Friday, September 28, 2012

Arrival of Tannhauser: Operation Novgorod factory rejects

Today I received a package from Hong Kong earlier than expected. These are figures for use in the Tannhauser line of games currently published by Fantasy Flight Games (FFG). They originally only distributed the game to North America, but bought the intellectual property from it's French creator, Take On You.

Tannhauser is a game that takes place in an alternate reality in which World War I never ends, the Reich (Germans) is ruled by a resurrected Templar, the Union (US and Great Britain) use tech from an alien crash site in New Mexico, and the Matriarchy rules Russia. It's pulp fiction, it's a bit with magic and sci-fi, I love it.

The game uses a 'pathfinding system' for moving around the game board and for line-of-sight purposes, and players bring a squad of characters which each have a chart with basic information (combat value, speed, etc.) and token representing different abilities or equipment the characters can us for the game.

Now, these recently popped up on eBay and I bought a set, as I would like the figures to play with for the game but cannot shell out the ~$45 (including shipping) to get the actual expansion (cards, tokens, maps, etc.)

These look pretty good, no?

The Voivodes (the little egg thingies) are the only ones that seem bent or warped, but that's how a good many of them look. Just the way the soft plastic is molded.

Now, let me take a moment to explain how factory rejects work. Many people who collect toys or miniatures know how easy it is to find stuff on eBay that's a prototype or what appear to be normal models for a whole lot cheaper than they could find the toy over here.

Law works a little different in China as compared to here. If we put a toy in the trash here, the company that threw it away still owns it until it's out of their posession. However, in China, toys thrown in the trash by companies are 'fair game'. The employees can pick through it, smuggle it out, and sell it with little to no recourse for the companies that threw them away.

I hope you found that informative. Next, I will explain what happened to Tannhauser...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Orioles are fascinating

At least to me they are anyways.

See, I remember the playoffs, and even more vividly, the firesale of 1997. I was there for a game in Cal's final year (2001), and have paid attention to the Orioles and their shenanigans.

To me, the Orioles struggled for so long due not to bad luck, but poor choices.

Look at the Orioles roster in times past, and you'll see free agents that weren't worth the money (Miguel Tejada, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, etc.), and for a baseball team outside of New York, you can't really afford to make big bet after big bet on free agents and keep losing those bets. Those roster spots are lost to the prospects that need to develop, and those prospects are what's going to lead you out of the wilderness and into long-term success.

Though I should point out how few of their current line-up/pitching staff they actually developed. And this leads to a second point: trades wherein you dump overvalued (or unsignable) talent onto other teams for prospects, and wait for the results.

Mark Reynolds: Acquired from the D'Backs. He's a true three-outcome hitter, but that power was something we need. Gave up two pitchers to acquire him, including David Hernandez, but I liked this trade.

JJ Hardy: Traded from the Brewers to the Twins for Carlos Gomez and then the Twins traded him and Brendan Harris to the Orioles for ... junk. Seriously, I didn't understand it at the time and I still don't understand it now, when Hardy's power and glove have made for nearly 7 WAR in two seasons, and the Twins have gotten -0.6 WAR from the pitchers they got.

Robert Andino: Fleeced the Florida Marlins for Hayden Penn.

Matt Wieters: Wait, he's one of ours!

Wilson Betemit and Nate McLouth: Vets bought on the cheap. Decent placeholders to keep spots warm.

Adam Jones: This was widely recognized as a terrible trade for the Mariners at the time, and it's only going to get funnier as time goes on. Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, George Sherrill and others for Erik Bedard. Look, I liked Erik Bedard, as I am fascinated by left-handedness, but when I saw what we got for him, I was ecstatic, since we weren't going anywhere for a few years. George Sherrill actually was decent, but it's the SP and OF that mattered for us. While I do recall people talking of Jones being the next Griffey, Jr., that wasn't in the cards... but that's fine, 13 WAR by 26 is fine by me thank you.

Nick Markakis: While some may see him as a disappointment, he's a fine piece to have. Not going to be overvalued anytime soon, but it's nice to have another Orioles-only prospect turn up.

Chris Davis: This is the one trade that, while it made sense on paper, the trade for him and Tommy Hunter in exchange for Koji Uehara (a pitcher with great control and hilarious splits) hasn't panned out yet. And did we need another Reynolds on defense?

For the pitchers:

Wei-Yin Chen: Japanese vet.

Tommy Hunter: Acquired from the Rangers.

Jason Hammel: When he and Matt Lindstrom were traded for Jeremy Guthrie, I thought this might not work out, but Hammel's been a key starter, Lindstrom was swapped for Joe Saunders and Guthrie's already been traded from the Rockies. Clear win.

Jake Arrieta: Actually one from the farm. Yay!

Zach Britton and Brian Matusz: I think there is plenty of potential here, but these two need to step up, though Matusz might still be having injury issues. Both come from the farm.

Chris Tillman: Makes the Bedard trade even worse for Mariners fans.

Miguel Gonzalez: Scooped up from the Red Sox, which amuses me given the state of Boston's pitching staff.

Jim Johnson: Another of ours.

Luis Ayala: Journeyman who started out with Expos.

Pedro Strop: Taken from Rangers for Mike Gonzalez. I was happy we got anything for Gonzalez, and that he's useful is icing on the proverbial cake.

Darren O'Day: picked up off waivers from the Rangers.


So, to conclude, it becomes very apparent that our roster is not full of players who the Orioles signed, developed and played. But if we are better at identifying and picking up other team's scraps, and making something of it, that's the way we ought to go for now.

I am excited to see what Tyler Bundy and Manny Machado do, but I can wait. I've waited this long for a contender, I can wait on a couple more prospects to mature.

Thoughts on pennant races

To be honest, this is the most interested I've been for current baseball events in a good while.

See, I've been a fan of the Baltimore Orioles since the mid-1990s, and of the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals since ~2000. And if you know anything about those teams, they've been bad for a while now due to varying reasons.

I'd love to see the Orioles take the AL East rather than one of the two wildcard spots, but it'll be nice just to see them in a post-season game again.

... and the Yankee's just lost 5-4 to the A's, and since the Orioles also lost (2-1 to the Red Hose) we keep pace. Yay! Sort of...

Hey, I take victories where I can. It's been a long time.

Making MLB Showdown card formulas (Batters)

It's actually not to hard to make a card, per se, as long is you either use actual baseball cards or print off a picture of your players off the internet.

The problem is the formula for making the cards and their charts, because without those, you got nothing.

Now, this is based off memory of a formula created by a user on's forums before they killed it. I do not know the user's name, but whoever you are out there, thank you. This is for the 2000 and 2001 sets, since I like them best.


OBP of .470+ = 11 (yes, there are players this good...)
OBP of .390-.469 = 10
OBP of .360-.389 = 9
OBP of .340-.359 = 8
OBP of .315-.339 = 7
OBP of .290-.314 = 6
OBP of .260-.280 = 5
OBP of .240-.259 = 4
OBP <.239 = 3 (yes, there are players this bad...)

These stats can easily be found at websites like Baseball-Reference or Fangraphs, so you don't have to try and calculate them by hand.

Now, the number of outs a batter has on his chart is up to you; if they are on the lower end of the scale, say, with a .342 OBP, they can get 5 outs. Likewise, if they're on the high end, say, with a .359 OBP, I'd give them 3 outs.

Walk (BB) Results: 

Take the Batter's Average (BA) and subtract it from the OBP. For every twenty, they get one BB result.

So, for example, Mark Reynolds of the Baltimore Orioles had a .221 BA and a .323 OBP.

323-221 = 102, so he'll get 5 BB results.

You will have to round up or down to the nearest 20.

Triple (3B) results:

If they got 6-7 triples in a season, they get one 3B result. Double that, get 2 3B results, etc.

Doubles (2B) and Home Run (HR) results:

Take the number of doubles or home runs the batter has hit, divide by the b=number of at-bats (AB), then multiply by 600. For every ten, they get one 2B or HR result.

So, using Mark Reynolds again, he had 27 doubles in 534 at bats.

(27/534) x 600 = 30.34, so he'd get 3 double results.

Single+ results:

This is up to you. They steal more than a dozen bases? Give 'em one Single+ result. They steal a lot of bases? Maybe more like three or more.


Whatever space you have left between BB and Single+ results are just plain old Singles.

On-base adjustments:

If the player has an On-Base of 8 or higher, you just use the results from above. If they have a lower On-Base than that, they get an adjustment.

On-Base 7: +1 for Doubles and Home Runs
On-Base 6: +1/2 for Doubles and Home Runs, maybe +1 for Triples
On-Base 5: Provided the actually hit some, +2 for doubles and Home runs
On-Base 4 & 3: You get the idea.

Now, this is part art, part science. Don't let that get you down.


Did they steal a lot of bases? A
A Few? B
Were they tortoises? C


This is mostly subjective as well, except for catchers. Remember, there are no defenders with a negative, if they are that bad it stops at +0.

For catchers, we only need their caught stealing percentage (CS%), and divide by 5. For each 5 (rounded), they get +1.

So a catcher who only catches 25% of his base stealers gets a 'C+5', while a catcher who gets 44% of his base stealers gets a 'C+9'

First baseman have a default +0, so if they actually play good defense they get a +1 (Maximum)

Second baseman default at +2 (for an average defender), up or down depending on how good they are, minimum of +0, maximum of +5

Shortstops default at +2/3, ranging from +0 to +6

Third baseman default at +1/2, range from +0 to +3

Outfielders default at +1, LR types range from +0 to +2 and CF types from +0 to +3

Point costs:

This is the point you've been waiting for, and...

