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(American) Football Game

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Joined: 12/07/2011

I've been kicking around ideas for an American football themed board game. I love football and the strategy involved, but I don't really want to do a full simulation. I'm aiming it at people who are experienced Catan/Battlestar Galactica/Dominion players but aren't interested in the intricacies/minutia/commitment of Axis and Allies or tabletop wargames. Ideally I'd like to create a game which takes about 40 minutes to an hour to play, and I'd like to be able to have more than two people play it (maybe up to 4 or 6).

I came up with a few ideas based on aspects of football I thought would make engaging game components. In case you're interested, they were (in no particular order): salary caps/roster building, play selection (strategy as well as risk/reward balance of running vs passing vs gimmick plays), competitive free-agent bidding, injuries (risk/recklessness of play, rehabilitation, ect), clock management, "off the field" issues and how "random" events (such as injuries or the performance of draft picks) impact strategy.

As you can probably tell, this is very much in the "inspiration/percolation" phase, but here's what I have so far:

  • A "general manager" game that starts with the preseason and players compete to trade draft picks or bid on freeagents, hoping to build a good enough roster to make it to the Super Bowl while dealing with injuries, problem players, ect. Would probably need a "Game Day" phase where teams compete, but it would need to be quick so that a "seasons" worth (maybe 6 or so) can be played in a game.
  • A "coaching game" where players compete in a "football game" by calling plays for their teams. Possibly a deck building game where players construct "play-calling" decks for offense and defense and then play. Perhaps roster management could be a factor here as well, i.e. the players are dealt random football players at each position and then would have to build their decks and strategies around those players. Maybe players would build their decks by choosing their rosters (each roster spot is it's own deck and then players shuffle those cards together into their "play calling deck). I think clock management is a huge part of football strategy, so I'd like to implement some mechanism to simulate that. Maybe each play would have a time cost which would be subtracted from the overall game length.
  • A "player game" where players try to put together a career and retire in the hall of fame (with each round being a season). Players would have limited time units to distribute to various activities on their pursuit of both production and fame (ex: film study and workouts vs parties and media appearances), with a randomized chance of payoff (though more time units would increase chance of better payoff). Some mechanism would increase the fame vs preparation conflict as the players careers progressed. Not sure if this idea has enough direct conflict/competition between players, but if that's the case, maybe I'll create a "Twitter feud" mechanic.
  • Some combination between the "coach game" and the "player game," where players would assume the role of individual football players (probably set back in the 30s, 40s or 50s when everyone played 60 minutes). Players would be split into two teams, so somehow there would need to be a cooperative effort with their teammates in order to win. I like the concept, but I have a hard time seeing how it could be worked into a manageable game.

I think there are a lot of challenges/opportunities because football is such a complicated sport. I know I won't be able to create a game that includes all the aspects of the sport, but there's a lot to build around. Biggest challenge is probably keeping the complexity down. It doesn't need to be super simple, but it should be elegant (smooth and intuitive game play so players can focus on thinking about what they want to do in-game, not on rules and steps).

Like I said, this is all pretty much in the brainstorming stages, so let me know what you think. What aspects sound fun and compelling? Which ideas sound tedious? I'm more of less a novice at this, so any advice, ideas or (helpful) criticism anyone has would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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