You could perhaps be forgiven for not knowing about Blaseball in this day and age. Popular as it is, there are still plenty of folks that say “What’s that” when I mention this most bizarre of games. The fact that you’re here, though, means you’re either already a fan or are finally curious enough to dive headfirst into [REDACTED]. Welcome, and please make sure your seatbelt is fastened at all times!
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that you know the basics of Blaseball. If you don’t, you can check up on this baseball meets Welcome to Night Vale mashup with an excellent summary by People Make Games. And with that, let’s take a look at whether this boardgame adaptation of the beloved splort belongs on your gaming shelf!
Blaseball Wild Cards
Rain Watt, Michael Fox
Card Game, Action Points, Dice Rolling
Number of Players:
40 - 60 minutes
26 pounds (about $25 USD)
Copy provided by publisher
Team setup looks a lot like your traditional baseball diamond. Easy to remember, even if you don't use the setup sheet or a fancy playmat (sold separately).
Rules Of The Game
It’s the top of the ninth. You, the coach of an All-Star team, have been biting your nails for the last eight innings. The score is tied, zero to zero. You send your star pitcher to the mound just as the weather takes a turn for the worse. Looks like its raining peanuts. You say a silent prayer that none of your players opens their mouth at the wrong moment. Let’s play some ball!
A game of Blaseball Wild Cards plays simply and can be taught in just a handful of minutes! Each card, mostly representing your team of All-Stars, has a value for the relevant positions in which you can field them: pitching, batting, and catching. You roll two six-sided dice, adding the appropriate value, and check against your opponent to see who does better. The difference in the results determines how many bases a batter can run, and ties result in a ball. Catches result in outs. Just like a regular game of baseball, three strikes equal an out, and three outs will swap the pitching and batting teams. After each team has a chance to bat, the game is over and the highest score wins!
Personally, I'm a Tigers fan. Having a favorite team really helps set the mood when you sit down to play!
All of this is what makes Blaseball Wild Cards so easy to learn. If you’ve ever seen a Blaseball game, a baseball game, or chucked some dice in a game, you’ll take to this one like birds to a field of peanuts. Add to this basic formula some special reaction cards you can toss down, and various weather conditions, alongside special abilities for your players, and you’ve got a formula for the silliness you’ve come to expect from the Blaseball league.
None of this, however, is what makes the game particularly special. You might be looking at all the pieces saying, “It looks like a baseball simulator with special powers.” And you’d be right. Sort of. Queue my “well yes, but actually no” meme.
That Special Something
Anyone who’s played anything using dice knows that sometimes dice just don’t behave. Whether it’s a monster attacking your D&D hero or you’re just trying to accomplish something relatively simple only to critically fail, bad things inevitably happen. Players are suddenly unconscious. Attack after attack whiffs. Or conversely, sometimes a seemingly insurmountable task is breezed through with a very lucky critical success. Can you think of a better place for all this wackiness than Blaseball?
Wild Cards, rather than attempting to balance this entropy, embraces it. Imagine, if you will, your next batter steps up to the plate. It’s Pitching Machine. Your pitcher throws the ball at blinding speed confident this will be an easy strikeout. Pitching Machine reaches deep and somehow retaliates with a herculean critical on the dice! The ball goes flying out of the park, sending Machine as well as others on base back around to score runs. The pitching team’s coach blinks silently at you from across the table before the two of you erupt into simultaneous laughter.
I’m not even making this scenario up. This was an actual feat I witnessed in a real game! How did Pitching Machine roll double sixes at just the right moment to stop a pitch so assuredly deadly it might as well been on fire? Only the dice gods can say. But rather than feel out of place, moments that the system “breaks” find a home in Blaseball Wild Cards. Rather than dread them, you look forward to them.
The two all-stars teams that will face off in today's showdown!
So is this game, with its glossy, thick cards, artwork reminiscent of beloved fan art, and a modest box that respects your shelves, a must-have? That’s going to depend on how much of a Blaseball fan you are. You see, for all the polish that the game itself shines with, it’s really at its best between two fans that can banter and joke with all the references as they appear. When Mike Townsend ascends the mound to pitch, the experience is enriched by the taunts of your opponent being met with your retort, “he’s a credit to the team!” Otherwise he’s some mediocre dude with 2s in all his stats, who might randomly pull an amazing pitch out of nowhere.
In a lot of ways it reminds me of an experience I had when playing the long out of print Discworld board game. The game itself was mechanically super solid, a real joy to play. But without flavor text, all the cards were just abilities in front of my eyes. I’d never read any of Terry Pratchett’s beloved series (I know, it’s on my to-do list). I played the game with a bunch of friends who loved that series and made in-jokes the entire time. I was at a loss, standing out in the cold as reference after reference flew over my head. The game was good, but in the end it felt a little bland to me, ignorant of its theme and plethora of characters.
This is my caution for buyers. I would say that without knowledge of Blaseball, this game is just good. Not great. It’ll seem more mechanical and subdued. On the other hand, if you’re a superfan and have been waiting for an opportunity to play a game of Blaseball on your own, especially if you have friends who love the game as much as you do, you’ll probably be laughing the entire time. The looks of pure joy I saw on so many fans’ faces when this game was demoed at the last PAX Unplugged proves to me that special something that brings these characters to life on your computer screen also works when you see them as cards on your table.
A few notable characters.
I have one smaller concern, and that’s the limited number of cards in this box. If you really love this game, you’re going to see everything it has to offer after only a couple of plays. Things might get pretty stale pretty quickly. I say this is a small concern, though, as the creators have plans to release team packs in the future! So consider this All-Star matchup something of a first taste (the box does, after all, have Starter Set printed on the front). The chance to mash up your favorite teams is yet to come. Keep your eyes open for their future campaigns.
For fans of Blaseball, the opportunity to finally own a playable version of the game in tabletop form is something I think we’ve all been waiting for. Personally, I’m looking forward to the possibility of larger rosters and bigger decks (that can withstand a few player incinerations), enough dedicated teams to organize an ongoing league at game night, maybe even a campaign system that would allow voting across a series of games with friends with legacy-style unlocks. None of this is confirmed at this time, but hey Rain Watt and Michael Fox if you’re reading this—just saying you are free to steal any of these ideas. The ability to play games in a larger context, seeing your team evolve across games, might even allow those who aren’t as familiar with all the Blaseball references to form their own attachments to the game, superseding some of my prior criticisms. As for the current game, if after all the dangers of Blaseball you’re still not deterred, you can preorder a set for yourself here.