Tuesday, January 31, 2017

1996 Upper Deck Collector's Choice: Pack #18: In Which We Find a Sweet Nomo!

It's kind of hard to believe that the month of January is over today!  For me, January and February are usually the two months that feel the longest...so having January done is a good thing!  Even better, I have a short trip planned for February so that ought to make that month move faster as well (not to mention this isn't a leap year so no extra day in February).

All of that has nothing to do with today's pack - except maybe that it is also hard to believe that I'm about to open pack 18 and after that's done we will only be at the halfway mark for the box!  I love full boxes of cards.

Pack 18:
109.  Thomas Howard
150.  Andre Dawson

I like the tribute cards that Upper Deck scattered about the set.  They are full bleed (much like the All-Star cards and the All Rookie cards) so they stand out from the rest of the base set.  Good stuff.  I will say that it is weird to see Dawson in the Marlin's colors.
167.  James Mouton
178.  Billy Ashley
180.  Hideo Nomo

Speaking of All Rookie cards, here's a sweet one of Nomo.
245.  Dennis Eckersley

You have to love cards that give full career statistics.  Just check out Eck's card back!
277.  Sammy Sosa
You Make the Play:  Randy Johnson (Strikeout, Reach First)
Our third inning is still going strong thanks to a strikeout that didn't end the inning (catcher's error maybe?).  At this point, we have bases loaded and two outs - still up 4-2.
Silver Signatures:
15.  John Wasdin
37.  Orlando Palmeiro

The silver signature cards were sort of busts (we already pulled a silver signature of Palmeiro in this box) but otherwise this was a nice pack.  Now we get to move on to the second half of the box!

Monday, January 30, 2017

1996 Upper Deck Collector's Choice: Pack #17: In Which the Big Hurt Shows Up Twice

One more pack after this one and then I'll be halfway done with the box.  I must say, it's refreshing to open a box of cards that actually feels like you are getting a proper boxes' worth of cards!  I can't help but wonder if part of my general disdain or apathy for many new releases is simply because, deep down, it doesn't feel like I'm getting value for my dollar (both in terms of quantity and quality).

Seriously, the Collector's Choice brand was dirt cheap (relatively speaking), hard awesome photography, and features just enough variety to keep every pack interesting to open.  When is the last time you opened a modern box of cards that you could say the same thing about?

Pack 17:
8.  Stat Leaders:  ERA (Maddux & Johnson)
19.  Mariano Rivera
90.  Frank Thomas

This is a nice card of Frank - proof that you don't always need to have an action shot for a card to be interesting.  This also isn't the last you'll see of this card in the pack...
118.  Julian Taverez
176.  Michael Tucker
195.  B.J. Surhoff

We need more baseball cards showing guys hitting off of a tee.
240.  Rickey Henderson
You Make the Play:  8.  Barry Bonds (one-base error)
Bonds gets on via error - and our other runner moves up to second.  We now have first and second with two outs in the top of the third.  Current score:  4-2.
Silver Signatures:
90.  Frank Thomas

Yep, two of the Thomas card in the same pack...one "signed" while the other isn't.
312.  Joey Cora



Sunday, January 29, 2017

1996 Upper Deck Collector's Choice: Pack #16: In Which I Find One of the Best A-Rod Cards I've Ever Seen

It's hard to believe that January is almost over!  For me, that means that two weeks of work are in the books for the spring semester...only thirteen more to go (but who's counting)?!  Speaking of counting, today's pack is the 16th out of the 1996 Upper Deck Collector's Choice box.  I've been having a blast so far - and I assure you this pack doesn't disappoint!

Pack 16:
9.  Saves Leaders (Jose Mesa and Randy Myers)
18.  Chris Snopek
110.  Ron Gant

The All-Star cards get the full-bleed treatment in the set.  The trivia on the back of Gant's card asks:  "Who are the only players besides Gant to post back-to-back 30-30 seasons?"  I'll give you the answer at the bottom of today's post.
137.  Kevin Ritz

Seems like he might get his hand smashed trying to bunt that way.
152.  Greg Colbrunn
249.  Ricky Bottalico
316.  Alex Rodriguez

I'm no fan of A-Rod's, but even I can admit that this is a nice looking card.  In fact, it might be one of the best A-Rod cards that I've ever seen!
You Make the Play:  3.  Jeff Bagwell (strikeout)
Bagwell's K makes it two outs with a runner still on first base.  We still lead in our game by a score of 4-2 in the top of the third.
Silver Signatures:
249.  Ricky Bottalico

It's a Bottalico hot pack!
291.  Brad Ausmus



Answer to Gant's trivia question:
Bobby Bonds and Willie Mays

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Anyone Interested in a 2017 Topps Series 1 Group Break?

It has been awhile since I've hosted a group break - so how about one for 2017 Topps Series 1?  

I'm simply gauging interest at the moment.  My plan would be a full jumbo case (6 boxes).  Each slot would have two teams (one of your choice, one random - trading allowed).  Each slot would cost about $45 (price includes shipping to the US).

Thoughts?  Interest?  Let me know!

1996 Upper Deck Collector's Choice: Pack #15: In Which the Catcher Interferes

I'm still working my way through my box of 1996 Upper Deck Collector's Choice.  It's been a fun ride so far - let's hope it continues!

Pack 15:
17.  Lyle Mouton
72.  Troy Percival
83.  Howard Johnson

I don't recognize this Cubs' uniform..or at least I don't think I do.  For some reason, it almost reads "Cuba" to me, rather than "Cubs."
115.  Reggie Sanders

"Let me stare deeply into your eyes..."
204.  Pat Meares
279.  Albert Belle
309.  William Van Landingham
You Make the Play:  12.  Darren Daulton (Catcher's Interference)

In our game, we are currently up 4-2 in the top of the third inning.  We had one out and no one on...but thanks to catcher interference we at least have a runner on base now.  Let's see if we can drive him in in the next couple of packs!

Silver Signatures:
114.  Pete Schourek
247.  Don Wengert

Friday, January 27, 2017

Trade Stack 78: Setting the Trading Gears in Motion!

Here is how this works:
Every so often (i.e. whenever I feel like it), I will add a card to a "Trade Stack".  Whenever the stack becomes appealing enough to someone, that person needs to comment on the post saying they'd like to claim the stack AND tell me which card they are sending off of my want list.  That's all you have to do - trade me ONE card (or more, of course) card from my want list for the entire stack of cards that I'm offering.  Each time, it will be first come, first serve...so act quickly (unless of course you are a gambler and hope to wait it out until there are 10+ cards in the stack that you want in exchange for a single 2004 UD Vintage card that I am looking for)!

The Trade Stack:
Last update: 1/27/17

I spent a bit chunk of this evening going through various blogger want lists.  For the blogs that I checked, I would say I was able to find at least one card that person wanted on about 60% of the want lists (which I think is pretty good).  For those that I found a card, I have since shot each person an email (or a message via Twitter).  All that said, I know that I only checked a small portion of blogs on my reading list...so if you have a list you'd like me to look over leave me a message with a link to your want list and I'll see what I can do.  I'm ready to get the trading gears in motion for 2017!

Another way to get more trades happening is for me to keep the Trade Stack updates rolling in.  Today's addition is actually four cards from 1995 Upper Deck Collector's Choice - a pretty nice set that I'm working on completing!  

As always, you get this card plus all the others in the Trade Stack in exchange for at least one card off of my want list.

1995 Upper Deck Collector's Choice:
36.  Trey Beamon (Pirates)
84.  Juan Gonzalez (Rangers)
267.  Paul Sorrento (Indians)
434.  Jose Rijo (Reds)


2000 Fleer Tradition:
381.  John Jaha (Athletics)
397.  Gregg Olson (Diamondbacks)
404.  Pete Harnisch (Reds)


2014 Topps Allen & Ginter:
38.  Don Sutton (Dodgers)
69.  Johnny Cueto (Reds)

2008 Upper Deck Masterpieces Football:
Framed Black Border:
62.  Marvin Harrison - Colts


If you want the stack, remember - all you need to do is offer up any one card from my want list.  


Want the card(s) in the stack?  Act fast - tell me which card you will send me off my want list in the comments below!  You must leave a comment on the trade stack post in order to claim the card - no more claims via email!  If no one claims this card within a reasonable amount of time (a few hours up to a few days, depending) - I'll add another card to the stack and the process will start again!


