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Scoring Mechanic for Football Game

10 replies [Last post]
Joined: 12/01/2008

[Disclaimer: Every instance of the word football is referring to American football.]

I have implemented a mechanic that I'm not to happy with, but seem to have 'writer's block' in finding ways to fix it.
I guess I'd better describe a bit of the game so give an idea of what I'm trying to do.

I've been working on a football game. The focus of this game is not about a single game, but rather the course of multiple seasons - you are trying to build a football dynasty. So you aren't going to call a fullback dive on 4th and inches, but rather you may have a team the has a strong inside running game. You will draft and improve players, manage trades and injuries, and pick your overall team play strategies. The goal is to be first to win a total of 3 superbowls.

So this means the resolution of individual games must be quick, yet I'm still trying to capture the flavor of what might happen in a game based on the skillsets of your players. The number of individual games will vary depending on how many people are playing. A 4 person game would require every player to simulate a game with all the other players. The two teams with the best record that season then play a superbowl game. So in that case, 6 (+1 superbowl) games are played, but 2 games can be played at the same time, meaning that the time taken per season will be the length of 4 back-to-back games. So I'm aiming at about 5 min per game (10 at the absolute max)

I have a system in place right now that, while seems to work, I'm not all that happy with. It just seems a bit... inelegant.

There a number of small player cards. These are different athletes that you draft and fill your team with. I initially wanted to give players a number of different stats, like speed, strength, etc. But the thing was, that everything eventually boiled down to: how well does this player perform his position role on passing plays, and on running plays. So why not just reduce the stats into those 2 categories?
Right now each player has a position they can play, and just 2 stats. 0-4 stars on running plays, and 0-4 stars on passing plays. (these are weighted in regards to their position) Finally, I have a separate stat representing a more intangible quality to that player. A 'playmaker' stat. Most players have 0 while some have a 1, and rarely have 2. This usually results in good (but somewhat unpredictable) things, and less frequently, bad things.

So I'm simulating a game in 4 phases corresponding to the quarters of the game. In each phase, both teams have an offensive and defensive match-up, and the number of points each offense is able to score is calculated each quarter.
A quarter might go something like this: One team puts down his offense in a certain formation with select players, then the defense responds in kind. Then the offense chooses to run or pass, often backed up with a particular team strategy card. (This represents the overall game-plan that was focused on that quarter.)
Then, based on the players, formations, and strategies, an interaction is produced to grant 'scoring opportunities'
Right now this is implemented by comparing your fielded team's run or pass points to the defense's run or pass points. These points may be modified by your formation and strategy card you selected to use, and the presence of 'playmakers'. The resulting difference is converted into a number of die rolls that give the possibility of scoring.

What I don't like is that there is a bit of counting, and it seems to become a fiddly mathematical exercise. It's not that it takes too long, its just kind of uninteresting and uncreative.

After reading another thread, I seem to have a ACTION-RANDOMNESS-RESULT mechanic. Perhaps this is an instance where RANDOMNESS-ACTION-RESULT would be welcome?

I've been using the playmaker stat to grant a number of event cards each game quarter. These may give additional scoring opportunities, or penalties (subtract scoring opportunities), injuries, and special action cards to use later in the game or season. It seems like this might be ideal RANDOMNESS to move before the ACTION.

However, it still doesn't fix the fact that your team comes down to a comparing of numbers to convert into scoring die roll opportunities.

On an unrelated note, I've been considering a 4th stat - Discipline. Similar to the playmaker stat except is is bad to have. It could compound penalty events, and perhaps worsen the effects of a scandal event (player caught doing drugs in a motel sort of thing) But these temperamental players may be much cheaper to hire, so maybe you can get away with having a few.

Willi B
Joined: 07/28/2008
I've long wanted to tackle

I've long wanted to tackle the American Football game as a design but have decided it may be something I will try when I have lots of time on my hands and am a bit older.

My suggestion is that you remove the dice. Just so you know, I am more of a Eurogame lover than the Ameritrash lover.

What I would do if I were trying to accomplish the same thing is build up a formula for each team's strengths and weaknesses and assign them numbers. Have players play game plan cards at the start of each half and let them rule their offensive and defensive strategies. Then, during the half they can play a card or two that would possibly affect the outcome. As long as players reveal simultaneously, you keep a fair amount of randomness in the unknown strategies of other players.

Since you already looking at several seasons over play and looking at losing some theme depth, I would go ahead and just play it in halves (this seems to be the time it takes most teams to adjust there game plans). Things like off-the-field behavior and discipline would more than likely be relegated to single action cards when you are going for the several season game length.

So, the game I would make in your case would be mathematical comparisons that sould simply end in win, loss, or tie instead of actual scores for the individual games. Numbers could be assesed to running, passing, kicking and their defensive equivalents based on the scores of the players and coaches before the games start for the season. Different stats for each player grouping could be assigned as well - QB's, WR's, OL, etc., to determine outcomes of certain cards or strategies. Example - Trench Battle - compare the OL score of the DL score and do X.

Anyways, I think if you keep it dice oriented in the regard of figuring things out, it will add to the time to play and I would think you may overshoot your goals.

Good luck!

Brykovian's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
I was also thinking along the

I was also thinking along the lines of what Willi was suggesting ... some sort of card comparison (with no dice-rolling) to determine more of a win/loss outcome ... not sure if the scoring matters as much as the result.

If I were playing a season-over-season type game, I would want to be able to do some game-planning and countering based on the match-ups and strengths of each team. Having 4 rounds of strategy card play with some subbing rules might allow for that. The card comparison could allow for a sort of boxing-round type scoring: which team won the quarter, and how soundly? Perhaps the best team for a quarter would get 1 to 3 "strength points" and then a some of the 4 quarters would determine the winner.

As for game-planning ... I would like to be able to have that feel of the traditional "to beat the Vikings, you need to stop Adrian Peterson and let Gus beat you through the air" type of analysis work. I remember a Monday night game with the KC Chiefs a number of years ago when they had 2 very good running backs ... everyone had figured out that "all they can do is run" and focused on stopping that ... but they opened the game with something like 10 straight play-action passes and completely tore up the other team's defense who were looking to stop the run. *That's* the "feel" I'd like to have in a game like what you are describing.

The only place I could see adding-in some randomizer (dice-based, or otherwise) would be to determine how well each key player performs in a game. This would allow a solid gameplan to simply improve the odds of success, without a direct determination of it ... it would still come down to the players performing well within the gameplan.

(I realize I'm doing more soft discussion than hard suggestions here ... but hopefully this is helping you see somethings from a new angle ... I'll keep thinking about it and will likely reply again to this thread tonight or tomorrow.)


Joined: 12/01/2008

Just to be clear, I don't have pre-made teams with built-in strengths and weaknesses. The game players obtain players through drafting or trades, and collect team strategy cards, cards that basically represent some sort of strength or characteristic of the team's play style. Hopefully, you have collected players with the appropriate skills to work that strategy.

That's exactly the feel I'm shooting for when it comes to game planning.

As far as scoring, I'll definitely give some thought to non-dice methods, but perhaps I should mention that the scoring die have custom faces, and aren't just simply numbers, and certain strategy cards may open up or negate different die faces.
But if a game is reduced to just a win/loss situation, that basically removes any adjustment mid-game. Sure It can be broken down into quarters or halves, but how would you resolve team A won the first half, team B won the second half? Is that a game tie? Might there be an overabundance of ties in such a system? Quarters would possibly reduce game ties, since every quarter can give a win, loss, or tie, where most wins will win the game. But really, all this is, is an obfuscated score since mathematically it really represents something akin to 2 points for a quarter win, 0 points for a quarter loss, and 1 point for a quarter tie. If I'm doing that, I might as well have just granted touchdowns and field goals to begin with, no?

Here is a bit more description of how the players, formations, and team strategies work.
This process is (obviously) undergoing lots of tweaks, but here is what I'm trying at the moment.
1) The offense places his players on the field in a particular formation.
2) The defense places players in a formation to hopefully counter what the offense might be able to do with what has been shown so far.
3) Each player then gets to draw action cards equal to the number 'playmaker' points of his fielded team, then chooses and keeps 2 of them.
These cards may be additional scoring opportunities, penalties or injuries to inflict on the other team, instant scores, event cards to be saved to use later (in game and out of game events), or team strategy cards (these might be moved to a purchase system) Players might have to make some hard decisions here, like chooseing a touchdown now or take a training card to improve his team later.
4) Both teams secretly choose a special strategy to employ, if any.
A offensive strategy might be something like "Pass - Long Routes" and grants additional scoring rolls based on the number of wide receivers you have, and if a "pass" is rolled on the die, will grant a touchdown.
A defensive strategy might be something like "Pass - Dime". If a run was called might grant the offense scoring rolls for every defensive back. But if a pass was called, would negate scoring rolls for every defensive back and negate the "pass" roll on the die.
So, an offensive player might decide not to load up on wide receivers in his formation in order to hide the fact that he is going to use his "Long Routes" card. The card won't be as effective, but perhaps end up better if the opponent would otherwise play a solid pass defense.
5) Offense reveals the play type, pass or run, and both players reveal any strategy card picked.
6) Offensive run or pass scores are compared to the defensive scores. This difference is going to form the baseline of the match-up.
D > O by 2 or more = 1 scoring die.
D within 1 of O = 2 scoring die.
D < O by 2 or more = 3 scoring die.
7) Action cards and strategy cards are revealed that might grant or negate scoring die, or open or close die faces.
This could swing the number of scoring die perhaps 0-8 in any direction, but commonly only 2-4.
8) Resulting number of scoring die are rolled.
Scoring die are faced such that there is a 20% chance to gain a touchdown or field goal, with an perhaps additional 10-20% chance to score depending on the strategy cards in play.
So you want to really load up on the die if you can, even rolling 3 die may give you nothing 51% of the time.

