Monday, July 27, 2020

Two card/dice games, two countries

Despite having grown up with Stratomatic and APBA baseball, I enjoy playing sports games that are challenging, take a bit of skill, and are dependent upon more than just a lucky roll of the dice. I even remember skipping a couple of classes while at the University of Iowa, in order to work with a friend on a board and dice hockey game using current players. I came up with the play mechanics and he came up with the player stat cards.

While there's a lot of baseball board games out there, again, Stratomatic comes to mind, there are very few actual baseball "card" games, especially those of the collectible kind.

Once I became a collector, there were two different baseball games I remember collecting and actually playing - Sportsclix, from WizKids, and MLB Showdown, from Wizards of the Coast, the same people who created Magic the Gathering. MLB Showdown came out first, from 2000-2005, with a slight overlap of Sportsclix, which came out 2003-05.

At the height of their popularity, a couple of local gaming shops (both since long gone), held leagues for each of these games. While I enjoyed playing Sportsclix, actually becoming a Sportsclix Coach, or WizKids envoy, who could help adjudicate and run games, I enjoyed MLB Showdown much, much more.

This was a card game I could actually get into. MLB Showdown cards were nice, bright and fairly easy to read, with nice game action shots on the front. It was a hoot to play and the gameplay seemed more realistic, especially when strategy cards came into play, plus you didn't have to click your characters after every at bat.

The only downside, is like other Wizards of the Coast games (can you say "Magic the Gathering") they would come out with multiple sets each year, including Pennant Run and Trading Deadline, as well as those must have strategy cards, such as "Go Up Hacking." In the 2001 printing alone, there were 462 cards in the base set (including 75 strategy cards), 175 in Pennant Run (25 strategy), and 50 "promo" cards.

For our 2001 MLB Showdown season, we held a pack draft. Each player bought four packs of the 2001, 1st Edition, and four packs would be opened at a time, the strategy cards were removed, and the player cards were then spread out on the table. Once you got a look at who was available, the draft began.

I believe I had the third or fourth pick, so I immediately went for Randy Johnson (foil) as my number one pick. It was a wise decision, as he became the ace of my staff. If I remember right, I believe I finished fourth in our nine-team league, but for the life of me, I don't remember any of my other player cards, except for Padre reliever Troy Hoffman, who usually got the job done for me.

I really enjoyed the look of these cards, as well as the gameplay. It's really a shame the game fell by the wayside.

Fast forward to 2020, where my collecting interests have since expanded to Japanese baseball cards.

Takara originally produced a 30-player baseball game set for the six-team Central League (from 1978 - 80) but expanded their print run to include each of the 12 teams from the Nippon Baseball League in 1981. Each set included two dice, a playing sheet, a team logo card, as well as a set  of instructions, printed in Japanese, of course.

Recently, I found a 1990 Takara Nippon-Ham Fighters set off E-Bay, with Mat Winters, who played five years with the Fighters, showing through the front slot.

These 2-1/8" x 3 - 3/8," rounded-corner cards are okay, with player shots from the chest up, as modeled by Winters. He's decked out in the  Fighters' red and yellow striped jerseys, which the team wore from 1982-1992. The players' biographical information can also be found on the front of the card.

The back of the cards, meanwhile, feature the gameplay aspects of the set, with pictograms showing what the results of dice rolls are. Yukio Tanaka and Yasunori Oshima, two Japanese Hall of Famers, are also included in this set.

One issue I've found, is since it's printed in Japanese, there are no player names, only their uniform numbers are listed. I've noticed a disparity between Gary Engel's Japanese Baseball Card Checklist  Price Guide (Vers. 2.1), and the Trading Card Database website checklist. For example, Engel lists the #9 card above as Matt Winters, while the TCDB lists him as Brian Dayett. There's also a few other differences with a few of the other players in this team set.

While I trust Engel's guide implicitly, it does get a bit confusing at times.

As for playing the game istself, Dave, over at Japanese Baseball Cards ran a post on game play a few years ago ( ). However, I'm pretty sure I won't be playing Takara baseball - I don't think the collector in me will allow it.

I've also since found a 1990 Toyo Carp set as well, and am awaiting delivery from Canada.

Stay safe and healthy out there.


  1. That actually is Bryan Dayett, not Matt Winters. The name written in Katakana on both the front and back is Bryan Dayett, so the TCDB database is correct, Engel wrong!

    I have a small collection of those Takara game sets, they are kind of neat!

  2. That's cool that you and your buddies actually played MLB Showdown. I have a few singles sitting in my binders, but I've never actually played the game. The 1990 Takara box looks very familiar. I feel like I might have a similar box somewhere in my collection as well. Not 100% sure though.