Table Battles

Overview

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Quick battle games are a bit of an oxymoron. They can be quick in comparison to traditional battle games, such as the Commands and Colors or Hold the Line series, but they still require a solid 60 to 90 minute time frame. Could a truly quick game actually have depth? I had heard enough buzz about Table Battles from Hollandspiele that I needed to find out for sure. Table Battles comes with eight battles spread across three centuries of warfare. Armies are divided into formations, and the goal is to deplete your opponent’s morale by routing formations. Individual battles are quick, yet strategic, engagements that can be completed in 15 to 20 minutes.

In the Box

The small, yet spacious, box includes a deck of cards, several dice, a few wooden cubes, and elongated wooden blocks in four colors. There are eight scenario cards in the deck that give you the setup for the battle. The rest of the deck are double-sided formation cards, each of which can easily be identified by a number/letter combination. There are no maps. Instead, battles are constructed using the wooden blocks. Every formation has a strength number, so a four strength formation would have four blocks attached. I really liked the nostalgic feel of these as they resembled the formation blocks of traditional battlefield maps.

Once they are lined up, you get a real sense of the battle’s scale. Belligerents on either side are split into formations, with one side being different shades of blue and the other red or pink. I would have liked a couple extra blocks, but that’s just my OCD coming through. The box has plenty of room for future expansions, for which there is one already available.

Score: 8

Gameplay

 

This is a dice driven game. Each side gets six dice. You begin a turn with actions, but since you won’t have actions on your first turn, let’s look at how dice are used to set up your actions. All dice are rolled and you assign some to your formations. Formations have a number on them that let you know which dice they can take. A ~4~ on a card means that any or all fours rolled can be placed on that formation. Some cards have ( ) around the number and those can only be assigned one die per round. Other formations are assigned doubles or straights of three or four dice.

Generally, your formations will have color bands that are all the same (say all light blue), and your big decision will be where to assign your dice. You can only assign dice to one formation per color group per turn, so there’s much to consider from formation attack strength, odds of building up particular formations, or ability to counter opponent actions. Leftover dice are saved to be rolled in the next turn, and you will eventually get the assigned dice back once the formation they were attached to performs an action.

In the action round, you have the option to activate a formation, which invariably means you’ll attack. Each formation has an opposing formation assigned to it, which mimics battlefield positioning. When you attack, all the dice on the card are used to perform it. Some formations are more effective than others, with some hitting for each die on the card while others simply hit once. Some even inflict hits on themselves when they activate, so you’ll need to build up a powerful attack to ensure you do more damage than you cause to yourself.

Often, your opponent will have a formation that can react what you do. Screening your opponent negates an attack. A counterattack allows you to immediately strike back. Formations can even absorb the hits normally assigned to another formation. The important thing to note about all reactions is that they are usually mandatory, and they will always consume your action sequence on your upcoming turn. This turns the game into a series of probes and feints where you use attacks to disrupt your opponent’s turn or force screens to push through bigger attacks later.

When a formation has lost all its blocks, it is routed and removed from the field. You begin the scenario with a limited number of morale cubes, and one is lost for a routed formation. Lose all your morale cubes, and you have lost the engagement. Some formations allow you to retire them from battle to save those precious morale cubes.

Some scenarios also include reserve formations. These are thrust into battle by hitting certain dice combinations on other cards, or when a particular formation is routed. Reserves cannot use dice until they are activated, and it adds another facet to your decision making in battles where reserves can be brought on.

If that wasn’t enough, you will occasionally have special formations that grant useful abilities in battle. These formations use cubes instead of dice and can be activated by using a solitary cube. Special formations usually represent generals, like Wolfe at Quebec, or artillery batteries, such as Knox at Brooklyn Heights.

Seems like a lot for a 15 minute game? It is. The depth of the system is astonishing, and every turn will present you with problems to solve or areas to exploit. Still, this game flows remarkably well, and there’s no downtime when it’s not your turn.

Score: 10

Replay Ability

There are eight battles included, and each has a different feel to it. You may think there is little incentive to play a battle once it is done, but I would disagree. Some of the bigger battles can be approached in different ways, and the dice may change your strategy unexpectedly. The main box alone has enough to keep your interest for some time, and there’s bound to be more than one expansion to such a versatile system.

