Saturday, October 17, 2009

Review -- Playbook Football


It’s fall. The Canadian Football League is heading down the stretch to the playoffs, and that American league is going too.
It is a time of year when sports fans talk gridiron, and we all become armchair quarterbacks wanting to manage our own teams on the field.
There are of course several board games which look to mimic the game of football, and this time of year is a good one to bring those out on cool crisp autumn evenings.
If you aren't immediately impressed with Playbook Football the minute you slip it from the box, it would be quite frankly shocking.
There are times when games seem over-produced in terms of their components, and Playbook Football from Bucephalus Games would fit that description. The playing field is a heavy wooden board nearly half an inch thick. My first reaction to the board was that it had the look, and feel of a game which might have been produced in the 1920s when wood was the primary material, and there was attention to detail and quality.
The two halves of the board go together to sandwich the other game components between them for storage. A butterfly hinge and fastener would have made the system handier, but the cardboard box is sturdy, so it should last if cared for.
The components inside the playing field are well-made as well, with a wooden football that is moved down a track on the field to mark where the play is, and plastic markers which are used to mark what’s going on in terms of play, and of course dice, which are pretty much a given in this type of game.
The overall look of Playbook Football once it is set-up is of an heirloom game, although it is a recent addition to the world of football board games, having been released only last year (2008).
There are also cards which are part of the game which was designed by Kevin Barrett.
The cards are where players find the plays for the game. “With Playbook Football, you call every play and plan every drive. Offense and Defense are two sides of the same coin, and that currency funds your campaign to the end zone. You will use the Blitz and Nickel defenses to stop your opponent’s passes and runs. The Quarterback Sneak will be your sneaky weapon for two-point conversions and 4th-and 1 calls - just as in real professional football!,” states the company’s website at “The play cards in Playbook Football are the product of months of research and intensive number-crunching. 10 full seasons of professional football statistics were analyzed and distilled down into the probabilities and results contained on these cards.”
Apparently Bucephalus Games is also actively looking to acquire the rights to do theme decks based on particular teams, presumably those in the National Football League. If they can make such arrangements it would be a plus as players could look to recreate the offenses and defences of their favourite teams. It would also add more diversity to the gaming system.
When it comes to game play, simplicity really sits at the heart of Playbook Football, with instructions fitting on a couple of pages. Many sports sims get bogged down on detail. This one keeps things pretty straight forward.
There are a selection of offensive and defensive plays. Each player selects a play, and those are revealed at the same time.
Then it’s dice time with each player rolling a 10-sided and a 12-sided die. Initially the result of the two 10-sided dice are added and if they add up to six or 16, then a penalty is called.
If there is no penalty on the play, the offensive players 10-sided die and the sum of the two 12-sided dice are used on the offensive card to resolve the play. The defensive play selection may influence the play by shifting the 10-sided dice result.
There are special cards for field goals, short punts, long punts, onside kicks, kickoff returns, punt returns and the aforementioned penalties.
It’s pretty straight forward, select plays, roll dice, and battle up and down the field based on the charts. A game gets played in under an hour.
Not the deepest football sim, but being quick, simple, and so well made still make this a great way to feed the desire to coach.
Certainly a nice football board game option for fans of the real game.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct. 14, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

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