Masters of the Gridiron is a football card game from Sports Mogul, makers of PC games like Football & Baseball Mogul. As far as I can tell, this is their first foray outside the world of PC gaming. If you are familiar with the card game Tops Trumps, then this game will be easy for you to pick up as the core concept is similar even though this game adds more strategy than just blindly drawing cards.
Each NFL from the 2013 season has a deck of cards. Included are playbook cards, audible cards, offensive player cards, and defensive players cards. The cards are printed on good stock and laminated, though if you expect repeatedly play it may be a good idea to sleeves them. If you do, just take note that they won’t fit in their original team boxes again. Overall, the quality you’d expect from a decent deck of playing cards.
Each Player card has ratings on it (up to 99) in various areas. Offensive Lineman are rated for pass and run blocking. Quarterbacks are rated for rushing, goal line (rushing), passing, and red zone (passing). WRs and RBs have the most since they can block as well as receive or run. Defenders are all rated in four areas: run defense, pass rush, tackling, and coverage. It’s definitely more abstract than a simulation football game. 2013 statistics are included and are a nice bonus. Nothing Earth shattering here, but it does what its intended to do.
Game Play Each team starts out with a hand of 10 cards, 4 playbook, 3 offensive players, and 3 defensive players. The team on offense selects a playbook and an offensive player that corresponds to the playbook (If a playbook is a pass, for example, it may call you to play anyone that has receiving or passing ratings). Some playbooks allow you to add bonuses to specific player ratings. Once a total rating has been determined, the defensive player chooses one of his 3 players to try to stop the play. Optional audible cards are included that could be drawn to add significant bonuses to offensive or defensive ratings. It’s a pretty simply system, but it does require some thinking. I played several games with my son and drew a valuable +12 receiving audible card. Instead of saving it, I played it on one of my weaker WRs in an attempt to tie the game. My son had a strong defensive team and stopped the play. On the next draw, I got my best WR and no longer had the audible card that would have made him nearly unstoppable. I ended up losing that game by two. There’s some solid decisions that need to be made through out the game in terms of managing your hand. Do you let that field goal score so you can save your killer DE to stop a potential touchdown? There’s even options to punt (discard). Overall, just a lot of neat features in a simple game. I also want to point out how balanced the game is if you manage your hand correctly. Admittedly, we did our best to pick comparable teams, but the scores were 14-20(OT); 27-21; 20-14(OT); and 19-21. All the games came down to the final card draw, and there was some real tension on whether you had saved the correct cards (or hoping your last card was the one you needed!)
Other than the final score, there are no stats.
I’m sure if I took the time, I could figure out a decent solitaire system for this game. But, why would I? This game is designed to play with someone.
Head-to-Head: As I mentioned above, every game I’ve played so far has been down to the wire. There’s a lot to think about in terms of what cards to use and which defensive player should defend on the play. Games can be played in 15-20 minutes, so you it’s a great head-to-head filler or you can get several rounds in.
Replay Ability: This rating is usually reserved for “season replays” and for that I’ll give it a solid 6 since you could replay an entire season in the fraction of the time of any other sim. However, I will say the replay ability in terms of this game getting old is higher, especially with the announcement that Mogul plays to release historic teams. This is good news since there are just a finite number of replays you could do with just the 2013 season, although you can build your own custom teams (players have prices on them so you can build teams using a salary cap) which adds a lot of replay to the game. Could Manning and Megatron score on J.J. Watt and Richard Sherman? You can find out.
Score: 6 on a sim replay; 8 on replaying for fun
Availability: I backed the game through kickstarter and got the complete 2013 season. It’s really cost prohibitive to do so now. Decks are about $10 a piece, so realistically you’ll end up buying just some teams you want (Get Seattle and Denver to try the game out!). With only teams from 2013 available, there’s not a lot of options yet, but this game was made for what-if match ups. Once some historical teams become available, this game would be a lot of fun to bring out.
Final Score (not an average): 8
This game will never replace my hardcore sims. This game won’t let you know if Barry Sanders was better than Jim Brown nor will it really be an accurate way to replay a season. But the game is a helluva lot of fun. It has some casual gamer appeal but enough depth to please a football gamer. It’s worth of try if you are looking for a lighter, fun football game, but it’s a pass if you are a stat junkie that gets annoyed by Paydirt’s anonymity.