Score: 9

Balance

Some of the battles in the box were historically lopsided affairs. The Plains of Abraham was a decisive British victory that played out in about the same time as the game will. But every real life loser has a legitimate chance at victory here. Hollandspiele’s Tom Russell had an interesting blog post about victory conditions for overwhelming underdogs, and it plays out wonderfully here. The onus is on the British to humiliate the French at Quebec, while the French need to just break one British formation. You always have a chance regardless of which side you take in any battle.

Score: 10

Overall: 9

I had debated buying this for some time, and I am glad I finally dove in. Table Battles is the quick playing wargame I was looking for. There are no combat charts, movement allowances are the like, yet you don’t feel like you’ve been swindled into a cheap system. There’s real depth here, and there’s plenty of strategic decision making on tap. The probing and strength building makes for an intriguing two player game, but since you’ll often react to what the other player does, it also solos surprisingly well.  Throw in the versatility of having it for a series of battles on a game night or a quick game during lunch, and there’s a lot to love about this game. I highly recommend it.

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Another Set of Downs: Revisiting Solitaire Football

Have you ever watched a movie a second time and came away with a different feeling that you had the first time? Maybe that lost element of initial surprise soured the movie a bit for you, or perhaps you picked up on nuances you missed the first time that enhanced its appeal. While your first impressions of something may not swing to the extreme, there’s no denying they do change over time.

That said, I decided to go back I wanted to go back and look at some titles I had previously reviewed, and I couldn’t think of a better start than Mike Keeley’s Solitaire Football game.

You can find my original review here, and it will be helpful if you are unfamiliar with the game’s mechanics. To summarize, I left Solitaire football game feeling in awe of the smoothness of the system — everything fits together so succinctly that even after considerable time I had no trouble diving back into Keeley’s system. While I loved the system, I originally felt like I needed a tad more in terms of both control and immersion. Did my impression change? Well, there’s a reason I picked this game first for a second look.

I took the 1987 and matched up the Colts against their week one foe, the Bengals. The Colts were led by Eric Dickerson, who arrived in a blockbuster trade that turned the moribund Indianapolis version of the Colts into a division winner. My game plan was simple — run Dickerson early and often and spell him with the underrated Albert Bentley. It was here that the story of a game unfolded.

I picked the offensive plays for the Colts and Solitaire football handles the rest. The Bengals were a middling run stopping team, and the overpowering Colts’ combo sliced through them to an early lead. The ability of Solitaire’s FAC (Fast Action Card) keeps the game from having too much downtime. There’s not a lot of looking up details in this game. Running back and QB/WR ratings are pretty much memorized as you work your way through the contest. A Bentley touchdown run followed by Boomer Esiason’s answer with a scoring pass barely took 15 minutes, and this was early in the game when I was still shaking the rust off.

Immersion is something I have long associated with deeper games, but that is a gross generalization. Solitaire’s FAC system handles everything from play results to penalty situations.  90% of your plays will be handled between them and your team charts. Because the game moves at a steady pace, you get immersed in how your drive in going. Even on defense, where your ability to slow down the team is completely controlled by FACs, you become invested, just hoping for that one stop to kill a drive.

There’s also subtle things about the game that pop up the more you play. As the Colts’ bled the Bengals with a thousand paper cuts, pressure mounted on Esiason to produce a comeback. Down in the fourth quarter, Esiason moved to a quickened offense that enabled the Colts to automatically use the better of their two pass defense ratings. It’s a minor thing, but it shows how one team adjusts to a prevent situation as the other becomes desperate for points.

Now, this still isn’t the game you are looking for if you want to move linebackers to blitz or call specific inside or outside running plays on third and short. But those games can play in twice the time of Solitaire football. Those items may be abstracted into the system, but there’s more here than you think. Where is your opponent weak? What call should I make on third and one? How do I best use my players so that best goal-line runner is available to pound the ball into the end zone?

I ended my game with a 34-13 Colts romp in just under 90 minutes, and those 90 minutes provided me with a visual of a ground game that abused the defense and a quarterback under constant pressure to come up with answers. Esiason may not have had any, but this revisit gave me some.

NEW RATING: 8 (Up 1) 

 

Falling Sky Review

Overview

Falling Sky is one of GMT’s COIN games, a rapidly expanding genre that covers counter-insurgencies throughout various periods of history. Falling Sky centers on the Gallic Revolt against Caeser. Gaul’s factions are set to fight against Roman rule, and the backdrop fits COIN’s system perfectly.

