FULL-COURT PRESS: Games are on no matter what Mother Nature says

Tabletop sports games have always helped me dream and pass the time when the weather keeps me inside

I turned 55 years old in November, but I’m still a kid at heart in many different ways.

When I was maybe around 10, I discovered a hobby that I’ve enjoyed ever since when I purchased a game at a garage sale: Strat-O-Matic Baseball. I had no idea what I was buying at the time, but looking back it was the best $5 I’ve ever spent.

I’m guessing some of you may recognize Strat or maybe even APBA (American Professional Baseball Association) or Statis Pro Baseball or Replay Baseball. If not, these are just a few “tabletop” games that simulate a baseball game where in a player uses dice, cards and charts to determine the outcome of each at-bat.

Many of these companies also offer games for football, basketball and hockey, as well as other sports.

The past few days have brought with it weather that only a duck could love. That has kept the local high school sports teams off the fields and pitch, so the desk in my office at home has seen a few games played out on it.

To describe SOM in the simplest way, each player/manager picks their team, makes their lineup and selects a starting pitcher. Each SOM player (based on their real-life stats and abilities) has his own card. Batters (1-2-3) and pitchers (4-5-6) have three main columns and results in each column ranging from 2-12. The manager rolls three dice, say one red die and two white dice — the red dice tell you what column you’ll be reading from and the total of the two white dice the number in that column to find the result of the at-bat.

There is much more to the game, but it allows a player to use their imagination of the play, or how the batter or pitcher would have reacted.

Preparing for a game using the tabletop simulator Strat-O-Matic Baseball.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, having these games to pass the time and push my mind away from all of the world problems was a godsend.

Also, in that time I found a game company named PLAAY Games, founded by Keith Avalone and based near Denver. Keith and his son Sam have created a number of sports games, as well as other nonsports games that are, in my opinion, truly unique and addicting to play.

PLAAY’s History Maker Baseball uses dice and player cards like many other baseball games, but instead of reading final results of a player’s card, the players have been given attributes. For example, the New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge is a “Home Run King”, “Slugger” and “Whiffer”, while the San Francisco Giants’ Blake Snell is a “Semi-Ace” with “Double Flash.” Through dice rolls, players look in a booklet, and the results depend on if a player has or doesn’t have the quality that is being asked for.

PLAAY also offers games allowing you to replay football, basketball, hockey, soccer, golf, auto racing, wrestling and, yes, bowling.

Getting ready to play out a tabletop baseball game using History Maker Baseball by PLAAY Games LCC.

Back to baseball, while the company has rated many real MLB seasons, including releasing the 2023 set last week, they also last fall released a card set that includes almost 500 of the greatest players, rated on their best overall season. The set allows a gamer to have Greg Maddux try to retire Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig, or Tony Gwynn face legends such as Sandy Koufax or Whitey Ford. The matchups are endless, and you just never know who is going to outwit whom. They also have fiction sets and how-to guides to help immerse you even deeper. In fact, I created cards for all of the players on the 2023 Times All-Area Baseball Team. Super fun!

While PLAAY’s baseball game also adds weather and field conditions, ballpark characteristics, injuries and rare plays into the equations like Strat and ABPA, it also figures in umpires (yes, Angel Hernandez has a card) and if the overall mood of the team is happy or sad into play.

Many people have hobbies: woodworking, reading, gardening, and the list goes on.

My hobby is sometimes on a rainy, cold, spring day, rolling out dice to see if the 1969 Cubs can reverse their epic late-season collapse, or if golfer Jordan Spieth can avoid his disaster at the 2016 Masters, or if the 1985 Bears can stay undefeated on that early December night in Miami.

So, if you’re a sports fan and are looking for a way to break away from reality when Mother Nature keeps you indoors, you may want to check out some of the games I’ve mentioned.

Don’t blame me, though, if you get hooked.

Brian Hoxsey is a sportswriter for Shaw Media. Email him at bhoxsey@shawmedia.com.