SHOWDOWN! 1st & Goal vs. Pizza Box Football

I haven’t done a SHOWDOWN! in almost two years, so it’s time to haul it back out for a fourth appearance.  In previous editions, Innovation beat Glory to Rome for my favorite Carl Chudyk game; Core Worlds beat Eminent Domain as the best space-based deck-builder; and Shadow Hunters beat The Resistance and Ultimate Werewolf as my favorite social deduction game.  This week, in honor of the eminent NFL season, two football games are going to be vying for glory – Pizza Box Football versus 1st & Goal!  Let’s meet the contestants:

image by BGG user DrChek
image by BGG user DrChek

Pizza Box Football

  • Designed by Erik and Scott Smith
  • Published in 2005 by On the Line Game Company
  • 1-2 players
  • A dice-based football game where players call plays, roll dice, and compare results to a chart to see what happens
image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

1st & Goal

  • Designed by Stephen Glenn
  • Published in 2011 by R&R Games
  • 2-4 players
  • A card-based football game where players call plays with cards, compare results, and roll dice to see what happens.

Here are the rules of this SHOWDOWN!, which is going to be a little different than previous iterations.  I have selected eight categories in which to compare these two.  There are two categories per quarter.  In each category, each game will get either a field goal (3 points) for my ability to recommend the game there; a touchdown (7 points) for being exceptional; a turnover on downs for not quite being up to snuff; or a turnover via some boneheaded mistake for completely failing at being redeemable in the category.  This is all very subjective, and your results may vary if you run this simulation at home.  Nevertheless, here we go.

1st Quarter, 1st Possession: Components

We kick it off with a discussion of the bits in each game.  Pizza Box Football is based out of a box that is meant to evoke the thought of, you guessed it, a pizza box.  This is more than just a gimmick – the box opens up to lie flat so the cardboard football field can stand up in it.  The board shows the field with holes on every yard line, and your team is represented by pegs that move up and down the field in those holes.  There’s a yellow peg that marks the first down line, and other green pegs for tracking score, time outs, and time remaining in the game.  Dice are used to determine the outcome of each play, with modifiers based on what the defense thought you were doing.  There are also charts so you can compare the results of your rolls and find out what happened.

Overall the components in Pizza Box Football are nice and functional.  I happen to be a big fan of peg boards – I think it’s an extremely elegant way to ensure accuracy.  And it works well here.  The board is fairly sturdy, though it can be difficult to get it set just right in the box.  There are tracks for score and time, but the pegs used for those are all green and blend in with the rest of the board.  The dice are fairly standard, with some small ones.  There are references as to what die is used when, it’s sometimes hard to remember.  It doesn’t really matter – they’re all d6s, and you can use them whenever.

The biggest problem with the components of PBF is that you have way too many charts.  Whenever you roll, you have to flip to the appropriate section on the chart to see what happens.  Sometimes, this will refer you to another chart.  Field goals and punts are separate, and there’s a lot of shuffling around.  It can get annoying.  The charts themselves are good quality, I just wish they had found a better way to organize the info.  Field goal.

1st & Goal has a magnetized board showing the football field, with hash marks used to mark downs and a magnetic ten yard chain to mark first down.  There are also clear plastic discs that you use to track timeouts and score.  There are also two decks of cards – one for the defense, one for the offense.  Each card shows the name of a play or defense, and which dice are used against each type of opposing play or defense.  The dice are big plastic cubes that you apply stickers to.  Additionally, there’s a plastic coin used for determining first player.

As much as I love a peg board, I have to say that the magnetic board is really more practical since there aren’t so many holes.  And if we were only comparing boards, 1st & Goal would be the clear winner.  However, I have to mark them down for the plastic discs.  I know they wanted to make the numbers underneath visible, but what about magnetic rings that WON’T go everywhere when the board is bumped?  You protected the ball, not the score.  I also am never a fan of having to sticker anything, especially dice.  I really wish they had either done it themselves, or printed the symbols and numbers on each side.  The dice are different colors so you can tell them apart, but the penalty and play dice are both white and ALWAYS get mixed up.

I think the cards work really well as a solution to the chart problem I have with PBF – all the information you need is right there on the card you play, so you don’t have to flip through a ton of charts to find the answer.  And I’m also glad they included a coin – it’s cheap brown plastic with a face on one side and a pig tail on the other, and it’s monochromatic so you may have to squint to see which side you’re looking at, but it’s there.  I like the board and cards a lot, but I can’t give 1st & Goal extra credit for the dice and plastic tokens.  Field Goal.

  • PBF 3, 1&G 3

1st Quarter, 2nd Possession: Theme

It’s difficult to compare theme here as both games have a very strong football theme.  Neither one is a game that, when you get to the end, feels unrealistic as a football game.  Scoring happens about as frequently as you would expect in a real game, and the final score seems like something you would actually see from a game.  There’s also a certain amount of abstraction going on since you are rolling dice and looking up the results of the plays.  However, I would say that the theme is strong in both places.  I’m giving the edge to 1st & Goal simply because the cards name plays, and it’s easier to visualize what’s happening in your game.  In Pizza Box Football, it’s all run, short pass, and long pass.  There’s not a lot of detail there, and then, once the dice are rolled, you are told what happens.  With 1st & Goal, you get play names, and then there’s the possibility of penalties or turnovers with the roll of the dice – it’s not all dictated by a chart.  So field goal for PBF, touchdown 1st & Goal.