Brykovian's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
I can see what you're doing

I can see what you're doing there now with the dice-rolling ... and I like it. You're allowing the coach's strategic decisions to develop a range of chance (number of dice to roll) and then letting that determine the actual outcome -- I think this fits the theme of the game pretty well. I like the idea of going quarter-by-quarter and use the touchdown/field goal scoring based on the dice.

I also see more clearly where you are struggling, because the determination seems very cumbersome. The individual games are important, but shouldn't require ABPA-style look-up tables or a couple minutes of counting and summing before determining results. ;-)

How many player cards are involved in a game? Would it be possible to have generic "position area" type cards to cover a team's baseline skills in an area, such as Offensive Line, Wide Receiver, etc. ... and then you only need to have 3 or 4 individual star player cards to augment those? That could speed up the skills-totalling aspect of playing games.

What are all the die faces? I assume besides scoring items, you have injuries and other team-impact items?

I would try to not have too much going on in-game. If the scope of the whole game is more dynasty-level strategic, I would keep the in-game strategy pretty high level and not give too many different options at each decision point. And each decision point should very clearly impact a single thing -- add/remove scoring dice, gain an action card, etc.


Joined: 12/01/2008
The reduction of individual

The reduction of individual athletes into position areas is interesting, but ultimately, I think it will diminish the drafting depth and also reduce the formation options.
What I've done instead is reduce the field from 11 players on a side to 7. This streamlines the drafting and counting a bit, but still leaves depth in drafting, and allows some variation in formations.
For example, on offense you get 1 QB, 3 OL, 0-1 TE, 0-3 WR, and 0-3 RB. So you could load up on RBs at the expense of WRs, or vice versa, or a balanced formation like 2 WRs and 1 RB. Teams that get a superstar TE might run with 1 WR, 1 TE, and 1 RB. Where WRs and RBs tend to get higher scores in passing and running, respectively. TE tend to be more balanced and can get high scores in both run and pass. This may let you use him to keep the defense from using strong run or pass protection since he can never really be sure where you are going to focus.

The dice are just for scoring. The action cards contain all the injuries and misc events like scandals, preventive medicine, large fan turnouts, etc.
Scoring die are d10.
4 sides are black
1 TD, 7 pts.
1 FG, 3 pts.
1 Run
1 Pass
1 Trick, TD, 7 pts.
1 Trick, FG, 3 pts.

The Run, Pass, and Trick faces only give points in certain conditions listed on strategy cards.
A "Pass - Short Routes" strategy might make the "Pass" face equal a FG, 3pts.
Trick plays can increase your scoring odds quite a bit, but if the deference is ready for it, those faces may instead give points to the defender.

Anyway, the counting still becomes an issue because what happens is that a player doesn't just count his points and be done with it. He puts his offense on the field (perhaps counting up run and pass possibilities) then after the defense comes on (who is also counting run and pass scores) he will compare his run score to the defense run score, then count and compare pass scores, then look at his strategy cards, then forget what the run scores were and count again, etc. before choosing a strategy card and calling a run or pass.

This slows things down a bit. Team points range from 10-25 points. Less in the early game when teams are young, and more in the late game where players have athletes with higher scores.

I wonder if a "play clock" might be appropriate here? A small sand timer perhaps?

Brykovian's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
imo, I would avoid a play

imo, I would avoid a play timer ... it would be frustrating to have strategic choices rushed artificially. I think it will be self-enforced by your buddy across the table chiding you: "c'mon already ... you can't change your cards by staring at them!" ;-)

If the decision-making bottleneck lies in trying to compute the exact run/pass points, perhaps you need to soften the system up a bit so that a few points here or there won't have a big impact in changing your chances. Another option might be to include a hidden info mechanic before you even get to the dice ... like a "game-ready value" card that is kept face-down until both sides have their pieces in place ... it contains values that will be added or subtracted from the offenses run/pass points.

