In 2013, the best tabletop-sports blog was Love, Life, and APBA, by Kenneth Heard.
Heard is a professional writer, and the quality of his work on Love, Life, and APBA (LLaA) is indicative of his talent and training.*
Perhaps the closest analogue (non-tabletop-sports category) to LLaA is Josh Wilker’s Cardboard Gods. Both blogs are written in a confessional, essay-style and use meticulous examination of a specific device (APBA Baseball for Kenneth Heard, late 70′s baseball cards for Josh Wilker) as a jumping off point for thorough and honest self-reflection and good old-fashioned storytelling.
As the blog title suggests, Love, Life, and APBA is devoted to the tabletop baseball game, but it also touches on universal themes of love and loss. Heard is a middle-aged widower, and his reflections are poignant, often funny, sometimes sad, sometimes just the facts about whatever APBA project he’s working on at the time.
In 2013, my favorite post was The July 14 Clock, posted on 7-14-2013.
Oneforfive.com has included Heard’s APBA Baseball replays (1981 and 1942) in each of the last two year’s Best Replays, as well.
Enumerating a short list of my favorite tabletop-sports blogs in 2013 wasn’t a difficult task. There were three that stood out: The APBA Blog curated by Thomas Nelshoppen, Love, Life, and APBA Baseball, written by Kenneth Heard, and The APBA Football Club Blog, by Geoff Giordano.
It’s an odd fact that all three of the best tabletop-sports blogs are on the topic of APBA games, but each of the three offered consistent quality throughout the year. I hope that we see more tabletop-sports blogs devoted to other games start up in 2014.
My number one rule over here at oneforfive.com is to create the kind of website that I would like to read. There simply aren’t very many websites devoted to the tabletop-sports gaming hobby, and most of the ones that are devoted to the hobby are devoted to one specific game or replay season. I created oneforfive.com because I wanted a website that offered more than that.
What I like in a blog:
It’s Keith Avallone’s world and we’re all just living in it. In 2013, the best Official Newsletter of any game company was the monthly newsletter from Plaay Games.
Plaay’s newsletter includes detailed notes on upcoming releases, links to lots of downloadable freebies (including games that never left the drawing board – how about a free Jai Alai tabletop game!), stories of great accomplishments by gamers, and more. The Plaay Games newsletter is a model from which every other tabletop-sports gaming company should be taking notes.
Click the photo below to see Plaay Games’ most recent newsletter, dated 12-30-2013:
What makes one vintage season release better than another? There are three criteria:
- Historical Significance of the season
- Quality and Depth of Research
- Availability/Obscurity of the Season for Replay Possibilities
By these criteria, Strat-O-Matic’s release of the 1973 Japanese League Baseball Season was the best vintage season release of 2013.
As far as I know, Strat-O-Matic is the first game company to officially release a baseball set for any Japanese season, though there have been some homebrew rosters and card sets available (Japanese Heroes, anyone?) for Strat and other games for a while. For fans of Yakyu (野球 (やきゅう), the official release of a card set by arguably the biggest of the baseball simulation games was an historic event in itself.
As a season in Japanese Baseball history, 1973 was historically significant in that it was the Yomiuri Tokyo Giants’ last of nine consecutive titles, Sadaharu Oh’s Triple Crown year, and the Central League featured one of the great Japanese League pennant races of all time.
Some purists might argue that this season shouldn’t be eligible for the award because a) it was released as a “computer-only” roster and b) the “cards” were created without the traditional “1000 hours of research” that Strat-O-Matic claims to invest in historical seasons that are released in C&D format.
In response, I’d argue that because the Strat-O-Matic PC game uses the exact same engine as the C&D format, and in fact offers “card images” of the virtual cards, the computer rosters are more-or-less equivalent to a C&D release. I know that all you C&D Only guys will disagree – and I hope you do so vocally! – because you’re left out when gameco’s only release season sets as computer rosters, but it’s the closest we’re going to get for now.
Prior to the announcement of new products to be released in 2013, it was widely anticipated that Strat-O-Matic would be releasing the 1973 Major League Baseball season in their “Super-Advanced” format. As it turns out, that season was withheld from release until (likely) 2014. Since the 1973 Japanese League season was created in a normalized-versus-MLB environment, it will be very interesting to see if any integrated replays show up this year. I’m looking forward to the possibilities.
HMB has exactly everything that most gamers require in a game: it has a clever game engine, quality components, accurate statistics, smooth gameplay, a short gametime, almost no learning curve at all, and a small footprint.
But there are myriad games that can boast most if not all of these qualities. Why do you need another baseball game?
