Full disclosure: A preview copy of Bat Flip was provided by Scorelander Games. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game.
I think this is my first Kickstarter of the new year, so that’s exciting. I generally do hate taking Kickstarter previews during the holiday months, since it’s harder to get games played, but it’s been hard to get any games played at all for the last two years, so I figured, what the hey. That said, I got a ton of advance notice on this one, so, thanks Scorelander for that. Made it easy to get the game played and photographed well ahead of time. I’m not the biggest baseball person, but I played it growing up, so let’s see where Bat Flip goes!
Bat Flip casts players in the role of team managers, keeping track of teams made from two smaller teams playing together. Tensions might run high between them, but you’re confident you can figure out how to find combinations that best complement the two organizations. That said, there’s a lot to manage on the field, so getting everyone in the right spot is as critical as keeping the pitchers away from the batter’s box. It’s up to you to make sure your teams end up on the winning side of America’s national pastime. Will you be able to make sure that your players always swing for the fences?
Surprisingly little, given the style of the game. Choose which player will be the Home Team and which will be the Away Team, and set out the Runs and Outs Counters accordingly:
Once you’ve decided on which team is which, draft your actual teams!
The Away Team chooses a team first, then the Home Team takes two teams, and the Away Team takes one last team. Once you’ve got your team pairs organized, shuffle them together to create a deck and draw five cards. Flip the Plate Card to the Away Team Batting side:
You should be ready to start!
It’s baseball, mostly. Over three innings, players compete to score runs and strike their opponent out. Again, like baseball. Each inning is split into a top and a bottom; in the top of the inning, the Away Team bats and the Home Team fields; in the bottom of the inning, the Home Team bats and the Away Team fields. Regardless of who’s batting, most turns work the same way.
An At-Bat Phase is when the Batting Team’s player plays one card from their hand to be a Batter of some kind. Usually, this means they’re performing one of a few actions. Trying to Hit, Walk, Strikeout, or Bat Flip. Let’s go through each in turn.
- Hit: When trying to Hit, the Batter is played face-up and the opponent may either play a Defender from their hand or flip the top card of the deck if they have no cards in hand. Every Batter must have a Hit Stat (Pitchers can’t bat; it’s well known), represented by the ball-and-bats icon. A Defender has a ball-in-glove icon, representing their Defense. Generally, for a Batter to advance to the bases, their Hit stat must be higher than their opponent’s Defense stat, with one exception. Some Batters have up or down arrows on their Hit stat, representing fly balls or ground balls. A Defender with an arrow pointing in the opposite direction can’t defend against those Hits (and a Defender with no arrow cannot defend a Hit with an arrow of any kind). If the Defense meets or beats the Hit stat, the Batter is Out! The Batter and Defender are discarded and both players draw a card! If the Defender is a Pitcher, they’re placed on the mound instead of being discarded, discarding any Pitcher currently on the mound. If the Hit stat beats the Defense stat, the Batter advances to the bases, becoming a Runner! The Runner (and any other Runners currently on base) advances as many bases as the difference between the Hit and the Defense stats, getting placed by First, Second, or Third Base as needed. Should the difference be greater than 4, the Runner goes Home, scoring a Run! The Runner is discarded (along with the Defender). As with an Out, both players draw a card when a Run is scored, and the scoring player increments their Run Counter by 1.
- Walk: Instead of going for a Hit, the Batter can attempt a Walk by checking their Eye stat (target-and-bats icon) against the Pitcher’s Control stat (target-and-glove icon). If there’s no Pitcher, the Control is 0. If a Walk is unsuccessful, the Batter is Out (and both players draw a card). If the Walk is successful, the Batter advances to First Base. Any Runner on First advances to Second, and so on, provided a Runner would need to advance to an occupied space.
- Strikeout: If you have no Batters in hand (all Pitchers / empty hand), you can take the Strikeout option to draw a card and then take an Out. Since you’re taking an Out, both players draw a card, as well.
- Bat Flip: For a bit of risk, you can also attempt to Bat Flip! When Bat Flipping, flip over your player reference card to indicate that you’ve used your one Bat Flip of the Inning. Then, flip the top card of the deck; this is your Batter, attempting a Hit. If it’s a Pitcher, you immediately discard the Pitcher and take an out. Otherwise, this Hit cannot be defended against by your opponent! Resolve as normal.
