iPhone App Review: 3-Minute Baseball

iPhone App Review: 3-Minute Baseball

June 9th, 2011 by

Strat-O-Matic Baseball has been around since 1961, taking the player stats that baseball fans voraciously consume and putting them into a highly-detailed and realistic board game. If you’re familiar with computer games like the Football Manager series or tycoon-type games, then you can understand why Strat-O-Matic is such an addicting hobby.

The new iOS game 3-Minute Baseball takes the basic gameplay of Strat-O-Matic Baseball and strips it down for a quick and dirty way to enjoy a stats-based baseball game on the go. Match up batter to pitcher, roll the dice to determine the outcome of each pairing, then see how high you can score after all of the batters and pitchers have been played.

How It Works

Once you get into the game itself from the main menu, you’re presented with a roster of five batters and five pitchers, including their stats. You must select one of each to pair up for the “inning”. After selecting your match-up you are shown how their stats line up side-by-side, at which point you could go back and make another selection or simply accept the pairing and continue.

Once the inning is underway, basic idea is that you score as much as possible with this pairing of batter and pitcher, before three outs are up. Every base hit is a point in this abbreviated version of the game, and the way you score is by tapping the dice button. A white die rolls out first, indicating which column to read the results from, then a pair of red dice indicate which row. The result will be either a number, a dash (representing an out), or a “split”. The split means another random roll will determine the final outcome between two possible results (such as the possibility of hitting a home run versus it winding up simply being a double).

Each batter and pitcher can only be used once per game, and once they’ve all been played the game is over and your final score can be entered into the high-scores list.

Pros And Cons

3-Minute Baseball is a great distillation of the basic gameplay mechanic that has helped make Strat-O-Matic Baseball a hit all these years. What’s missing from the app is the rest of the game, which I think is what’s really at the heart of the success and fun of the full board game.

UPDATE: My prior impression of the roster was incorrect. Every two weeks the roster will change to reflect different team and player lineups. This greatly increases the replay value of the app and will help to keep players coming back to see the latest roster. What would be great is to be able to choose from all past team rosters and build your own 5-player “teams”.

The game is also currently rather passive: you select a pair of players but then simply watch as the dice roll and the results are played out. The fun of the full board game is in matching wits with the other player, in building a roster and choosing pitching and hitting strategy, then seeing how it plays out over a full nine innings. In 3-Minute Baseball the developers have given us some of that excitement, but not all of it.

3-Minute Baseball also lacks any graphics to speak of, which is understandable given its board-game roots, but a graphical demonstration of the results of the dice rolls would be a great enhancement and would draw players into the game even more. Hit games like Game Dev Story are basically stats-based number-crunching games with a little animation to keep the player entertained, and it works quite well.

The game is still compelling to play though. There is a strategy to choosing how to match up the players. Do you put the high-ERA pitcher with a great batter in order to maximize scoring potential, or put good batters with good pitchers so that the batters with lower averages can go up against the pitchers with high ERAs? It’s that strategic element that kept me coming back to the game to try and increase my score, trying to find that perfect match that would yield the best statistical possibility for a higher score.


3-Minute Baseball is a good introduction to the full game of Strat-O-Matic Baseball, and a good start to what has the potential to be a great portable baseball management sim. Since the game is free one can only assume that it’s intended to draw players into the world of Strat-O-Matic, but with some enhancements the app itself could become a great title. There is a niche market for stats-based games, and with some more players this “Strat-O-Matic Lite” could rise to the top of that heap.

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