I am coming at this review from a slightly different space than some of you that are reading this. I have played tabletop baseball since the age of 11, when I picked up my first set of Strat-O-Matic Baseball. Along the way, I have played APBA, Sherco, PTP/Dynasty League Baseball, Throwback Baseball 1.0 and countless others. I know there are far more games out there and there are many who have played more than I have, but I feel confident in saying that to me, games were a solo pursuit, a hobby shared by me and me only.
Late last year, I bought the computer version of Strat's baseball game and immersed myself in it. While quite good, it also got me in front of a computer screen for even more time each day. As I got older, it's funny how tired my eyes get now. I also was in a couple leagues and while they are great for some people, they weren't great for me, for a variety of reasons. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I was at a place where I wanted to make some changes anyway, especially with my leisure time. I wanted a hobby, that well, was just a hobby again. It wasn't a side hustle, or ultra competitive, it was just fun.
Playing The Game
I first got Deadball a year or so ago, but didn't play due to other commitments. Since I was at a place where I was more open minded and willing to learn, I delved back into the basic rulebook. The game runs on a similar mechanic as other baseball games do - the interaction between pitcher and batter. The main difference to me is that the game does not have a 50-50 mechanic, where sometimes you roll on the pitcher's card and other times, the batters. Both pitcher and hitter are incorporated into each interaction, in a simple but sophisticated way.
Each batter's hit numbers are broken into the first two of his batting average. For example, a .300 hitter would be 30; Each pitcher has a die rating that is tied into their ERA rating. For a pitcher who's ERA is say 2.00-2.99, his die may be a D4. Yes, D4 - the game runs on standard RPG dice. So to resolve an at-bat, you would roll two 10-sided dice, and let's say you got 2-0, which is 20, and you would also roll the D4 for the pitcher. If you got a 2, that is a 22; the batter has a probable hit, so you would roll on the hit table. If you got over a 30, say a 44, that is an out. By taking the last number of the roll, 4, you would see that it is a groundout to the second baseman.
If you are familiar with scoring a baseball game, and the positions on the diamond (1-pitcher; 2-catcher, 3-First base), you can appreciate how genius that is. There are additional modifiers too, such as individual player traits - sluggers, slick fielders and pitchers, all have their place and will shine - strange events - I had a game recently that was impacted by vultures, which was a hoot; and the ability to rate any player and any team you want - ANY PLAYER. ANY TEAM - are strengths of this game that are too hard to ignore.
There are currently 4 books - the original, Deadball Year 2; Year 3 and a 1909 version, that all add to the baseball universe in their own way.
For me, the biggest impact is how fun this game is. I find myself getting angry at the scorecard when my players don't do well, and I have never, ever, played a game that felt like baseball more than this one, and that is the biggest win. It is amazing solitaire fun. There always seems to be quite a debate from baseball gamers about which game is best. We are baseball fans after all. To me, they all have their place, and the most important thing is, if everyone is having fun, then the game is doing what it is supposed to do.
Overall, it's brilliance lies in its simplicity, much like the real game. You see the ball hit and caught, you will become emotionally invested and you will have fun. There is nothing dead about Deadball. It is amazingly vibrant in so many ways and well worth your time at the park in your mind, solo or with friends.