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Baseball Highlights 2045

The crack of the bat, the smell of the grass, the taste of peanuts, the feel of the sun on your back and the roar of the crowd, are all the senses of baseball. Baseball can be an exciting game, but sometimes it can a little long.  What could make baseball more exciting?  Would bionic arms for pitchers, robotic players for offense, and truly amazing naturals with skills to match these new challenges?  That is the idea of Baseball Highlights 2045.  Football had surpassed baseball as America’s national past time by 2032 and changes were needed.  Now, in 2045, the game is only six innings long.  The players also look a bit different.  Cyborg Pitchers have implants to improve their pitching, robotic players are the designated hitters, and naturals have learned new techniques to keep up with the “bots” and “borgs.”

Object of the Game

One unique aspect of Baseball Highlight 2045 is that it is actually played over a series of 4-7 mini-games.  The player who wins the most mini-games wins the series.  During each mini-game players are using six cards from their 15 card line-up.  At the end of each mini-game players will buy free agents and send players back to the minor leagues.

Components / Set-Up

Depending on what version of the game you buy, the regular or deluxe version, I recommend the deluxe because it comes with five expansions that add replay value and variety.  Cards account for most of the components.  The are four 15-card starting decks.  The teams for the starting decks are San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, and New York.  There is also a 60 card free agent deck.

Markers for the game include the runs scored markers; games won marker, and the home/visitor pennants.  Other components are the four player Stadium Mats, four player aid cards, and the white, blue, and red wooden batter/ runner pawns.

The game is set up after players decide what game mode they are going to play.  I’ll explain the set-up for a two-player game, as that is what I mostly play.

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Each player takes a stadium mat and their starting team deck and shuffles it.  Decide who will be home and who will be visitor and give each player the correct pennant.  Place the runs scored and games won markers on zero.

Players now draw the top 6 cards from their deck.  Remember the game is only six innings long now, so these players represent your team for the entire mini-game.  Players can use pinch hitters and on deck cards to get more cards.  To do this, a player may choose one card from their hand and place it face down under the “On Deck” circle of their player mat and draw one more card into their hand to replace the card that was just placed into the on deck spot.

All that is left to do is to set the white, blue and red pawns are set within easy reach and then line up 5 players face-up for the Free Agent Deck.  These players are in the “Buy Row.”  They are purchased at the end of the mini-game.

Mini-Game Turn Summary 

Players alternate playing cards as follows:

Step 1 – The active player plays a card onto the “In Play” box of their stadium mat.

Step 2 – If there is an immediate action on the active player’s card, the active player resolves that action.

Step 3 – If the opponent has any threatened hits these are now resolved.

Step 4 – The active player now places batters of the correct color to represent their threatened hits from their card.

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Step 1

Usually the active player uses a card from their hand, but they may use a “pinch hitter” instead.  To use a pinch hitter, the player discards a card with the “pinch hitter” symbol to the dugout and then plays the on deck card or the top card from their lineup.

Step 2

The immediate action box is the box right below the player’s picture.  If there is an immediate action, the active player resolves. it.  For example, the immediate action may cancel one hit.  If there is no immediate action, this step is skipped.

Step 3

Now resolve the opponent’s threatened hits.  Each hit is played out from right to left.  The runners are advanced, any runner that reaches home scores a run.

The color of the base runner determines how they will move around the bases.  Slow runners are the white pawns and they only advance the number of bases according to the hit.  Blue pawns are average base runners, they advance bases equal to the hit just like the slow runners, however, a blue pawn on second base will score on a single (from scoring position).

The red pawns are fast base runners, they advance one more base than the hit.  So, if the hit is a single, they advance to third base.

Only one runner can be on a base at a time, so if a slower runner is in front, a fast runner behind them may not be able to take advantage of their speed.

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Step 4

After the opponent’s threatened hits are resolved, the active player now places their pawns for their threatened hits on home plate.

The opponent now becomes the active player.  Play alternates until each player plays all six cards.

*Visitor Save*

If needed, the visitor player has one last defensive play after the home team has played their last card called the visitor’s save.  They may use their on deck card or the top card of their deck for this save if there is any immediate defensive action on the card.

Winning the Mini-Game

The player with the most runs wins the mini-game.  If there is a tie, player go into extra innings. I won’t go over these rules but they are pretty easy to follow.

After Mini-Game Play

Now each player may choose to purchase Free Agents and send old players to the minors.  Players total their revenue from the green circles on the six cards played in their lineup during this mini game.  The player with the lowest total decides who buys first.  Players can purchase new players, for every player they purchase they must send one card from their play box to the minors as players may only have 15 cards.  The newly purchased player(s) is placed on top of the Line Up deck.  All cards from the play box are then discarded to the dug out and the players draw 6 new cards to start the next mini-game.

Winning the Game

After a predetermined number of mini-games, the player with the most wins is the overall winner of the series.

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My Thoughts

I believe that Baseball Highlights 2045 will appeal to many types of gamers.  Sports fans will appreciate the theme while non-sports fans will enjoy the ease of play and excitement.  With the cyborgs and robots, Baseball Highlights 2045 is not a direct simulation of baseball.  It focuses on the pitcher batter duel to decrease the game length and increase the strategy.

Components

All the components that come with the game are of good quality.  You may notice that there is a lot of room in the box and this is so future expansions will fit inside the original box.  There are enough components for four players to play the game.  This game could have been just a two player game (baseball is only two team competing at once after all), but they included modes to allow for multiple player configurations.  Being able to play all the different modes: a four-player tournament, a three player “hot pepper” series, standard two-player, solitaire, really opens the game up for more people.

