching skill; but it has to be of the colour displayed by the defending position. If he catches it, the batter is out.
When replenishing hands, you're not allowed to discard cards before you replenish; that's why the colour you just played is a hint on what you might (not) play the next. However, the batter might instead have to discard excess cards if his next batter is weaker (lower Batting skill) than the previous one – and this is as you might realize, very powerful. Having a half weak batter after a slugger is good tactics.


The playing cards you're playing with. Lots of text, but only the colour matters (the text just describe what happens when you activate them when they are set aside, and it's the same for all cards of the same colour)

Rince and repeat: replenish hands, pitcher lays down cards, batter lays down cards hoping they're of the same colour, both reveal, determine diff, if zero or above, check batter's chart to see where it flies, if there's a player there, defender may discard cards of correct colour to try to catch.

At three outs you change. Play three innings. Most points at the end wins.

But there's more: First of all, each baseball player has one or two special powers, that can be activated either while pitching, batting, catching or running; they all require the player to discard cards of a certain colour. This isn't just a merit; they actually give a hint on what colour you'll use. I mean, if you have a wonderful Runner ability requiring you to discard two greens, the pitcher will see this (hopefully) and is very likely to play green. If he dares, because you might outsmart him.
Also, as you might remember, you can "train" during the recruit phase, setting playing cards aside. These can be activated during the match, on your turn, normally at the start of your attack or defence; some last throughout the inning. For example, a set aside red card allows you to, for each batter, draw double the amount of cards – but the batter will be turned over after the inning, reverting him into a "generic guy". A green set aside card will, however, allow you to revert a generic guy into whatever player it had printed on the other side. Or it can give a +2 on any one of your players this inning. All three colours have 2 or three powers, when you activate the card you choose which. But you can only activate one of each colour for each inning (and the red you use for the last inning only… mostly).

I've covered most of if, though there are some small details left. Summarized, it's a weird flurry of many card effects, revolving around the mechanism of "try to outsmart the pitcher"; but actually a lot depending on what players you have.

Background
As I've said in many places, I am very fond of (well made) indie games. I love amateur's ideas. Maybe I've played too many commercial games, maybe I'm just a weirdhead, I don't know. There's something fresh in the unpolished world of just ideas, nothing else. And Manifest Destiny always promises lavish artwork and some really really quirky rules wich are fun to just experience. So you could say I'm biased. I carry mb for a reason. I am, what you could say, a fanboi. But if you ask me, it's not completely without reason.


The box. A small tuck box for cards.
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Paul Beasi
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Sounds like I would love this if it weren't impossible to get and in a language I can't read.
 
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Simon Lundström
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seqiro wrote:
Sounds like I would love this if it weren't impossible to get and in a language I can't read.


There'll be full translations of the stuff before soon. I mean, it's the only way I can get some plays out of it on a regular basis.

It's not impossible to get, if you ask. Most Japanese indie designer are hard to get from, but Manifest Destiny is eay: he has a PayPal account and sends overseas. Game is 2,000 yen and the postage to the states for a simple card deck is a few dollars.
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Matt Pierce
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You are my hero on here man. Manifest destiny always has these interesting projects, but google translate can only help me so much.
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Simon Lundström
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I'm translating as many of his games as I can muster, but he's doing them in a faster rate than I can translate (no, really. He's producing more than one game per month and I'm not kidding you). So mostly I translate to Swedish just because it speeds up the process. I've tried Google translate on my Swedish rules to see what happens, and (unlike from Japanese) it creates a translation enough to be understandable. Some small few places might have to be clarified, but that's all.

Considering his games are so little spread in the Anglophone world, the fact that writing a rulebook in English translation takes considerably longer time, does matter. I have a constant bulk of his games to translate for personal use (I get the lot), and I'd rather do 3 of his games in Swedish than 2 in English, as I'm probably the only owner of those 3 games anyway.

My take on it is that anyone who finds a Swedish translation of his games and gets the game because it sounds good, can ask me to do a conversion if Google translate fails.
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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Zimeon wrote:
It's not impossible to get, if you ask. Most Japanese indie designer are hard to get from, but Manifest Destiny is eay: he has a PayPal account and sends overseas. Game is 2,000 yen and the postage to the states for a simple card deck is a few dollars.

Link??!! [/$20inpocket]
 
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Matt Pierce
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sdiberar wrote:
Zimeon wrote:
It's not impossible to get, if you ask. Most Japanese indie designer are hard to get from, but Manifest Destiny is eay: he has a PayPal account and sends overseas. Game is 2,000 yen and the postage to the states for a simple card deck is a few dollars.

Link??!! [/$20inpocket]


http://ash.jp/~md/

thats the manifest destiny website.
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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Thanks, I had trouble finding it for some reason.

I think I will try to contact Kuro and finally lay my hands on some of these.
 
