#984 – Sports Dice: Football

Base price: $15.
2 – 4 players.
Play time: 10 – 20 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 3

Full disclosure: A review copy of Sports Dice: Football was provided by Foxmind Games.

Sports! We all love them. Athletes and … competition and teams and, yes. We covered all our bases there. I didn’t grow up in the way of sports, but I learned everything I needed to know about them from my Calculus teacher for backstory reasons that aren’t relevant to this review. Either way, thanks, Mr. Spencer; I now know everything I need to know about football, which makes for the perfect segue into the review proper. So let’s find out what’s going on with Sports Dice: Football!

In Sports Dice: Football, it’s game day! Seems appropriate for the Thanksgiving time this was published around. Players take on the role of the red team or the blue team and play football by … rolling some dice! That’s kind of the whole thing. Touchdowns, safeties, even the occasional interception. Sports! You’ll have to roll dice and track downs if you want to become the gridiron champ. Are you up to the challenge?

Contents

Setup

Effectively none. Decide which team will be the red team and the blue team, and then flip the Power Chip. The winning team gets to choose if they start on offense or defense. The offense gets the Offense Dice:

The defense gets the Defense Dice and the Power Chip:

Place the Downs Tracker on the Field Board near the Down Track:

And then place the two scoring tokens near the 1 on the Scoring Track:

Place the Football Token on the 25-yard line of the offense’s side of the field:

You should be ready to start!

Gameplay

Essentially, Sports Dice: Football attempts to emulate American Football as best as you can with twelve dice. Make passes, gain yards, and try for a touchdown or a field goal! I’ll explain how to do that.

Each round consists of (usually) four downs, just like standard football. To start, both teams simultaneously roll all of their dice. Whichever face comes up most frequently for each team becomes their chosen play. From there, the team with more symbols of a given type’s attempt succeeds. This means if the offense rolls 2 TDs, a 10, and three 20s, and the defense rolls two Ss, two P6s, a TO, and a NG, the offense’s play gains them 20 yards and the defense’s play fails, since three minus two equals one (in this case, one instance of a 20-yard gain). Since the defense rolled the same number of two different plays, they may choose which play they want to attempt. Should the offense and defense tie, the player with the Power Chip can decide to hand it to their opponent and break the tie in their favor. If they decline, their opponent wins the tie. Generally speaking, the Offense and Defense have different dice with different specialties:

Offense Dice

  • 10: Gain 10 yards, moving the Football Token 10 yards up the Field Board. If you roll six 10s, you get an automatic Touchdown.
  • 20: Gain 20 yards, moving the Football Token 20 yards up the Field Board. If you roll six 20s, you get an automatic Touchdown, but that’s more of a function of math than anything else. Notably, if you roll five 20s, you probably got a Touchdown, too.
  • Field Goal (FG): If you’re on or past the 50-yard line, you score a Field Goal! (3 points.) If you’re not at the 50-yard line yet, move the Football Token to the 50-yard line. That’s an automatic First Down, as well (reset the Downs Tracker).
  • Touchdown (TD): Immediately score 7 points!

Defense Dice

  • No Gain (NG): The offense does not advance the Football Token at all. If you roll six of these, it’s a Defensive Touchdown, which scores you 7 points immediately!
  • Sack (S): Move the Football Token backwards 10 yards.
  • Turnover (TO): Swap the Offense and Defense Dice. The Football Token does not move.
  • Pick Six (P6): The Defense immediately scores 7 points!

10s and 20s advance the Football Token towards the defense’s goal. If the Football Token lands on or crosses the Goal Line, it’s a Touchdown! That’s 7 points, and the defense becomes the new offense, placing the Football Token on their 25-yard line. Should the Football Token cross the 50-yard line, reset the Down Tracker to First Down. Otherwise, advance the Down Tracker by one. On Fourth Down, like standard football, the offense can either go for it (attempt to cross the 50-yard line or get a Touchdown), punt the ball, or attempt a Field Goal. Naturally, if the offense goes for it and fails, the defense and offense switch at the site of the Football Token.