Previously Claimed Trade Stacks:
Stack 01:  2 cards by dayf
Stack 02:  8 cards by Justin
Stack 03:  17 cards by Cam
Stack 04:  4 cards by Cam
Stack 05:  9 cards by Daily Dimwit
Stack 06:  4 cards by The Lost Collector
Stack 07:  1 card by Baseball Dad
Stack 08:  1 card by M. Spiegel
Stack 09:  6 cards by bwsmith25
Stack 10:  6 cards by Baseball Dad
Stack 11:  1 card by Patrick
Stack 12:  5 cards by Matt B.
Stack 13:  4 cards by Steve G.
Stack 14:  3 cards by ShaneK
Stack 15:  7 cards by Ryan G
Stack 16:  1 card by longlivethewho
Stack 17:  4 cards by hiflew
Stack 18:  4 cards by Potch
Stack 19:  2 cards by Axemanohio
Stack 20:  5 cards by by Play at the Plate
Stack 21:  5 cards by BA Benny
Stack 22:  1 card by IkesCards
Stack 23:  8 cards by Axemanohio
Stack 24:  1 card by BA Benny
Stack 25:  2 cards by Jeff P.
Stack 26:  10 cards by Axemanohio
Stack 27:  1 card by BA Benny
Stack 28:  7 cards by ThingsAreFunnerHere
Stack 29:  3 cards by TheBrooklynMet
Stack 30:  4 cards by Adam C.
Stack 31:  10 cards by Play at the Plate
Stack 32:  8 cards by Josh D.
Stack 33:  6 cards by Baseball Dad
Stack 34:  1 card by Potch
Stack 35:  9 cards by Cool Breeze
Stack 36:  11 cards by Kev 
Stack 37:  6 cards by Tunguska
Stack 38:  12 cards by Baseball Dad
Stack 39:  8 cards by Spiegel83
Stack 40:  1 card by Kyle4KC
Stack 41:  4 cards by dayf
Stack 42:  1 card by AdamE
Stack 43:  1 card by madding
Stack 44:  10 cards by Commishbob
Stack 45:  1 (almost complete) puzzle by Baseball Dad
Stack 46:  8 cards by buckstorecards
Stack 47:  5 cards by The Junior Junkie
Stack 48:  4 cards by dayf
Stack 49:  9 cards by Swing and a Pop-Up
Stack 50:  9 cards by Commishbob
Stack 51:  3 cards by Need More Cardboard
Stack 52:  1 card by Play at the Plate
Stack 53:  12 cards by buckstorecards
Stack 54:  4 cards by The Junior Junkie
Stack 55:  9 cards by Spiegel83
Stack 56:  2 cards cards by Joe Frecker
Stack 57:  4 cards by buckstorecards
Stack 58:  2 cards by Chunter
Stack 59:  9 cards by Baseball Dad
Stack 60:  8 cards by buckstorecards
Stack 61:  13 cards by Mark Hoyle
Stack 62:  9 cards by Nick
Stack 63:  9 cards by buckstorecards 
Stack 64:  7 cards by Mark Hoyle
Stack 65:  2 cards by Play at the Plate
Stack 66:  10 cards by Roger
Stack 67:  14 cards by buckstorecards
Stack 68:  5 cards cards by Jeff Jones
Stack 69:  17 cards by Steve D.
Stack 70:  2 cards by Jeff Jones
Stack 71:  8 cards by defgav
Stack 72:  24 cards by Trevor P.
Stack 73:  1 card by NIght Owl
Stack 74:  3 cards by David
Stack 75:  4 cards by Trevor P.
Stack 76:  14 cards by Trevor P.
Stack 77:  15 cards by Dayf
Stack 78:  ?? by ??

Nachos Grande's Friday Game Review: May I?

While I certainly love playing new board games, sometimes you don't want to have to buy a brand new game in order to play a brand new game.  In cases like that, it's nice to know some new games that can be played with supplies that most gamers already own.  In the case of the game May I?, all you need is a few decks of standard playing cards plus a score pad.

As with all card games, there are multiple versions of the game May I? out there.  In fact, a Google search brought up this link where each commenter seemed to have his or her own version of the game.  Like those commenters, I also have my own version - and that's the version that I'm going to share (and review) today.

In my gaming group where we play May I, we have four people (two couples).  For a four person game, we always combine three standard decks of playing cards.  The game is then played as follows:


  1. Deal everyone 11 cards.
  2. Turn the top card of the draw stack face up as the start of the discard pile.
  3. On each player's turn, they have two choices - they can draw the top card of the discard pile and add it to their hand OR they can draw the top card off the draw stack (a mystery card).  Then, the player must discard a card to the discard pile.
  4. Play continues in this way around the table until someone goes out for the round (more on that in a moment).
  5. While the first four steps sound nice and orderly, the game "May I?" gets its name from players shouting "May I?" whenever a card that want is placed in the discard pile.  The way that works is that the first player who says "May I?" gets the card that was just discarded by another player (you cannot "May I" your own discard).  The player whose turn it is to draw then has a dilemma.  They can either say, "no" to the May I? request and take the discarded card for themselves (thus denying the other player) OR they can say yes and hand the player the discarded card AND the top card off of the draw stack as a "punishment."  Players may not "May I?" their own discard nor may they say "May I?" when it is their turn to draw a card.
  6. The round ends when one player is able to fit EVERY card in his or her hand into that round's requirements (see list below) AND discard a card.  The drawback to saying May I? and getting the card is that you also get a punishment card - thus making it more difficult for you to use all your cards in your hand and go out.
  7. After a player goes out, the round ends and everyone adds up their score for the hand.  The person going out gets 0 points (and low scores are good in this game) while everyone else has to count their hand according to one of two options.


