Statis Pro Football Review
Statis Pro Football was Avalon’s answer to the other two big football games of the era, Strat-o-Matic and APBA. Avalon Hill put out the game from 1980-1991 though I own a version of cards from 1973, and I’ve seen a version from 1974. (There older versions are loosely related to the Avalon Hill version).
A game came with a set of team cards for every NFL team in a particular season. Nearly every player with significant playing time in a season has their own card. Earlier seasons had more cards than the later seasons, but each season had more than enough cards to complete a replay. The card stock was also better with earlier versions. The field is one of my favorites I’ve seen in a football game, and I’ve used it as my field in other games. It has a relatively small foot print and is mounted. The offensive and defensive formation charts aren’t mounted, but do the trick. The game also includes a set of Fast Action Cards used to determine play results. As such, the game contains no dice.
Players are rated based on the statistics for the season. Linemen have separate pass and run blocking values. Rusher and receivers have a series of statistics for normal, short, and long gains. Quarterbacks have values for quick, medium, and long passes. Quarterbacks also can be rated for their ability to withstand a pass rush as well as scramble. Defensive lineman have ratings for tackling (against the run) and pass rush (to pressure the QB). Linebackers have the same and add in a pass defense value. Defensive backs in early versions only have values for pass defense, but later versions add a pass rush value as well. It’s easy to glance at a linemen or any defensive player’s card and tell how good they are. Skill players are a little harder since they are rated based on statistics. It’s difficult to tell the difference between two different backs that have the same yards per carry average. One may be an outside runner while the other is rushed to smashing up the middle. The only difference is their long gain numbers. Quarterbacks suffer from the same trouble. If their stats are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between a player like Joe Montana and Neil Lomax. This is offset somewhat by the quality of the players around them. It’s just a small gripe because, overall, you get a good sense of player individuality that helps you determine a team’s strengths an weaknesses.
Players are laid out on their respective offensive and defensive formations. The charts allow both sides to create multiple formations to try to out guess each other. Offensive players can choose inside or outside runs to the right or left. Passes can be called for quick, medium, and long distances. Screen passes and draws are there too as are play action passes. Variants even add for shotgun plays. Defenses can play against the run, key on a specific runner, play against the pass with man or zone calls, or simply play a standard defense. Defenses can also select people to blitz the quarterback. Once plays are called, the fast action card determines which players are the key blockers and defenders on the run (or if there is a secondary receiver or pass rush on a pass). Cards also contain numbers to determine the result of the play. I prefer to use dice to determine the play results (for more randomness), but the cards work very well. It’s a very polished system to flows smoothly.
The stats produced are fairly accurate. I’ve played enough games to see defensive struggles and epic shoot-outs with a little of everything in between. The key to playing the game is to stay within the endurance rules. Runners that got few carries but had impressive yards per carry average will end up with strong cards. These runners have limits on how they are used (earliest seasons do not have endurance values). You could use Eddie Payton and his 7.5 ypc average 20 carries a game if you want, but what good would that be? If you stick within those rules, the game results are very consistent. Good teams will beat the worse teams more often than not, but no team is invincible. With good play calling and some luck, you could take a lesser team to the playoffs. For me, that’s great…a realistic simulation with a bit of a what if factor.
Later editions have a solo play caller printed directly on the fast action cards. You would play both offenses while the system called defenses. It’s a simplistic system, but works fairly well. As with most football games, solitaire charts exist for those who want to control one team. This game lends itself very well to solo play and once you get the game down, you can finish a game in about 2 hours.
I mostly play solo, but I always want to see how a game looks head-to-head for those that want to play this way. There’s definitely enough here to play a decent game against someone. There’s enough play calling options and player movement to play a game of chess against an opponent. Not overly deep, but it would still be a fun game.
For a game that’s been out of print for over 20 years, it’s surprisingly easy to get ahold of a copy. Copies of a game can be had on eBay for anywhere from $25-75. But copies of the rules and seasons are actually available online. Lee Harris, who was vital to keeping Statis Pro alive, developed a site that had copies of the official cards as well as fan cards. Rules for creating your own seasons exist online. Thanks to this, the game has a strong future despite being out of print.
This game would be excellent for a replay. Stats work out well for straight replays, but individual cards allow you to do fantasy teams as well. There’s several years available both from the original production and fan made. The process to make new cards can be tedious (the most modern years are not available as are most 60s and 70s seasons).
Final Grade (not an average)
10. It’s a great game. It’s a superior solo experience that allows you to recreate great match-ups or seasons from the 80s. With a little digging, other seasons become available and some effort will let you create your own seasons or teams. The time frame may scare off some, but the depth of stats and playability is worth the investment.