Introducing Baseball Highlights 2045 - Spring Training

The World Series ended the baseball season of the MBL less than a month ago. But before you know it, it will be time for Spring Training, and the start of a new season. So what better way to keep baseball alive in the off-season than with a fantastic boardgame? Baseball Highlights: 2045 is one of my favourite games from the past couple of years, and has been a huge hit here on BoardGameGeek and with gamers around the world, even being nominated for many game awards. It's a very thematic deck-builder created by Mike Fitzgerald, well-known designer of the Mystery Rummy series. In the game, players compete over the course of several mini baseball games, complete with pawns that move around a baseball diamond in order to score runs. Baseball Highlights 2045 does a brilliant job of capturing the feel and tension of baseball, in a modernistic setting that provides a wonderful back-story, while at the same time ensuring that the game-play is both fun and central. If you're not familiar with the game, you can find out more by reading my detailed pictorial review here.

The game has proved to be incredibly popular, and has already spawned many mini-expansion packs of extra cards. You certainly don't need these extras, because the base game already has a lot of replayability, but enthusiasts of the game will find it hard to pass these by. You can read my pictorial review of the first seven expansion packs here. So there's already a ton of expansions for the game, and there are also versions of the game that include some of the expansions bundled with the base game, such as the Deluxe edition and Super Deluxe edition. A fantastic and addictive app for Baseball Highlights 2045 has been released as well.



So what's next for Baseball Highlights 2045? Instead of adding more, how about taking things away? Yes, really - and it's not as crazy as it sounds, in fact it is quite clever! Hereby introducing Baseball Highlights: 2045 – Spring Training. This new edition of the game (which first appeared on Kickstarter in March 2017) is considered to be a stripped down, inexpensive version of the game. While this edition isn't geared to appeal to existing fans of the game, it is designed to attract new fans, by providing a cheaper edition that only costs just over half the price of the original base game, but still offers the same solid gameplay.

While there are no changes to the rules in the "Spring Training" edition, this edition does include completely rewritten rules. The first edition of the game did generate a lot of rules questions, and while there is a good FAQ that addresses this, a complete rules rewrite was deemed to be a good idea, to help first-time players. Bear in mind that not everyone has a background in baseball terminology, so a more user-friendly rule-set will greatly help enhance this game's accessibility to people who enjoy games but might not be all that familiar with baseball.

The Spring Training edition also includes a detailed play-by-play walk through of an entire mini-game. In addition, the release of many expansions has led to many new abilities being part of the game since it was first released, and these also need to be reflected in the rules for those that play with them. So the rule-book has been revised, and now comes in three parts: Rules, Play by Play Mini-Game example, and Reference Guide. These are all included in the introductory game, and future reprints of the regular edition of the game game will also have this newer and more up-to-date ruleset, which is also available digitally for those who already have the game.

In this article, I'll cover this new Spring Training edition that has just been released, as well as three new expansions for 2017, Home Cookin', Double Trouble and Ballparks, plus one more extra: the EGG Tournament Kit.




SPRING TRAINING INTRODUCTORY GAME

Box

The game box of Baseball Highlights: 2045 – Spring Training is somewhat similar to the original base game, even in terms of its dimensions (the same width and height) and artwork, but there are some important differences.

First of all, the words "Spring Training Introductory Game" on the cover makes it clear that this is an introductory version of the game. And you can immediately tell that this is a more light-weight version - literally - because this box doesn't weigh much compared with heaviness of the original game, and it's obvious that there's a lot of space in the box! That's not a bad thing, because people who enjoy the introductory game will want to get expansions to fill it with anyway!



The back of the box explains the concept of the Baseball Highlights 2045 game, along with this explanation about this particular edition:

"Baseball Highlights 2045 Spring Training is an introductory version of the groundbreaking Baseball Highlights 2045 game first introduced in 2014. The cards are the same high quality - including a linen finish. Changes include a reduction in the number of components to support 2-player and solitaire play only, as well as other minor changes to ensure an appealing introductory price point for new fans of the game. All versions of the game now come with a complete play-by-play guide and updated rules."



There's just a very basic box insert in this edition, but I wouldn't complain about that, since this is obviously intended to be a version priced as attractively as possible, so unnecessary extras were dispensed with.

Contents

Here's what you get with the Spring Training edition of the game:
● 2x 15-card Starter decks
● 1x 40-card Free Agent deck
● 2x Player Mats
● 30x Batter/Runner tokens (cardboard)
● 2x Pennant tokens
● 4x Scoring tokens
● 1x Reference tile
● 3x Instructions (Rule book, Play-by-Play guide, Reference booklet)



Starter decks

There are two starter decks of 15 cards, each consisting of ten Rookies and five Veterans. Players are either Naturals, Cyborgs, or Robots.

