By Nick Ashbourne
Canadian Baseball Network
Back in the day the only way to play baseball was with a stick, a ball and a field.
Eventually fans realized there was a far more accessible, less strenuous way to get involved: fantasy baseball. Over time the pen-and-paper office pool evolved into the online league which in recent years sprouted daily fantasy contest.
Whether it's head-to-head, rotisserie, ottoneu, "beat the streak" or daily fantasy there are seemingly countless ways for armchair general managers to get their fix. Toronto native Daryl Andrews believes he's created one more.
Along with partner-in-crime J.R. Honeycutt, Andrews has developed "Fantasy Fantasy Baseball", a board game based not on baseball itself, but rather the countless hours fans spend obsessing over their fantasy lineups. In the game players take the role of a wizard manager who deploys a wide variety of baseball-playing fantasy creatures in an effort to makes sure his or her lineup puts up the best statistics.
Andrews is the first to admit that the concept takes some time to wrap your head around. A lifelong baseball fan and board game collector, he was worried that his two passions wouldn't mesh in the eyes of the general public.
"We were worried that fantasy and sports might be two circles that just don't overlap," he recalls. "But the comment was made 'who hasn't seen Lord of the Rings?' So our thought was 'let's try to make a Lord of the Rings meets baseball' and we used fantasy sports as our gateway."
Choosing to focus on fantasy baseball rather than baseball itself helped streamline the game. Baseball is often criticized for its length and a board game that took three hours wasn't going to be attractive to the consumer.
“I was trying to think of a way to not make a game that’s three hours long," Andrews says. "I love baseball but most people hear a long game and think 'no way I’m out'.
"So I was trying to think what could I do that was coming at it from a different angle.”
Andrews was inspired by a meme he saw pointing out the parallels between fantasy sports and Dungeons and Dragons.
“Fantasy sports is already a very gamer-like experience," he says. "So how can we turn that into a game?”
While the focus of the game mechanics are tied to fantasy baseball, there are references to the sport itself sprinkled throughout.
“All the cards are winks or references to players," says Andrews. "It’s just a matter of whether you can figure out through our obscure minds what the connection is.”
Some of these winks are subtle, but many are more more overt. In the run-up to the game's release the publisher CSE Games has been teasing a selection of Fantasy Fantasy Baseball's characters, such an elf mimicking a Bill Ripken's infamous 1989 card.
Another character by the name of "Ghouly Bats" will seem especially familiar to Toronto Blue Jays fans:
The game's art is done by Rob Lundy, an Ottawa native, who does his illustrating live on Twitch taking input from his subscribers in real time. Ghouly Bats was released on November 25 and Lundy will continue draw more characters on Twitch during the game's Kickstarter campaign.
"That's one thing that we think is really fun," Andrews explains. "People can actually influence the game while it's being made."
Fantasy Fantasy Baseball's Kickstarter campaign closes on Dec. 23 at 11:59 PM. The game is expected to ship May 2016.