Strat-O-Matic Baseball: The Original Fantasy Sports Game

After a Blue Jays game last year where they crushed it at the Roger Centre, I went home, and my mind was racing. I wanted to play out a baseball game: to really understand the variables and everything that can happen... But I am not much of an athlete and I wanted to experience more what being a manager was like rather than an individual player. So I started looking into baseball board games.

From my uncle I learned that baseball involves a decent amount of strategy, but more importantly it was all about crunching the stats. Using those alone you could play out an entire season of baseball with stunning accuracy. I knew that somebody had to have thought of this before, and not wanting to seek out a fantasy league to play in, I went onto BoardGameGeek and started my search. Almost immediately I found Strat-O-Matic Baseball. Using stats and dice, Strat-O-Matic lets you play through a game, or season of baseball, and it has quite a history.

Created in 1962, and still going strong today, Strat-O-Matic Baseball is considered by many to be the first Fantasy Sports game. It is much like modern Fantasy Sports Leagues where players take control of the team as the manager, setting batting orders, start/relief pitchers etc. And Strat-O-Matic thought of it first.

The 1967 box art... Which I kind of like better.
Strat-O-Matic Baseball is a very simple game. Both players have two types of cards: Hitting Cards, and Pitching cards. Hitters have 3 columns numbered 1-3, while Pitchers have 4-6. Each column then has results numbered 2-12, with the occasion modifier on those result numbered 1-20. Whoever is up to bat, takes the hitting card for the current player in their batting order and places it in front of them, while the other player places their current pitcher in front them. The batter then rolls 1 white d6, 2 red d6's and a d20.

The white d6 gives you your column on either the Hitter (1-3) or Pitcher (4-6) card. The two red d6's determine the result in that column, and the d20 occasionally modifies the result of the 2d6's. Rather than focusing on individual pitches and swings, Strat-O-Matic condenses each batter's time at plate into one roll, giving you the result for their entire play. And so, back and forth, you play through a whole game. Needless to say, if you don't like baseball and you don't like dice games, Strat-O-Matic is not for you.

For JADE... It was just the sports game we were waiting for.

Some of the results you can roll send you to other charts and look up tables, but again, it is all very straight forward. Anyone used to playing 2nd Ed AD&D will find the tables a breeze (and simple by comparison).

But what really makes Strat-O-Matic great is its attention to detail. On their website, they claim to do around 1200hrs of research ever year to update stats for each team and player, and their research spans decades. They have stats for entire seasons ranging from the early 1900's to modern times. They even cover the old and now defunct American Negro League, which Strat-O-Matic's research into represents some of the first major statistical research into that league. True to the sport, throughout their history, Strat-O-Matic has made a serious commitment to the accuracy of their research, and obviously take a lot of pride in what they do. I think it shows.

We went for the 1920 Season. What with it being Babe Ruth’s first year with the Yankees and all.
Strat-O-Matic Baseball can be a little expensive however, so if you are not sure if the game is for you, then you have a cheaper option: Strat-O-Matic Express. Express is a condensed version of the game, that is a fantastic introduction for those unsure. It covers most of the mechanics, and gives you a sense of what the full version might be like, without throwing you into the deep end.

Of course for those that want to jump right into the deep end, the full version of Strat-O-Matic Baseball has three types of rules, Basic, Advanced, and Super Advanced. Mostly these rules add in more tables, but also cover things like pitcher fatigue, Left Handed/Right Handed stats, etc.

Thankfully, the Advanced rules are modular so you can add in as many as you want... But be warned their are a lot of Advanced Rules.

As much as I enjoy the game, Strat-O-Matic isn't perfect. The game truly just involves rolling dice and looking up results on tables. Which for some can be dull and tedious. Another common criticism I have heard is that the split between rolling on the pitcher's card and the hitter's card is 50/50. And of course as anyone who follows the game will know, baseball is a pitcher's game. Many people feel that the pitcher should have more control in the game then they currently have. That being said, most results you can roll result in a out, and it is still unnerving to pit any batter against another team's best pitcher. 

So if you like baseball, dice games, or just want to check out a really interesting piece of gaming history: Strat-O-Matic Baseball is the game for you. And of course if baseball is not your game, they also make Strat-O-Matic Hockey, Football, College Football, and Basketball.

So find your sport and play some Strat-O-Matic!

Written by: Andrew Gregory

Strat-O-Matic Baseball: The Original Fantasy Sports Game Strat-O-Matic Baseball: The Original Fantasy Sports Game Reviewed by JADE Gaming on 4/20/2016 02:05:00 pm Rating: 5

No comments: