David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Strat-O-Matic College Game

March 11, 2013:  Strat-O-Matic College Game

As I have enjoyed this great year of Indiana University basketball, I think of my Strat-O-Matic buddies, who while I was at IU, may have contributed to my delay in finishing my doctorate.

Perhaps the greatest sports board game of all time, Strat-O-Matic baseball creates a realistic cards-and-dice rendition of baseball.  Each MLB player has his own card that when all potential rolls of three dice are calculated will reflect pretty darn closely that player’s stats from the previous season.   In other words, play a 162-game season and Miguel Cabrera will end with numbers similar to his 44 homers, 139 rbis, and .330 average that he had for the Tigers in 2012.  Of course, this is the beauty of the game.  Via probability, Cabrera should achieve that, but have him face more chump pitchers and the numbers could explode.  Put him up in front of great pitchers all the time, and his numbers will go down.

I set all of this up to propose the first, for all that I know, college board game: Strat-O-Matic College.  (Then again, that sounds like a role-playing game where you are a board member at a college.  Talk about ‘Snakes and Ladders.’)

Our game comes with any number of actual universities and colleges, each one with 150 – 300 course cards.  Students/Players go semester to semester picking what they think are the right classes for working towards their degree.

As students/players “play” their semester cards, dice rolls lead them to any number of outcomes:  failing the class, passing the class with a certain grade, withdrawing; in addition, the dice rolls may prevent them from even getting started in any of the classes—financial aid mix-ups; student conduct issues; prerequisite snags.

For first and second semester classes, students/players also have to navigate through large sections of each course, not knowing the instructor or how the instructor’s personality may influence dice rolls.  As they are fortunate enough to get to 7th and 8th semesters (but not necessarily the 4th year) they may be able to always pick favorite instructors, but may find classes cancelled due to low enrollment.  If the student/player has to drop out, he or she will reenter the college under a new catalog, probably taking new and/or different classes thanks to a new dean's or faculty member's "vision."

Strat-O-Matic Baseball has a rare play scenario, usually leading to the roll of a 20-sided die, where a player can even get injured.  Strat-O-Matic College will have its own rare plays, usually in the form of distractions to the average student/player, whether it be a couch burning arrest following a big football win, a potential pregnancy, or alcohol poisoning.

The winner will not simply be the player who graduates first (that would come in the Strat-O-Matic For-Profit College edition), but the one who has the best score based upon a complicated formula that accounts for the speed to graduation, the student debt accumulated (or not accumulated as it may be), the potential earning income, and career readiness.

Some game strategies:

  • Don’t be tantalized by the law school track, which appears to be a safe path.  Employability will cause some major points reduction at the
  • Watch for the hidden credits. You think that the nursing degree will only take you a couple of years, but read the small print.
  • Know that Financial Aid rules will change every year.  You will need to buy the Strat-O-Matic  College Financial Aid packet every year to keep the game up to date.
  • Take your placement test seriously, otherwise you start the game in a hole, trying to pick up remedial math, while your opponents are going straight into college algebra (and probably failing, but that’s part of the fun!)
  • Pay attention to college reputation.  The U.S. News and World Report rankings will give you a quick boost if you attend one of their named colleges; more importantly, even though this isn't the "for-profit" edition, there will be many schools that sure look like a for-profit.  A cataclysmic combination of three straight 6/6/6 rolls on the dice and your college could be in a heap of accreditation trouble.

I have no idea if there is a market for Strat-O-Matic College.  I’d take it to a marketing class and ask for feedback but I never took the Intro to Business prerequisite class.  Damn!