Review: Harry's Grand Slam Baseball Game

by Frances Moritz

Few games are well-designed for two players. There are classics... chess, backgammon, and their many variants (Twistgammon, Bosworth), among others, that are intended for two players. But most games are designed for group play and rarely support a good two player game. Even ones that can handle two players well, such as Gold Digger or Fluxx, lose their dynamic edge after learning your partner's playing style at each of them.

Maybe that's why Out of the Box went back in time to a game designed in 1962. Released as one of their Heirloom Games, Harry's Grand Slam Baseball is a reproduction of a "great American game" while meeting all the standards that we've come to expect from Out of the Box Publishing.

Each player manages a baseball team as they face off for a nine inning game. Knowledge of baseball is entirely optional; the game comes with a handy Card Reference, detailing what each card type does. Even with knowledge of baseball, this comes in handy to see how the cards play out. After a couple games, the Card Reference becomes optional; the rules are pretty easy to remember.

The scoreboard has three dials: Home Score, Inning (Visitor/Home) and Visitor Score. The scores go to twenty; the innings to ten (you might need the overtime). The scoreboard props up nicely, easily placed behind the Baseball Diamond provided for housing the draw pile and moving the runners along.

All of the cards are "good" cards they'll help you at some point in the game. There are On-Base cards (Single, Double, Triple, Home Run, Walk, Hit By Pitch, and Error), Runner cards (to advance runners a base), Out cards (Ground Out, Strike Out, Fly Out, Sacrifice Bunt, and Double Play), and Pinch Hitter/Relief Pitcher cards. But you only have three cards in hand at any time, so there's an element of luck when it comes to the shuffle. On your turn, you must play a card, whether it helps or harms you, so being at bat with three Strike Out cards in hand is tough luck. By the same token, your opponent may only have On-Base cards at the same time, and be forced to help you along.

The Pinch Hitter/Relief Pitcher cards add a blind luck element to the game; they're played as soon as they're drawn, with another card hidden from both players until you choose to use it. When revealed, the hidden card is played immediately, helping whichever player it helps.

All of this comes in a sturdy tin, and it even includes the original rules, for $14.99. It's a must buy for the baseball or gaming fan on your holiday shopping list. (OK, so I start shopping early.)

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