APBA Soccer – mini season numero uno

I’m glad I didn’t read the reviews when APBA Soccer was released last March, because they weren’t kind.  The game engine was criticized as a knockoff of Anthony Apostolico’s Classic Soccer, and worse, the debut card sets were full of errors and seemingly un-playtested.

That’s water under the soccer bridge as far as I’m concerned, though.  I ordered the game with birthday money (thanks mom-in-law!), and I’ve had it now a little over a month.  In that time, APBA soccer has had about 90% of my tabletop gaming attention.

You’d need a broad brush to paint this game as a kind of Classic Soccer Lite, but I get the comparison.  That the box calls APBA Soccer “The Classic Soccer Board Game” is brazen, I thought, since the two games are similar enough in basic design to elicit comparisons on their own.  Ballsy move by APBA owner (and, reportedly, the designer of the soccer game) John Herson to call it out like that.

I’ll review the game itself later, in the meantime, here is a brief description of the tabletop updates you’ll be getting in the coming weeks:

My first APBA soccer project is a mini-season with two divisions: Division One will be comprised of the top 8 finishers in 2010 Major League Soccer competing in a 7 game short season where the top 6 teams make the playoffs (setup like the NFL: wild-card round, semi-finals, championship).  The bottom 8 2010 MLS finishers will compete in a double-elimination tournament for right to be promoted to division one for the next MLS mini-season I undertake.  The two finalists in that tournament will be promoted.  Total games to finish the entire project will be 48.  Since I play 4-5 games a week on average, it should take two to two-and-a-half months to finish.  That seems to be about the length my attention span for most things, so I have a reasonable expectation that I’ll finish this.  I’m 14 games into the season so far (roughly 30% complete).

I’ll try to post game-by-game results and update stats and standings with every week of play.  I’ll let you know when I’m using homebrew rules and I’ll give you my opinion as to where the game succeeds and where it could use work.  That’s the plan, anyway.

Now that I’ve said all that, I want to make a full disclosure:  I’ve only played the game a month, but I love it.  It’s not perfect, but it’s terrifically fun, and it’s my new favorite soccer sim.  I hope the joy I’m experiencing with the game comes across in my posts, because I hope to convert the doubtful; I want the game to succeed.  I have no dog in the fight between the old guard APBA guys and the new ownership, as I’ve never owned an APBA product before and I don’t have any opinion on the Lancaster to Alpharetta move or any of that.  All I know is that this soccer game is great, and with the innovations from the community, it’s getting better every day.

I hope you enjoy the writeups of my first APBA soccer project!  I’m having a blast playing it.

Seattle Sounders vs. Real Salt Lake 11-02-2011

I worked on Wednesday, at my job which is on Bainbridge Island, a 35 minute ferry ride from Seattle.  It was a beautiful Northwest autumn day – that is to say, it was about 40 degrees and raining.  The sky hung low over Puget Sound, a dark gray slate of ugly, with a capital Ugh.

I boarded the Bainbridge-Seattle ferry at 5:25, destination:  CenturyLink field for the 2nd leg of the Western Conference semi-final playoff between Real Salt Lake and the Seattle Sounders.  The ferry traffic seemed to share my hopeful if not entirely optimistic attitude about the game.  Conversations about the game began and ended with a shrug.

“It should be a fun game at least.  We’ll be desperate, so there should be a lot of wide open play.”

“Well, it is Kasey Keller’s real last game ever, we had to come out to see him off.”

“Yeah, it’s been a good season.  I just hope we don’t get embarrassed again tonight.”

We (my beloved Sounders) were down 0-3 on aggregate after a thorough and deserved drubbing just 4 days prior in Salt Lake City.  I probably would have stayed home and watched the game in glorious High Definition if a) I had waited until AFTER the 1st leg loss to buy a $55 ticket or b) it weren’t likely to be the very last game of the year and, consequently, of the great Kasey Keller’s career.  While on the ferry, I wondered how I would get home.  I’d taken the bus to work that day, and the buses in Kitsap County stop running long before the game would be over.

I was cold.  It was raining.  I didn’t have a ride home.  The Sounders were probably going to lose, maybe going to be humiliated.  Not a recipe for a good night ahead.

On the bright side, there was always the chance that I might get to see one of the greatest comebacks in MLS history.

So I zipped up my powder blue jacket (embroidered with an otter that my Grandpa Dave must’ve got a great kick out of when he bought in Monterey, CA), and trudged off the ferry – into the city and its halos of neon reflecting off wet pavement.

I entered the stadium around 6:20.  This is what it looked like at the time:

I was by myself, and for some reason that knowledge emboldened me to engage in some light heckling.  RSL were warming up right in front of my section so I leaned over the field and shouted:

“Hey Kyle Beckerman!  You are an UGLY ugly man!  Do they even allow dreadlocks in Utah?  Are those things even legal?”

And:

“Hey Javy Morales!  Te vamos a romper un tobillo!”

I felt pretty tough.  There only seemed to be one other heckler, and his best line was:  “See this?” *flips them off* “That’s the space needle RIGHT UP YOUR ASS!”

Which was pretty good, I have to admit.  I argued on his behalf when he was escorted away by security, but to no avail.

The view from my seat 1/2 hour before gametime.

The game was better than I could’ve expected, but not the dream comeback I’d hoped for.  The Sounders pressed everyone forward, playing what looked to me to be a 3-3-4 formation most of the game.  In response RSL brought everyone back and just tried to wall off the mouth of the goal.  It made for frustrating but exciting play. The boys in rave green never gave up and fought like dogs to the end.  It was a great battle and they kept the crowd engaged to the 93rd minute, when the final whistle blew.  By the end, I really believed we were going to tie it up.  When Eric Friberg collapsed on the field at the whistle, I wasn’t sure what had happened.  It couldn’t actually be over, could it?

