15 August, 2005

Diamond Mind Baseball - IRBL Mariners

[Not a paid promotional post]

After a hiatus of about 7 years, I'm back playing Diamond Mind Baseball. No, this is not fantasy league. It's sadder than that.

My misspent childhood was huddled over dice, spinners, scoresheet, charts and rulebook. It started with "book cricket", each letter from a passage in a book corresponds to action on the field - dot ball, single, wicket, six! Later on, courtesy of Tony the Tiger, I started playing dice baseball and football. Roll 1-1 for a triple, 6-6 to go yard. Three dice were used for football.

My long suffering parents coughed up for a succession of wonderful or awful games. 3M Blue Line Hockey was, I think, the worst. Strangely, I never got hold of classics of the genre - APBA and Strat-o-matic - until mid-life kicked in.

My first experiences wern't that great. Ernie Harwell's APBA commentary for its computer game was very boring. Strat Hockey didn't quite cut it. APBA Hockey had some database wonkiness that sometimes meant goalies never saved shots. There were a few 14-0 games as a result. But, by that time, I'd become hooked on two upstart games, produced with great attention to detail based upon databases unavailable when APBA and Strat kicked off in the 50s.

I'd played mostly solitaire. I didn't realise there were nutters like me who took this stuff seriously. I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled upon a load of Brits who played in a baseball league. By that time I was playing Statis Pro, but joining the league meant a conversion to Pursue the Pennant.

Now here was one of the best simulations around. PtP replicated the full panoply of baseball game events - the wild plays feature was sheer genius. Those days it was board only. The arrival of each season card set was a major event in my house. It took several hours to carefully tear the perforations on the card stock sheet, then sort each of 500+ player cards.

If you've never played PtP or Strat or any other sports simulation game like them, here's a brief run through. The games reproduce the results of each player's previous year's performance. Roll the dice - 3 dodecahedrons in the case of PtP - and read the results of each card. Simple, yet ingenious. In PtP, if I remember correctly, a roll of 000-499 meant reading of the batter card; 500-999 off the pitcher card. (Or was it the other way around?)

The great thing about these games is the statistical accuracy and the feel of the game. Faceoff Hockey was probably the best card/board based game for flow and realism. It's computer version never really matched it.

PtP started a computer version and then in the mid-90s the board game ceased. PtP morphed to Diamond Mind. The game has changed little over the years as the basic game engine was so perfectly designed. Old time gamers still miss the feel of the dice and cards. But, building your team through trades and the draft, then playing a whole season is still a thrill.

I played for about 10 years in UK based Diamond Mind and Faceoff leagues. I quit the baseball league as life was getting a bit more complicated, I had less free time and the commissioner was becoming a pain. I lasted longer with Faceoff, but that league folded last year as the core of players dwindled to a handful.

So, now I'm back. The IRBL has been running since 1974. That's a pretty impressive record. What's more, there are a couple of players who lasted the whole history.

My Mariners need a little work. Too much emphasis on speed, no power, an uneven starting rotation and nothing on the horizon. I’ll give you the full run down later.

Anyone want Mike Mussina for a sh!tload of prospects?


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