Those might not be the best examples ... but what I'm suggesting is a way for the players to scan their points and their opponent's points and have a general idea of about how strong they are without having to know exactly the number in both cases.

btw ... I think your approach on the dice is cool.


Joined: 07/22/2008
Scoring Mechanic for Football Game

I also think your idea is interesting.

I don't think what I'm about to say really addresses your fundamental concern, but I do think that these ideas could mitigate substantially the abstract feel of "team = dice count" (and could add a lot of fun too).

So what if...

When you made your initial Offensive/Defensive comparison, this not only translated into a dice count, but also into a field position. The offensive player would place two yardage markers on a little football field, one marker each for pass and run matchups. Then, each roll of the dice would result in positive yardage (and positive yardage only - no first downs, no sacks, no fumbles, no scoring, etc.). When either of the markers on the field is advanced to the end zone, his half of the game is over. The number of rolls it actually took to drive that distance is his "score" and lower scores are better (call it scoring efficiency). Obviously, you want your initial team and formation to match up well against the opponent to push the initial ball spot as far forward or backward as possible (start from the 50 before matchups?).

Each player is offense once and defense once and there is a setup phase for each drive. The team with the lower score is the winner of the game, and the cumulative scores can serve as tie-breakers over the season.

Each roll of the dice would be prefaced with a declaration of either run or pass, and the yardage result would move the corresponding marker. Two "gotchas" could make this really interesting:

1) Repeatedly calling the same play type would yield diminishing returns. So PASS, PASS, PASS, PASS somehow works out to a higher and higher likelihood of shorter and shorter plays because you become predictable. But then again, if your initial setup is stellar, you may be able to jam it in regardless.

2) Allow only very limited resets to the team/formation, if any (but both sides would reset if any opportunity were given). Ideas:

* Allow a reset when either yardage marker has covered half the original distance to the goal (i.e., starting on the 50 and driving to the defensive 25).

* Allow a one-time reset anywhere in the drive for a fixed cost in plays or yardage.

* Let the playmakers affect this.

I think this could be resolved almost as quickly as what you have, but I think it could be a lot more fun. The initial setups and matchups would be the most time consuming (as now). The remainder is just choosing pass or run, rolling the dice, moving the yardage marker, and recording the play history (type).

Joined: 12/01/2008
Ok, so I tried making the

Ok, so I tried making the team point comparisons worth less to hopefully de-emphasize the importance of counting, unfortunately, this did not have the intended effect. It just made collecting good athletes less important - but collecting players with 'playmaker' stats very important. So I'm trying something different now.

First, I split the counting into two parts.
Part 1, you compare the points depending on a run or pass play.
I made the offense have to earn every scoring die, rather than starting at a mid-range and adding or subtracting.
The offense will always get a minimum of 1 scoring roll, but they can only gain rolls by having a better team.
If the defense has more points, then no more counting is needed, the offense will only earn 0 rolls. (but will get modified to 1 because of the minimum.) The offense will get rolls for every point over the defense.
This part has a small improvement in counting because you only have to figure the math one direction.

Part 2, you then compare your selected strategies which can add or subtract scoring rolls, and possibly figure any modifications due to played action cards. But the offence will still get a minimum of 1 roll.

The results are added to together.
Its important to note that it is not just one big running total, but rather, any point debt from part 1 will be effectively canceled before adding part 2. (because of the 1 roll minimum.)

(For reference, if you only get one score roll per quarter, you will have been shut down pretty hard and have a difficut time winning a game.)

What this does strategically, is let you mix things up a bit more. Swapping players, formations, run or pass, even if they aren't always "your most optimal choice via points" No matter how good the defense is you will always have 1 roll before comparing strategy cards. Its not really giving a big advantage to the offense, but opens up some options because you won't have to try and overcome, say, a 4 point deficit with strat cards. What happens is that trying to make up a lot of lost points really locks you into a single strat that the defense can predict. Making the game less interesting.

Now things like running for a couple turns and then trying to trick the defense with play-action are viable strategies, where as before I noticed they were really hard to pull off because of a large point deficit from using a decent, but non-optimal, players and formations.

Additional changes: When a player draws action cards, he can only keep 1 now.
I also add the 'discipline' stat. Some players have a red frowny face on them. These will players are cheaper to employ, but worsen penalty and scandal events.

ilta's picture
Joined: 12/05/2008
There's no I in "team," but there is an I in "win"

I'm not much of a football fan, but it seems to me that some players matter more on certain kinds of plays than others. For instance, a star wide receiver on the left isn't going to do much on a short-running play on the right; it's the powerful DL that pulls off a sack, etc.

