A few weeks ago I became aware of a dice baseball game on Kickstarter.
Deadball: Baseball With Dice looked interesting. Put a team together, roll some percentile dice (with pitching modifiers) to see if a batter gets a hit. Track the game's progress on a scorecard. See who wins. A rather simple and elegant game. I backed the project. It took off like wild fire. Stretch Goal #1 was met. Then #2. Then the hits kept a-rollin'. I upped my pledge to get a fat discount on the printed version of the final product.
The creator, W.M. Akers, was witty, had good communication, and delivered on his promises. I eagerly anticipated each update, would download the preview copies, read them over and over. But I never put dice to the table or pencil to the scorecard. Until last night.
My folks have been in town, visiting for Caroline's birthday and Edison's college graduation. I'd talked to my dad about the game, but we didn't carve out time to play over the weekend.
I cleared the kitchen table, pulled out some dice, and we sat down to play. We used the Quick Start Guide.
Basically, to assemble a team, take players you like, arranging them in the scorecard. You're the manager. Take the first two digits of their Batting Average. That's the number you want to roll, or less. Add in the pitching die roll, based on the pitcher's ERA. The better he is, the bigger die you roll. If you make your number, you get a hit. If you're 1-10 points above the target number, you get a walk. If you get a hit, consult the hit table. Single? Double? Triple? HR? Other? Did the pitcher get the hitter out? How? Consult the out table. K? F-7? F-8? F-9? etc? Score it and go to the next batter. It is all explained in the Quick Start Guide. I caught on rather quickly.
So, we took two prepared teams (just to save time) and I thought I'd do a write up of the game.
The Rome Emperors came to town on Monday evening to face the Washington Presidents in the first game of the new season. With all the pomp and parades, the game didn't get started until later than anticipated. The crowd was thin, as they were probably afraid of getting wet from storms that were predicted.
The team managers decided to start the game without fanfare. Abe Lincoln took the mound. He didn't have a great previous season, compiling a 4.45 ERA. He induced Nero, the Emperor's lead man, to fly out to right field. Then he set Hadrian down with strikes. Constantine, the left fielder, got to first on a feeble hit. He was stranded there as Caesar Augustus flied out to left field.
Pitcher Marcus Aurelius started on the mound for the Emperors. He faced middle sacker, Franklin Roosevelt, who hit it deep, right into the glove of Julius Caesar. Teddy Roosevelt hit a solid double. The ball got stuck in the webbing of Caligula and Julius made it to third. Kennedy came to bat next, grounding out to Nero who whipped it to Casear Augustus at first. "Little Jimmy" Garfield was the next batter to face Marcus Oh, as he's known in Washington. "Little Jimmy" smacked the ball hard into the infield but was called out at first.
The second inning brought another set of fresh bats, seemingly from the Pines of Rome, or the Cedars of Lebanon. Trajan settled in and took the first pitch deep, straight over the center field wall. Caligula doubled, and was left standing there as Claudius flied out, Julius Caesar struck out and Marcus Oh also flied out.
President Washington swung hard, but was out on a fly ball to right. General Grant, stogie in his mouth, couldn't get it out of the infield and was tossed out at first. William Henry Harrison, the centerfielder, who is going by the nickname of "Hank" this year, drew a walk. Rutherford B. Hayes, that player from Ohio, hit it right to Caesar August at first, thus ending the inning.
The third inning brought the Emperors to the top of the order. Nero walked, but then Abe struck out the next two batters. Caesar Augustus was out at first.
Abe Lincoln went from the mound to the plate hitting what most in the park would be a double, but the quick fielding by the Romans held him to a single. He was stuck there as FDR whiffed, Teddy hit it right to first and JFK soared out to right field.
The fourth inning went by quickly. Trajan hit it to the left side of the infield where Teddy tossed it to Gen. Grant. Abe found his good stuff and put Caligula and Claudius away.
Marcus Oh got Little Jimmy Garfield, Pres. Washington and Gen. Grant to hit the ball right to waiting Emperors.
In the fifth inning Julius Caesar took the third pitch right along the left foul line for a single. Abe put down the Emperor's pitcher on three s saw Nero and Hadrian be put out at first.
Just as fast Marcus Oh let "Hank" Harrison feel good by getting his bat on the ball, but "Hank" couldn't get it out of the infield. Both Hayes and Lincoln didn't see the orbs that went by the plate, resulting in two strike outs.
Abe retaliated, setting down Constantine. Caesar Augustus got a lucky single. Trajan flied out, followed by Caligula getting a single, pushing Caesar Augustus over to third, where he'd watch Claudius fly out to right.
The Presidents saw the top of the order in the bottom of the sixth inning, with the Roosevelt boys swinging big, making contact and not even making it to first. JFK got a walk. "Little Jimmy" Garfield hit the ball hard, all the way to the warning track, but Julius Caesar pulled it in.
