Game Buzz: 1st and Goal

It’s the holidays, and everything seems like it’s going on at once.  So, I may be slowing down over the next few weeks – just to let you know.  But for now, here’s:

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

1st & Goal is a new game coming to us from publishers R&R Games and designer Stephen Glenn.  Glenn is the designer of one the best two-player games out there (and one of my personal favorites), Balloon Cup.  So I’m very interested to see how this 2-4 player football themed game works.

Components - image by BGG user rnrgames

1st & Goal comes with a board representing the football field; 6 clear plastic scoring/timeout discs; one first down flags marker; one football token; 7 team dice (red, white, brown, yellow, blue, green, and black) that will all have different numbers; three white game dice (play, referee, and penalty); stickers for the dice (sigh); 60 offense cards; 60 defense cards; 2 fake/kick cards; and a coin.  With 2 or 4 players, you’ll be splitting evenly into two teams.  With three, one team will have two players.  Two-player teams should decide which is playing offense and which is playing defense.

At the start of the game, decide who is the home team.  The away team calls the flip of the coin, and the winner of the coin toss is the first offense (the other team is the first offense in the second half).  The game itself flows like a real football game – the offense has four downs to get at least 10 yards.  If you get your yardage, you get a new set of downs.  You’ll be trying to score points through touchdowns, extra point attempts, and field goals.

The first thing that happens in a round (and after a team scores) is the kickoff.  The receiving team (offense) can either take a touchback (placing the ball on the 20 yard line) or try to run the ball out.  If you want to run, you’ll roll five dice – red, white, brown, blue, and the white play die.  You’ll start at your endzone, add up the result, and advance to that yard line.  As I mentioned, each die has different numbers, and the play die may show another result – an X here results in an automatic touchback; a breakaway allows you to roll again after moving (and again and again if you keep rolling that symbol); a T causes you to roll the referee dice to see if you turned the ball over; a P means that you must roll the referee before moving the ball to see if it’s on the offense or defense (or no one).

After the kickoff, you’ll start running plays.  Each player has a hand of 8 cards from their respective decks, and will each choose one card to play and reveal simultaneously.  You can also call a timeout, which allows both players to either take a card to play from the discard pile, or shuffle their hand back into their deck and draw a new hand of eight cards.  You only have three timeouts per half.  When you reveal your cards, you’ll announce the play.  If it’s a running play, you’ll discard the top card from the offense deck.  The defense and offense cards will be matched to see which dice you roll, advancing the ball the total yardage.  The defense rolls a black die, which will usually subtract from the total.  If you haven’t gotten your 10 yards, move the ball into the next down column.  On the fourth down, you either have to try one more play, attempt a field goal, or punt.

If you get to the end zone, you score six points.  You can immediately try a 2-point conversion (one play from the two yard line), or kick an extra point by rolling the play and referee dice.  Rolling two Xs means that it was blocked.  Anything else means that you score.  You’ll roll the referee and play dice for field goals two, with a block on a roll of two Xs.  With a field goal, you also roll four dice and see if you made the field goal from your space.  If not, you turn the ball over.  If so, you score three points.  Punts are resolved by rolling a set of dice, then the receiving team rolling a runback.

When the ball changes hands, so do the decks.  Your hand gets shuffled back into the deck, and the other player will draw a new hand from the deck.  The half ends when the offensive player has no more cards to play from their hand or deck.  The game ends after the second half, and the player with the most points wins.

Of course, as with any football game, there are a lot of little rules that make the game more thematic.  But that, in essence, is it.  It’s a dicefest, sure, but it’s about as random as an actual game of football.  You never know exactly how a play will work out, and it’s a game of chicken – trying to outwit your opponent while giving yourself the best chance to do well.

I don’t have much to compare this to.  Pizza Box Football is the only other football game I’ve played.  That one deals with the playmaking by using charts, which, while very intricate, is difficult to get a hold on.  I like the concept of putting the various plays on cards, and seeing how they work against each other.  Thematically, it doesn’t really work – there’s no rule in the game that limits how many of each type of play you get.  However, I think this seems like it will play very well, and perhaps a bit quicker than PBF.  The reported play time is 60 minutes.

I’m interested to see how it works.  At the very least, it seems like something you can do with a real football game on in the background, and it seems like it requires less attention than PBF.  I’m looking forward to giving it a shot.  Thanks for reading!

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