In these MLB Showdown 2000 impressions and notes, D and Will go through what they like and dislike about this baseball-themed card game. Published by Wizards of the Coast, MLB Showdown is a defunct Collectible Card Game (CCG) that had its players compiling their best players and facing off in intense head-to-head competitions. In this game, players roll 20-sided dice in order to determine the effectiveness of pitches and the quality of contact. There are Advanced and Expert rules as well for more demanding baseball fans. For our thoughts on this childhood favorite, continue reading below.
D’s modest impressions of MLB Showdown 2000
(Author’s note: these impressions are meant to accompany our gameplay video and will not go in-depth on the game’s rules. If you’re interested in learning how the game is played, please watch the video. It’s not bad.)
For a couple of reasons, Will and I are eschewing the traditional reviews this week in favor of some basic impressions. One reason being that it would be kind of silly to review an eighteen-year-old edition of a collectible card game. The other being that it’s difficult for us to approach the games objectively. The MLB Showdown series is one of only two collectible card games that we ever got really into (the other being Pokémon, naturally), and as such our nostalgic fondness for it is probably greater than its quality warrants. I don’t know how popular the series was across the nation, but it was the game to play for a few years in our extended circle of friends. There were at least a good half-dozen of us who spent a lot of our parents’ money every year building up new collections and assembling the best teams we could. We only ever used the basic rules, we never used the points system to limit our teams, and we played it borderline-obsessively. It was good times.
That being said, it’s a little strange to go all the way back to MLB Showdown 2000. We actually did own this inaugural version, and I remember playing it occasionally, but we didn’t really get into the series until the 2002 edition. There’s a distinct difference between the batter cards in the 2000 and 2001 sets and the 02-05 sets. In the earlier years, the batters had much lower On-Base values on average, but their tables for when they got the advantage were extremely favorable. In the later years, the range of the On-Base values increased from about 6-10 to more like 8-14, with the results tables being slightly less dangerous to account for the change. This may not seem like a significant difference, but it drastically altered the way the game played. I can see arguments in favor of both ways, but I’ve personally always preferred the system used in the latter years. It kept both players more involved and slightly increased the amount of scoring. The game we played in our video is typical of how I remember 2000 games going, with one really good pitcher being basically unhittable the entire game.
As I mentioned earlier, when we played this in our youth, we mostly just used the very basic rules. We would also include simple things like stolen bases, intentional walks, and sacrifice flies, but the tactics cards were never implemented. It’s not that they’re particularly complicated, we just couldn’t be bothered. Now, having used them for the first time ever (as far as I can remember), I’m leaning towards the opinion that we had it right when we were kids. I don’t think there’s anything particularly objectionable about them for the most part, but I think they do slow the game down slightly. Part of the appeal when we were younger was how quickly the games would move while still feeling more or less like a baseball game. Adding this new element sort of feels like introducing the less exciting parts of real baseball, like commercial breaks and mound visits.
I still sort of love MLB Showdown as a series, but I don’t foresee myself going back to 2000 very often if and when I get the opportunity to play. And ultimately, the original thrill of going to the store and picking up some new packs cannot be precisely replicated, barring a resurrection of the IP. Part of the magic is sort of lost to time, but I think that, even all these years later, the game still offers a fun experience for baseball fans like myself. If you liked what you saw in the video and have never played the game before, the starter packs for 2000 are still pretty widely available at reasonable prices, so go order a box.
Will’s impressions of MLB Showdown 2000
I played a ton of MLB Showdown when I was a youth, but I also got started a bit later than D. In fact, when I went to look at my collection, I had only one 2000 card (M. Remlinger) and about 5-6 2001 cards. So yeah, I didn’t really get started until 2002, which was the first year Wizards of the Coast re-balanced the game to make it a bit fairer for the hitters. What I’m trying to say is – I played the 2000 edition so little that this was like a new experience for me. Sure, the core mechanics and gameplay never changed, but man, the cards did.
Before I point out what I dislike about MLB Showdown 2000, I want to make one thing clear – I love this series and really want it to come back. I understand that the MLB license is probably absurdly expensive, and I also know that the CCG industry is a difficult one to break into, but come on Wizards of the Coast! Gah, I want 2018 Showdown cards… Alas, I guess I should be grateful that a handful of unopened starter decks and booster packs are still out there, but it’s only a matter of time before unopened packs of this series go extinct. Such a shame…
It pains me to admit that all editions of MLB Showdown (2000-2005) are pretty flawed. The core gameplay relies on D20 rolls, which means that even the best lineups can be negated by bad luck. Randomness is pretty prevalent throughout the gameplay, which doesn’t really match up with the actual game of baseball, a sport that’s skill-driven and obsessed with mitigating luck. At least while using the expert or advanced rules, the end result of most sessions mimics an actual MLB box score. That’s pretty impressive and shows what kind of playtesting went into making these games function.
Unfortunately, MLB Showdown 2000 (and 2001) exacerbate these randomness issues by balancing the pitchers too strongly against the hitters. Because the On-Base stat is so low for most hitters, they almost never get advantage. In our video, for example, I think the batting player rolled with advantage only 5-6 times, which is horrible in a session with 60+ At Bats. When hitting, it’s just not that fun to roll when the pitcher has advantage. The best you can really do in that situation is smack a double, which isn’t that exciting. Rolling a home run, or at least having the threat of a home run, is the best that MLB Showdown gets, moment-wise. Those kind of moments are few and far between in this edition.
My only other complaint is in regards to the Strategy cards and their corresponding rules. In the rulebook, it explicitly states that Strategy cards and their effects are only active for one batter, after which they’re discarded. However, there are some Strategy cards that state “Until there is an out…” or “Until someone reaches base…”. Phrases like those seem to imply that the card should stay in play until a specific condition is met. It’s all rather confusing, and it reinforces my belief that all cards in any game should feature a full set of relevant rules/conditions, especially when they’re supposed to be discarded. I can’t remember if this issue was cleared up in later editions, but it’s definitely present in 2000.
Even with its abundance of drawbacks, MLB Showdown remains my favorite CCG, even if I had more Pokémon cards as a kid (and I lost them all!). Granted, I’m a huge (literally and figuratively) baseball fan, so I was and still am the target audience for this game. If you don’t care about baseball that much, you probably have little to no reason to play MLB Showdown 2000 or any of its successors. Yet, I implore you to try it, and when you do, please let Wizards of the Coast know. And then let Major League Baseball know, and then your friends. Let’s start a movement here – MAKE SHOWDOWN A THING AGAIN! Hmm, I might need to workshop our motto.