Saying baseball is America’s sport is a bit obvious, but in today’s highly digitized, fast-paced world, it may not be immediately clear why. Baseball is a slow-moving game that lasts multiple hours, and there’s lots of waiting between quick bursts of action. Yet, it’s exciting!
The last couple seasons and World Series have been particularly fun in our house. I’m a lifelong Dodgers fan while my wife is a lifelong Cubs fan. To be fair, I think her World Series turned out better, but that’s still a sore subject.
But each winter, I get a little bummed when baseball is in the offseason. I start to miss it. A lot. I miss having a game each day, the strategy, and the stats. I can’t wait to get back to the ballpark for another game. My daughters, on the other hand, aren’t such big fans. They find the games boring and only come out of familial duty. But I’m trying to change that by making baseball more exciting for them.
Make baseball more exciting with tabletop dice baseball
One way I’m trying to make my daughters love the game more is by teaching them the rules and intricacies of the game. I know, that sounds really dull, but hear me out. Just running through the laundry list of rules is boring. That’s why I’m doing it in the form of a game they can have immediate success with: tabletop dice baseball. They have so much fun playing the game they don’t even realize my other reason for playing it with them.
What is tabletop dice baseball
Tabletop dice baseball is a simulated baseball game that can be played with nothing more than a pair of dice, a pencil, and a piece of paper. Each combination of rolled dice represents a play (an out, a single, a home run, a strikeout, etc.). You use the paper and pencil to record what happens and in about 15-30 minutes you’ve simulated a complete baseball game.
Tabletop dice baseball goes back many decades. Its glory days were before the dawn of video games and was popular when Baby Boomers were kids. I’m hardly a Baby Boomer, but I played this game when I was a kid. The father of one of my childhood friends taught us how to play tabletop dice baseball and I loved it. At a young age, I probably enjoyed it more than the actual live baseball game. It was simple, fun, and surprisingly suspenseful.
As I grew up, I got busy, discovered girls, and forgot all about this game. But a few weeks ago, it suddenly popped into my mind again. It was probably because I was missing baseball and needed something to fill the void. I retaught myself how to play the game and decided I wanted to share the game with my daughters.
The method I use is very stripped down and requires a pretty decent understanding of baseball. But I wanted my daughter to enjoy and learn the rules, so I needed something different. That’s why I designed this tabletop dice baseball scorecard, which you can download for free below.
How to use the tabletop dice baseball scorecard
The tabletop dice baseball scorecard can be printed out on a simple 8.5×11 sheet of paper. You can print one out for each game and write on it with pen or pencil, or you can laminate it (or use a sheet protector) and make it reusable by writing on it with a dry erase marker. We play it so much that we laminated it.
The second page of the printable includes little baseballs (red, blue, black, and gray are provided) that you can use to represent players on the scorecard. This makes the game visual, easy to track, and fun. You line up these players next to the scorecard. They’re meant to go in order 1-9 for simplicity sake, but you can mix up the batting order if you’d like.
The final page of the printable is a traditional baseball scorecard. This is designed for advanced players. A future post will detail how to play the game with this card. The remainder of this post will focus on playing tabletop baseball with the first page of the printable.
The rules of tabletop dice baseball
Tabletop dice baseball can be played solo or against another player. The rules work similar to a real baseball game. Each team has nine batters, and you play nine innings (though the scorecard includes a 10th inning should the game be tied at the end of the ninth inning). You have three outs per half inning. The scorecard includes a box score so you can easily keep track of who’s winning.
This particular version of dice baseball doesn’t include balls and strikes. There are versions that do include balls and strikes, but that unnecessarily slows down the game and doesn’t meaningfully change the outcome of the simulated game.
How to interpret and score the dice combinations
The scorecard has the dice roll combinations printed on the card so you know exactly how to score each turn. For each at-bat, place one of the baseballs (that represent players), on home plate on the scorecard. Then roll each die. The results of the die will tell you what happened during that plate appearance. There’s only one die roll for each player.
Dice scoring guide
- 1/1 home run
- 1/2 double
- 1/3 single
- 1/4 pop out
- 1/5 ground out*
- 1/6 strikeout
- 2/2 single
- 2/3 pop out
- 2/4 ground out
- 2/5 strikeout
- 2/6 ground out
- 3/3 single
- 3/4 strikeout
- 3/5 ground out
- 3/6 fly out
- 4/4 walk
- 4/5 fly out
- 4/6 fly out
- 5/5 base on error
- 5/6 single
- 6/6 triple
* double play if a force available
You always read the die with the lowest number first. So, if you rolled a 6 and a 2, you would look on the scorecard for a roll combination of 2-6 (the lower number comes first), which would be a ground out. If you look at the scorecard, it forces you to always do the lower number first anyway. You can’t even find a 5-3 combination, for example.
Other rules to remember:
- Write the team names in the spaces provided in the box score section at the top of the scorecard.
- The visiting team bats first.
- If a player gets out, move the ball that represents the player to the back of the lineup.
- Record each out on the scorecard by filling in an out bubble.
- If a player gets a base hit (single, double, triple, or home run), move the player to the appropriate base on the scorecard.
- There are no stolen bases or extra baserunning. The only way a player can advance is through a force (ex: if a player is already on first base, and the player at-bat hits a single, the player on first advances to second base, and the batter moves to first.)