Components 

I have yet to see a COIN game with anything less than optimal components, and Falling Sky is no exception. The mounted map is stunning, with its detailed areas and vibrant colors. The place names are easy to read, though the home territory symbols can get lost once the board is full. The map is small compared to other COIN games, but it has ample space for sizeable armies. Faction pieces are wood with clearly distinguishable shapes and colors. Even the cardboard counters are well done. The game is a sight to behold once it is set up.

Score: 10

 

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Each faction’s unique abilities and victory conditions highlight the game’s replayability, not just in playing the same faction but in trying each one. 

 

 

Gameplay

The four factions come to the table with different agendas. The Romans are looking to subdue the land to reinforce their rule over the area. The rebellious Belgic, led by the skillful Ambiorix, are looking to overthrow their oppressors. Meanwhile, the opportunistic Averni yearn to build a mighty confederation to push the Romans back. Even the Roman sympathetic Aedui want to cut out their own claim to the land. Each has their own winning condition, and you’ll keep as keen an eye on your opponent’s progress as you will your own.

This is a card-driven game, and a card flip will determine player order throughout the game. Along the top of each card is a symbol representing every faction in varying order from left to right. Every faction is eligible to start the game, and the first on the card has several options at its deposal. Every card has an event, and the first player may choose to do that. They may also choose to do a command action as often as they able to afford it using resources or meet the requirements of the action. Commands allow factions to recruit troops, bring allies to the cause, move armies, or battles. There are some subtle differences, but the factions are generally the same here. Additionally, a faction may choose to do a command along with a special ability. This is where each faction’s personality comes into play. For example, the Belgic’s closeness to Germanic tribes allows them to manipulate Germanic forces while the Averni can convert other warbands to their side.

Once the first player is done, the second player on the card can choose an action, but what they can do is completely dependent on what the first player did. If the first player took the event, the second player is free to do a command and a special ability. However, if the first player chooses just the command, then the second player can only do a command in one area. The first player dictates the flow for that particular card player.

Further deepening your decision making is the fact that the next card is always visible to you. A particular event coming up may give you cause to pass on the current turn. Passing is always an option, which allows you to skip the current card and be active for the next. Passing up a potential move now could be advantageous if a better move will be available later.

Speaking of decision making, you’ll find that events are an ever source of consternation. Many events have two events available. One may be a positive for you, which means the other will invariably be against you. Deciding when to block an event is often just as important as deciding when to play one.

Only two factions will play on a given card, meaning the other two will be active for the next card play. Playing off one card automatically makes you ineligible for the next (though some events can make you immediately active again), so it is wise to keep an eye on not just what is coming up, but your order on the upcoming card as well.

Mixed in with the deck are winter cards, where the game’s victory conditions will be checked. Should a faction meet them then they win and the game concludes. Otherwise, the Germanic tribes run through their bot phase to cause havoc.

There is a lot to consider on each and every turn. Even if you are out on a current card, you know what is coming up for your next play. The game has a masterful flow to it, and you never feel like there is any downtime.
Score: 9

 

Replay Ability

Before each day you’ll create your deck of cards. Even with the full deck, the random order will determine a new game each time. Events or faction order that affected one game may show up later or not at all in another game. Your basic premise for your faction may be the same, but card play will ensure your path to victory will fluctuate.

Score: 9

Balance

A friend of mine referred to the playing board, with factions in place, as “tight”, and this is meant as a complete comment. There is no slow build up or skirmishes in this game. You begin right in the thick of things with immediate decisions — and enemies — to face. The game has a push and pull to it that sees factions drift toward and away from victory from card to card. The variance in the card play, and the fact that you cannot simply hide from anyone or runaway with the lead will keep the game very balanced.

Score: 10

 

Overall: 9.5

I certainly need to catch up on reviewing COIN games, because this genre really appeals to me. While I have only played a few so far, this is my favorite one to date. The theme is well presented with card text and faction goals. The conflict begins immediately, and you feel like even your opening decisions matter — setting the tone for how things will play out. This is a tremendous game that feels well balanced, entertaining, and challenging all at once.

