The Herald Bulletin

October 22, 2011

Xtra Innings takes gamers into every pitch

Tabletop simulation great learning tool for young and old

By Rick Teverbaugh
The Herald Bulletin

— Most baseball tabletop games on the market are tied to recreating players, teams and seasons from the past. They try to replicate the real-life abilities of those players and bring them to life for the gamer.

Xtra Innings takes a different strategy by focusing on just that, the strategy of the sport of baseball in a one-on-one format within the context of a card game.

As a teaching tool, Xtra Innings is phenomenal. It will teach youngsters and adults alike not just the strategies of the game but the terminology as well. Gamers will have increased enjoyment from watching the sport unfold as a spectator after playing the game only a few times.

As an instrument of gaming for baseball fans who already know the game, it is a challenging exercise of both tactics and patience. Since Xtra Innings is a pitch-by-pitch simulation, it can often, especially for the new player, last nearly as long as a real game. My first contest was six innings and took just over 90 minutes.

The game is really about guessing what pitch is coming and picking the correct card to make contact with that pitch. Each player has two hands of cards. One is all about the pitcher making pitches and the hitter taking swings. The other cards are about getting a hit when contact was made (for the batter) and the defense trying to take a hit away and convert it into an out.

It is around that confrontation that Xtra Innings is based. Just about every card that can be played by either side has a counter the other side will have in their deck, but will they have it in their hand? Each team has an identical deck of cards so the game is about having the right cards in hand at the proper time and minimizing the damage when you don’t.

A strength of the game is that it feels like a baseball game is unfolding rather than it feeling like a card game with the baseball theme slapped upon it. It is obvious the game’s creators, Dwight Baird and François Doré, have a love and deep understanding of the sport and its nuances. That they have been able to capture it so successfully in a board game context is remarkable.

For me personally, I miss the players. For me, that is why I love baseball, the people who play the game. That is the one place where Xtra Innings misses the mark. The strength of putting both gamers on an even playing field feels great from a competitive standpoint, but the game loses some personality because of it.

But I encourage baseball fans to try the game, or to at least visit the game’s website to see some of the cards as well as some videos showing gameplay. It might very well be for you during those long winter months waiting for spring training to begin again.

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