It was a long run in for Julius as he lead off the seventh inning, only to swing three times with no result. Marcus Oh, hit it strong to right. Some said the ball was trapped by Hayes, but the umpire called the pitcher out. Nero had a similar experience, but this time Hayes cleanly secured the ball.
Pres. Washington hit the ball right to the first baseman and didn't get five steps out of the box before heading towards the dugout. Gen. Grant took four straight balls and wound up on first. "Hank" Harrison blooped a single, sending Grant to second. Hayes went down swinging, with Marcus Oh recording just his fourth strikeout of the evening. Abe swung his bat like it was an axe and drilled the ball to the centerfielder's glove, causing the inning to be over.
It must have been the anger in Abe that caused him to put three fast balls right down the middle of the plate, surprising Hadrian, who watched them go by without taking a swing. Constantine saw what was coming and ripped the second pitch for a double. With Abe not letting up on his method, Caesar Augustus hit the third pitch for a single. Constantine had a good lead and was able to make it home. Abe calmed down a bit and got both Trajan and Caligula to hit grounders and were both thrown out at first, leaving just one man on base.
In the middle of the eighth, the top of the order couldn't do a thing, FDR flying out to right and Teddy and JFK not being able to get the ball out of the infield.
With the Emperors leading 2-0, they wanted to put the game away. Claudius singled, Julius Caesar hit it to Teddy at third, Marcus Oh drew a walk, Nero, who hadn't had a hit all game, continued in his streak, grounding out to JFK at short. Hadrian drew a walk, filling the bases. Abe dug deep and whiffed Constantine for the third time.
It is not recorded what the manager said to his men, but they had some fire in their bellies. "Little Jimmy" Garfield hit a moon shot for their first score of the evening. Pres. Washington followed with a double. Gen. Grant, now with two cigars clenched between his teeth, dribbled the ball to the second baseman, Hadrian, for an easy out at first. "Hank" Harrison got a double, driving in Pres. Washington. "Hank" was left standing on second ask Hayes was fanned and Abe, again swinging hard, had the ball reeled in deep in the center field.
At the end of regulation play, the score stood tied at two a piece. The managers conferred with the umpire. The sun was setting quickly, but they couldn't fire up the arc lights as they were still in winter storage. The umpire encouraged them to play quickly, at least three more innings, to give the fans a good show for their admission.
Both Marcus Oh and Abe were rubbed down by their trainers. Play resumed shortly.
Caesar Augustus led off in the tenth inning with a ground ball to the shortstop who quickly tossed it to first. Fearing that Trajan would hit another home run, Abe pitched him outside, allowing him to take first. Caligula tried to bring him home, but Hayes tracked the ball and put him out. Claudius, the catcher, connected with Abe's curve ball and put it out of the park. Julius Caesar sent the next pitch right towards the second baseman.
For the fourth time in the game, FDR took the plate to lead off the Presidents. He doubled. Teddy hit the ball squarely to the first baseman. It was so quick that FDR couldn't break for third. JFK walked and then Garfield went down swinging. Pres. Washington, knowing that it was on his shoulders to keep the rally going, hit his second double of the night, pushing in FDR. Gen. Grant, now back to one cigar, got a single, and JFK made it home, tying the game at four runs each. "Hank" Harrison, trying to end it all, sent the ball deep into left field, but it was caught by Constantine.
The eleventh inning was uneventful for the Emporers. Marcus Oh hit it to the infield who put him out. Nero got some lift on the ball, but flied out to right field. Hadrian copied Marcus Oh's feat.
Hayes struck out and Abe, again swinging hard, flied out to left field. FDR singled on a well placed ball to the infield. Teddy took a walk, pushing his distant cousin to second. JFK hit the next pitch right to the second baseman, for the final out.
Darkness almost covered the field. Only three Emperor players made it to the plate. Constantine hit it right to Gen. Grant who hovered over first. Caesar Augustus tried the other side of the field, but the quick armed Teddy fired it to Gen. Grant. Trajan, trying for his second homer, fell short and the side was retired.
The first batter, "Little Jimmy" Garfield, scratched out a single. Then Pres. Washington was sent down swinging. Gen. Grant smashed one to right field, but it was caught. "Hank" Harrison drew the walk. Hayes struck out for the fourth time in the game.
The managers met with the umpire and stayed true to their word. The declared the game a draw, tied at four, called on account of darkness. Both managers signed the scorecard then sat and discussed the finer points of the game.
It took us about 40 minutes to complete the game. A few times we didn't follow the dice rolls and had to back track to the previous inning. (Note to self: After three outs, the side is retired.) We had fun and my dad, who is 85, enjoyed himself greatly. He wanted to know where to get a copy. I felt bad when I could only give him the Quick Start Guide, some blank score sheets, and a set of dice. My guess is that I'll buy a printed copy for him for Father's Day. Don't tell him.
The game, Deadball: Baseball With Dice, can be ordered via DriveThruRPG. Currently a PDF edition is available with a print on demand edition coming soon.
There's also a good overview of the game, a forum, and some files at the game's entry at BoardGameGeek.