The first of these decks is a New York team.



The second deck is a Los Angeles team, and is slightly different - having a different set of Veteran players gives the game a slightly asymmetrical feel.



Comparison note: The original game has four starter decks, and also includes Boston and San Francisco.

Free Agent deck

The 40 card Free Agent deck contains cards with advanced abilities which players will be adding to their team/deck (deck-building style) at the end of every mini-game.



Comparison note: The original game has a 60 card Free Agent deck.

Player mats

Two double-sided player stadium mats are included, since this version supports games of up to two players. These are identical to the ones from the base game, and feature a baseball diamond around which batters will run in order to score by reaching home base. There are also scoring tracks, and marked spaces where individual cards and decks will go.



Comparison note: The original game has four player mats, to support up to four players.

Batter/Runner tokens

There are thirty cardboard tokens that represent base runners that will move around the field of play. There are 10 tokens in each of three colours, corresponding to the different runner speeds used in the game: red (fast), blue (average), and white (slow).



Comparison note: The original game has wooden pawns instead of cardboard tokens.

Pennant/Scoring tokens

The two Pennant tokens are double-sided triangular markers each player will use to indicate whether they are the Home or Visitor side.



Similarly each player gets two small cardboard markers to record on the player mat scoring tracks (1) runs scored; and (2) games won.



Comparison note: The original game has twice as many pennant/scoring tokens, to support up to four players.

Reference tile

A double-sided reference tile lists the Sequence of Play on one side, and on the other side the process of how to resolve a tie with extra innings.



Comparison note: This reference tile is a new addition.

Instructions

After the original game was published, an FAQ was produced to address questions about the rules. These clarifications have been incorporated into the newest rule-sets, and as of 2017, all versions of Baseball Highlights now come with updated rules. The rules that come with the game now consist of three separate documents, which can also be downloaded from the publisher at the links I've provided:
Rule book (16 pages)
Play-by-Play guide (8 pages)
Reference booklet (8 pages)



The Rule book contains full rules about how to play, including an example of play, different modes of playing the game with increasing difficulty, solitaire rules, and answers to common questions.
The Play-by-Play guide has a detailed example of play, and functions as a quick start way of learning how the game works and how to play.
The Reference booklet replaces the reference card that came with the original game, and explains how all the immediate actions work, including those from all the expansions published so far.

Comparison note: The original game just had a single 16 page rule book, plus a reference card explaining immediate actions, which has now been replaced with the separate 8 page booklet that also covers all the expansion actions.

Comparison with the original game

Here are the main differences in which the Spring Training edition differs from the base game:
● Box: slightly thinner and with basic cardboard insert instead of plastic insert
● Starter decks: 2 instead of 4
● Free Agent deck: 40 cards instead of 60 cards
● Player mats: 2 instead of 4
● Batter/runner tokens: cardboard instead of wooden pawns
● Pennant/scoring tokens: enough for 2 instead of 4 players
● Reference tile: new addition
● Rules: three separate/updated booklets (now included with all versions of the game) instead of a single rulebook and a reference card explaining immediate actions
● Price: significantly cheaper!



Game-Play

There are no changes to the game-play of Baseball Highlights in the Spring Training version, aside from the fact that you can play with a maximum of two players, and that there's not quite as many cards in the Free Agent deck. Personally I prefer not to play with more than two players at once anyway, so for most people this won't be an issue.

I've covered how the game works at length in my original review of Baseball Highlights 2045 here, so I'll refer you to that article if you're looking for a detailed pictorial overview of how to play.




NEW MINI-EXPANSIONS

Seven expansions have been released for the game previously, which I've previously covered in a separate review here. These are #1 Coach expansion, #2 Rally Cap, #3 Naturals Magna Glove, #4 Robot Hitters, #5 Cyborg Pitchers, #6 Errors, and #7 Big Fly! New for 2017 are several other mini-expansions that have just been released, and here's my overview of those:

Expansion #8: Home Cookin' expansion

Baseball Highlights: 2045 – Home Cookin' Expansion consists of 15 extra cards for the Free Agent deck, and these add new immediate actions. Especially noteworthy is Home Cookin', which gives an ability (e.g. Double or Home Run) that only benefits you if you are the Home team. Similarly the new Hero action only gives you similar benefits if you are in Extra Innings. The Screwball action provides defensive bonuses (e.g. Cancel all Hits vs any Player) if in Extra Innings. The Sacrifice Bunt lets you have the lead base runner advance a base. Rally Relief lets you replace the player with the first Cyborg drawn from the Free Agent deck. The Robot AI gives robot players some good offensive hits to counter a Glove. Like the next expansion (Double Trouble), Home Cookin' also introduces some female players into the game.