  • Option 1:  The player is "safe."  If the player is safe (that is, the player's hand meets the minimum requirements for the round), then that player only has to count up his or her "extra" cards that do not fit within the round's requirements.
  • Option 2:  The player is not "safe."  In this case, the player has to add up every single card in his or her hand (this is a terrible occurrence and should be avoided if at all possible)!


In this game, cards 2 - 7 are worth 5 points each, 8 - K are worth 10 points each, and aces are worth 15 points.

The game is played out over nine hands with the requirements for each hand getting progressively more difficult.  The order is as follows:

  • Round 1:  a 3 of a kind and a 4 card run
  • Round 2:  two 4 card runs
  • Round 3:  three 3 of a kinds
  • Round 4:  two 3 of a kinds and one 4 card run
  • Round 5:  one 3 of a kind and two 4 card runs
  • Round 6:  three 4 card runs
  • Round 7:  four 3 of a kinds
  • Round 8:  two 3 of a kinds and 2 runs
  • Round 9:  four 4 card runs


Since you are always dealt 11 cards up front (and your draw a card then discard a card), you will never have less than 11 cards.  Therefore, in the early rounds - you'll need to have more than the bare minimum in order to actually go out.  For example, in round 1 you might collect 6 kings (to use as your 3 of a kind) and have a 5 card run:  4-5-6-7-8.

In later rounds, you are actually forced to "May I?" at least once in order to get the bare number of cards (each "May I?" adds two cards to your hand total).  In Round 6, for example, you need a minimum of 12 cards in order to go out which will require at least one "May I?".  The way we play the game is that there is no limit to the number of times you may say "May I", though you obviously make your own path to going out more difficult with every extra card you take into your hand.

Once you've played a game or two of "May I?" the rules should make sense.  It's not a hard game to learn (or teach someone) but it is a hard game to master.  To play the game well, you need to pay attention to what your opponents are collecting (or, not collecting in some cases) as well as what cards have been discarded.  There's not a much worse feeling than needing the 7 of hearts to go out only to realize that all three of them had been discarded early on in the round (meaning you'll never get the chance to get one in a three deck game)!

The Bottom Line:
Pros:

  • Easy to learn, easy to teach
  • Uses elements of card counting and even bluffing but neither is required
  • No special supplies needed

Cons:

  • You need at least three people to play
  • If one person doesn't pay attention to what the next person is collecting, it can be extremely frustrating to watch that person continually "help" the next person
  • People can be real jerks and say no to your "May I?" request and keep the card for themselves instead
  • Plenty of luck in the game which can be annoying


Overall score (out of 100):
55/100*

May I? is a simple game with just enough strategy and card counting to keep my interest throughout multiple plays.  The biggest drawback to the game is when you play with someone who doesn't pay as much attention as the other players at the table.  Thus, you want to play this game with "like minded" players, whether they be super strategic card counters or players who simply play for fun is irrelevant - the key is that everyone needs to play with a similar style.  This is NOT a game that I ever want to play through again though in the same sitting.

*played with a group where everyone keeps track of all cards in play/drawn/discarded this game can be a lot of fun (and highly strategic) but it's unlikely that most play groups will be that way.  The game is incredibly frustrating when one person doesn't bother to keep track of someone else's collecting habits and, therefore, that beneficiary goes out continually (and much too quickly for other players to get safe).


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Barry Larkin Collection 501: 1999 Fleer Mystique - #41

Barry Larkin
Year:  1999
Brand:  Fleer Mystique
Card number:  41

The 1999 Fleer Mystique set is quite nice - and it's an interesting experience to open a pack (or box) of the stuff because you have to peel off a shiny blue "sticker" off of one short-printed card in every pack.  For more information on that, see this post I did a number of years ago.

Luckily for Barry Larkin collectors, his card is not a short print in the 1999 Fleer Mystique set.  Unfortunately for those collectors, Larkin is part of the 100 card gold partial parallel set - a set that you can expect to only get three gold parallels per box (gold parallels are distinguished by a gold foil under the name plate and the team logo).  There is a also a one-of-one Masterpiece parallel...but the less said about one-of-one parallels in general, the better.

Returning to the card in question, I like the design quite a bit.  I love the team logo (especially the use of the Reds' running man logo).  There is enough foil on the card to make it seem special, but not so much to be too distracting for me which is also appreciated.  The back of the card is a bit simplistic, but even that isn't too bad (certainly not for the era of cards that was the late 90s)!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

1996 Upper Deck Collector's Choice: Pack #14: In Which I Strikeout

I'm only a bit over a week into my new semester of teaching and I can already tell it's going to be a busy one!  That said, I'm going to do my best to keep up with both work and the blog...and so here I am with another pack out of my 1996 Upper Deck Collector's Choice.

