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Another retro thing I love, a baseball board game

In addition to seriously listening to stereo music, vacuum tubes, and film cameras I also really enjoy another, even more obscure retro hobby.

That, in case you don’t recognize it, and how could you really, is a dice based baseball simulation game. What you see here is the final scoresheet of the 2016 Chicago Cubs thumping the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers 10-2. The Cubs went on to win that series four games to two.

APBA has been making dice based baseball games since 1951. The goal of the game is to have an accurate simulation of players’ performances while allowing you to be the manager. Your can get all of the complete seasons from the late 1800s through 2019 plus variety of special teams from the past.

Here’s how you play the game:

  1. Make a lineup.
  2. Roll the dice.
  3. Match the rolled number to a result number on the player’s card.
  4. Look up the result on the right table in the game.

Every base situation (man on fist, second, first and second, etc.) has its own lookup table. It is essentially the same thing as a computer program but it’s all written out and you have to look it up yourself. Obviously no one could use a computer to play baseball games back in 1951 but why do it now?

Why play board games at all? Any board game could just as easily be played on the computer. I can’t quite put my finger on it but there is something about board games that make them feel completely different than a computer game. APBA has whatever that thing is in spades. Board games are just fun.

There are actually other baseball board games out there but one of the best things about APBA is that it manages to capture the feel of an actual baseball game really well in my opinion. The quality of a dice roll is constant across players. With just a little experience you get a feeling of what a good roll is and then have the anticipation of looking up the result. I think this feels very much like watching a game and knowing when they get a good swing in the ball but having to wait to see what happens. Yes, this takes more time than a computer version but the game manages to “feel” more like baseball and less like a computer game.

The biggest reason I’m playing APBA is nostalgia of course. I played this game when I was a kid. It’s where I learned all the ins and outs of the game. Lineup construction, hit and run, base stealing, holding runner at first, playing in or back with a runner on third, etc. It was also how I learned about teams and players of the past. It’s one thing to read about them, it is quite another to “see” them play and manage them.

Part of the reason I got the game was because I wanted to get to know the 1935 Chicago Cubs. They were a really good team that made it to the World Series but lost to the Tigers. The first thing I did when I got the game was to replay that World Series. Alas, as in real life, the Cubs lost 4 games to 2. I am reading a book on that 1935 Cubs team to get a feel for how they played back then. Once I feel I have enough background I’ll try to play at least a good part of the 1935 season. What can I say? I’m a big baseball/Cubs/retro geek and this is my idea of fun.

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