Comment: Some of the new abilities are fun, but they are also quite situational (they only benefit you in extra innings or if you're playing at home), so your mileage may vary.



Expansion #9: Double Trouble expansion

Baseball Highlights: 2045 – Double Trouble Expansion consists of 15 extra cards for the Free Agent deck, but none of these introduce any new immediate actions. The change introduced by this expansion, however, is cards that have two immediate actions. Sometimes these cards include both an offensive and a defensive action. For example, Jay Duvall gives you a Glove (cancel 1 hit) and a Hero action (single and single if in extra innings). You can choose in which order to execute the effects if both are possible. Many of these cards also use the new abilities introduced in the Home Cookin' expansion, such as Home Cookin' (which requires you to be the Home team) and Hero (which requires you to be in Extra innings).

Comment: Like the Home Cookin' expansion, the new flexibility that is given by having two abilities is somewhat offset by the fact that these abilities have strict conditions to take effect and are situational. In many respects, however, perhaps this even makes the cards of this expansion better than the Home Cookin' one, because even if the conditions aren't right for one special ability, at least there is still some benefit to be gained from the other ability. For a more detailed breakdown of all the individual cards included in the above two mini-expansions, see the excellent overview by Dustin Crenshaw.



Expansion #10: Ballparks expansion

Baseball Highlights: 2045 – Ballparks Expansion consists of 10 extra cards with an entirely new game mechanic: Home Ballpark. Each player gets two of these cards at random and selects one, which will give them benefits when they are playing at Home. Abilities in green are good for offense, abilities in red are good for defense. Examples of cards include Hayes Park (Small Park: When placing threatened hits, all Double threatened hits become Home Runs if the Free Agent deck check type matches the batter), Lehmann Park (High Pitcher's Mound: When playing a Cyborg, cancels all threatened hits against any player if the Free Agent deck check type is a Cyborg), and Lucky Fields (Sold Out Park: The winning team gains +2 Revenue for their Buy Round).

Comment: While this expansion adds an extra element of theme and interest, and is arguably better than the Coach expansion, it adds an additional element of luck which some might find a cause of frustration rather than an improvement. But the idea is great, and it does change up how the game plays significantly, and is best for experienced players.



Promo card: King Yaz

The Baseball Highlights: 2045 – King Yaz Promo Card was special add-on available to Kickstarter backers, and features reviewer Dan King. It costs a lot to purchase as a free agent, but has both a defensive and offensive ability like the cards from the Double Trouble expansion. As well as Glove, it has a new Triple Crown ability (Home Run with Natural Check).

Comment: The only downside is that its offensive ability requires a Natural Check, so a cost of 12 might make it hard to justify spending that much to get King Yaz into your team. But if you can get this to come off - wow!




ACCESSORIES

Several accessories have been released for the game already, including special deluxe playmats (which I don't have). Here are some of the newest additions to what is available for the game:

EGG Tournament Kit

The new EGG Tournament Kit allows you to add 4 extra players and run tournaments. This accessory kit includes the following components:
● Official Tournament Rules (for 4, 8, & 16 Players)
● Tournament Bracket (for 4, 8, & 16 Players)
● 4x Player Mats
● 60x Batter/Runner markers (cardboard)
● 4x Pennant tokens
● 8x Scoring tokens



Note that you will need to supply your own cards, so this assumes you already own copies of the base game. However extra starter teams, free agent decks, and expansions are all available separately from the publisher if needed.

2017 Instructions Rule-set

If you own an older version of the game and want to get the new 2017 Instructions, this set of three books is available for purchase from the publisher here. As mentioned already, they can be downloaded for free in digital form, but sometimes it is nice to have a good quality hard copy. The updated rule-set includes:
● The updated 2017 Rulebook
● Play-by-Play Guide
● Reference Booklet




CONCLUSIONS

What do I think?

So is the Spring Training edition of Baseball Highlights 2045 for you, and what about the new expansions?

Ideal as a gift: If you already own the original game, then you already know how great this Mike Fitzgerald game is, so you won't need this Introductory Game. However, you might just have friends that you want to get into the game, in which case the Spring Training edition could make a perfect gift. So even if you already own the game, the attractive price point of this introductory version might make it something that's affordable to give away as a Christmas gift to that nephew or niece who is interested in games.

