Baseball season is underway, so I thought today would be a perfect time to share with you a review of Bottom of the 9th. Bottom of the 9th is a 2-player dice-and-card game for ages 13 and up. It plays anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes and retails for $20. In the game, it is the bottom of the 9th inning with the score tied. The home team has a chance to win it all, but they must battle the best closing pitcher in the league. One player controls the Batter and the other player controls the Pitcher.
1. Place the Field (game board) between the two players with home plate pointing toward the batter.
2. The Batter then selects six batter cards to form his team and arranges them in the order of his choice to form a line up. (You can tell which cards are batters by the icon on the bottom left of the back of the card.) The Batter must pick six different positions (meaning they can’t have two catchers).
3. The Batter also receives the ‘At-Bat’ Stick of Gum (used to track pitch count), 5 Pitch Count Tokens (3 white for balls and 2 red for strikes), 4 Base Runner Meeples, 2 Pitch Tokens (1 red and 1 white), and the Swing Die (red).
4. The Pitcher picks two pitcher cards (one serves as a substitute if needed in the game).
5. The Pitcher also receives 3 Out Tokens, 2 Pitch Tokens (1 red and 1 white), 6 Pitcher’s Dice (white) and 2 Fatigue Tokens. The Fatigue Tokens are placed on the Field Fatigue Track and matched according to what the pitcher Ace Pitch is, i.e., Low and Inside.
The game is played over a series of rounds with each round having five phases.
1. Stare-Down – Each player takes their two Pitch Tokens and secretly selects a direction (Inside or Away) and location (High or Low). The Batter receives one or both Pitch Tokens if he guessed correctly what the Pitcher chose, and the Pitcher receives whatever Pitch Tokens the Batter guessed incorrectly. These tokens will correspond to the Pitcher and Batter abilities on the back of the card.
2. The Pitch – The Pitcher rolls both of their dice and may apply any abilities/penalties from their Traits and Stare-Down results.
3. The Swing – The Batter rolls their single die and may apply any abilities/penalties from their Traits and Stare-Down results. You then reference the table in the rule book to see if it’s a ball, strike, or contact. If contact, proceed to the Run! phase.
4. Run! – Both players pick up their numbered die and rapidly roll them until either player gets a five or six. If the Batter gets this result first, he yells “Safe!” and places his Base Runner Meeple on first base, advancing any other meeples if necessary. If the Pitcher gets this result first, he yells “Out!” and no meeples advance. If it’s a tie, tie goes to the Batter.
5. Clean Up – Between batters, the Pitcher can move their Fatigue Tokens up depending on the number of empty bases.
6. The winner of this game is the Pitcher if three outs are recorded or the Batter if one Base Runner Meeple crosses home plate.
Overall, I would give this game a 7 out of 10. At its core this is a bluffing/deduction game. The Batter and Pitcher simultaneously decide their actions, trying to outwit the other one. I didn’t think I would like this mechanic initially, but it grew on me. If you play with the same person enough, you might learn their habits/tells, so be sure to keep changing your strategy. There are several big positives of the game. First, it’s compact in size. The box and footprint for this game are very tiny, so you can play it in a lot of places and on the go without having to find a large folding table for everything. Secondly. it plays really quickly, but only if you want it to. As I stated earlier, you can play it in 5 to 20 minutes, because you’re basically playing half an inning. However, there is a way to play a much longer game if that’s something that interests you.
The components I found to be 95% positive, with the glaring exception being the player cards. Instead of printing the cards with a linen finish and rounded corners, they were printed on cardboard (like old baseball cards) and have sharp corners, which means if you want to keep this game looking good, you’ll have to sleeve your cards. Other than that negative, the rest of the components were solidly made, and the presentation of these components was stunning. The meeples were shaped like baserunners. The cards even came in a pack with a “stick of gum.” This made for a very thematic feel and immersed you in the game just by unpacking it out of its box.
Lastly, I would like to talk about the replay value of the game. Some games, especially shorter ones like this one, suffer from replay fatigue. However, this game has enough cards to create many different lineups. There are also several mini-expansions, Big League Support Pack and Sentinels of the Ninth, which each retail for about $5 and will add another dozen players each to add even more variety for your game. There is a larger expansion for this game currently on Kickstarter called Bottom of the 9th: Clubhouse Expansion. It’s in its final week, but well funded with several stretch goals unlocked. In addition to new players and new cards with equipment, the game also comes with cardboard Peanut tokens, which add more mechanics to the game and increase replay value. If you already own the base game, $24 will get you this expansion, but if you’re brand new and want the base game, Clubhouse expansion, and every other mini-expansion mentioned above, it will cost you $54.
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Copyright 2016 Stuart Dunn