I don't know it. I honestly compare them with similar players and adjust the cost accordingly.

Well, I hope somebody can use that, and I will approach pitchers later.

MLB Showdown: What got this blog going

MLB Showdown was a game produced by Wizards of the Coast from 2000 to 2005 before the line was cancelled. The game was a baseball simulator that allowed for a wide variety of strategies and gameplay options (how many points on the team, strategy cards, icons, etc.)

Here's how the game worked:

You made a team of 4 starting pitchers, some relief pitchers, and a starting lineup of position players (catcher, first baseman, second baseman, shortstop, third baseman, three outfielders (which had to have someone eligible to play center field).
This player, Mike Lowell, is eligible to play third base ('3B+2'), and has an On-Base of 7.

Before a game started, you would put your batters in whatever order you wished, and then go. This would either be 9 hitters, if you included a designated hitter for the pitcher, or only 8 if you had the pitcher hit for himself. But I digress...

Let's say Mr. Lowell is your first batter of the game. He's up against this fellow:

Greg Maddux is a starter with a Control of 5.

So, in this at-bat, Maddux's player will roll a d20, which looks like this. If the pitcher's control plus the die-roll is greater than the batter's On-Base, the second roll will be in the pitcher's chart. In the event of a tie or the pitcher's result plus Control is less than the batter's On-Base, the second roll will be on the batter's chart.

So, with our above players, let's say Maddux rolls a 4. 5+4=9, which means 9>7, so the second roll will be on Maddux's chart. While Maddux has a high control, he does have 5 hit results on his chart, so Lowell has a 25 % chance of getting on base.

The second roll is... a 17! Lowell hits a little doinker, and trots over to first base with a single. And now, the next batter comes up to the plate...


I loved this game to death, buying and trading cards with other players, printing proxies for cards just to expensive for me, then a boy/teenager, to afford, and collecting cards from all sets in all six years they were produced. And I still make cards for this game, which 'died' 7 years ago in the year 2005.

In part, the reasons I think the game eventually dried up was three-fold: repetitiveness, the ever-changing format, and power creep.

1) Repetitiveness: Each year, about 20 cards or so would be made for each MLB team, which, if you'll notice, is close to the 25-man roster MLB teams usually carry. So what ended up happening is that multiple cards of the same player would be made over time, and given how consistent the players could be at times, there wasn't  a whole lot to differentiate a 2003, 2004 or 2005 card of the same player.

2) The format: Originally, in the 2000 and 2001 game, you had the team you built for 5000 points, and then maybe a strategy deck if you wanted to. The On-Base for batters ranged from 4 to 10, and pitcher Control from 0 to 6.

Well, 2002 saw the first makeover, moving the needle upward by changing On-Base to a scale from 8 to 15(!) while Control for pitchers didn't budge.

Then in 2003, the game saw the last major revision with the addition of icons, which represented milestones the players reached or awards they won (such as the MVP or Cy Young awards). In many ways, the addition of icons made the icons necessary for teams, because the teams with icons were going to beat the similar teams without icons, thereby making the passive benefits something you had to build your team around.

All in all, not all cards could be used in all formats. 2000 & 2001 cards were unusable with the later sets, and the 2002 set, while using the same On-Base and and Control as the 2003-2005 versions, were underpowered for what they were and lacked the icons of those later sets. While I can understand in hindsight that they needed a way to draw players in to basically buy their baseball cards year after year, they diminished their fan base by negating the stuff they'd bought before.

3) Power creep: I'll make this easy on you and give you a link to Extra Credits: Power Creep, which is more about power creep in video games but gives you a good idea about how it works in gaming in general.

I'll wait until you're done.


Alrighty then!

Power creep was pretty blatant in this game, which probably should be expected, as it's from the same publishers of Magic: The Gathering. Comparing the 2000 and 2001 sets, cards that be very similar or in fact dead-on identical didn't have the same point costs, which usually were in favor of the 2001 set. This meant that your team could be better than a 2000-set team even if the cards were nearly identical because you could have points and use those extra points for better players.

Same thing for subsequent years; 2002 saw the format and costs change, 2003 added icons and lowered the costs, 2004 saw the costs go even lower before they laid an egg with the 2005 set, which was largely over-costed and led many players of the game to say 'Eh, I got better cards from the 2004 set, why buy worse cards?' which helped accelerate MLB Showdown's downfall.

I hope you found this post to be interesting, and I will continue on this topic with the card formula as I remember it.


My name is Justin, and I am a young man who enjoys games. Particularly board games.

I grew up playing board and card games with my family, and I have learned how to share that joy with other people as I've grown older. And this blog is aimed to be a part of that extension; talking about games, what makes them good or bad, who they can be best enjoyed with, etc. I also want to use this as a way of producing custom material for 'dead' games, which by definition have ceased to be produced by the manufacturers.

I also am a big baseball fan, and will make comments or share links I find insightful with others.