Pack 14:
16.  Edwin Hurtado
61.  Rheal Cormier
77.  Lee Smith
117.  Jeff Brantley
155.  Charles Johnson

The All-Rookie subset of cards get the full bleed photo treatment.  This is a particularly nice card if you ask me!
172.  Greg Gagne
278.  Dante Bichette
You Make the Play:  22.  Greg Maddux (Strikeout)

Maddux strikes out for the first out in the top of the third in our ongoing game.  That keeps the score 4-2 us with no one on, one out, top of the third.
Silver Signatures:
118.  Julian Tavarez
132.  Joe Girardi

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

1996 Upper Deck Collector's Choice: Pack #13: In Which I Find the Best Pack of the Box (so far at least)

I'm still slowly working my way through my box of 1996 Upper Deck Collector's Choice.  I hope that all of you are enjoying this retro break as much as I am!

Pack 13:
71.  Jim Edmonds
111.  Eddie Taubensee

A cool photograph if you ask me, certainly doesn't hurt any that he's a Red!
124.  Eddie Murray
305.  Glenallen Hill
313.  Mike Blowers
363.  Ken Caminiti - Checklist
Silver Signatures:
296.  Trevor Hoffman

A posed shot (obviously) but I still like it for some reason.
314.  Darren Bragg
Gold Signature:
You Make the Play:  8.  Barry Bonds (strikeout)

This is my first You Make the Play signature parallel - and it's a nice gold signature of Barry Bonds.  As for our game, it's not such good news as Bonds strikes out to make the final out of the second inning.  Heading into the third now, our score is 4-2 us.
Cal Ripken Collection:  2 of 22:  Cal Ripken, Jr.

The Cal Ripken Collection insert set is seeded 1:12 packs...and with 22 total cards in the set this is one tough cookie to complete!  I can tell you right now that I have no plans of trying for this set, though this is a pretty nice card.

That was an awesome pack - a nice Cincinnati Reds card, three parallels, and a Ripken insert.  Hard to complain.

Monday, January 23, 2017

1996 Upper Deck Collector's Choice: Pack #12: In Which I Pull Card #1 in the Set!

Today's pack is number 12 in the box...which means we have officially hit the one-third mark.  Don't you miss boxes that crammed 36 packs in them (and with 10 cards per pack to boot)?  I know I do.  Simply holding the box makes me feel like I'm getting my money's worth out of the experience!

Pack 12:
1.  Cal Ripken, Jr.

I don't usually have the best luck at pulling card #1 from a set.  It seems like that number is often lurking on my initial want list when I post it!  As such, I'm happy to nab the #1 card from this set...and I'm even happier to report that it is a sweet Ripken card!
7.  Stat Leaders:  Hideo Nomo & Randy Johnson
15.  John Wasdin
191.  Mike Fetters
239.  Scott Brosius
283.  Allen Battle
306. Deion Sanders

I totally forgot that Deion went from the Reds to the Giants in 1995.  
You Make the Play:  44.  Rondell White (flyout)
In our ongoing game, White's flyout gives us two outs in the top of the second inning with our team currently leading 4-1 (and a runner still on first base).
Silver Signatures:
339.  Roberto Alomar

I like the International Flavor subset cards quite a bit - and the silver signature actually adds to the card in my opinion.
347.  Bob Tewksbury

Not a bad way to end the first third of the box.  I'm super happy with the Cal Ripken, Jr. card most of all.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Barry Larkin Collection 500: 2004 Skybox Autographics - #BL/KM - Prospects Endorsed Dual Relic (#/500)

Barry Larkin & Kaz Matsui
Year:  2004
Brand:  Skybox Autographics
Insert set:  Prospects Endorsed Dual Relic
Card number:  PEJ-BL/KM (#448/500)

I bought this card off of eBay last summer but I decided to hold on to it in terms of showing it off on the blog until my 500th Barry Larkin post!  This is my first dual relic involving Barry Larkin and I happen to like it quite a bit.

The 2004 Skybox Autographics set was a set that I had never heard of.  According to baseballcardpedia, Larkin actually has quite a few cards in the set (many of which I would like to track down some day) but, strangely, he does not have a regular base card in the set.

Instead, Larkin has a Prospects Endorsed insert (paired with Edwin Encarnacion rather than Matsui for some reason) as well as a Prospects Endorsed Dual Patch parallel (#/50) where he is paired with Matsui like he is on today's featured card.  Finally, Larkin shows up in the Signatures insert set with four different autograph versions (blue, silver #/100, gold #/25, and purple #/1).  I don't think I'll ever track down the purple auto (one-of-ones aren't my thing to chase, mostly for monetary reasons) but I should have a decent shot at acquiring the other remaining Barry Larkin cards from the set.