Ideal for new players: Perhaps the price of the original base game has stopped you from picking up the original Baseball Highlights 2045. In that case, the fact that the Spring Training version is so much cheaper definitely is reason to consider getting this, as it is a very good value entry point into the game, without compromising much on the game-play.

Not much is missing: Quite frankly, I never find myself playing with more than two players, so the fact that you can't play with 3 or 4 players isn't really a big drawback as far as I'm concerned. Actually you don't lose a whole lot with this introductory version at all. In terms of components the main change is: (1) cardboard tokens instead of wooden pawns for the base runners; and (2) the fact that you get a 40 card Free Agent deck instead of 60 cards. So the bulk of the great gameplay is still there in this slimmed down version, and there's still more than enough here for ample replayability and fun.

Expandable: With just the Spring Training version of the game, you won't feel terribly short-changed, and can certainly have a lot of fun playing it, without feeling that it's incomplete or that you absolutely need expansions. On the other hand if you do find yourself enjoying the game a lot, you can easily pick up some of the mini-expansions to increase the number of Free Agents, or add in other options. Most expansions boost the Free Agent deck with new cards anyway. If you start with Spring Training, you won't need to first pick up the original base game before expanding - the main way the game expands is by adding Free Agents via the new expansion packs, and that can be done with the Spring Training version just as easily as it is with the original game. Note that if you do play with extra Free Agents, increasing the Buy Row to 10 is good advice.

Good value: By slimming down the game components to the essentials, and cutting a few costs here and there, Eagle-Gryphon Games have managed to reduce the RRSP from $39.99 to $24.99, which less than 2/3 of the original price, and is a saving of almost 40%. Considering that you don't lose much of the game in the process, that makes it very good value.

New expansions: The new mini-expansions add some fun new abilities, although the ones that only take effect when playing at Home or in Extra Innings can be very situational. But most people who enjoy Baseball Highlights 2045 will only be too happy about news of more expansions, which extend the game even further and inject further replayability for fans of the game.



Recommendation

Mike Fitzgerald's clever Baseball Highlights 2045 game continues to impress me with its outstanding theme, economy of action, and its innovative and interactive gameplay. I'm only too pleased to see the game continuing to expand in new and interesting ways. I'm especially glad to see the arrival of Baseball Highlights: 2045 – Spring Training, because this slimmed down package is great value, and could really help get this terrific game into the hands of more first-time players.

Baseball Highlights 2045 is certainly not just for baseball fans, but is a clever and fun game that I recommend highly to gamers everywhere!



Where to get it? The items reviewed above are now available directly from the publisher Eagle Gryphon Games and from game retailers.
For more information, see these direct links to the publisher:
- Baseball Highlights 2045 Spring Training
- Home Cookin' expansion
- Double Trouble expansion
- Ballparks expansion
- EGG Tournament Kit
- Updated 2017 Ruleset



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Martin G
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Great review as always!

Quote:
Jay Duvall gives you a Glove (cancel 1 hit) and a Hero action (single and single if in extra innings).

Note that one of Jay's singles is *not* dependent on being in extra innings - only the second one is. This makes him very good value for $2 in my opinion!
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Dan King (The Game Boy Geek)
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Great article!

About King Yaz, we gave him (Red Sox Carl "Yaz" Yastrzemski) the new triple crown ability since he did win the triple crown in 1967! My Dad took us to the Fenway Park for 10 straight games waiting for Yaz to hit his 3000th hit which I got to see as a small child!

For Spring training they didn't change the rules at all, but I think they removed any players with the "clutch" ability since it was the hardest for new players to grasp.
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Scott Heise
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As a new player to the game, I bought Spring Training and have been very happy with it. I completely agree with the reviewer's points here. The cardboard baserunner tokens are the only thing that bug me about the game, as they blend into the player mat and can be easy to miss, but I simply took some blue/red/gray meeples from Carcassonne and they work perfectly.

I'd love to upgrade my Free Agent deck to the original full size. Does anyone know if they'll be selling an upgrade pack to the free-agent deck? Or do I have to buy an expansion instead if I want more free agents?
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Dan Conley
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Great review, Ender! I do believe it was your original review of the game that convinced me to take the plunge on the Super-Deluxe version!

I picked up Spring Training since it’s so much more portable than the original, especially since I’ve added every expansion in existence to my original copy. That thing’s a beast to haul around to game days!
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Tom Hill
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I never tire of reading your thorough overviews. I particularly like anything Baseball Highlights 2045 too!

Great Job!
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