Board GamesReviews

Famous Fastballs: The World’s Smallest Baseball Game

Ah springtime, as the snow melts away and days become longer, our minds turn towards the outdoors.  Besides the tree buds and flowers,  I start thinking sports.  Of course, Track and Field takes first place in my heart.  still, I share the season with the favorite sports at my school:  Baseball and Softball.  My entire career in track, from high school to college, and now coaching, has involved ducking baseballs as they sail through the air from a pop fly or error in the outfield.  There is no denying the pull of the game and the love and dedication it players and fans share.  And since there is no Famous Track and Field game, next in the line-up is Famous Fastballs.

Famous Fastballs in a beginner level game in the Famous Games line. The Famous Game lines offer “pocket” or mini games. The entire game is played with only few cards, minimal rules, and in under thirty minutes. For more information on all the Famous Games, How to Play tutorials, designer Rob’s blog and more check out the website at:

Components / Set Up

As with the other games in the Famous Games series there are eleven cards.  Two cards for rules and set up and 9 used for game play.  Players will need eight coins or beads for keeping track of various parts of the game.   Once again I really like the graphic design of the cards, the colors, and pictures create a set out of the six games.

Players must first decide who will be the home player (red) and who will be the visitor (blue).  Four of the cards are used to keep track of some basic game statistics.  Place both scorecards on the table and put a coin /bead on zero for each team.  The game starts at the top of the first inning, so a coin go on the one of the Inning Card, and then on the baseball next to zero on the Outs cards, since there are no out to start the game.  Four coins / beads are also used to keep track of players on base.  Place the field in the middle of the table and four coins next to the field.  Next place out the batter and pitcher on the table.  The Home Team will be on the mound first and the Visitors will be up to bat. Place one coin on home plate.

Game Play

Once again Famous Games Company offers a great online tutorial on how to play the game.  Check it out at their website if you have any questions.

Bluffing is a big part of Famous Fastballs, just like in the real game of baseball.  Players have to bluff their opponent, while at the same time guess what the other will be doing each turn.  The pitcher will either throw a ball or a strike, and the batter will either swing or let the ball go by him.  Players do this by simultaneous revealing hand signals.  The pitcher shows a closed fist for a strike or an open fist for a ball.  The batter shows an open fist for a hold or a closed fist for a swing.

Use the “At Bat” card to determine the outcome.  When players reveal two different signals, the batter is out.  The coin is advanced on the Outs card.  If it is the third out the inning is over.  If both players reveal Open hands, the batter walks.  The coin from home plate is advanced to first base on the Infield card.  If needed the other runners are moved forward.  If both players reveal on closed hand it is a hit.  If this happens, players must go to the Hits card for yet another set of hand signals to determine the type of hit.

Players will reveal one, two or three fingers when there is a hit.  These are added together to get a result between zero and six.  Single, Double, Triple, and Home Run results allow the Batter to advance all base runners by one, two, three or four bases.  They score points for any runners that cross home base.  A Single Play, Double Play, or Triple Play allows the Pitcher to choose one, two or three runners respectively and declare them OUT.  The runners are removed from the field and the Outs are marked on the Outs card.  The Inning continues in this way until the Pitcher has three Outs.

When the Pitcher has three outs, advance the coin to the next space on the Inning card and reset the Outs to zero.  Switch the Pitcher and Batter cards.  The game continues for five Innings.  The player with the most points after five Innings wins the game.  The Innings card does go up to the traditional nine Innings if players would like a longer game.

My Thoughts

When I first opened Famous Fastballs I was a little surprised by the cards and thought it would be a lot more complicated.  The components, and Rock, Paper, Scissors like mechanisms, make the game simple and quick.  It is easy to learn and teach.  The Inning, Outs, and Scorecards are an effortless way to keep track on the stats so players only need to concentrate on out-bluffing their opponent.

All of this makes it a great game for families.  I can really see a parents playing with their children.  Both would be at the same level because of the hand gestures and randomness of the play.  I can also see kids really getting into the game with lots of smiles and laughing all around.  The baseball theme really draws players to the game.  The hand gestures fit, since these are used in the real game.

For adults, the game can get repetitive.  They may grow weary of throwing out hand gestures and probably will not want to play a game longer than five innings.  Baseball is not an easy game to translate to cards, so the theme isn’t that deep in Famous Fastballs.  This makes sense for a beginner level game.  It is an introduction, not a simulation of game play.  Not everyone is going to love Famous Fastballs, but they aren’t going to hate it either.  It shines the most as a family game.  So baseball lovers and children will really enjoy the game.

Solid game play, easy rules, and fun mechanisms make Famous Fastballs a Home Run!

Quick Stats

Designer: Rob Bartel
Artist: Rob Bartel
Publishers: Famous Games Company
Players: 2
Game Length: 30 minutes
Ages: 13 and up

Review Overview

Final Rating

Liked It

Solid game play, easy rules, and fun mechanisms make Famous Fastballs a Home Run!

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