Review: Baseball Highlights 2045
Play Time: 45+ minutes
Reviewed By: Dillon
Baseball Highlights 2045 was released in 2015 from designer Mike Fitzgerald and Published by Eagle-Gryphon Games
Baseball Highlights 2045 seems to be on the right track in terms of gauging the popularity of the sport of Baseball. In the story of Baseball Highlights, American Football had grown continuously in popularity to overtake Baseball as the national pastime, until around 2032 where Baseball had enough of standing in Football’s shadow and changed the game in remarkable ways.
First off, they shortened the game to 6 innings (which I personally think is a brilliant change and would make Baseball more popular in 2015!) After this, Baseball Highlights goes completely off the rails in an awesome way by eventually adding pitchers with bionic arms (Cyborgs) to the game, and then in the early 2040s completely robotic players were brought in to help bring offense back to the game.
So by the time 2045 rolls around, there are three main types of players:
- Robots, who dominate on offense and hitting
- Cyborgs, who are the best pitchers
- Humans, who still have the greatest ability to play in the field.
Does Baseball Highlights 2045 work when putting all of these factors together? More than that, does Baseball Highlights 2045 effectively translate the sport of baseball to an enjoyable tabletop experience? You might be surprised with the results!
Baseball Highlights 2045 is largely driven by cards, but also has a very concise and important Stadium Mat that each player in the game will use. I really like this mat a lot, actually. It has a section for the players in your Lineup, Dugout, and On Deck, and also tracks your runs scored as well as the games you’ve won in the Series.
You’ll also be placing your runners on this mat during a game of Baseball Highlights 2045. If you’re familiar at all with the sport of baseball, a lot of this will be easy to understand, as it shows the four bases which the runners will be working their way around. The pawns for the runners are colored based on the speed that they run.
The cards themselves are also very concisely written and explain almost everything the player needs to know at a quick glance. After learning the rules it’s quite easy to pick up a card and immediately understand how it will behave in a game. This is important during play as well as drafting new players.
My biggest complaint with Baseball Highlights’ components is the coloring of the runner pawns. They chose red for the fast pawns, which makes sense, but then chose blue for the average speed, and white for the slow speed. Now it’s entirely possible that I’m just conditioned to certain color spectrum representing fast-average-slow, but it seemed much more intuitive to have:
- Red: Fast
- White: Averate
- Blue: Slow
The instructions for Baseball Highlights 2045 are quite detailed, and go into many specific traits that you will see on all of the cards in the base set and many of the initial expansions. I like that so much information is available without having to to the the internet to check on basic clarifications.
Jumping right in to Baseball Highlights given the rulebook, however, can be a bit daunting. There are a LOT of ways to play right out of the base box, which is wonderful, but I think there could have been a more streamlined “first game experience” section to start it off.
Initially I was left with a question about the process of “bumping” runners from one base to the next when another runner moves in behind them. I played my first few games believing to be doing it correctly, but even now am left occasionally asking myself whether I’m progressing the runners the correct way.
Baseball Highlights 2045 has some very fun mechanics that fit together very well. Some of the most important aspects of the game are hand management, and drafting. There are also lots of opportunities to screw your opponent over by seeing what kind of deck they have, what kind of deck they are building, and how you can counter it.
The standard 2 player game in Baseball Highlights features a short 3-minigame season, followed by a 7-minigame World Series. Each one of those minigames takes around 5 minutes to play, so an average game goes for about an hour, although it feels very FAST.
You will have a team with a maximum hand-size of 15. Each minigame of Baseball Highlights will have you drawing 6 of those, and possibly one more, to play against your opponent. Each inning you’ll play a card, then your opponent will, and it’s back to you until you’ve played through all six innings. That simplicity is what allows each game to be so brisk, while also having a lot of room for tactical play within each.
At the end of those games you’ll have a chance to look at the Revenue generated by each card you played, and purchase new players based on their cost to purchase. This is where Baseball Highlights really started to hook me, as team management is a huge gaming-weak-spot of mine. Watching your basic team evolve along the course of a season and into a World Series is highly entertaining, and gives a real sense of accomplishment when you create a winning team.
The balance for the home and away teams is also handled nicely as well, although some parts of this are helped with existing knowledge of the actual game of baseball. Terms like pinch hitter and on deck are used (in a mechanically accurate manner!) and can be confusing to the gamer who is unfamiliar with the actual sport.
Baseball Highlights 2045 also went way above and beyond by including rules for 3 player, 4 player and even solitaire. I end up doing a lot of solo gaming, and this is an awesome feature. The rules for solitaire initially look a little clumsy, but I was very pleasantly surprised at just how well it actually plays! For a game that is based on a 2-team sport, this extra effort goes a long way and is one big reason why Baseball Highlights deserves a look from a wide audience of board gamers.
The base game comes with a nice selection of cards, but the expansions really add a lot of variety to the experience. I picked up the deluxe version of the game which includes a few, and some make some very notable changes. The Coach expansion, for example, adds an extra set of 4 cards that can be played during a World Series. These Coach cards’ effects dramatically change the game.
There are also some cool upcoming expansions for Baseball Highlights like Errors! Big Fly! and my most anticipated: Starter Teams. There wasn’t a starter team for Baltimore in the base set, so I’m definitely looking forward to being able to add the Orioles in at the beginning of the season!
Baseball Highlights 2045 has a decent amount of replay value in the base set. The base game has a 60 card free agent deck, and after each game you might be drawing 1-2 of those. Given a 10 game season, that means in a two player game you’ll see anywhere from 15-30 of the free agents.
How the players fit on each custom team gives a lot of room for strategic growth, but the expansions really start to bump this extra content to the point where you will see a wide variety. Personally, I would have liked to see another 10 or 15 cards in the base set.
The sheer amount of game modes for different player counts also gives Baseball Highlights opportunity to hit the table often!
This is probably the most surprising and exciting aspects of Baseball Highlights – they took a game that is known for its slow pace and remarkably quickened it while maintaining the spirit of the game. This game came out of left field (ba dum tiss) for me, and had me actually enjoying a sport that I used to love.
I also don’t think there’s much exaggerating in saying the future-view-what-if that Baseball Highlights provides sounds like stuff that MLB should be paying attention to. I would watch 6 inning games of robots smashing balls thrown by cyborgs. That just sounds awesome.
Baseball Highlights 2045 hits a home run with that “just right” translation of the sport of baseball onto a tabletop, while including an engaging drafting and management aspect and lots of variety in players.