Returning back to the card at hand, this happens to be an instance where the monochromatic colors work for me.  In fact, given that Fleer paired a Cincinnati Reds player (colors black and red) with a New York Mets player (colors blue and orange), I think a full color baseball card would have been a bit too busy!  I also like the fact that the card is numbered...I think all relics ought to be numbered so that the collector knows exactly how common/rare that particular card is.

On a personal note, this card marks a major milestone in my Barry Larkin Collection (500 unique cards now)!  I actually still have way more than that to scan and write about...probably at least 200+ more cards.  That said, I know that that the second 500 cards in my collection will be much tougher to track down as compared to the first 500 (both because Larkin has been retired for awhile and because I have most of the easy-to-find, i.e. junk wax, cards)!  As always, if you have any Barry Larkins available, I'd love to work out a trade!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

1996 Upper Deck Collector's Choice: Pack #11: In Which I See Larkin's Name on a League Leader Card

This is the 11th pack out of my 1996 Collector's Choice box - and the second pack that I've been able to rip today (I should be writing more lesson plans but baseball cards only take a few minutes, right)?!

Pack 11:
2.  Stat Leaders:  Tony Gwynn & Edgar Martinez

Barry Larkin finished 6th in average in 1995.  That was Larkin's MVP year as well.
97.  Lance Johnson

Here's to you, Lance.
120.  Jim Thome

Some of the big name players (i.e. the All-Stars) got borderless cards that are quite awesome.  The Thome is a perfect example.
212.  Carlos Perez
234.  Andy Pettitte
262.  Jon Lieber
308.  Robby Thompson
You Make the Play
41.  Greg Vaughn (Strikeout)
Vaughn's strikeout is only the first out of the second inning.  We still have a 4-1 lead and a runner on first base.  
Silver Signatures:
31.  Doug Johns
37.  Orlando Palmeiro

Not a bad pack - I like the League Leaders cards in the set quite a bit.  I also really like that Thome card...I don't think I had seen that one before!

1996 Upper Deck Collector's Choice: Pack #10: In Which I (Re)Learn About a 12 Player MLB Trade

I finished the first quarter of my 1996 Upper Deck Collector's Choice box a couple of days ago.  Today, I begin the next quarter - and to do so I'm going to go through the bottom left stack of packs in the box.

Pack 10:
40.  Greg Maddux
85.  Randy Myers
116.  Benito Santiago
256.  Dave Stewart
302.  Mark Carreon

Peace?
343.  Otis Nixon
358.  Checklist: Astros & Padres Trade 12 Players

This is a pretty cool piece of baseball trivia.  12 players were involved in a trade between the Astros and Padres (11 of which were Major League players).  You don't see a lot of deals like that.
You Make the Play:  38.  Ozzie Smith (Single)
We are now in the top of the second inning.  As I said in pack 3 (when I started the game up), we are assuming that the opposing team scores one run per inning.  Thus, at the end of 1 inning it was 4-1 us.  Ozzie gets us going right away with a lead off single to start the second inning of play.
Silver Signatures:
329.  Manny Ramirez
365.  Randy Johnson (Checklist)

Admittedly, not the most exciting pack but I had completely forgotten about the 12 man trade.  That in and of itself makes this pack worthwhile to me!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Nachos Grande's Friday Game Review: ONIRIM

Welcome to another edition of Nachos Grande's Friday Game Review.  As I said before, I highly doubt I can keep the reviews coming every Friday for the year, but I do hope to do a bunch of these.  That said, starting the year three-for-three is something, right?

Today's game is a card game called Onirim that is published by Z-Man games.  The game is designed to be played either solo or with one other player.  This is the first game of its type that I own (that is, a card game designed to be played by yourself).  My edition of the game that I own also came packaged with seven (!) expansions (plus an appendix token).  In total, the stack of cards for the seven expansions is greater than the stack of cards for the base game.  In other words, the expansions actually add quite a bit to the game!

Unfortunately, I have not had the chance to play the various expansions enough to be able to provide any meaningful feedback on them.  Perhaps that review will be at a future date.  Instead, I'm simply going to talk about and review the base (standard) game of Onirim.

Immediately upon opening the box, the first thing I noticed was how intriguing the packaging was.  The instruction booklets (two, one for the base game and one for all the expansions) were eye catching, as was the actual packaging of the came cards (and the incubus token used with the appendix).

The game itself is a cooperative game (if playing with a partner) or a solo game where you play against the deck of cards.  In the game, you are a Dreamwalker, lost in a mysterious labyrinth.  Your goal is to find the eight doors (if you do you win) and you lose if you run out of cards in the deck.

There are two ways to obtain a door cards.  You can either play three location cards (of the same color) in a row or you can discard a key card when you draw a door card of the same color.

