Second Season Football is a game from PLAAY Games. Plaay offers a wide variety of sports simulations ranging from your typical fair (football, baseball, hockey) to your more unique games (pro wrestling and roller derby).
When you open a box of Second Season football you can immediately tell this is not your typical football game. Included is a sampling of two teams, a game book, dice, and some tabs and counters used for the book and the game. The game book is the focus here. It includes instructions and a plethora of charts to see how various offensive calls go against various defenses. The book is sturdier than it looks and tabs are included to help you quickly find reference books for your more frequent players. New versions come with teams printed on solid card stock, though pdf formats are available. Older team formats were paper printed (at least the ones I have). It’s not exactly the prettiest of games in the world, but it’s functional.
Individual players are rated and then placed on team charts. There’s an offensive and defensive chart display. Players are rated for their ability to perform on offensive and defensive in the rushing and passing game. Player ratings are quite simplistic with 0s, 1s, and 2s given out (2 being great, 0 being sub-par). It seems too simple, but when used with the book it actually works out pretty well. Every player on a team is rated and even fringe players are rated on a separate display. It’s a great system to be able to look over a team and immediately see where their strengths and weaknesses lie. Personally, I prefer individual player cars, and you can always make your own should you so desire. My laziness outweighs my desire so I just stick to the team charts.
I’ve mentioned that the game book is the focal point. Everything you’ll do in this game is derived from the game book. You call a play, roll some die, and then look up the results in the book. Easy? It is. Boring? No, because this is where the book shines. Normally when I play a game like Statis Pro or any football game that allows me to move players on a formation chart I “visualize” the play based on how the formations look in front of me. Here, the book gives you a narrative of what happens on the field. “Circus catch, receiver twists free for 20 yards” or “slips by tacklers for 7 yards” are some of the results you’ll find in the book. In my game review, I played the 1950 championship between the Rams and Browns and the narrative gave me a great feel for how Marion Motley was rolling over Ram defenders or how Bob Waterfield was hitting Crazy Legs Hirsch for long gains. Of course with a book there are some tedious moments, especially if your play result requires you to do another dice roll and page lookup. It’s by no means a deal breaker, but it does mean you’ll get to know that book better than anything you ever read in high school or college. Also, the narrative would have a personal preference to it. There’s something to be said to moving players in a formation to gather a result versus having a book paint the picture for you.
Note: The book is now in a 4.0 version. It’s streamlined and even better than before.
My biggest concern was how stats would come out if players were only ranked by 0s, 1s, and 2s. No worries here. The books basically asks you if players are rated a 0 or 2 in various situations and gives you the results based on the answer to that question. So there are times when a 1 player will do well (when the book asks if the player is a 0), and there will be times when the 1 rated player doesn’t do well (when the books asks if the player is a 2). It’s well-balanced, though I still think there’s a difference between some 2 players (and some 0s for that matter). In my simulation game, Cleveland’s stellar rushing attack was grinding the yards out only to see the Rams grab large chunks through their superior passing attack. I’ve noticed the results are similar in other games I’ve played. Having played some with the 2009 Colts, I noticed they have no problem throwing the ball but they can struggle if they need to rely on the rushing attack to grind out yardage. Stats are well done.
The game has an extremely simplistic defensive play call included, but Plaay’s website has some fan made freebies that include a great solo play calling chart to use for both offenses and defenses. This game was made for solo play.
This game can work in head-to-head situations, but that’s not what it was really built for. You can’t stack the line against the run, overload a zone with receivers, or run a read option. You call a run, pass, or screen and the defense calls safe, run, pass, or blitz defense. The game relies on its simplicity and insanely detailed book to win you over. The depth isn’t here for a prolonged head-to-head experience.
Despite the initial belief that the book would slow things down, the book actually keeps the pace moving along briskly. If you are doing a replay, you’ll get to know the book pretty well which will speed play up even more. I could finish a game of Second Season in half the time it takes me to do a Statis Pro game, and I feel Statis Pro gets fairly streamlined after a few plays. There’s great replay potential there for someone who wants to do a quick replay and keep accurate stats.
Plaay is an active company and there are currently 16 seasons available on their website. This amazing fan site will add another 8 seasons. With a little work and research, Plaay also gives you a template for creating your own teams. New seasons pop up regularly.
Final Score (not an average):
10 (updated 7/11/16) Sometimes, simplicity is the key. Personally, I love games liek 4th Street and Statis Pro that let me control players and move formations around. Maybe you don’t have control over those specifics, but everything else is there. Individual math-ups matter just as much as overall team strengths. You can still exploit weaknesses by calling plays to attack certain areas (even if you can’t necessarily attack a specific side of the field). I may choose more in depth games from time to time, but for what Second Season provides – quick, addicting game play with more depth than you realize – it is a phenomenal game. It’s a must have football game for both the hard core simulation person or the more casual football gaming fan.