Baseball Quest! Design Blog #1: Play Ball!

Welcome to the first in a planned series of posts that will document the creation of my first fully fleshed-out game, Baseball Quest! In this space I hope to include my thought processes, troubles, successes, and evolution of the game as it’s made. It should act as a log for me to reference during the process, as well as a window into game design for any others looking to create their own game

The Idea

In my first post on boardgame design, I talked a little bit about where the idea for Baseball Quest came from. I’ll expand on that a bit here.

I had the idea that I wanted to create a game based on a sort of rock, paper, scissors guessing contest that involved more strategy and decision making than a typical game of RPS. I thought that if I could balance things correctly, I could create a system that encouraged some really interesting head-games, bluffs, and strategies.

The guessing game between the batter and pitcher in baseball seemed a natural theme to match up with this system. I figured that pitchers could select pitch types from their repertoire and hitters would have to guess what the pitcher was throwing. Different pitchers and hitters would have different stats (currently based on 3 tiers of color, with red being the best, green the worst, and yellow in the middle), adding a layer of strategy to the match up.

I also liked the idea of incorporating some sort of deck-building facet to the game. I imagined players, over the source of the game, creating lineups and bullpens that would line up strategically against their opponent’s.

I also decided that giving the game a fantasy-theme would allow for both some interesting mechanics and abilities as well as a more boardgame player-friendly

So, with these basic ideas in mind, I started brainstorming, writing, creating, and playtesting.

Where I am now

It’s been about a month since I first started putting ideas for Baseball Quest down in a Google Doc. Generally, when I’m working on a new project, I start with a sort of stream of consciousness-style document where I put down just about any idea or question that pops in my head. As I continue to work, this document gets refined, changed, and added on to. Eventually I take the ideas I like and rewrite them in a more organized way on a separate document, but I find that the freedom of the brainstorm is key for me to coming up with new ideas.

Since that month I have created a set of rules, two starting lineups of nine “replacement-level” players, 46 draftable hitters with a variety of special abilities, 12 starting pitchers, and 20 relief pitchers.

I’ve been able to playtest the game a few times, though not as many as I’d like. During one of the playtests I was able to watch a match played between two friends. Seeing two others play the game offered some great insights and encouragement: they understood the rules, had fun (including some genuine shouts and cheers), and allowed me to see things that I might want to work on that I might have missed had I been one of the players.

Gameplay Preview

The main feature of Baseball Quest! is the mind-game-like matchup between the hitter and the pitcher. Here’s an example of an at bat between a power hitting 2nd baseman, “Utley,” and the “Power Lefty.”

matchup

This is a good matchup for Utley. He has a red to green advantage over Power Lefty’s Curveball, which is huge for a hitter. His changeup matches yellow to yellow, and he is only down one tier in the fastball category with his yellow vs. the Power Lefty’s red. Luckily for Utley, the Power Lefty doesn’t throw a slider which is Utley’s weak point.

face-down

Here each player has placed their choices for pitch selection face-down in front of them. Does Utley try to sit on a curveball? Assume that Power Lefty is going to try to pump fastballs by him? Maybe he’ll do something unconventional and throw two changeups and a curveball. Let’s see what happens.

reveal

Not too bad for Utley! He correctly guessed that a fastball was coming first and that the Power Lefty would try and sneak a curveball in for the last pitch. If he had guessed changeup for the middle pitch instead of a curve, he would have worked a walk (or have the option to swing away in his most favorable matchup). Let’s see now what the dice decide. Since the pitch selection resolves from left to right, Utley’s manager will roll a yellow die and Power Lefty’s a red–the pitcher has an advantage, but in a game like baseball anything can happen.

dice-roll

Ah, a 1 on the red die! Poor luck for the Power Lefty! Utley rolled a 3. Normally a win by 2 is a single, but because Utley is an all-star with the “power” ability, he is able to drive the ball for a double. A token runner would be placed on second, Utley would go to the bottom of the deck, and the new batter on top would be up.

What’s Next?

At this point I just need to continue playtesting and fine-tuning the game for maximum fun. There are plenty of questions that I’ve been asking myself: Do abilities need tweaking? Should their be more players? Do the baseline stats work and encourage maximum fun? Is there any part of the game that should be sped up or slowed down? Are relievers getting used, or are they just collecting dust? Do I need a game board, or are cards and a few tokens enough?

Hopefully next time I’ll be able to address some of these questions, give another gameplay example, and reflect on some more playtesting.