- Singles, doubles, triples, and home runs count as hits on the box score. Walks and errors do not, even though they result in the player advancing to first base.
- Errors are recorded against the team not currently at bat.
- Record each hit, run, and error with a tally mark in the appropriate section in the box score at the top of the scorecard.
- At the conclusion of each half inning, record the number of runs in that half inning for the team on the box score at the top of the scorecard. (ex: If the home team had 3 runs in the fifth inning, you would write a 3 in the bottom box under inning 5).
- After nine innings, the team with the most runs wins. If the game is tied, play the 10th inning, or until there is a clear winner.
- If the home team is in the lead after the visiting team completes the top half of the ninth inning, the home team does not have to play the bottom half of the ninth inning and the game is over.
Illustrating the game with a simulated inning
If those rules make sense, you’re ready to go. If you’re still a little fuzzy, check out an example of an inning below.
To get started, each player writes their team name on the scorecard. The visiting team in this example is the Blue Devils, and the home team is the Unicorns (you can tell I play this game with daughters). Each player lines up their baseballs (representing players), next to the scorecard.
The visiting team goes first and puts their first player (#1) at home plate and rolls both dice.
The first roll results in a 5 and a 2.
Because you read the roll with the lowest number first, it would be a 2/5 combination. Looking at the scorecard, that results in a strikeout. That’s the first of three outs in the inning. The visiting team fills in the first out bubble on the scorecard.
And the visiting team moves player #1 to the back of their lineup next to the scorecard.
The second batter (#2) for the visiting team is up, and the ball representing the player is placed at home plate.
This time, the roll is a 1/3, which is a single.
That means the ball/player moves to first base on the scorecard.
Since a single is a hit, the visiting team places a tally mark in the hits column on the box score at the top of the scorecard.
Now the third batter (#3) is up and placed at home plate. This roll results in a 3/6, which is a flyout.
That’s out number two. The second out bubble is filled in on the scorecard.
Batter #3 moves to the back of the lineup. Leave a gap between batter #1 and batter #3 in the lineup. Batter #2 will return here once he gets out, scores a run, or once the inning is over.
Batter four (#4) comes to home plate and rolls a 5/5, which results in a base on error. That means batter #4 advances to first base, and batter #2, who was on first base, advances to second base.
A tally mark is added to the error column for the home team on the box score.
Batter five (#5) comes to home plate and rolls a 1/2, a double.
That means batters #2 and #4 who were on second and first base respectively, have to advance two bases each. That moves batter #2 home (scoring a run), batter #4 to third base, and batter #5 to second base.
Another tally is recorded in the hits column for the visiting team, as well as a tally in the runs column for the visiting team. The score is now 1-0 in favor of the visiting team.
Batter six (#6) comes to the plate. The dice roll combination results in a 4/5, which is a fly out.
This is the third out. The half inning is now over and so is the visiting team’s turn. The visiting team moves all players off the field and places them back in their appropriate places in the lineup. This means batter #7 will be first up to bat for the visiting team in the second inning.
The marks in the two out bubbles are erased on the scorecard, and a 1 is placed under inning one on the box score for the visiting team.
Now it’s time for the home team to take the field for the bottom half of the first inning.
Player one (#1) for the home team comes to home plate.
The dice are rolled and result in a 2/2 combination, a single.
Player #1 advances to first base.
A tally mark goes in the hits column for the home team.
Player two (#2) comes to home plate and the dice roll ends up as a 1/4, a pop out.
That’s the first out, so the first out bubble is filled in on the scorecard.
Player #2 goes to the back of the lineup next to the scorecard.
Player three (#3) comes to home plate and the dice roll is a 4/4, a walk.
This forces player #1 (who was on first base) to move to second base, and player #3 advances to first base. Even though player #3 advanced to first base, a walk does not count as a hit, so no tally mark is added to the hits column in the box score.
Player four (#4) comes to the plate and rolls a 2/4, a ground out.
That’s out number two, so the second outs bubble is filled in.
Player #4 goes to the back of the lineup next to the scorecard.
Player five (#5) comes to the plate and rolls a 1/1, a home run!
This drives player #1 and player #4 home, and player #5 rounds all the bases too. That’s three runs on the home run.
So three tally marks are added to the runs column for the home team, and a tally mark is added to the hits column for the home run.
Players 1, 4, and 5 are returned to their proper places in the lineup. The scorecard now has no players on it.
Player six (#6) comes to the plate and rolls a 1/6, a strikeout.
This is the third out. The inning is over. Player #6 returns to the proper place in the lineup.
A 3 is written under inning 1 for the home team in the box score at the top of the scorecard.
From here, the game continues in similar fashion for the remaining eight innings.
The game moves fast and the final scores are honestly fairly realistic (though the games usually end up with more hits than in real baseball). Like actual baseball, tabletop dice baseball often has long stretches of lots of outs and little action, but then you’ll often see an inning where your offense explodes and you tally a bunch of runs. That’s when the game gets fun (or frustrating, depending on if it’s your team scoring or getting scored on).
My daughters love this game and ask to play it multiple times during the week. They now have a solid understanding of the basic rules of baseball. Hopefully, this develops a greater love of the game and a desire to watch and attend more baseball games this season and for years to come. If nothing else, it’s enjoyable family time.
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