The basic idea of the game is that you play cards from your hand trying to get three in a row of a single color in order to get the respective door.  The catch is that each card has a symbol on it - and you can't play cards back-to-back that share the same symbol (sun, moon, or key).  Adding further difficulty, the suns are common, the moons less common, and the keys are quite rare.  In addition, the keys have three other abilities that are often more useful.  One is to get a door automatically when you draw it (assuming the colors match) and another is to "block" a nightmare when it is drawn by discarding a key. The final key ability is to discard the card in order to look at the top five cards of the deck, discard one, and put the rest back in any order.  Doing this is the only way to get rid of a nightmare before it is drawn.

Speaking of nightmares, they are super annoying!  In the base game, the nightmares are the only type of dream card.  And when you draw one you must do one of the following:
1.  Discard a key card from your hand
2.  Place one of your gained doors in the "limbo pile" (essentially you lose the hard earned door and shuffle it back into the deck)
3.  Reveal the top 5 cards of the deck and discard all of them (ignoring any dream or door cards)
4.  Discard your entire hand and draw 5 new cards

In a game where you lose when you run out of cards, you can see how the nightmares are bad news indeed!

The Bottom Line:
Pros:

  • Can be played solo or cooperatively
  • Interesting artwork, great box presentation
  • A fun game when you want to play but not be competitive with/against someone else
  • Way less complicated than most other co-op games I've played

Cons:

  • Seems much too luck based
  • Most decisions seem to be meaningless (or no-brainers in the case of drawing nightmare cards)


Overall score (out of 100):
72/100

While I like the fact that this is a game you can play by yourself (or with a friend), the base game still feels like luck has way too much to do with whether you succeed or fail.  I played this game with my brother over Christmas break and we ended up playing quite a few rounds of the game (losing more often than winning) but only once in all those playthroughs did we decide that our loss was the direct result of a bad decision we made.  The rest of the time, whether we won or lost seemed to depend more on luck than anything else.  We also got in the habit of "card counting" the various symbols (and the colors themselves are all different rarities as well)...and if card counting isn't your thing then you may find the game even more luck intensive than we did.

All that said, remember that I only reviewed the base game.  I imagine when I add in the other expansions that my score (and overall impression of the game) will improve.  However, since I haven't yet played all the expansions, I can't comment any further than that so far.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

1996 Upper Deck Collector's Choice: Pack #9: In Which I Strike Gold!

Today's pack is the last pack in the upper left stack of the box.  That means after the pack is ripped I will be exactly one quarter of the way through the box.  Even when I try to spread out my pack ripping by writing posts (and scanning lots of cards), it still amazes me how quickly I can go through a box.  At least by doing it one pack at a time I am able to more properly look at, analyze, and enjoy each base card.  With a set like Collector's Choice, if you don't enjoy the base cards there isn't much point in opening the product at all!

Pack 9:
214.  Butch Henry
226.  Chris Jones
307.  Joe Rosselli
311.  Bobby Ayala
322.  Benji Gil

I think the back photograph on the Gil card is even better than the one on the front (though I understand that it's harder to make out Gil in this photo which is probably why Upper Deck didn't use it for the main picture).
325.  Dave Nilsson
359.  Hideo Nomo
You Make the Play:  32.  Kirby Puckett (Groundout)
For our ongoing game, Puckett makes the final out of the first inning.  Still, it was a big inning (four runs) including a two-run homer and two-run double.  
Silver Signature:
319.  Dan Wilson

Gold Signature:
318.  Tino Martinez

If I'm not mistaken, I think the gold signatures are box "hits" so to speak.  At least it's easy to differentiate between silver and gold signatures (in other years, only the foil used for the signature was different..and if you lighting stinks in your card room, good luck telling the difference)!  Been there, tried to do that.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

1996 Upper Deck Collector's Choice: Pack #8: In Which I Learn Upper Deck Hated Lenny Dykstra

This morning I opened up the seventh pack out of my 1996 Upper Deck Collector's Choice box and pulled a pair of Hideo Nomo cards.  What will the eighth pack bring us?

Pack 8:
67.  Lee Tinsley

Upper Deck was known for images like this back in the 90s.
75.  Tim Salmon
79.  Jim Bullinger
128.  Eric Young
199.  Marty Cordova
268.  Greg Maddux
328.  Raul Mondesi
You Make the Play:  13.  Cecil Fielder (Home Run)

Finally, a useful card for the game!  This card is also pretty clutch for our ongoing game as we just had a walk to Bell last pack.  Fielder's dinger makes it 4 runs and it's still the top of the first (with two outs).


Silver Signatures:
56.  Ben McDonald
251.  Lenny Dykstra

What a terrible photo of Dykstra.  All I can figure is that someone at Upper Deck must have hated Lenny.