Sports Action Canadian Pro Football Review

Sports Action Canadian Pro Football Review

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Overview
As a war gamer player, I often like reading about the time period of a game I am playing, but this is the first time I have had to read up about a game before even playing it. Sports Action Canadian Pro Football (SACPF from here so my word count doesn’t approach 3000) has long been on my list of games to play, but my experiences with football north of the border were limited. I started watching CFL games a little this summer as gridiron withdrawal set in. I knew about the 12 players and larger field, but nothing about a rouge and motion of players. I found the game very exciting and actually have a game on in the background as I write this review. Anyway, watching the live game revived my hunt for its board game counterpart. Finally, a copy, with 1980 season teams, has arrived.

Components
I know I have repeatedly said that components of football games are pale in comparison to other board games, but the 70s to 80s era is notoriously horrible. SACPF had some surprising differences. The player cards are large with easy to read numbers, unlike Statis Pro’s tiny font. The tokens are cheap, but the play selector board is spacious and sturdy, and you could easily replace the lackluster tokens with coins or plastic discs. The board is a bit reminiscent of Strat-o-Matic basketball, with spots on either side of the board for skill players. The coloring is hideous, and the first down and football markers are of the same porous quality of the tokens. The lone chart is manageable, though it would have been nice if solo charts were on the same page. Overall, considering the era, the production is better than average.
Score: 7

The Players
Skill players have their own card with a two-dice two to 12 results table for passing, rushing and receiving. Quarterback cards simply tell you in a pass is complete (C) or incomplete (blank), with the possibility of an interception (X) or rush (R) happening. Runners have a generic run table but modifiers can be added or subtracted for inside and outside rushes depending on the player’s skill. Receiver tables have results for short, medium, and long passes. All skill players have their season stats on the card, which is nice to identify who your top players are. Team cards have individual ratings for offensive lineman and all defensive players.  Team defensive cards not only have team record and general scoring stats, but they also have a rating to show you how the team defended the run and the different depths of passes. Specialists are on their own card as well. I really liked the oversized player cards, roughly five by three inches.
Score: 9

Game Play
The game comes with two modes of play: basic and advanced. In the basic mode, offense and defense call a play. The offense can call your standard fare of run and pass, with pass distance included. The defense sets their call based on a one to five number scale. The number you select represents how deep your linebackers are in formation. A call closer to one means they have crept up to slow the run, while closer to five means they have dropped back to help with the pass. Both sides roll two dice. The defense takes the added result and looks at their defensive team card under the play the offense had called. For example (see cards below), if Winnipeg picked a medium pass to Mike Holmes, and Hamilton’s defense rolled a combined five, we would look at the five result under the M column for the pass. The result is a “+1” and that gets added to the initial defensive call. If Hamilton had called a three, it now becomes a four to reflect Hamilton’s ability to defend the pass. Now, we look at the offense’s dice result for Dieter Brock under the four column in passing. A nine result has a “C” which means the pass was complete. Reroll the dice and refer to the receiver’s column for the pass thrown to find the yardage. If Winnipeg had called a run, the procedure would be the same, with the defense adjusting and then finding the run result on the player’s card based on the adjusted defensive call. For a basic game, it’s pretty good, but the only individual players that matter are the quarterback and runners. You’ll want to move on to the advanced game as soon as you are comfortable.

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The advanced game is where individual players begin to matter on both sides. The defense is initially played the same way, with them picking an aggression number from one to five, but now they can key on the run or double team receivers. Defenses also pick a formation to run, and whether that formation will be a zone or man to man defense.   On offense, your options really open up. To pass, you now pick who to throw to and where on the field you’ll be throwing it to. The offensive play selector is divided into zones, so you can attack medium passes to the right sideline, or focus on short screens to the middle. When you run, you now get to pick which hole along the line you want to attack, with plunges in the middle to off tackles and sweeps on the outside. There are so many possibilities for both sides to call, yet it really flows as well as the basic game.

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Once plays are called, both sides roll their dice again. The defense now refers to the formation card to see whether you’ll be checking a defender or offensive player’s card to see how the defensive number call is adjusted. Sometimes you’ll refer to the team card for the defender’s rating against the play call. Other times, you’ll refer to the skill player’s card for rating adjustments. Mike Holmes, for example, has a “-4” on medium passes, showing you that’s his strong point. William Miller will be better at running inside rather than outside. Quarterbacks can influence the rating with their passing rating. The other running back or an offensive lineman might be checked for their blocking prowess. The advanced game really forces you to look at your team and play to its strengths while trying to attack the defense’s weaknesses. It’s an amazingly simple, yet deep, system.

