07 October 2013

What eBay Hath Wrought 19: Sega Card-Gen

I got a bunch of cards from the 2013 SEGA Card-Gen set over the past couple of weeks. My focus was mostly on the Toronto Blue Jays, but I got a few cards from other teams as well.

What is SEGA Card-Gen? It's a baseball arcade game in Japan that has an accompanying set of baseball cards. You get one card from the game machine each time you play. The cards were originally licensed through Upper Deck, but when they lost their MLB rights Topps took over, so the cards retain all the MLB players, team names, and logos.

The cool thing about the cards is that they are an integral part of the game. The game machine has a bunch of slots on the top of it corresponding to different player positions, When you place your cards in the slots, the machine reads them and adds that player to your team. The stars on the front of the player cards act as a salary cap. When you start out playing, you can only have so many stars worth of players, and as you level up you can use more stars to fill out your 20-player team. I believe one test machine was brought to America, but the game was never actually released here.

So you have to go to eBay or some other online connection and get your cards through those channels. I guess you could go to Japan with a buttload of money and build a set there. From what I hear it costs about $2.00 to play and there are 390 cards in the base set. Some machines have special redemption cards and rare foils, and there are also tournaments with prize cards that seem to be mixed between Japanese MLB players and other stars/semistars. 

I got most of this information from this thread on the Blowout Cards forum. I dearly wish that we had this game here. It mixes some of my favorite things. If the local card shop or the arcade had one of these machines, my family might never see me again.

Here are a couple of Youtube videos of the game in action, and then I will get to the cards:

This first one appears to be a commercially-produced promo for the game. It doesn't start until about 20 seconds in.

This one I believe was filmed by the guy who started the previously-mentioned forum thread. I think it shows the game in a little more detail. You don't really have to watch all twelve minutes to get the gist of the game, but he does show the functionality of the cards when removed and placed in the card slots. That part is shown at around 30 seconds in.

The front of the cards is all in English, showing the player name, position, team name and logo, and the star rating of the player. I am pretty impressed with the quality of the cardstock and the foiling used on the cards. It's all done very well. Some of the players appear in their old teams' uniforms, so the Blue Jays, for example, have guys in Mets and Marlins uniforms.

The backs of the cards are mostly in Japanese, but there is some stuff you can figure out. The stuff in the upper right might be draft or acquisition information. I am not really sure. Below the player portrait is height/weight, birth date, and hometown. Then we get to the part I really like - the power ratings. Each player gets five bars for various abilities used in the game. It reminds me of the power ratings on the back of Marvel superhero cards of the early 1990s.

The thread linked to above offered translations for the different ratings.

Pitchers get: Speed, Velocity, Movement, Control, and Stamina.

Batters get: Power, Contact, Speed, Throw, and Fielding.

The numbers are color-coded. The lowest number I saw was Adam Dunn with a 7 for speed, so I know that 7-15 are white, 16-18 are yellow, and 19-20 are red. The numbers are totaled up into an overall rating at the bottom, with a short description of the player on a line next to the total. There is also a little tag off to the right reminding you of the player's star rating.

The bottom of the card has a stat line for 2012 and a career stat line, too. The very bottom-right corner features the card number. I am assuming the J13 prefix stands for the year the set was produced, and then the card is numbered in sequence out of 390. It appears that teams are listed together, so the Blue Jays take up the 170-180 range, the Reds are in the 230-240s, and the White Sox are in the 40-50s.

Here are the three Reds I picked up. The ratings appear to change from year to year, as I saw scans of 2012 cards in which players had significant jumps in star ratings from 2012 to 2013. It is rumored that the special foil cards keep similar ratings to their regular cards, but seem to get a boost in-game, with pitchers pitching better late into games and batters seeming to get at least one hit per game.

Here are some lower-rated Blue Jays. These are probably the sort of guys you would use at the lower salary-cap levels. You can see that Janssen fills the closer role with two stars as compared to Broxton up above with six stars, and his rating is 14 points lower overall. I wonder if there are ways to game the system, like if there are players who tend to perform significantly better than their star rating or if there are combinations of players that work better together than they should? I guess it doesn't really matter, because I won't be playing the game any time soon.

Ike Davis and Daniel Murphy seem to pop up a lot in my collection. At first glance, Adam Dunn appears to be pretty underscored given his seven-star rating, but as a DH I would bet that his fielding, throw, and speed aren't really taken into account. You want your DH to mash the ball, and his ratings for power and contact are decent.

We round out the list with a couple of random pick-ups and some former Miami pitchers who made their way to Toronto. Axford's ratings compared to his star value seem to indicate that he would be a relative bargain in the video game. It must be that mustache/mullet power combo.

I really like these cards. They're pretty nice-looking in person, and I would suggest tracking down at least a couple of them as something different for your player collections. There are currently a boatload of the 2012 series on eBay, and different cards from the 2013 series are up, too. Availability seems to run in waves and bidding can get a little silly for some of the star players. Watch out for shipping costs, too, as they can add up in a hurry.

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