Sports Simulation Board Games

PLAAY Games in Phoenix, March 18-19, 2016

The third annual HISTORY MAKER BASEBALL Time Machine Tournament happened Friday and Saturday, March 19th in Phoenix, AZ! It was a two-day event. Friday, we met at Tempe's Diablo Stadium to take in the Angels-Rockies spring training game. Then, Saturday, we met for the "main event" tournament, held at Game Depot AZ in Tempe. Here's how it all went down!...

Having been looking forward to this event for the last several months, it made it even better that I left Denver Friday morning in a snowstorm, and arrived in Phoenix an hour and a half later to sunshine and 70s, later warming into the 90s!

Phoenix PLAAY Gamers at Angels-Rockies"TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME!": It was a PLAAY Gamer meet-up Friday March 18 at the Angels-Rockies game in Tempe, AZ! From left to right: David Neely, Chris LeFevbre, Mike Lam, Todd Avallone, Michael Waldrip and Al Wilson.

Several guys were also flying into Phoenix for this event: one of them was New Orleans' Michael Waldrip, who I met at the Phoenix airport. We grabbed some lunch, and headed to the ball park for Part One of the Time Machine Tournament, the Angels-Rockies spring training game at Tempe's Diablo Stadium! We weren't the only ones with that plan—the game was sold out, about 10,000 in attendance, and there was a massive traffic jam outside the stadium. We finally arrived inside the stadium as the starting lineups were being announced, and found our seats just in time for the National Anthem. I had mailed out tickets to everyone a couple weeks earlier, and we met at our seats. The group included me, Michael, my brother Todd Avallone(who lives in Chandler), Mike Lam, Chris LeFevbre, Al Wilson, and David Neely.

It was HOT! Thank goodness Al brought sunscreen to share or I would have been red like a lobster. The Angels were the home team, but there was a healthy contingent of Rockies fans, too—I'd say it was about a 75/25 split. The game was typical spring training, with the big names (David Trout, Albert Pujols, etc.) making cameo appearances and then sitting down and letting the PROSPECTS play. In fact, the name players left the facility midway through the game. Truthfully, it was kind of hard to follow who was doing what during the game since there were no names on the back of the jerseys. The last half of the game was played entirely by players with numbers in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. Since we had the whole row to ourselves, we shifted around during the game so that everyone in our group could visit with each other while we took in the game. At the end of nine innings, it was tied 6-6 and everyone went home happy. No extra innings in the Cactus League! Worked for us, as we were behind schedule already with the game stretching past 4:30 PM!

We headed back to the hotel to check in, then decided on dinner at Dan Majerle's (former Phoenix Suns star) Sports Grill, which was just a couple miles form where we were staying. Great food, great sports atmosphere, perfect choice!

After dinner, we returned to the hotel lobby where we were joined by local resident Ron Jones for a look at the current state of the golf game. I showed how the game works with individual golfers and individual holes, and demonstrated how "Tournament Mode" works, where you can complete an event's first three rounds and set the stage for the final round in about a half hour. (More on that in the Golf Update section of the newsletter!) I also demonstrated the hockey game for Chris and others, and then it was time to call it a night, around 10 PM.

Phoenix PLAAY GamersPLAAY Gamers in Phoenix take a momentary time out for a group photo, mid-way through the Time Machine Tournament at Game Depot AZ. From L to R: Rich Canfield, Mike Jaffe, Todd Avallone, Ryan Mayes, Keith Avallone, Charlie Lord, Al Wilson, David Neely, Ron Jones, Michael Waldrip. Crouched at front is Mike Lam. David Neely ended up at the 2016 Time Machine Champion, managing the '65 Dodgers past Al Wilson's '71 Pirates, 8-5 in eleven innings.

The meet-up time for the Time Machine Tournament was noon, so Al, Michael and I arrived at Game Depot AZ around 11 AM to get things set up. The owner of the store, Patty, was there when we arrived and really made us feel welcome! We had three large tables set up at the front of the store, two for playing and one for displaying the trophy and cards.

As a preliminary "warm up" game, Al Wilson and I christened the first two teams of the upcoming Series Three "All Time Franchise Great Teams" for HMB, with a game pitting two of the '69 expansion clubs, which also happen to be our own two favorite teams: Brewers (me) vs. Padres (Al)! A tense pitching duel ensued between Moose Haas and Kevin Brown, with the Padres ultimately eking out a 1-0 win that wasn't settled until Milwaukee's Prince Fielder struck out to end the game.

Folks started filing in to Game Depot AZ right on schedule at noon. As game time (12:45) approached, I made an "executive decision" that worked out well. So well, in fact, I'm going to incorporate it into next year's tournament. A number of folks were interested in being part of the fun, but didn't have the availability to sit down for an entire afternoon of tabletop baseball. We had enough people for an eight-team tournament, with some teams being managed by multiple guys. After trying to come up with a tournament schedule that would allow everyone to play, I instead went with an alternate plan: there would be TWO tournaments going on! The "official" TMT would have four teams, managed by the folks who could stay all day: David, Al, Mike and Michael. For the people who could only stay for part of the day, we'd hold an exhibition series using the Kickstarter Hall of Fame cards. I divided the cards into two piles, National League and American League (the Negro League players were evenly divided between the AL and NL stacks), and then let people choose their own starting lineups from the 60 or so players available for each squad.

The "Time Machine Tournament" was amazing: of the seven games played, five were decided by one run, and five went to extra innings including the championship game! Read more about the 2016 Time Machine Tournament HERE...

David Neely and wife Shiela pose with the 2016 Time Machine Trophy"We Are The Champions!" David Neely and his wife Shiela pose with the 2016 Time Machine Trophy!

The "Hall of Fame Series" was also great fun, with the distinct feel of an "All Star Game!" We played four games in all, with five different managers. Read more about the 2016 Time Machine HOF Series HERE...

While the games were going on, we had a steady stream of PLAAY Gamers stopping by to catch some of the action. (Ryan Mayes brought leftover cupcakes from a birthday party that he'd just taken his kids to—MMMMmmm!) During breaks in the action, I was able to get in a hockey game (Stars 2, Coyotes 1) with Charlie Lord, and also have another golf game demo. It was really wonderful being able to visit at length with a great cross-section of the local sports game community!

Because we had so many extra innings games, the tournament stretched on past seven o'clock. David Neeley's '65 Dodgers won the Time Machine Trophy with an 8-5 11-inning win over Al Wilson's '71 Pirates. Afterwards, in keeping with the tradition established at last year's tournament in San Francisco (and because we were basically starving at that point!) we decided to immediately adjourn for dinner to re-hash the day's events. There's a "Joe's Crab Shack" located within walking distance of Game Depot AZ, so we decided to head over there for some great seafood and fun conversation.

Finally, around 9:30 PM, it was time to draw the curtain on the day—always difficult to say good-bye, but we're hopeful of meeting up again some other time, some other city, for another memorable round of baseball fun! I'm already thinking about NEXT year's TMT: how about we do the same thing in Florida? A Friday afternoon spring training game, and a Saturday tournament? I'll keep you posted!