  • PBF 6, 1&G 10

2nd Quarter, 1st Possession: Mechanics

Pizza Box Football and 1st & Goal are similar thematically, and both have a core mechanism of rolling dice to determine what happens.  There’s also a bit of rock-paper-scissors feel to both games as you try to outguess your opponents.  In Pizza Box Football, it takes the form of the defense choosing whether to defend against the run, short pass, or long pass.  The defensive die roll will determine the modifier when the offense rolls for the result of the play.  In 1st & Goal, each player is choosing a play that will have the maximum success against the other.  The run defenses are better against the run plays, and pass defenses are better against pass plays.  There are also specific plays that are designed to get you rolling a lot of dice unless the opponent successfully defends.

So dice rolling is important in both, but the mechanism is used differently in each game.  PBF uses dice with modifiers and has you comparing the results to a chart.  In 1st & Goal, the type of dice used are indicated by the play/defense combination.  Also, you’re always rolling a defense die and the play die, and there’s always a chance of a turnover or penalty.  In PBF, turnovers are possible only when rolling certain numbers on the dice – everything is pretty much set in stone.

Timing in the game works differently as well.  In PBF, each play takes a certain amount of time, and you move a peg accordingly.  For example, a successful play or run takes four units of time, while an incomplete pass only takes two.  It’s REALLY easy to forget to move the peg, but you can easily see how much time you’ve got left with this method.  1st & Goal uses the decks of cards – when they run out, the half is over.  It’s much easier to do, although it’s not always obvious how much time is left.

Both games pretty well.  However, PBF only gets a field goal since it feels a lot clunkier than 1st & Goal, which plays very smoothly.  1st & Goal gets a touchdown.

  • PBF 9, 1&G 17

2nd Quarter, 2nd Possession: Accessibility

The inherent problem with football games is that they’re really only going to appeal to the segment of the population that likes football.  As large as that segment may be, there’s still a good chunk of people that don’t like the sport.  If you aren’t a fan, or don’t really know the game that well, you’re going to have trouble getting into both games.  I think PBF is probably even more difficult than 1st & Goal since there are so many charts to flip through.  1st & Goal strips things down and makes it relatively easy to pick up.  However, I’m not giving any more than a field goal to 1st & Goal, and no points for PBF.

  • PBF 9, 1&G 20

Time for the halftime show!

And we’re back!

3rd Quarter, 1st Possession: Replayability

First of all, for this category, I’m going to assume that you like football.  If you don’t, you’re not going to want to replay this game.  If you do like football, you’ll find endless enjoyment in both games.  You can keep stats, you can make up names for your players, and you can add commentary throughout.  They’re both very immersive, and you’ll want to play them again and again.

I’m going to give Pizza Box Football the edge in this category simply on the strength of expansions.  For the first few years of the game, On the Line published expansions with customized teams for the NFL.  You can get these (2006-2010) at their website for free.  Also, they hold an annual contest to predict the winner of the Super Bowl, releasing the two customized teams and having people play with them to determine who will win.  1st & Goal has six expansions, each with four customized teams.  However, these are $15 each, making it much more expensive to expand your game.  So, because both are fun to play again and again, both score.  On the strength of the expansions, 1st & Goal gets a field goal, Pizza Box Football gets a touchdown.

  • PBF 16, 1&G 23

3rd Quarter, 2nd Possession: Scalability

I can’t give either game any points for this.  They’re both for 2 players, and certainly can be played with more if you play as a team.  1st & Goal suggests that one person play defense, and the other play offense, but I think it’s better as a two player game.

  • PBF 16, 1&G 23

4th Quarter, 1st Possession: Time

Both games can take a long time.  They’re based on football, which is a long game, and play can take a while.  They’re not ridiculous, and it is possible to play only partial games.  Pizza Box Football has the edge because there are four modes of play that you can use to customize how long games take.  And it’s a quarter-based game, meaning that there are four segments rather than two halves as in 1st & Goal.  So, since I think PBF is easier to make as long as you want, PBF gets the touchdown while 1st & Goal gets a field goal.

  • PBF 23, 1&G 26

4th Quarter, 2nd Possession: Strategy

It all comes down to this.  Pizza Box Football is a game where the strategy comes primarily from choosing your plays and defenses.  The defense has to think what the offense will do in this situation, while the offense has to think about what the defense thinks they will do.  After that, it’s just dice rolling.  But that’s enough strategy to give PBF a field goal.

1st & Goal, on the other hand, has a rotating hand of cards you choose from.  You’re choosing between as many as eight options at a time, and while you have to make the determination of what the other side thinks you’ll do, you also want to give yourself the best chance to succeed.  The number of dice for each possible play is shown on the cards, and you can weigh your options like that.  I think it offers more strategy, and so we have a last second touchdown for the win!

  • PBF 26, 1&G 33

And there you have it.  1st & Goal has defeated Pizza Box Football.  I enjoy both games, but 1st & Goal has definitely replaced Pizza Box Football for me.  I highly recommend it – there’s even a new iOS app for the game.  I haven’t played it yet, but I’m watching for it to go on sale so I can give it a go.  Thanks for reading!

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