For punting, both teams roll all of their dice. The offense adds up all their 10s and 20s and move the Football Token that many spaces forward. The defense becomes the offense where the Football Token ends up. If the Football Token would be placed on or past the Goal Line, the result is a touchback and the defense starts at the 25-yard line. If the offense manages to roll six 10s, they succeed in a Fake Punt! They run the ball in for a Touchdown (and 7 points). If the defense rolls six NGs, they return the punt for a Touchdown and score 7 points instead!

If the offense attempts a Field Goal, a few different things can happen:

  • If the offense’s play is a Field Goal (FG) and they win the roll, they can take the Field Goal, earn 3 points, and the defense becomes the new offense at their 25-yard line. If they’d prefer to go for the Touchdown, they advance the Football Token 10 yards and reset the Down Tracker to First Down.
  • On Fourth Down, they can attempt a Field Goal by rolling all of their dice and adding up all the 10s and 20s they roll. If that is enough to move the Football Token to the back of the endzone, they score 3 points and the defense becomes the new offense at their 25-yard line. Otherwise, they don’t get it.

Regardless, if the offense rolls six 10s, they successfully attempt a fake Field Goal and run it back for a Touchdown. Similarly, if the defense rolls six NGs, they block the Field Goal and return it for a Touchdown.

If the offense is ever backed onto their goal line or into their end zone, the defense scores a Safety! That means they earn two points and gain possession of the Football Token at their 25-yard line, becoming the new offense.

The first team to earn 21 points wins!

Player Count Differences

None! This is a two-player game. The BGG page and the box both suggest it’s a four-player game as well, but I can’t really see how that would work, other than splitting the Offense and Defense Dice in half and letting each player roll half of their team’s dice? Seems a bit silly. There’s no explicit call-out for four players in the rulebook either, so I’m going to just recommend this one at two.

Strategy

So this is another interesting one. You don’t really have a ton of input on the process, since you’re largely just rolling dice, so I’m not going to list off a bulleted list that basically resolves down to “roll good”. The only actual lever by which you can effect change is by using your Power Chip, when you have it. That’s the crux of the game, effectively; you have a lot of luck when you’re rolling dice, but when it comes down to a tie, can you accurately predict when to give your opponent the play and when to take it for yourself? That’s tougher. Sometimes it’s obvious; if it’s between a Touchdown for you and a Pick Six for your opponent, you’re taking the Touchdown. No brainer. Where it’s more difficult is whether or not it’s worth giving up the Power Chip to keep your momentum going on a Third Down so you can potentially go for it on Fourth (versus punting it away). There, I’d recommend looking at how much farther you need to go, how many points you have, and just making a judgment call. This game’s meant to be quick and tactical, so thinking more about that than how to plan a long-term strategy for a short-term dice-rolling game may help you out.

Also, try to roll good.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • Sports! I think video games about sports are silly, and board games about sports are also a little silly, but they’re fun themes, generally speaking. I think having a short and small football-esque game to play while watching a game or between breaks is pretty nice, and this feels somewhat authentic to the idea of the sport, which I appreciate.
  • This one’s generally pretty easy to pick up, if you already know football. As long as you understand downs, how they work, and the other more general football terms (and scoring), this is a pretty straightforward title. Like I said, it analogizes well to actual football, which helps.
  • For in-depth football fans, there are some pretty interesting variant rules online, like onside kicks and 2-point conversions and such. You can really make this as football as you want. I was impressed by that, but I haven’t tried the specific variants. They add some extra ways to give you some choices over what you do and how you do it (and some more football-esque rule styles, if you’re looking for those things). You can find them here.
  • Very portable game. The box is pretty small; you can definitely take it anywhere. Most of the board is even printed on the inside of the rulebook cover, so you could just grab the dice and the football, or use a couple coins and bring the dice and the rulebook with you if that’s more of your thing.
  • I am, routinely, a fan of custom dice. I do like custom dice a lot! It makes the game feel more intentional, to some degree? I’m probably just spoiled, but, it’s a real thing. I’m more immersed in the game, I suppose.
  • I like the Power Chip as the primary driver of player actions; it makes things interesting. Since the game is just dice-rolling, to some degree, having one specific item be the feature by which all player choice revolves around is an interesting concept, to say the least. I’d love to see more player choice, but I find almost every decision of when to use the Power Chip is begrudging at best, which keeps things interesting for me as a player.