So what if, when comparing everyone in your formations, you only compared the relevant position, or positions? The strategy card for a left-half pass play might say something like "compare total [x] stat of all players in the offense's left half, plus the QB, with total [x] stat of players in the defensive right half" or a sack card might say "compare [x] stat for the linebacker of your choice with the linebacker immediately opposite." Or, whatever. These cards represent the overall strategy of your team this quarter (or half), as typified by a certain kind of play that fans will recognize. They then modify the dice, up or down, as per your example.

Formations could be set up so that players will be in multiple areas at any given moment. Thus, some formations will lend themselves to certain kinds of plays better than others, while some will be "flexible" formations that arrange players so that they are in multiple areas and can be used in a variety of strategies. For example, a player placed slightly left on the line of scrimmage is both on the left, and on the line of scrimmage, and counts in strategies that focus on either area. He may also figure into a play that involves the center! But only a player placed far to the right figures into a "go long, cut left" play, where he is compared to the defensive player(s), if any, in the back-right and back-center.

A good coach will see an opponent's formation and account for his likely strategy when he chooses his own strategy, in a rock-paper-scissors approach (correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems, generally, that sack beats run, short-pass beats sack, man-to-man beats short-pass, long-pass beats man-to-man, zone beats long-pass, and run beats zone). And of course there's no reason you couldn't telegraph one kind of play with your formation and then throw in an "incorrect" strategy, although it would be a bit weaker than if you had used its optimal formation.

Let coaches have a variety of strategies at their disposal, perhaps chosen pre-game, so that they aren't dependent on drawing the one they need, when they need it, from a deck. This presents a great "bits" opportunity since you could have a playbook to physically flip through and then reveal to your opponent, with circles, x's, and arrows. You might start out with a few mediocre strategies, whereas additional pages to the book could be purchased, or earned automatically, between games.

Or, if you really want to go crazy, you sell CIRCLES and ARROWS, which a player places on a board behind a screen to make up his own strategy. Bigger arrows are more expensive than short ones, or something. This is probably too tactical and time intensive for an operational-level game, but I bet it would be awesome fun for some other game.

Joined: 12/01/2008
I originally experimented

I originally experimented with having plays do things in specific areas, but your right, it ended up being too detailed for an operational-level game.

Even though there is some tactical feel to playing the 4 quarters as 4 downs, it is still a representation to what a team focused on the whole quarter. So things like running plays to the right or left get abstracted out. But yes, a star WR isn't going to do much for run plays. Each athlete doesn't get 0-4 points in both run and pass, but rather, there are different ranges for different positions. For instance, a WR will have 1-4 points in pass and 0-1 points in run. A LB gets 0-2 points in pass and 0-3 points in run, with more tendency for balanced stats.

In the case of the WR, a point in run might represent above average down-field blocking, or perhaps possible utilization in reverse type plays, or crack-back* blocking. The latter two being used more high-school/college level than pro level.

There aren't many individual match-ups (except for man-to-man defense) but there are match-ups in a more abstract positional sense. Positions filled in your formation become factors depending on the strategy cards. A run play might give bonuses for every RB you have, and for every LB the defense doesn't have.

I mostly agree with your what-beats-what but there are some cross-overs. Unless you really generalize, its hard to fit football into rock-paper-scissors because there are a lot of 'ifs'. For example, I wouldn't count on sack (blitz?) beating run, that's more hit or miss. And blitz also beats long pass, but really blitzing tends to be more of a gamble for both running and passing. What happens in man-to-man vs run? That really depends on the type of run.

Anyway, a lot of what you said is already in the game with regard to coaching play-calling.
As far as the types of plays the player has to choose from, right now they have to draw them, but they get to keep them to reuse at will. So they are building their playbook over time, even though the 'plays' are more strategic rather than tactical. Though I am considering a purchase system too.
The play cards (strategy cards) are mixed with all the action cards that the player gets to draw from every quarter (I've considered reducing the draw opportunities to per half, or per game) based on the number of 'playmakers' they have. They only get to keep one card though. So they may have to choose between a temporary increase in scoring rolls or a strategy card they can use later.
As the game progresses, you go from a young team without many plays, to a mature team with lots of options.

A crack-back type block (might have another name, that's just how i learned it) is used like this: Say the offense is going to call a run outside to the left. The left side WR starts to go into motion headed right, the ball is snapped quickly after, and the WR already having gained speed then slams into the LB on that side, hopefully while the LB is looking away towards the middle. This leaves a nice gap in the defense on the left side. This also eventually has a more lasting effect on making the outside LBs a bit jumpy.

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