Turnovers, sacks, and penalties happen from either the team or player cards as well. Interceptions can occur if both the quarterback and defensive dice result end up with the “X” rating, while the same goes for the pass rush with the “R” result. Any “P” result is a penalty. If it showed up on the defense’s card, it’s a defensive penalty and vice versa.

The game is full of options, but it never feels like a chore to resolve a play. Nearly everything is on the player and team cards. You only have one chart to refer to for rarer plays like penalties, turnover returns, injuries, or weather effects.
Score: 10

Stats

In my limited experience with CFL play, I know enough to know that passing is king, and the game reflects that. Running can give you some nice chunks of yardage here and there, but passing is where you’ll consistently move the ball. That is reflected here very well.
Score: 9

Solo Play
Charts are included that will generate a defensive call based on down and distance for both the basic and advanced game, along with a formation caller for the advanced game. The system works pretty well, but there is no way to call offense solitaire. Wouldn’t be hard to create one, but I haven’t found one online. The game would be a great solo experience though.
Score: 9

Head-to-Head
I am not sure the basic game would hold your interest long enough to be a good two player game, but the advanced game definitely would be. Formations add a lot to the defense’s ability to adjust to the offense’s play, while the offense has a myriad of ways to attack. Would be a fun head-to-head game.
Score: 9

Replay Ability
Normally here, I talk about the ability to replay a season. Instead, I will just talk about the game’s replay ability, and it is high. The game is just fun to play. I collect football games because I love to explore the system and how it reflects the game. The system provides strategic options without becoming tedious. That equals high replay ability for me.
Score: 10

Availability
And now we’ve come to the game’s problem — finding it. I have looked for this game for a few years and finally tracked down a copy at a relatively steep price. However, don’t completely despair. I have read that print and play files are on the tabletop games website, but the downloads section is currently down. Files on BGG have modern seasons of the game available. Should you get lucky enough to find a copy, or tabletop’s issues get resolved, there would be plenty of retro and modern seasons to play. Still, that is a lot of ifs.
Score: 4

Final Grade (not an average)
10. I think I have found a sweet spot game. I love simple games like Second Season and Paydirt for different reasons than I like 4th Street or Pro Football Fantasm. This game is the marriage of the two extremes. It flows easily, and I felt like I had a good rhythm going before the end of the first quarter of my test game. Yet, I felt like I had considerable control of what my team was doing on the field. The game has so many interesting features, it makes me wonder why more NFL simulations never tried them. This really is an innovative game for its time, and I think it has aged extremely well. If you can find it, play it, and if you can’t, find me at Origins some year and I will introduce you to this fantastic little game.

 

Tabletop Statis Pro Football Review

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Overview
Since Avalon Hill’s original Statis Pro Football faded from existence, there have been numerous attempts to keep the franchise alive from complete overhauls like PT Games’ short lived Football Bones to basic updated cards that can be found on eBay. ABC Game Company falls in between. The original Statis Pro game is easily recognizable, but ABC adds some subtle changes to enhance game play.

Components
This is a print and play game, and all the files you’ll need can be found at the company’s webpage (abcgame.com). The files are vibrant, and there’s a nice touch of double-sided cards that add stats and player details. Team cards contain plenty of game information on them. Print them in color on card stock, and you’ll have a nice looking game to play (assuming your cutting abilities are better than mine).
Score: 8

The Players
Passing, fatigue, blocking, rushing, and receiving values are all here just as they were on Avalon Hill’s version. You can’t help but note the changes, however. Running backs now have different values for inside and outside runs. Defensive lineman have pass deflection ratings. Quarterbacks have a clutch rating they can use in the red zone or on 3rd down, while receivers could have yard after catch values to gain extra ground. Exception blockers or tacklers can show up to make a pivotal play. Teams now even have kickoff specialists! The system always made it easy to identify your top players, but ABC has added stats that really help how your players can do in various situations.
Score: 9