Mehs

  • There’s not really any way to determine how long the game will take; sometimes it can just run long. You can definitely have a lot of rounds where it’s just four downs of No Gain from both players, which isn’t particularly interesting. To the game’s credit, this happens in actual football, as well; they can’t all be nail-biting upsets. Sometimes games are just a little boring. Unlike standard football, however, the game doesn’t end until a player gets 21 points, which might make your game run longer than expected. If that happens, well, there’s not much you can do about it. See Strategy.
  • I’m a little disappointed that the teams don’t have silly names. This felt like a truly golden opportunity to have incredibly silly names for your teams and we kind of went the Sports-Serious route, which was a disappointing realization. We could have been the Fightin’ Asparagus or the Rootin’ Tooters or whatever dumb thing I could come up with. I just want my games to have a bit more whimsy to them, inherently.
  • I do wish there were some way to influence your dice rolls a bit more than just the Power Chip. The variant play gives players more options, which addresses this somewhat, but I’m hesitant to give something that’s not in the core rulebook credit for being part of the game, even if it’s coming from the designer. A second edition that includes those variant rules would go a long way, I think, and be much appreciated. Sometimes you just have bad rolls and can’t do much about it, and that’s frustrating.

Cons

  • I’m not sure why you’d play this if you know nothing about football, but the rulebook doesn’t necessarily always explain the football-related reasons behind some of the rules. Most critically, in one spot, they just say “If situations occur not covered by these rules, apply standard football rules to resolve.” That’s probably fine, but it would behoove them to explain the rules a little bit. It’s a bit inside baseball, pun intended.

Overall: 6.75 / 10

Overall, I was entertained by Sports Dice: Football! To some degree, it’s a bit like watching football being played; there might be big plays or a slow game and you don’t have much control over it. I find that kind of amusing, since you’re less the players themselves and more the fans rooting for your home team to try and get a touchdown or a big turnover, making it kind of the ideal board game to play during game day. That said, it does have a hidden triumph, in that you can spend the Power Chip to break a tied roll in your favor, which I think is pretty smart. To me, Sport Dice: Football’s major issue is that it wants to be a bit too much and a bit too little at the same time. It doesn’t explain all of football’s terminology, making it challenging for a non-football player to get into the game without help (though, as a fair counterpoint, why would someone who doesn’t like football play a game called Sports Dice: Football?), but it also might be too simple for deep football fans to find a lot of interesting strategy in. To the latter point, there are some really interesting designer-produced alternative variant rules on BGG, allowing for things like onside kicks, the occasionally-risky reroll, and even two-point conversions. A few of them, frankly, surprised me in that they weren’t in the main rulebook. They’d make the core game a bit deeper, which would really address my only issue with it. That and the lack of humorous team names in the end zones. That’s just a missed opportunity, frankly. That all said, I’ve found the game pretty fun when I’ve played, even without the ability to super-directly influence my rolls. Sometimes you kind of just want a game that you can roll, spectate, and gloat over, and the whimsy of the dice make it hard to take misfortune too personally. That’s just football, sometimes. If you’re looking for a cute gift for a football fan turned board gamer, you like a bit of the ol’ sports yourself, or you just want a quick dice game that won’t ask too much of you, you might enjoy Sports Dice: Football! I had some fun with it.


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