by Steve Lopez
The ad and brochure are hard to resist, with catch phrases like: "A new era in baseball has begun...realism you never thought possible...for those fans who won't settle for second place." Well, these guys aren't kidding.

This year's newcomer to the Tabletop and Windows baseball simulation market, Dynasty League Baseball, is a clear winner in all respects!

Well, these guys aren't kidding.  This year's newcomer to the tabletop baseball simulation market, DYNASTY League Baseball, is a clear winner in all respects.

DYNASTY League Baseball is designed by Mike Cieslinski, the same guy who created Pursue the Pennant.  DYNASTY League's parentage is obvious: the game uses "percentile" dice.  But DYNASTY League goes way beyond PTP in realism WITHOUT sacrificing playability.

...Colored Playing Cards...

This is accomplished by the novel use of coding on the player cards. A single range of die rolls on a player card may have up to four different results, depending on the situation (normal, clutch hitting, infield in, tired pitcher, etc). Each of these different situations is coded right on the player card (and the key to what code corresponds to what situation is given on each card as well). If two situations apply, you use the situation closest to the left side of the card. The effect is that you get a wide variety of play results right on the player card without a lot of additional chart referencing.
The basic playing procedure will be familiar to Pursue the Pennant players: three ten-sided dice are rolled and results of 000 to 499 are read from the batter's card while rolls of 500 to 999 come from the pitcher's card. Each player card has two columns of numbers, one for results vs. lefties and one for results vs. righties.

But Dynasty League's color coded cards make for a world of difference from other games and eliminate some of the extra chart referencing that slows down Pursue the Pennant. For example, if Milwaukee's Paul Molitor 1982 is batting against a right-handed pitcher and the roll falls between 194 and 215, he gets a home run in a "normal" situation (blue code). If the pitcher is in a "jam" situation (orange code), it's a deep drive (possible HR). On a hit and run play (magenta code), he fouls it off. And all of this comes right off of Molitor's card! The only one of these three situations that would require additional die rolling is the "deep drive".

...around 70% of the play results will come directly from the player cards without the need of other charts...

While we're on the subject of additional die rolling, there WILL be some situations that require extra charts and rolls: deep drives, possible errors, non-forced baserunner advancement, and bizarre plays, to name a few. Cieslinski claims that around 70% of the play results will come directly from the player cards without the need of other charts. I think the percentage is slightly lower, but I won't quibble. There's still less additional chart referencing with Dynasty League than with many other games and no other tabletop game approaches this high level of detail with such a minimal amount of hassle.The rules are easy to learn. The rulebook is twelve pages long, but only the first five are actual game rules. The remaining pages are devoted to rules and tips on how to run your own draft and league. Most of the game's charts come in a spiral-bound booklet (no more fumbling around with scads of loose charts!), plus there are two additional big charts for weather and ballpark effects.

Realism and Surrealism!

Nearly EVERYTHING affecting a baseball game is quantified in this game (in fact, I can't think of a thing that's left out)! There are numerous ball park effects. Home run chances are affected by wind direction and speed, air temperature, fence distance and height, and how well the ball carries in different parks. Fence distances will affect a baserunner's chance of grabbing extra bases. Ballparks are rated for the size of their foul territory. Park visibility (i.e. how well a batter can see the ball) is taken into account. Pitchers are rated for how well they hold the runners, while catchers are rated on how well they handle pitchers. Runners have three different steal ratings (for second, third, and home). Of course, there are weather effects (with separate charts for different ballparks and geographical areas). There are even ratings for UMPIRES (i.e. size of strike zone)! Plus there's the usual fatigue, injury, and usage ratings.

But don't think for a second that all of the extra detail makes this a complex or slow-playing game. Dynasty League Baseball is simple to learn and is a fairly fast play. The box claims 30 minutes as a typical playing time. It'll probably play that fast once I'm more experienced with it, but after a half-dozen games, I'm still hovering around the 40 to 45-minute mark.

The game is graphically well-done: the player cards are easy to read and are the same size as standard baseball cards (always a big plus in my book!). Players' real-life stats are presented right on the cards. The charts are clear and easy to use. Even the dice are good quality; I've been using the exact same brand and style of dice in wargaming for years and I haven't chipped one yet.

Customer service is a big plus with Dynasty League Baseball, too. 

These are the nicest bunch of guys out of all the game companies that I've talked to. In fact, Mike Cieslinski himself has taken a lot of time from his busy schedule to discuss his theories of game design with me.

Recommended Playing Formats

I won't recommend this game for AutoLeague play, because only a total masochist would try to play a 162-game season using ANY tabletop game (but take heart, Autoleagers! Dynasty League Baseball has come out in computer Windows format. But this is a great game for Head-to-Head events, especially if you love color and detail in your baseball simulations.

I honestly try to avoid superlatives and hyperbole in my reviews but, at the risk of sounding like an NBA promo, I LOVE this game! You really owe it to yourself to check this one out. You're going to have a lot of fun with Dynasty League. The ads don't lie: this really IS the last word in realism in baseball simulation gaming!

Next time around, we'll be looking at a computer game or two. Right now, though, I'm going to chow down on a couple of foot ongs, knock back another frosty one, and play another nine innings of Dynasty League!

You can order DYNASTY by calling 561-752-3323.

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