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Simon Lundström
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Just nudge me if you want a translation. About half I have a Swedish one of; this is in the making.
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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I can read Japanese, but I suppose it wouldn't hurt to have someone else's work.

If I like the games, I'd probably end up doing a scanlation, like I did for the Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Card Game.
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Paul Beasi
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So my wife has some contacts in Japan and they helped her to navigate the site and order the game.

She just got the following e-mail back:

Quote:
Thank you for your order!

But,we can not translate.
Card's text,manual,in a word this game does not tramslate into Engulish…

So,because we can sell this game as a commodity,we'll present you this game.

Please try to play!


It almost sounds like he's going to send the game for free?
 
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Simon Lundström
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seqiro wrote:
It almost sounds like he's going to send the game for free?


I'm not surprised.

First, he's always happy when people play his games (he sells badly: He's producing rather unique and pretty advanced card games selling them on an amateur market that really isn't the right place for such games. Also, although his manuals don't exactly suck, they ARE hard to decipher. Mostly because it's actually hard writing manuals for his games.)

Also, he's producing so many games that I can imagine he's seriously running out of space to store the unsold copies. So maybe he figured that, for a game as old as Unlimited Nine, he can just give them away.
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Sergio Macias
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Zimeon wrote:
It's not impossible to get, if you ask. Most Japanese indie designer are hard to get from, but Manifest Destiny is eay: he has a PayPal account and sends overseas. Game is 2,000 yen and the postage to the states for a simple card deck is a few dollars.


Oh, man! Why did I have to read this? Now, I will have to order something from them laugh

Edit: Ok, I want them all! Zimeon, may I ask which games from MD have you translated?
 
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Simon Lundström
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Well, most that's up on the Geek. If you get any that aren't translated, that's a good spur for me to get going
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Sergio Macias
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Zimeon wrote:
Well, most that's up on the Geek. If you get any that aren't translated, that's a good spur for me to get going


Don't say it if you don't mean it, cause I might take up your word on that whistle

Well, at the moment, and after reading your review, I've sent MD a request asking for how much the shipping for "Radical School Hours" would be to Spain. I tried to ask in a very easy, plain english. Hopefully I'll get an answer soon.

I downloaded your translation of the cards and ran a few of them through google translator and they mostly made sense (much, much more sense than when it translates from japanese to english), so I'm willing to have a go at the game

PD: Now, seriously, all the games in their website look, at least, intriguing, and they all have beautiful, top-notch art. One of the newest ones "Last 7 days" sounds really promising, and I like the fact that it seems it can be played solitary, as well as two-player.
 
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Simon Lundström
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His art is always top-notch. That's because he's using pretty famous illustrators. How he managed to afford them, only he knows (I know illustrators are extremely badly paid though; the demand is lower than the supply).
 
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seqiro wrote:
So my wife has some contacts in Japan and they helped her to navigate the site and order the game.

She just got the following e-mail back:

Quote:
Thank you for your order!

But,we can not translate.
Card's text,manual,in a word this game does not tramslate into Engulish…

So,because we can sell this game as a commodity,we'll present you this game.

Please try to play!


It almost sounds like he's going to send the game for free?


I wrote to Kuro-san in my half-remembered Japanese, inquiring about this and two other games, and received a similar response - he is sending them for free, and if I like them and/or am interested in other games, we can revisit the payment... so it's like on a trial basis, which is super generous of him.

I've thanked him, and will report back when I receive the games and try them out.
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Daniel Kenel
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Great review Simon. Thanks so much for the work you put in on finding and promoting these little gems. This game looks very interesting. Has anyone trying to get a copy of the game actually received it yet from Manifest Destiny? I attempted to send them an inquiry via their webpage and gave them my email address but I'm less than 100% positive that I actually will make contact with them.
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My wife has not received/heard anything since her initial contact.
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Simon Lundström
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I don't know about his ability to reply to English mails if he finds he can't understand them. Try to keep them simple.
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Melinda Beasi
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Hi, I'm Paul's wife who ordered the game. Kuro-san must be following this thread, because he e-mailed me this morning to let me know that he was going to re-send the game using a different shipping method, since he'd read here that we hadn't yet received it. I'm sure Paul will report back when it arrives, but I just wanted to pipe up and let everyone know how kind and responsive Manifest Destiny has been!
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Simon Lundström
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Correction: He told me he has no problem understanding mails in English, but he has a harder time writing answers. Like Melinda said, he was surprised the game hadn't reached her (sent it in April). Oh well.
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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I haven't receive mine either, but if they weren't sent air mail that's not surprising.
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Daniel Kenel
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Success! I got an email response from Kuro-san today. Very prompt and generous. Can't wait to get some of these interesting little card games. Thanks to everyone who has posted for the help and advice.
 
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Paul Beasi
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My copy arrived today!
 
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