Game Play
Those familiar with Statis Pro will find the general game play mechanic familiar. Offense and defense pick formations and plays and resolve the action using a Fast Action Deck (FAC) of cards. From there, it’s up to your players on what happens. ABC has added more options for the offense. You can choose to run inside, outside, or power, each able to be run to the right or left. Draws and options can be called as well. Swing passes have been added to the aerial arsenal of screen, quick, short, and long options. That alone gives you plenty of versatility, but there’s even more tweaks you can do. You can have two blockers double team that one great defender to neutralize him, or you can keep a back in to pass protect.  The defense isn’t left out either as they can double or triple team receivers, or play a cover two or three to prevent big gains. Defenses also have the option of stacking the line to put the quarterback under pressure (at the expense of possibly leaving someone open), or drop several in coverage and give the quarterback a passing bonus since they can sit in the pocket longer. ABC’s additions really add to the feel of the game while not making things overly complicated. The only drawback that hangs over from the original Statis Pro is the random nature of screen passes and breakaways, both of which are determined by a card draw rather than player ability. And, yes, there are charts you’ll need to refer to, and they aren’t all in one place, but it doesn’t slow the game down considerably.
Score: 9

Stats
In my example replay of playing a 2013 matchup of Broncos vs. Cowboys, the stats I got were reflective of the team’s strengths versus the opposing defense. Without much of a pass rush, the Cowboys struggled to slow down the Manning led passing attack, while Murray was able to find some running room behind the strong Dallas offensive line. FAC cards tend to limit your outlier stats since the numbers will normalized. I enjoying rolling dice to determine run and pass numbers. This isn’t a limitation of the game, more of a personal preference, so you’ll find the FAC system produces realistic results.
Score: 9

Solo Play
Like the original, ABC has included a solitaire defense to each FAC card which allows you to play the offense of both teams. If you want to control one team, there are solitaire charts out there. I would advise that as moving players around on defense to try to slow down the offense is a lot of fun. ABC’s additions have added a lot to solo play since you can really tinker with how your team calls and carries out each play.
Score: 9

Head-to-Head
Those same additions add a lot to head-to-head play too. Facing a long 3rd down conversion against Houston? You may want to double team J.J. Watt. Or maybe Tom Brady needs to sneak behind the left side of his line to get that key first down. With some many options at hand, you can really turn a game against a live opponent into a chess match. It’s still not as deep at as a game like 4th street, but ABC has eliminated some of the blandness of its predecessor.
Score: 9

Replay Ability
As of right now, ABC has seasons from 2013 and up. Since they are available in pdf format, you can have every season they have for just $20. It would be great to see them go back and do some vintage seasons, but the data may not be there for some of the game’s enhancements. One cool feature is that as long as the data is on the original Avalon Hill cards, you can apply some of ABC’s rules to those old sets.
Score: 8

Availability
The switch to pdf format has made the game very affordable, with the current season and game parts running you under $30. This game doesn’t seem to have a big following online, but with four seasons under their built, I feel confident ABC will be around to build on their current library.
Score: 8

Final Grade (not an average)
10. I have long rated Statis Pro Football a 10. Admittedly, some of that is based on nostalgia. I generally ignore some of its setbacks because the system appealed to me so much. Seeing your formation and attacking the defenses weaknesses were what drew me to the game. Still, Statis Pro can be a 10 no more because ABC’s version is the better game. It is. The new features add to the strategy of the game without feeling too fiddly. You may have a few more charts to look up, but it’s not APBA level. If you have any interest in Statis Pro Football at all, it’s worth it to pick up this game.

1st and Goal Review

Overview

I have long wondered how a purely dice driven football game would be. I like the variance that dice provide to a play. I like that strong teams are likely to win, but I never want the outcome to be a foregone conclusion. Dice allow statistical anomalies to happen. You can get that occasional 200 yard rushing performance or a sloppy, turnover-infest, defensive slug fest. I like stats, but I like my stats to have variety sometimes. So, 1st and Goal was a game that’s been on my radar for some time. How good could a game play that was all about chucking dice? This is the 12th football game I’ve reviewed, but it was definitely one of my more anticipated plays.

