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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.