What, you've never heard of this brand? Well, I have a confession to make. I've become addicted to an online card collecting game called Baseball Boss. It started innocuously enough, as someone from their marketing department started pinging me with emails a few months ago. At first I deleted them, but eventually my curiosity got the best of me and I gave their site a look. A month later, I'm still coming back.
First things first: it's free to play, but some items are available for purchase. I'm too cheap to part with my cash for an online game, but for as little as five bucks you could improve your team in a big way. Otherwise, your choice is to be patient and take some lumps.
When you sign up, you designate your favorite major league team. Then you receive a starter pack of about thirty assorted virtual player cards, though the largest portion of them are from your chosen team's 2007 roster. Chances are good that you'll have a mediocre squad - at least that was the case for me. (Maybe the O's were just that bad!) But I did have a legitimate star in Nick Markakis, and marginal ex-Birds like Todd Williams and Jay Gibbons were good for a laugh. Way-old-school players from 1907 are mixed in for a fun twist; I got some ancient St. Louis Browns, the predecessors of the Orioles. There might also be 1957 players in the starter pack, but they were added to the game universe after I signed up. Next you put together your team(s) - you can have up to three, with a minimum of one player per position and a full pitching staff.
Once you have a team, you can start challenging other owners, as well as computer-managed historical teams from 1907, 1957, and 2007. You can face each team a maximum of three times per day in 3, 4, or 5-game series. The games are simulated, and you win tickets based on the outcomes. You use tickets, as you might imagine, to get new cards. You can buy packs (or boxes or cases), or bid for specific cards at an auction page, or even trade with other owners. There is also league and division play, which offers chances for advancement and rewards.
There are some interesting aspects to this form of virtual card collecting. You can choose packs of 1907, 1957, or 2007 players, and all three groups cost the same amount of tickets. But there are two different brands. National, which is pictured above, is more affordable than Spire, the "premium" brand. But the National cards have higher salaries (there is a salary cap in division play), feature players of Tiers 1 to 5 only (the most rare and valuable are tiers 6 and 7, found only in Spire), and degrade at a quicker rate than Spire.
What's this about degrading? Yes, with repeated use, your cards can "degrade" from Mint, to Near Mint, to Excellent, and so on down to Poor. The more degraded the card, the worse the player performance. But don't fret - you can restore your card's condition at any time for a nominal amount of tickets (most cards cost just a ticket to fix). If only real cards worked that way!
As I mentioned, it can be slow going if you wish to keep the game free and you're the kind of honest person who doesn't cheat the system (for instance, by signing up under multiple email addresses and funneling your best cards to one account - this is technically legal, but of course it's frowned upon). I've been away for the game for days at a time when I'm particularly busy, and I've only accrued enough points and milestones to grab three or four new five-card packs. If you're looking to build a team quickly, auctions are a better bet. But I just love opening packs, and even the few I've "ripped" have given my primary team, the Chestertown Boh Chimps, a small boost. My best pull was a Tier 5 Brandon Webb, and I also got power-hitting 1950s Oriole outfielder Bob Nieman!
Okay, I've rambled enough. If this sounds like the kind of thing you'd go for, there are more helpful tips here. Sign up at your own risk - it is pretty darn addictive! Maybe we'll face off in a hotly contested series on the virtual ball field some day.