There you have it, eight packs done already!  One more and I'll have a full 25% of the box complete...too bad I don't have 25% of the base set complete yet.

1996 Upper Deck Collector's Choice: Pack #7: In Which I Determine Second Basemen Make for the Best Baseball Cards

I'm making solid progress on my 1996 Upper Deck Collector's Choice (Series 1) box.  It is my hope that I'll be able to trade for whatever cards that I'm still missing when all is said and done.  However, I may need to track down a second box (we shall see) since every pack of ten cards really only offers seven regular base cards...and the first series is quite large (365 cards total).

I think I also need to track down a box of Series 2...but I'll save that for a future day.  For now, let's enjoy what I currently own - and that's another pack out of the Series 1 box!

Pack 7:
86.  Jaime Navarro
129.  Jason Bates

Nice action shot!
211.  Cliff Floyd
269.  Randy Johnson
282.  Terry Bradshaw
329.  Manny Ramirez
355.  Paul Molitor
Make the Play rules card
You Make the Play:  4.  Jay Bell (Walk)
In our ongoing game, the opposing pitcher has given up two walks, a double, and a pair of stolen bases...but somehow only two runs (so far).  We now have Bell on first with two outs.
Silver Signatures:
92.  Ray Durham

Another nice action shot.  Photos of second basemen (and shortstops) make for some of the best cards (probably second only to catchers).
94.  Ozzie Guillen


I ended up with a couple of nice photographs but otherwise that was a fairly uninspiring pack.  That's alright though because I needed all of the base cards (and ultimately, that's my goal with this box)!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Barry Larkin Collection 499: 1999 Pacific Crown Royale - #38

Barry Larkin
Year:  1999
Brand:  Pacific Crown Royale
Card number:  38

This may look like a fancy insert card, but it turns out that all of the base cards in Pacific's 1999 Crown Royale offering were die-cut like this.  Despite the overuse of gold foil, I have to admit that I have a soft spot in my heart for this card.  It's gaudy in all the right ways...and it's part of what made Pacific such a fun and interesting brand to collect.  You really never quite knew for sure what you'd get!

There are two parallel versions of this card floating around out there (neither of which I currently own as of this writing).  The first is a Limited parallel (numbered out of 99) while the other is an Opening Day parallel (numbered out of 72).  I definitely ought to make it a priority to track down the two parallels from the set since I actually like this card a lot!

Monday, January 16, 2017

1996 Upper Deck Collector's Choice: Pack #6: In Which I Pull Back-to-Back Nomos

Today marks the first day of the spring semester.  While I will probably still get a few "first day butterflies" I'm actually really looking forward to the upcoming semester.  This time around, I teaching Calculus I, The Mathematics of Games and Gambling, and a brand new course Mathematics of the Ancient and Modern World.  The history of math class has a travel component to Italy and Greece which I am definitely excited about, but truth be told, I'm just about as excited for the course material itself (it'll be unlike any other course that I've ever taught).

For the first week, we (I'm co-teaching the class) are going to teach the students about the Babylonian number system and their cuneiform...and then we take the students to the art building and they will complete a mathematics assignment using a clay tablet (which will then get fired for them to serve as a bit of a course keepsake).  I anticipate that the students will quickly learn to appreciate our modern conveniences (like pencil and paper) but I also hope they will learn something about how math was done in the ancient world.

All of this has nothing to do with today's pack (or at least, I don't think it will since I haven't opened up the pack yet)...and since you are probably here for baseball cards, let me get to it now.

Pack 6:
29.  Chan Ho Park
96.  Roberto Hernandez
154.  Kurt Abbott
173.  Gary Gaetti

I am not sure I've ever seen that particular hat before.
270.  Hideo Nomo
332.  Hideo Nomo

This was a Nomo hot pack....back-to-back cards of the Dodgers' star.
Trade Card

If you sent this in to Upper Deck (along with $2.00) you would receive a set of 10 cards highlighting the ALCS and NLCS.  Pretty sure it's nothing but trade packing material today unfortunately.
You Make the Play:  1.  Kevin Appier (Pickoff, Lead Runner Out)
Oof.  We may have gotten a pair of stolen bases earlier in the inning (thanks to our ongoing game idea courtesy of Matt S.) but Canseco gets picked off leaning a little too hard to third base.  So much for the chances of a big inning, right?  We still have 2 runs but now there are 2 outs and the bases are empty.
Silver Signatures:
145.  Alan Trammell
276.  Barry Larkin
Yep, I pulled the same Larkin silver signature in back-to-back packs.  It was cool the first time...but I don't need two of this card (since I have no plans to complete the entire silver signature parallel set).

Well, no Babylonians in the pack (probably only Ginter might offer something like that) but I'm still mostly happy with the haul.  I'll have more from this box soon...that is, as long as I can keep up with all my work demands!