One last thing to note: the hand limit is 7 cards, and it’s always in effect. If you draw past the hand limit, you must immediately discard down to 7 cards. After your At-Bat Phase comes the Steal Phase.
After a player bats, they can choose a Runner whose next base is open (even if their at-bat player got out) and declare that the Runner intends to Steal the next base. The opposing team can either play a Catcher from their hand or flip the top card of the deck. If the Defense stat on that player is the same or higher as the Runner’s Speed, the Runner is out! Otherwise, the Runner advances to the next base. Each Runner may attempt to Steal once, if the base in front of them is open, but while Home can be stolen, it can only be stolen if the Batter successfully Hit during the At-Bat Phase.
Retiring the Side
When a team gets their third out, all their on-base Runners are discarded and their current Pitcher is set aside. Flip the Field Card to the other side to signal the other team is now at-bat, and start again with a new At-Bat Phase for the other team.
Once both the Away Team and the Home Team have gotten three outs, the Inning ends. Move on to the next Inning, with the Away Team batting first again.
End of Game
After three full innings, the team with more runs wins! If you’d like to follow standard baseball rules, if the Home Team is still leading at the bottom of the third inning (before they would start batting), they just win without having to play the bottom of the third inning.
Player Count Differences
None, essentially! It’s a two-player game, at its core. There’s a variant that allows for tournament play, but it’s essentially just P1 plays P4, P2 plays P3, and the winner of each game plays each other for the big win. Not really a full four-player mode, but that’s what the rules have for you.
- Your teams have synergies associated with them; figure them out and figure out how they interact. There are plenty of different synergies, from players that increase the strength of other players to players that let you manipulate your deck to players that perform best when they’re falling behind to even more. Just a lot of different team abilities, so figuring out which ones gel best with your playstyle is pretty much the first order of business. I’d recommend looking at the various teams available before you draft, rather than just drafting based on name like we did during our first game. Though, granted, that was also a fun choice.
- If your teams are mostly offensive-focused, you’re at risk of your opponent really scoring a ton of runs when they’re at bat, as well. You may run into a few problems if you have no defense to speak of. As you approach the end of a Batting half-inning, it may be worth trying to sift through the deck and scrounge up some defensive players in preparation for the next half-inning, for instance (or vice-versa), but it also behooves you to try and not pick exclusively offensive-focused players during the draft. Sure, it’ll help you when you’re batting, but you’re only batting for about half the game. You gotta cover your bases.
- Going for a Bat Flip is risky, but if you have bases loaded you might be able to pull off something impressive. Weigh those trade-offs! The Philips work particularly well, where Bat Flips are concerned, but a risky play for glory is at least a worthy baseball move, if nothing else. Just keep in mind that you might draw a Pitcher and mess yourself up, so Bat Flipping is a lot less risky if you have a Designated Hitter in your hand. I believe the Aces have a Defender that can Defend against Bat Flips, though, so keep that in mind if you’re playing against them as well.
- Stealing a base is also risky, because you’re immediately out if your opponent has a Catcher in hand. Stealing a base is a great way to get a card draw (or advance a base) if you want. You also can use it to try and bait out a Catcher in the pursuit of stealing Home later. Just keep in mind if you do bait out a Catcher, both players draw a card on an Out, so your opponent may just draw another one. No way to ever be 100% sure.
- Figuring out whether your opponent has more ground or flyball defenders can be pretty critical, since you can evade them if you have enough of the other one. If you can successfully bait out all of your opponent’s Defenders of one type, you can start hitting with Batters of that type to great success. It’s hard to do, but it’s worth keeping an eye on which cards they keep and which cards they discard as they play to see if they tend to favor flyballs or grounders.
- Try to get a Pitcher in play as quickly as you can. Pitchers not only usually have a variety of useful effects that you can leverage in Fielding or Batting, but they also have a higher Control Stat, which can prevent players from taking Walks every couple turns to gradually fill bases, which reduces your risk of experiencing a Grand Slam. Both are valid reasons on their own, but also, having a Pitcher on the mound reduces the number of Pitchers in your deck, making Bat Flips relatively safer. Good reason to keep Pitchers in your hand, as well, until you fill up your hand with them and have to take a Strikeout.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- A surprising number of teams included in the standard box, which I appreciate. I think there were nine, by my count, with more potentially on the way should things go well. And that’s nice! A lot of games would start you off with four and charge you for each new pair of teams after the first four. Not complaining, just, happy to see more teams from the get-go.