The cards are really excellent quality with a simulated linen finish.  They are easy to read and are colorful.  They reminds me of steam punk with a retro feel to the color and the player uniforms, with robots and bionic arms.  The card’s graphic design is easy to read.  It may take a game or two to really know everything on the card since there are multiple uses for each card.

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The white, blue, and red wooden pawns are pretty standard, but they work well in the game.  It makes it easy to remember which is a slow, average or medium speed runner.  The tokens are solid, of good quality, and work well in the game.

I like the artwork and design of the Player Stadiums.  At first I was surprised that each player gets their own field but this speeds up play and makes it easier for each player to track their team’s progress.  The artwork is beautiful and the graphic design is easy to read.  The mats are also double-sided which is a nice touch, allowing players to play either left or right-handed… a very thoughtful gesture of the game designers.

The player aids are of good quality and are useful, however the writing on them is pretty small and the background is a bit busy.  The player aids may be difficult for players with poor eyesight to read.  We also found that it would be helpful to have the turn summary numbered.

Rule Book

The rule book is very easy to read and is in full color and does a good job helping players learn the game.  There are even highlighted sidebars that clear up important points or give useful pointers.  The rules are sequential and end with an example of play that helps clear up questions new players may have.  It also goes over the immediate actions in detail, which will be useful to new players.  There are four game mode rules and flavor text on the three player types.  The rules for the expansions are also included in the rule book.

After reading the rules and playing a game the only thing we needed to go back and check was to remind ourselves about the Visitor’s Save and sending players to the minors.   These weren’t rules questions, just things we wanted to be sure we did correctly.

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Game Play

The mechanics and speed of the game may cause of a bit of disconnect from baseball.  You are only using six players per game, and each player shows what happens during one half inning.  Some players give you multiple hits while others don’t give you any hits at all.  Gameplay comes before theme here.

Despite this the theme of baseball is definitely there as the flavor text says that baseball has been sped up and changed in the future.  Therefore, the theme, wrapped around the mechanisms makes sense provided this explanation.  It does a excellent job of making for a shorter baseball game.

The back and forth duel of pitcher versus hitter is evident as players carefully choose which cards to use and when.  You must decide when to be offensive and when to be defensive.  Do you let a walk through to cancel a big hit later?  The different speeds of the runners also add strategy, as fast runners can get around the bases quickly, but can be blocked by slower runners.  This makes to order of the cards played important as well.

Knowing your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses also adds to the theme.  My husband knew I had a good cyborg on my team, so he picked up cards to counterbalance him.  Just like in real baseball you need to account for the good players of your opponent.

After a few games, the play speeds up, and it won’t take long to finish a tournament or World Series.  Our mini-games usually were about five minutes long.  I suggest taking the advice of the rule book and do the mini-games in order a few times until you get it.  It is easy to skip steps and become confused and miss things.  Also remember to use the visitor save as this is one of those things that is easy to forget, but can help a player win a game at the very end.

Even with the card draws, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of luck in the game.  The player who plays the most strategic game will probably win.  The length of the series also mitigates luck.

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The game also uses deck-building in a unique way.  Between each game players manage their teams by adding free agents.  The player who has the least revenue can decide who buys first, another important decision, as it isn’t always advantageous to buy first.  New free agents are put on top of your line-up deck, they can then be put on deck or into your hand.  The choice of being able to put a player on deck adds a bit of strategy, your opponent doesn’t know if they will see that new player this round.  For each free agent added, one other player must be sent to the minors, this an be a tough decision.

It is important to balance your deck and the players in it.  Defensive players may stop a lot of your opponent’s hits, but they don’t give you any of your own.  A player who ignores defense may score a lot of hits, but so will their opponent.  You also have to be aware of the speed differences in the runners.  For example, Wiffle gives you three singles but each runner is slow.  Is he a good choice for your line-up or do you pass him by for a faster runner?  Every free agent seems unique and offers interesting choices for your team.  The more expensive players may cost you a lot but they are balanced because they can do so much but cheaper players may offer good revenue for future buys.

There isn’t much downtime in Baseball Highlights.  You are always engaged as you opponents choose cards to play during the mini-game, buy free agents, and decide if to put a player on deck.  You need to know how to counter and win against your opponent’s team.  The different game modes will also be a draw for many players.  Playing two games simultaneously is a unique way to play a four-player game.   Having a way to play three player baseball is pretty cool.  This flexibility in player count shows the excellent design of the game.

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Overall

I have enjoyed playing Baseball Highlights 2045 and think it is a solidly designed game that can be enjoyed by baseball fans and casual fans.  A baseball fan may get more out of it as they understand the player name references and ins and outs of baseball.  It fills a niche as a sports game that can support up to four players and is playable in so many different ways.

The rules and rule book are clear and easy to read.  The game production is outstanding, and the art and iconography adds to the games playability.  The game is quick to play but gives you a lot of meaningful decisions to make.  I appreciate how your decisions during one game will affect your entire game.  This comes from playing pinch hitters and on putting a player on deck.  It also comes from choosing free agents in-between mini-games.  Your team will be very different by the end of the game, no two games I have played have been the same.

The visuals of Baseball Highlights first drew us to the game, the meaningful play made us want to keep playing.  If you just buy the base game, you may wish to get the expansions.  These expansions add a lot a variety and re-playability to the game.   They are modular, and you can choose which to add even if you buy them all.

Quick Stats

Designer: Mike Fitzgerald
Artist: William Bricker
Publishers: Eagle-Gryphon Games
Players: 1-4
Game Length:  45 minutes
Ages:  9 and Up

Picture Credits from www.boardgamegeek.com: Ralph H. Anderson (DragonCat), Dan H (nad24), Ralph H. Anderson (DragonCat),  Phil Triest (philtrees), Ralph H. Anderson (DragonCat)(2)

All other pictures were taken by my husband.  Thanks for sharing your great pictures!

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