Top 10 Tips for Speedier Gameplay (Replay Zone – March 2013)

By Jeff Polman
March ruminations from your trusty Strat-O-Matic replay addict. Read about the final days of my latest blog at Mystery Ball ’58.
The Fast, the Furious, and the 20-Sider
Taking heat in your Strat league for 90-minute games? Super-advanced fielding charts or lefty-righty columns posing a challenge? Fear not, Strat fanatics, the Replay Zoner is here with some handy tips for speeding up your gameplay.
While conducting my Best of 2011 Tournament last fall, a buddy on the Strat Fan Forum suggested I shoot a video of my rapid-fire gaming in action. (My son did the honors for me last night, and here it is!) I suppose I have developed a reputation for this, being that for years now my average solo rolling time has been around ten minutes. But this isn’t always true. Certain things have to fall into place before the last die is dropped. For one thing, you probably need to be playing by yourself. Unless your opponent happens to be equally “up to speed”, buzzing through your batting order like a maniac while playing face-to-face takes away much of the live drama and frankly, is somewhat rude.
Still, there are surefire ways to rack up multiple games on your home table on a cold winter’s day, and here they are:
1.     Learn the fielding charts. I realize this is a tall order, but Strat hasn’t changed any of them in quite a while, and taking a few minutes to at least register the ratings’ “cutoff number” for outs and hits will help you a lot. Obviously, the basic chart is far easier to memorize than the super-advanced one. A guy in an old league I was in used to call me Rain Man, because I knew most of the super-advanced error rolls without looking, but I have to admit I still couldn’t tell you the exact fumbles on a pitcher’s e43 rating, and I’m not about to take the chart to my local coffee shop and read it for an hour.
2.     Learn the pitcher’s hitting cards. This is a cinch, because there are only eight of them, they haven’t changed since the 1970s, and if you play enough games they implant themselves in your mind like the months of the year. And of course, a DH league makes them superfluous.
3.     Lose the diamond and base markers. These are cute, and great for kids or others just starting to play, but can be very time-consuming. If you’re scoring the game, your notations should be enough to keep track of every runner and out situation. As you pick up rolling steam, the play-by-play should update in your head, even if you’re not verbalizing it.
4.     Simplify your score sheet. For solo play, I use one side of one sheet of college-ruled notebook paper per game and write the abbreviated play-by play consecutively, with simple horizontal lines for inning breaks, squiggly lines added for pitching changes, and other personal symbols for runner advancement, steals, etc. Official score sheets with countless boxes are wonderful creations but can bog you down, especially when you’re constantly flipping them over.
5.     Prepare your score sheet with ratings. Before you commence rolling, finding a place to jot down fielding ratings for every game starter will save time having to flip through the cards and find them when a runner is bolting for home. Balk, wild pitch, and pitcher’s hold ratings are usually right in front of you on the cards, but catcher’s passed ball ratings are not and seem to come up a lot in super-advanced, so jot those down too. If you’re really ambitious you can write down players’ running ratings, but I let those slide, so to speak, and check them during the action if needed, because otherwise I might never get the game started. Some people I’ve played against also have a sheet with their fielder’s error super-advanced error rolls on it, and this can be very helpful. If you’re doing a long season replay, you’ll probably know most of the players’ ratings and rolls after about a month of games.
6.     Don’t forget the extra charts! Strategy readings, ballpark ratings and that extra chart for the rob rule and catcher’s block play should either be handy or jotted down. Nothing is worse than tearing apart your game room looking for the thing when Stan Hack is is about to collide with Ernie Lombardi to try and knock the game-winning run out of his mitt. 
7.     Do not answer the phone/the door/your significant other. Yeah, I know. This may not do wonders for your home life, but if you’re trying to speed through a game, nothing’s worse than avoidable distractions. As I think I explained in an earlier column, they can also upset your dice mojo big time.
8.     Develop a rolling rhythm. I roll with my right hand, keep the 20-side boulder in my left ready for hit splits, or to throw that extra die with people on base right before the three smaller dice get rolled for each player. This avoids an unnecessary re-roll if a 1 or 2 on the boulder is rolled. Another great speed-up tip is if you prefer dropping all the dice simultaneously, and the 1 or 2 boulder is rolled and the result does not lead to a balk, wild pitch, etc., use the result of the three smaller dice instead of re-rolling them. For a visual, watch carefully. (Can you tell I’m starting to like this video?)
9.     Know your rosters. This tip also comes naturally the longer you play with your team or teams, but any time that can be saved not poring over your bullpen or pinch-hitter cards with the game on the line is a plus. I should add that many detail-prone managers like to write safe chances on the left and right sides of their cards for easy reference during games. I have never done this, because I’m pretty good at “eyeballing” which side is better. Which leads me to…
10. Develop your eye-to-dice coordination. Easier said than done, I suppose, but this is also something that happens naturally the more you play. And having played my first Strat game in 1964, I can now spot one of those 24 gb(b)s on Juan Pierre’s card in a fraction of a multi-second.
Hopefully some of these will help you ramp up your gameplay. Like most anything, experience is the ticket. Solo season replays tend to force you to develop your own techniques for speedier play, but keep in mind that once in a while, it’s also fun to kick back and smell the Strat roses with a nice 22-inning 1-1 game from 1968.
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Don’t miss my 1958 World Series report in my last posts of Mystery Ball ’58. The Yankees, after playing .500 ball the entire second half of the year, woke up at the end and made it a 5-game snoozer over the Braves. See you next month!