Strat-O-Matic is a game company based in Glen Head, New York, that develops and publishes sports simulation games. It produces tabletop baseball, football, basketball, and ice hockey simulations, as well as personal computer adaptations of each, but it is primarily known for its baseball game.
Strat-O-Matic began as a company in 1961, when a Bucknell University mathematics student named Hal Richman began selling an early version of his baseball tabletop game out of his basement, buying advertising space in Sports Illustrated to aid sales. Richman lost money until 1963, when his decision to release a game containing one card for each player in Major League Baseball resulted in greatly increased sales. Richman later released a football game in 1968 and an "advanced" baseball game in 1972.
Strat-O-Matic is neither the first nor the only game company of its type; competitors include and have included APBA, Replay Publishing, Big League Manager, Design Depot, Negamco, Pursue the Pennant and Statis Pro. Although less sophisticated and aimed at younger players, Cadaco-Ellis' All Star Baseball (introduced in 1941) has remained the largest competitor with Strat-O-Matic, since it has been distributed through toy stores for over 50 years.
In a Strat-O-Matic game, each athlete is represented by a player card, on which are printed various ratings and result tables for dice rolls. A player, who may play solitaire or against another player, is in charge of making strategic and personnel decisions for his/her team, while determining the results of his/her decisions by cross-referencing dice rolls with a system of printed charts and tables. (The basic scheme may be understood in connection with the above images: one die selects which column is used on either the batter or the pitcher card, while the other two dice specify the outcome within the column.) The results on the player cards are determined by a combination of the respective athlete's real-life statistics for the previous year and (mostly in the case of the baseball game) independent research of news articles and scouting reports. All Strat-O-Matic games offer a "basic", "advanced", and "super-advanced" version; the more advanced versions give more strategic options to players while taking into account additional nuances of an athlete's abilities (e.g. in baseball, differences in hitting vs. left-handed or right-handed pitchers). The computer adaptations essentially rely on the same algorithms as the tabletop games, but they have the additional advantages of faster play and statistics compilation.
Strat-O-Matic games are generally recognized as very influential; they have been played by a wide variety of sports fans, including professional athletes themselves (Doug Glanville is a well-known Strat-O-Matic gamer). Games of Strat-O-Matic were shown being played in the Spike Lee film Crooklyn. In the book Magic the Gathering: the Pocket Players Guide, it was mentioned that Strat-O-Matic was a strong influence in the game design work of Richard Garfield.
Computer sports game designers and producers such as Trip Hawkins and Richard Hilleman have been life-long Strat-o-Matic players, indirectly influencing the development of rival computer baseball simulation games.
Strat-O-Matic's statistical research and game development methods are implemented with the intent of replicating athletes' abilities as accurately as possible, giving the gamer the feel of making managerial decisions. Many Strat-O-Matic users have devoted uncounted solitary hours toward playing out an entire season for a team or league, then comparing players' and teams' statistics from the game play (laboriously kept with pencil, paper, and slide rule in the era before hand-held calculators and computers) with their real-life equivalents; the closer the match, the more realistic Strat-O-Matic was deemed compared with its competitors.
However, despite their loyal fan base, such games are seeing their popularity decline in the face of electronic games' increasing popularity and sophistication.
Lamanna's Baseball Bulletin is a magazine of statistics meant to help players with the game. It was created by John Lamanna in 1985.