Paydirt was a statistics based football game that had two lives. The first was with Sports Illustrated and contained the 1969-1972 seasons. It came back with the 1978 season under the Avalon Hill banner with the last charts designed from the 1993 season. The game lives on through Data-Driven Football and RedZone Football. Both offer recreated Paydirt charts for modern seasons.
Regardless of the edition you have, one thing remains constant, the team charts. However, the quality of the charts did vary a little over the years. Early Sports Illustrated charts were not color coded, but their last years were. Avalon Hill’s kept up the color coded system that makes the charts look sharp. However, as with other Avalon Hill titles, the quality of the paper stock decreased with their later editions. They are still good, but laminating the latter years might help them last longer. I haven’t bought the charts for either of the modern editions, but they are available in print and pdf formats. Outside of the charts, the editions did provide some different components. The best of these was available in later editions of the Sports Illustrated run. Included was a fantastic and surprisingly sturdy scoreboard. This could be used to keep track of the score, downs, timeouts, and even the time. This makes keeping the score pad available in the Avalon Hill version obsolete. It’s really a nice piece. The Avalon Hill football field is exactly like the Statis Pro one and works very well. Both versions contained a set of speciality dice unique to this game. They are of solid quality in all editions.
As mentioned above, Paydirt comes with team charts. There are no individual player cards, charts, or ratings. Everyone is boiled into team stats and those are used to create nine distinct offensive ratings (four run/five pass) and six defensive ratings. Special offensive ratings for breakaway runs and quarterback traps (scrambles) were also included as were special team ratings. This game wasn’t designed to keep individual stats (though it could be done with some charts but it would overly complicate and lengthen the game time). I personally prefer individual ratings, but this system works very well. If you have the color coded charts, you can quickly see the strengths or weaknesses of a team.
Game play is fairly straight forward. The offensive team chooses one of its nine plays. The defense chooses one of its six. The offense rolls its three dice to find its result under its selected play. The defense rolls two dice and checks for a result based on their call and the offensive play call. These two results are then compared. A separate chart shows play call priority. For example, the offense might get a positive result, but the defense to a QT (quarterback scramble) result. The QT result trumps the offensive gain. Basic positive and negative results are easily trumped while Penalties trump everything. It’s a quick system, but it isn’t without some flaws. A team with a weakness in defense can be easily exploited. The 1991 Patriots only have a 2 in 30 chance of getting a negative results on a medium pass across all of their defenses. There’s no possible adjustment the Patriots could make to improve on this. It’s static. Other games may let you shift defenders, over stack a certain area, etc. and it might help change the outcome each time. There’s simply nothing you can do in this game to change the results. This means the game boils down to a guessing game and you feel you have little control over your team other than play calling.
Paydirt does a pretty solid job of generating realistic team stats. It’s nothing spectacular, and you lose some of the narrative of what goes on in a football game, but you retain the sense of why team A beat team B.
Though this is listed as a two player game, I think this is actually a better solo game. Avalon Hill included solo defensive charts for the game. Several solo play calling charts are available online for both the offense and defense. Adjustments would need to be made when playing teams from the early years since some would be very run heavy. This is probably one of the fastest playing solitaire football games out that’s based on real statistics.
Paydirt is played at WBC, so there’s obviously a significant group that values this game’s head-to-head ability. I just don’t agree with them completely. The game wouldn’t be bad to play against someone. In fact, it would be a nice game to play with someone as an introduction into football gaming. It’s easy to learn and play. But if you are wanting more, you may get frustrated by the lack of control you have over your team. It’s not a chess match as much as it’s a guessing game of chance.
The original versions of the game are readily available on eBay, though the prices can vary wildly. Copies of most of the originals can also be found on BGG or bought from Data-Driven. Seasons from the last 10 years can also be found on the Data-Drive or RedZone websites. Fan charts can also be found with a little digging.
This rating really comes down to what you want out of a replay. If you just want to compare teams, replay a season, and are unconcerned about individual stats, this would be a good system to choose because of its speed. But if you want to tell the story of a season through the players, you will need another game. Therefore, two rankings, the first for non-statisticians, the other for those that enjoy stats.
Final Grade (not an average)
8 It’s a simply, enjoyable game of football. You can play a game quickly solo or enjoy a lightweight game with a friend. You can replay past championships or even seasons easier as well. But in the end, the game seems to fall in between. It might seem too stat based for the casual gamer, but lack the depth a hardcore player might want.