- Lots of modularity! You use two different teams per deck, so there are both cooperative interactions and competitive interactions between various teams. For instance, the Philips and the Scouts work exceedingly well together, since the Scouts can be used to set the deck so that the Philips can Bat Flip off the top to their heart’s delight. Those synergies are fun to uncover, but also a great way that the double module deck system works out. I’m sure there are some anti-synergies, as well, but I guess the joy of discovery on that front is yours?
- I also enjoy the punny player names. There are several very stupid ones; I’m a fan.
- I like the Bat Flip mechanic; it adds an exciting bit of randomness to the game. I think a lot of exciting things can be done with an undefendable hit off the top of the deck, and I particularly like that there’s risk (flip a Pitcher and you’re out) and risk management (have a Designated Hitter in your hand? You can replace a Pitcher with it). It feels like a smartly designed mechanic to allow players to take literal and metaphorical big swings.
- The game’s got a bunch of authentic-feeling baseball mechanics, which is nice, especially since it takes so much less time than a baseball game. I think the most important thing that a game can do if it’s based on a real thing is to feel authentic, in some way. It doesn’t matter that we don’t have, like, curveball mechanic or authentic batting averages or the ability to foul a ball, we have batters, fielders, pitchers, and a bunch of other baseball words that help players get immersed in the experience of playing the game. Is that enough? It feels like enough for me. Plus, I find watching baseball unbearably slow, so this is a nice substitute.
- I appreciate that all players draw cards on Runs and Outs, just because it keeps the game moving at a pretty good pace. I’ve never ended up needing to use the Strikeout rule, just because it’s pretty rare for me to have nothing in my hand that I can use. It may occasionally be nice if you end up in a situation where you have cards you can play but would prefer not to, but again, pretty rare for that to happen.
- I appreciate the clarifications around the keywords, but then it kind of defeats the purpose of having keywords if they’re explained on every card. This is the tension that always emerges when keywords are involved; you want players to know what the keywords mean without having to consult the rulebook, but if you do what Bat Flip does and print the keyword’s definition on every card, then you might as well not have the keyword at all. This could probably be alleviated somewhat with a primer in the rulebook or a reference card for each team, but the former case would just see players going back to the rulebook each time. Unclear. For the final game, you’re going to want divider cards of some kind for each team, anyways; may be worth having some rules on there to help for reference?
- Boy howdy is Sign Stealer a tiny bit annoying. Having to play a Defender before your opponent plays their Batter is … a little irritating, since it really just lets them play cards to effectively avoid you, but my other problem with it is that the rules as written don’t exactly clarify if, upon playing a Defender, your opponent can still choose to Walk or Bat Flip (and what happens if they choose to Bat Flip). It’s a bit ambiguous, so I’m hoping they resolve that by the time the game is fully published.
- The rulebook needs a little primer on what the various teams are, what they’re good at, and where their offensive / defensive specialties lie. I think of it kind of like Backyard Baseball; when you were drafting a player for your team, you got to see their stats early on. It would be helpful to have the same kind of information available for the various Bat Flip teams, especially since some teams synergize well together (for instance, the Scouts and the Philips).
Overall: 7.25 / 10
Overall, I think Bat Flip is pretty fun! There’s a tiny bit of a learning curve, granted, since you should kind of know what teams you’re dealing with and what their various abilities are. I imagine a primer or a reference card of some kind would help a lot, with that. Beyond that, though, I’ve both played baseball and watched baseball, and this is a cute microsimulation of it, mostly! It has a bit of the same thing going for it that Flamme Rouge had going for it, I think. If you’re into baseball, this will probably do some of the same things for you that baseball does, but it also has the amusing trading cards aspect to it. You’ll find that certain players, certain teams, and certain bits of flavor text appeal to you, and as you get attached to those characters, you’ll start to specialize and find synergies. I think a few games do things like this, such as Ashes or Pocket Paragons or Netrunner, where each player has their pick of a starting deck with its own ability. I imagine there’s some potential for actual deckbuilding beyond that, but then this starts to sound like a baseball CCG and less of a board game; I’ll happily stick with pre-built decks. That being said, I thought Bat Flip was pretty fun and surprisingly easy to get into, so if you’re looking for that or you’re just a huge baseball fan, you might enjoy Bat Flip!
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