4th Street Football Review
4th Street Software is another small sports game company hailing from Minnesota. They make both PC and board games for football, baseball, and hockey. I’ll be reviewing the football board game using the 1969 NFL/AFL season.
You have several options when ordering 4th Street Football. I opted for the perforated cards because I’m lazy and because I already have a backlog of print and play components to cut out. 4th Street Football comes in a nice big foldable box that’s jam packed with components. You get 4 sets of offensive play cards (similar to what the play cards are for Pro Football Fantasm), a set of defensive cards for 4-3, 3-4, long, and short yardage formations, Full color offensive and defensive displays, a nice selection of die, a few charts, a rulebook, and a complete set of NFL cards. It’s a lot and the box is weighty. Components are printed on solid card stock, and though the displays aren’t thick they are sturdy for being foldable. The player cards are easy to read in black and white format. You can order extra offensive cards, but there’s enough in the box for plenty of variations.
Like Statis Pro, you get a set of individual player cards. There’s no skimping here. 4th Street provides pretty much every player with any significant time for each time. For example Charlie Leigh, a RB for the ’69 Browns, caught a whopping 2 passes and never ran the ball. He has a card. At first, the cards appear to be difficult to read. The numbers listed on the card do no relate directly to their rushing/passing results as they would on a Statis Pro card. Instead, they relate to a chart you look up. Each card has several columns and the top of the column gives you the players relative rating in that area. A for example is for inside running, B is for outside running on a running back. C, D, and E ratings on quarterbacks give you their ratings for quick, medium, and long passes respectively. It’s the same style of rating for defensive players. Once you get a hang of the ratings, you’ll be able to quickly see which players excel at which types of plays. It’s not a very complicated system yet gives you a real feel for a team’s strengths and weaknesses.
Players are placed on the display boards in their respective offensive and defensive formations (chits are provided if you would rather use those, but I like having the actual players on the boards). Offensive and defensive coaches then call plays. The offense selects a play card. The defense can attempt to “guess” if there’s a run or pass or stay in a standard formation to read and react.. 5 die are rolled to determine play results. A d20 determines which offensive and defensive matchup is used on a particular play. This is shown on the individual offensive play cards. The difference between offensive and defensive ratings is compared to the d10. If the offense wins the matchup (this happens when the d10 is less or equal to the difference), all you do is add the two d6 and look under the proper offensive player column. If the defense won, do the same under their proper defensive column. Under either column is a number. That number refers to a chart to determine a plays results. There’s only one chart for all offensive plays. I was worried at first that one chart wouldn’t yield enough variety in results, but this isn’t the case. A lot can happen on one little chart thanks to addition d10 or d20 rolls for yardage. Only kick returns use a different chart. There’s a lot going on during a play, but it steam lines very well. There are no 3 hour games like Pro Football Fantasm and a greater sense of reality than in Statis Pro. By my second game, I was flying though the plays fairly quickly. This should continue to speed up as I get used to the special rules of kicking.
I ran through several half games between different teams to get a sense of how the stats would look. My first game against the Cowboys and Redskins had me worried because the Cowboys couldn’t seem to hold on to the football. But in my second game against the Giants and Browns there were no fumbles at all. In the end, the stats are marvelous. Tarkenton’s scrambling frustrated the Browns and you could almost see Fran running for his life and eventually to daylight. In our half of play, he had 4 scrambles for 35 yards and a touchdown. On the other side of the field, the Browns had a high powered offense led by 47 yards and a touchdown from Leroy Kelly and 150 yards passing from Bill Nelson to a quality set of receivers. It was a blast. Other match ups produced great stats as well. The abstract ratings work remarkably well and you soon learn to run behind that 9 guard and avoid that 5 defensive end at all costs.
The game comes with a simple system to call defenses while you play offense for both teams. It’s not the most in-depth system, but it works and gives you a good idea of how the game is played. Offensive play calling sheets can be downloaded from the site. I’ll have to work on it, but there should be a way to create charts that can call offensive plays for you so you can play an entire team versus a number. Pro Football Fantasm had those fantastic play calling sheets for each team. 4th Street has downloadable ones on their website, but those would need to be converted somewhat for solitaire play so you don’t end up with a quarterback sneak on third and 8.
This game makes me wish my son was a football junkie and not a basketball one. You can move players. You can stack up to stop the run. You can fall back to protect against the pass. You have hundreds (you read that right) of plays you can use to create an extremely personalized playbook. This game would be great head-to-head.
This game seems to fall in the happy medium. It’s not as quick and dirty as Second Season, but it’s tremendously more polished than Pro Football Fantasm or possibly even Statis Pro. The single chart definitely speeds things up but the plethora of players assures you depth in your replay. I may have found the perfect replay system.
4th Street provides every NFL season from 1969-1975, but then there’s a gap until the 1994 season. From there, it goes on until today. Hopefully that gap eventually gets filled as I have yet to find a system that has a long, continuous, set of seasons. (I know APBA and Strat-o-matic do but try finding older seasons for a reasonable price). The gap is annoying, but the I could fill the void for most of the seasons with Statis Pro
Final Score (not an average):
9 (Updated 7/11/16) This is still a tremendous game, but the solo game can be a bit tedious to get through as there’s not a really solid solo system in place for it. Still, that aside, this game has everything you want in a football game. Player control. Actual plays to call. Individual match ups. Definitely a game that needs to be in any football sims collection.