It had rained all night, and by the time the game ended I was soaked through.  My fingers were all pruny, my socks were wet, my underwear could’ve used a good wringing out, even my as-played lineup sheets for the 1985 NY Mets that had been in my backpack were soaked.  I trudged on back to the ferry, posted some last minute Twitter pleas for a ride, and relived the game in my brain.

Since no one responded to my Twitter-pleas, I figured I would have to take a cab.  Luckily a nice, older, rich and smug couple let me share a cab with them and I only had to pay 20 of the normally $35 fare.  Money well spent.  The driver and I had a nice conversation about churches, his adventures in online dating (he’s having a hard time because he hasn’t figured out how to upload a picture of himself), and his dead sister, whom he misses dearly.

Got home with just enough time to massage my lovely wife’s feet before midnight.  With 6 hours of sleep or so I was up again and headed back to Bainbridge Island for work on Thursday.  The bus ride was warm and cozy.

I stand by my assertion. Kyle Beckerman IS an ugly ugly man.

INTRODUCTION

Someday I’ll tell you why the blog is called “One for Five.”  In the meantime, this is a brief synopsis of my long history with tabletop sports games.

 

I invented my first baseball board game at the age of 7.  I really don’t remember any of the details except that it had a spinner on the pitcher’s mound.  I won 3rd place in my school invention contest in the games division.  One of the judges was a representative from Mattel.

 

This is the spot when the whole thing starts to sound a little like the backstory of a labcoat-wearing evil genius:  

 

It was about two years later when I saw a suspiciously similar game on the shelf at a toy store.  I vowed then and there that someday I’d make The Greatest Baseball Board Game of All Time(tm)! And nobody would ever steal it from me!  In the spring of 1986, at the age of 10, I invented a baseball game that relied on a deck of playing cards to come up with results.  It was a simple game, and a nice diversion for me.  While playing I could be engaged with and immersed in a world that was far removed from the turmoil in which I lived.  I played thousands of games with My League.  Literally.  I was on Season 30 when I gave up My League (as I called it) on the day I left for college.  I ceremoniously threw away the notebooks and stats I’d kept from My League on the day I graduated college, too.  Today, I wish I would’ve kept some of them, at least.

 

It was an ad similar to this in the Street & Smith's Baseball Yearbook that first caught my attention.

It was an ad similar to this in the Street & Smith’s Baseball Yearbook that first caught my attention.

I first heard about Strat-o-Matic from the Street & Smith’s baseball preview magazine ad they ran in the late 80′s and early 90’s.  I wished for the game, because I imagined it had to be just like My League, only better, but my family didn’t have money to spend on stuff like baseball games.  I got my first Strat set in 1997, while in college.  I played a few games, had fun with it, but put it away within a couple weeks.  I didn’t have time for it, plus, at that time in my life it was important to me, for some reason, to put childhood behind me.  

 

 In 2000, I moved into my fiancee’s mother’s house, while we worked and saved up for a move out on our own to the Big City.  I tried to quit drinking that year, too, and was successful for about 13 months or so.  I needed a diversion in the evenings, so I pulled out the old Strat-o-Matic game.  I don’t know why I kept this game when I threw out all my old My League notebooks, but I’m glad I did.  I soon found a Strat play-by-mail league and was involved in that for about 5 years, until the PBM league started to feel like a chore and life overwhelmed me again.  My last year in the league was 2005.  I didn’t pick up strat – or any sports sims – again for 5 more years.

 

2010 was a year of upheaval and transition for my family.  By this time my – now – wife and I had a couple of little girls, ages 2 1/2 and 1.  My industry and consequently my career had been spiraling downward since the August 2008 market crash.  In March 2010, the wife and I each unexpectedly lost our jobs (again) and suddenly found ourselves faced with the prospect of moving back to her mother’s house, 3000 miles away.  Which we did.  I didn’t take the stress of the move or the family upheaval or the loss of job or any of it well this time, though, and my drinking wasn’t helping matters.

 

My family and I, shortly before our world fell apart in 2010.

Back in my mother-in-law’s house, again.  Unemployed, again.  Depressed, drunk most of the time, again I decided I needed a diversion.  I broke out my old Strat game, this time with the 42 Old Timer’s teams and started up a new league.  I called it the PUB League.  The name stood for “Paul’s Unemployed Baseball League” though it was also a double-entendre in that I could say “I’m going to have a beer at the PUB” and mean I’m going to play Strat and drink a beer (or six).  I played a lot of Strat and drank a lot of beer in the 6 months of my unemployment. 

 

On October 17th, 2010, I drank my last beer.  At the advice of a very good friend, I found myself in Alcoholics Anonymous three days later.  As I write this (November 2nd, 2011), it’s been over a year now, and I am still in the program without relapse.  I have a great job (that I love!), and I am closer to my family and God than ever. 

 

I am more into Strat-o-Matic (and, recently, APBA Soccer) than ever, too, but this time it’s proved to be a wonderful diversion in the right ways for the right reasons.  As I am no longer dulling and muting my emotions with alcohol, and since I do work hard now to grow in my relationships with my loved ones and in my spiritual relationship with God, I can enjoy these games in a healthy manner, like a normal human enjoys a normal hobby.  That feels great.  I feel great.  Life is good.  God is good.

 

This is a lot of writing to say, essentially, this one thing:   Here is my blog.  It is about Strat-o-Matic Baseball and APBA Soccer (and maybe a few other games, too).  It’s also about my life.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

– Paul (aka catnotmouse)