Open Seat Gaming: Kickstarter Preview - Pocket Ballpark
Disclaimer: This preview is from a reviewer’s copy of the game that was provided by Mad Packs Games Games to Open Seat Gaming, but opinions are our own based on several plays of the game.
Game: Pocket Ballpark
Publisher: Mad Packs Games
Designer: Robert Bruce
Artist: Jayce White
Main Game Mechanisms: Children's Game, Simultaneous Play, Adding
Number of Players: 1 to 2 players
Game Time: 15 to 25 minutes
Description: In Pocket Ballpark, you're players on two different baseball teams, playing through several innings of baseball in order to see who racks up the most runs.
Gameplay is simple: Both the player that is batting and the player that is pitching have cards in their hand, numbered 1 to 7. Each player plays one of their cards face down, and you reveal the cards at the same time.
Once the cards are revealed, you add the two numbers together. Then, you use one of three potential outcome tables to sort out what happened during that pitch - it could be a ball, a strike, a foul ball, or a hit (single, double, triple, home run). The outcome table you use differs (and thus, the results for each sum differ) based on what the situation is with runners on base. As you can see below, there is one for no runners on base, one for 1 runner on base, and one for 2+ runners on base.
The bases are represented by 4 cards that you put together to - you guessed it - make a baseball diamond. If you get on base, you'll flip over the batter card that you used to get your hit and put it, face down, on the base that your batter ran to.
If you're the team that's up to bat, you also always have the option to steal. You declare that you're stealing, and then do "Rock, Paper, Scissors" to determine if the runner is safe. There are also a couple of instances where you may have to play Rock, Paper, Scissors in order to determine the results of a run on the 1 runner and 2 runner outcome tables.
You keep track of balls, strikes, and outs on the pitch count card, and when the team that is batting gets 3 outs, you switch your cards and the next half of the inning starts. Suggested play is 3 innings for your first try. You use the scorecards to keep track of how many runs you get, and whoever has the most runs at the end of your game wins!
Review: Sarah and I are always all over Kickstarters for sports-based board and card games, so we decided that Pocket Ballpark was definitely something that we wanted to try out for ourselves. We're so glad that Mad Packs sent it to us - thanks y'all!
Three innings is a really solid choice for the game's length - it's long enough that your kids will feel like they've gotten a game in, but short enough that it'll keep everyone's attention for pretty much the entire game. Sarah and I played it between heavier games, and it always stayed in that solid 15 to 20-minute timeframe. With kids, it could push to 25 minutes at first, but with time it could go just as quickly as it did with both of us.
I love the old-timey baseball card feel of the art. Look at how cool that everything looks? They tried to be racially diverse with the players and did a good job in doing so. They look like old style baseball cards, complete with left and right-handed pitchers and batters. These baseball fans really appreciate that attention to detail!
One of the things that I feel may make the game a bit better is if, instead of requiring you to play the last card in your hand before picking your cards up, you pick them up when you only have one card left in your hand. It prevents the "predictable" turn, which Sarah and I found ourselves zooming through so we could get back to the meat of the game.
Another consideration is the outcome tables. They either have 2 or 3 ways for the batter to have an instant out. If the batter gets super lucky, they could end up getting run after run. Since this is a game focused on kids, I would recommend a mercy rule (5 runs in an inning switches the batting team and the pitching team) or adding another option or two for outs on the outcome table for 2+ runners.
It's definitely a kid's game - it's a very light game, there isn't a lot of strategy, but Sarah and I had fun playing it for the preview. The game teaches them the basics of how baseball works and it can help them to learn addition more quickly, as well.
Pocket Ballpark takes the tension of a baseball game and makes it into a light, fun game that young sports enthusiasts can enjoy, and we'd definitely recommend it for sports-loving families with children.
Kickstarter Information: Pocket Ballpark will be launching on Kickstarter on Tuesday, September 18th, 2018. Here is the link to their Kickstarter preview, and that link should work when the project goes live as well. The print and play is $6 CA (~$4.70 US), early bird is $16 CA (~$12.35 US), and the standard pledge is $20 CA (~$15.50 US). All of those include free US/Canada shipping.
Marti - The Fluffy Meeple