Deadball: Baseball With Dice
Growing up, baseball was all the rage. My father gave me my first baseball glove when I was two. We’d go out in the back and play catch, which was more like I’d try and catch it, and my father would chase after the ball when I tossed it back to him. Over time I got better at it. I played ball with the kids in the neighborhood in the middle of the street, collected baseball cards, and played with electronic baseball simulators. Eventually, I joined an organized team and played for a while before I stopped altogether. Sports were never my thing. I continued to enjoy the sport though I never followed it closely. I’ve attended professional and minor league games, but the urge to get out onto the field never came back, though deep down, I miss playing the game. When I found Deadball: Baseball with Dice, I knew I had to give it a try, and I’m glad that I did.
Deadball: Baseball with Dice is a baseball simulation game for one to two players. It uses batter’s hit average (AVG), pitcher’s earned run average (ERA), and dice to resolve a hit or miss. It has basic and advanced rules for solitary games or two-players. It is fun and easy to learn as long as you have basic knowledge of how to play baseball.
Before purchasing the full version, I started with the quickstart rules available for free on DrivethruRPG. It’s a two-sided letter-sized page with one side of rules and a scorecard on the other. The rules quickly taught me the basics of the game and had me playing in no time. Before I knew it, I was into the seventh-inning stretch. It was enough for me to want to see what the full rules had in store.
As mentioned, Deadball has rules for both basic and advanced gameplay that works for one-player or two-player games. The basic rules cover general gameplay, productive outs, doubles plays, bunting, simple pitcher fatigue, handiness, and substitutions. I found most of it easy to follow with my basic knowledge of the sport. Though rules for productive outs and double plays had my head spinning. Not because the mechanic was complicated, but baseball itself can get involved. The advanced rules go into upgrading players with bonus traits, expanding the pitcher fatigue rules, on-base percentage, double steals, triple plays, streaks, slumps, and park factors. The two-player rules incorporate a few items not included in the solitary game: pitch outs, pickoff attempts, defensive positioning, infield in, no doubles, and infield shift. A lot of stuff in the advanced and even some of the basic rules went over my head, but like I said earlier, it’s the game of baseball and not Deadball that I need to grok.
At its core, the game uses statistics found in baseball. Real ballplayers and teams can be utilized if their stats are known. The most important of the stats is the batter’s average and a pitcher’s earned run average. As long as you have those two stats, the game works. Other stats come into play when using the advanced rules. A player can make their dream team or pit any real teams against each other. For those who don’t have stacks of baseball cards in shoeboxes, Deadball provides pre-generated teams to use and detailed instructions on making your own.
The game is labeled baseball with dice, which leads to the question, what dice do I need to play? A standard seven dice set is all you need, d4, d6, d8, d12, 2d10 (percentile), and d20. When a batter is at the plate, the percentage dice are used to roll under what is known as the Batter target (BT). BT is the first two digits of the batter’s batting average (AVG). That result is then added to the Pitch Die. The Pitch Die represents the pitcher and stems from his earned run average (ERA). The Pitch Die is determined by cross-referencing the pitcher’s ERA on a special chart that corresponds with the appropriate die to use. A pitcher with a very low ERA uses a d20 and adds it to the BT, while a pitcher with the worst ERA possible applies a straight -20. In between that range is a chain of dice used, d4, d8, and d12, to add or subtract from the BT depending on the pitcher’s ERA. Other dice not listed like the d6 and d10 come into play later when rolling on specific charts.
A basic solitary game of Deadball plays like so, a player at bat rolls percentile (swing score) and then adds or subtracts the Pitch die. The result is called the Modified Swing Score (MSS). If the result is 1-5 over the Batter Target (BT), the ball is considered a walk, and the batter takes his base. Results over 5 count as outs, and a rolled d10 on the Out Table determines how that happened; strikeout, caught by left field, etc. Results that fall under the batter’s BT, the ball was hit, and the Basic Hit Table provides what type of hit it is; single, double, etc. The team on the field has a chance to turn that hit into an out with a defense roll. A d12 is rolled on the Defense Chart to overturn a successful hit and turn it into something more. And that is how the game plays out in its basic form. Once a player is comfortable with gameplay, they can start incorporating base stealing, bunting, and the like to add to the simulation.
Keeping score in Deadball not only tells you at the end who was the winner; it also tells the story of the game. Through the use of simple pictographs and coding, the scorecard holds more than just the game’s score. On the left-hand side, going down the scorecard, is the list of ballplayers in the game, along with their BT and handiness. On the top going all the way across, is the innings of the game. When a ballplayer reaches a base, the scorekeeper draws the first angle of a diamond in the scorecard box for that player. It represents that the runner has reached first base. The diamond continues to build as the runner makes his way around the bases. If they reach home, the diamond is complete and filled in. If the runner is out, the scorekeeper writes the identifying code found in the Out Table related to the type of out. Each position on the field has a number 1-9, and those positions are referenced in the codes above. By looking at the scorecard at the end of the game, you can easily see what each player contributed. It’s a record of the game blow by blow.
Deadball: Baseball with Dice is available as a PDF and in Print. For this review, I used the PDF and printed out my own booklet. The PDF is nicely laid out using the digest size well. Its digest size was easy to read on an 8″ tablet. The organization of the rules in the booklet was clear and easy to find. The author uses a lot of abbreviations when discussing the rules as well as baseball terms. I found some of these difficult and overwhelming at first. Over time, I got used to it and educated myself on terms I was not familiar with. The author does not explain how to play baseball, so if one is not familiar with how the game is played, they will have to find another reference.
I found the game mechanics easy to follow and implement. Though when playing at-bat, I found it odd that my batter swings before the pitch. The Batter rolls his Swing Score, which is then modified by the Pitch Die. At first, it feels weird swinging an imaginary bat before the pitch, but mathematically it is more intuitive to do it this way.
Deadball is a great game to play by yourself or with a friend. Its gameplay is quick and easy to pick up. There is little to no prep required. Use your favorite players or teams from real leagues or play with the pre-generated teams. Deadball has many supplements available in the marketplace. Some expand the rules while others provide era-specific themes. Deadball is a quick and easy fix to satisfy off-season play or rained-out games. Pick up the quickstart rules and give it a try or go straight in and purchase the complete rules. You’ll enjoy Deadball: Baseball with Dice if you’re a baseball fan.
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