A baseball game with the same kind of addictiveness as a turn-based strategy game? That's Baseball Mogul. Lots of baseball fans have brooded over their teams on their computers for hours, analyzing statistics and making decisions in the hopes they'll pan out. Baseball is, after all, a thinking-man's sport, where luck plays a negligible factor and the law of averages rules the long 162-game season. If this game doesn't take up at least an hour of your time the first time you play it, buy a Playstation.
Many games from much larger companies could take a few lessons from Baseball Mogul. For one, Baseball Mogul operates in Windows, using the Windows library of controls instead of fashioning an interface full of glitz and short on functionality. For a game like this, that's all you need. The first time you fire it up, you are presented with a small window listing all of the cities of Major League Baseball with empty text boxes alongside them. Without the MLB teams' licenses, Baseball Mogul thoughtfully lets you enter in all of the team names with little trouble (especially if you already know them all off the top of your head), right from the start.
After that you can peruse the online documentation, though a quick run through the menus should be enough to make you understand how to play. Granted, this is a baseball game, so you're probably already aware of the basics, but still, in other computer baseball games it can be difficult to perform the simplest of tasks.
Not so with Baseball Mogul. For starters, just about anywhere you see a player's name you can bring up his stats page. And talk about stats! They're all there and more. If you're spending a sufficient amount of your expenses on scouting, you'll even get an evaluation comment and grades for the player's abilities, such as speed, arm strength, and fielding. The underlying database is so versatile that you can choose from a long list of fields on many of the statistical screens. Unfortunately, although the players are from the real MLBPA rosters, the pictures are generic, and even the skin tones can be pretty far off. But hey, this isn't Triple Play '98. This game has depth even if it doesn't have a 3-D engine.
Once you pick the team you want to manage, you're ready to start the 1997 season. Take a look at your funds, check you ticket and concessions prices, and see how you rank against other teams in expenses like medical, scouting, and farm system. Spend too little on medical, for example, and it will probably take a lot longer for an injured player to get back in the lineup. Spend too little on scouting, and the ratings and advice you get about players could be wrong.
Understand there are no arcade graphics in the game. You can get the play-by-play, which is nothing more than a showing of the result of each batter's at-bat. Or you can run through an entire day, week, month, half-season, or full season of games and watch the standings to see how your team is doing. A day can be simulated in about a second or two. That's what makes it seem turn-based. You can run through a day or a week of games at a time, making the necessary changes in between. Best of all, though, is the accuracy of the simulator; you won't see the Phillies leading their division.
Of course, Baseball Mogul does have its shortcomings. The worst is that you can do all you want with players, but team managers are nonexistent. Although you do have control over the lineup, pitching rotation, and defense between games, and you can order the players on the bench and in the bullpen so that they are used the way you would like them to be used, this game would really shine if you had the ability to hire and fire different managers, with their own styles and strategies.
There's not too much else to fault this game on. Sure, it lacks the eye and ear candy that many sports game publishers feel is a vital part of a successful game. But a game like this doesn't need it. If you really love baseball or want to learn what baseball is all about, Baseball Mogul is the one.