In the realm of baseball simulations, it sometimes seems like we’ve seen them all before.
To clear out a space on tables that are already crowded with baseball simulations a new game has to be something truly new. 2013′s Best New Tabletop-Sports Game of the Year, History Maker Baseball, is that rare and special game that offers the simulation qualities that we’ve come to expect from the best baseball games, but also provides a novel new experience during the gamer’s campaign.
Keith Avallone and Plaay Games’ latest release challenges the notion that tabletop-sports gamers require perfect statistical recreations of the season they are playing. Instead, History Maker Baseball offers a different kind of experience.
From the game’s website:
Where the great baseball board games of today look through the rear-view mirror, HISTORY MAKER BASEBALL is designed to give you the “Opening Day” perspective. HMB will allow for the collusion of intangibles which could potentially produce a result somewhat modified from what actually happened–or, WILL happen–in real-life, while still generating acceptably realistic, believable statistics.
Some of those intangibles that will affect your season may include pre-game coaching, or messages from the front office, or an angry sportstalk radio host. Umpire reputation and competence will change outcomes. That short porch in right in your home ballpark may come into play, but your lefty slugger that took an 0-fer yesterday may be COLD and may only have warning-track power today. Over a season-long campaign, hot and cold streaks will be a real thing that you as a manager will have to deal with.
The Best New Game award is intended to honor the game that best captured our imaginations in 2013. No other baseball game in recent memory offers the opportunity to capture and recapture your imagination the way HMB does.
[NOTE] To qualify for this award:
- The game must have been released as a finished product for the first time within the calendar year 2013 (beta releases and playtest releases don’t qualify).
- The game must be a tabletop game, though Excel based card flippers and PC ports of tabletop games would qualify as long as the game engine remains intact and the game could be played as a card & dice version.
For instance, Diggin’ Deep Tennis PC would qualify, since it is both a first time 2013 release and a port of a tabletop game, but Strat-O-Matic Baseball 2013 would not qualify due to the fact that it is an update of a previous version, not a “new” game.
- Besides History Maker Baseball, a special mention goes to the following two new games, both of which were exceptional in quality of components, playability, originality, and fun factor. Either of these two games would have won Best New Game in most other years:
Over the next week or so, I’ll be giving out the oneforfive.com awards for 2013. Here are the Categories:
- Best Replay of the Year
- Best New Game of the Year
- Best Game Release (Vintage Season)
- Best Newsletter (Official Gameco.)
- Best Blog
- Best Video Blog
BEST REPLAY OF THE YEAR
From last year’s post, the first of what I hope will be an annual event, here is my idea of a great replay:
…some replay projects are more engaging than others. I have found that there are 5 elements to a creating an engaging and successful replay thread on a forum or blog:
- Consistent frequency of posts
- Well-written recaps including intelligent game analysis
- Clean visual presentation
- The author’s genuine enthusiasm for the project
- An element of the unknown in the project itself
A replay doesn’t have to succeed at every level of these 5 elements to be interesting and worth following, but the best replays do. To qualify for nomination, the replay must have started in 2013.
Here are the 9 nominees (and 1 special mention) for 2013 Best Tabletop-Sports Replay:
- 9 – 1929 Washington Senators Replay (Donald64JHS; Strat-O-Matic Baseball)
- 8 - 1970 NFL Replay: The Merger (hensonfan7; Inside Blitz)
- 7 - 1941 Reimagined (Bob in Pitt; APBA Baseball)
- 6 - The United Leagues Project (TerryB; Strat-O-Matic Baseball)
- 5 - 2012 MLS Montreal Impact & MLS (lokigc; Classic Soccer)
- 4 - 1934 Integrated & Expanded*** (jgraphy; Strat-O-Matic Baseball)
- 3 - The Game Score League (Bobby Meacham; Strat-O-Matic Baseball)
- 2 - Love, Life, and APBA 1942 Replay (Kenneth Heard; APBA Baseball)
- 1 - All-Time World Cup Replay (anthony63 & Albidone; Classic Soccer)
Special Mention to Jeff Polman and his Dear Hank: A Fictional 1938 Season. The truth is, I probably would have chosen Jeff’s replay as my favorite of the year, but I decided it shouldn’t qualify since I was personally involved. I played all of the games and even contributed a couple short pieces under the pseudonym “P. Dylan.”
***[ed: see notes from jgraphy in the comments of this post. His "1934 Integrated & Expanded" replay began prior to 2013 and it was my mistake to include it on this list. All the same, it's a great replay and I enjoyed it immensely. Though it doesn't technically qualify for the list, it would do readers a disservice to remove it.]