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Components

I will have to say 1st and Goal has one of the better field boards out there. I’ve long used Statis Pro’s as my field for all other games, but this may replace it. The magnetic board with the 1st down marker and ball are a great touch. The key component, though, is the dice. They are big and bright. The base game has wonderfully sculpted dice that look and feel great. The game does have six expansions you can buy to add new teams to the game. I hate the fact that the expansion dice are stickered, but I understand the finances behind that. At least the numbers on them are easy to ready. The expansion dice are also considerable bigger. Each die is a different color with numbers on them that will represent yardage gained or lost on the play. Green and blue dice will generate the most yardage while white and red are minimal, if any, gains. There’s also a black defensive die that will usually result in lost yardage, unless it’s an expansion team with a porous defensive. There are also three other dice: play, referee, and penalty. These will be used from time to time.  The game also contains 60 offensive and defensive play cards. The cards are flimsy, and you’ll need to sleeve them considering how often you’ll use them.

Score: 8

The Players

There are no players. The base game just comes with one set of dice, so the teams you’ll use have no personality at all. The expansions add flavor to the game by giving team strengths of passing or rushing, while giving them a overall defensive ability. Alone, the base set is a bit bland, but the expansions at least allow you to picture a team in your head.

Score: 6

Game Play

Everything is run through the dice and the play cards. Both the offensive  and defensive player draw eight cards from their respective decks. They each select a play from their hand and reveal it. How well the defensive call aligns to the offensive call determines which dice are rolled. If the defense is in a bad formation, say goal line, against a pass play, the offense will be rolling more dice, and those dice will have big yardage on them. The better the defensive alignment, the worse the production will be for the offense’s dice. Two other dice are always rolled no matter what. The defense will always roll their black die, which will have little effect against the better dice but may hurt when the offense dice are limited. There’s also a play dice which could result in an automatic broken up play, a penalty, or a turnover.

There’s a number of problems with this system from a football strategy standpoint. First, you are limited to the eight cards in your hand when calling a play. While this isn’t as big an issue with the generic base set, when playing the expansion teams you may have a handful of rushing plays when you are a pass heavy team. The same goes for the defense which may be stuck with pass calls when the offense is going to pound the ball on the goal line. It’s an impractical way to play football. Secondly, when the defense makes a complete stop is totally arbitrary. You could have called the worst or best call against a play, and both will have the same one in six chance of breaking up the play (an X on the play die results in an automatic broken up play). Sure, the yardage will be different should the play happen, but the chance of breaking it up should be different as well.

Turnovers will happen at a rate of one in 36, which isn’t too bad. Penalties are slightly higher at one in 18. Considering the actual NFL average in about one in 11, that’s reasonable as well.

Score: 7

Stats

This would not be a game you’d want to keep stats on since passing plays will be “incomplete” just one in six times. This is a game more about yardage gained than pass completions. Rushing may be a little bit closer to the norm. If anything, dice chucking shows its statistical limitations.

Score: 3

Solo Play

There is no set solo play of this, but I played the offense and just flipped through the defensive deck for a decent play experience. It wouldn’t be hard to create a solo chart for this, and it could certainly be a solo friendly game of throwing dice around. There’s potential here.

Score: 6

Head-to-Head: 

Of all the games I have played, this would be a nice intro game for someone curious about football games that provide some realism. You won’t mistake this for Second Season or 4th Street by any stretch, but there’s enough football here that it could be a nice gateway game.

Score: 8

Replay Ability:

The base game will get old quick since teams have no personality, unless you simply want to match play calling wits against someone. Buying some expansions and running a league would be fun, especially since the game plays fairly quickly.

Score: 6

Availability:

Sadly, the base set seems to no longer be available from the publisher’s website or Amazon. I have seen the base game in some game stores, and it can be found on eBay inexpensively. The expansion sets are still available, though it’s doubtful they’ll be around long without the base game. Patience will reward you. I found the base set and three expansions for under $25.

Score: 8

Final Score (not an average):

7 – There is no doubt the game has some flaws. It’s not a completely realistic implementation of football. The play calling system can be ludicrous, forcing you into calls that don’t make sense. The game can get a little pass whacky. The defensive instant stop comes up the same regardless of play call. But….the game is fun, a lot of fun. It’s simple. It’s fun to throw a bunch of dice around. There’s enough football here that you can use this game to steer people away from generic games like NFL Rush Zone, which have little resemblance to football at all. Somewhere here is the potential for a great game with some tweaks. As is, if you suspend reality a little as you play, and realize this is more about play calling than accuracy, you could enjoy this.