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Techno Bowl: Arcade Football Unplugged» Forums » Reviews

Subject: More Than Just A Football Simulator rss

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Everett
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I have been searching for a good football simulator for a long time. I've tried nearly every one in existence, and still never found a good one. At least, until I discovered Techno Bowl.

Every simulator up until this point, whether it uses the charts of Pizza Box Football, the dice of 1st and Goal, or the PlayGrid of NFL Showdown, follows the same formula. In goes play, out goes result. There's no interaction. Just a repetitive monotony of plays and results. You never got to see the incredible spin move, the fierce blitz, the deep bomb. All you got to see was a 6 yard gain on your Halfback Dive. Blood Bowl and its descendants made strides towards the idea of actually being able to execute plays, but they ended up too much like Rugby and not enough like Football. Techno Bowl changes all that.



Through creating one of the most innovative game systems ever invented since Klaus Teuber's 645th-great-grandfather first etched some markings resembling sheep into a stone, Brent Spivey has created a masterpiece that effortlessly combines the drama and excitement of sports with the careful strategy and incredible depth of board games.

One of this game's many strengths becomes apparent the moment you set up the game. Each player picks one of the 32 teams (each of which parodies an NFL team) which team they want to coach. Every team plays very differently. I know you hear that all the time, but I mean it: Every team plays VERY differently. From the hard-nosed power running of the Engines (Redskins) to the incredible pass defense of the Tyrants (Seahawks) to the flexibility and speed of the Omegas (Colts), there is a team for every playstyle imaginable.



Once you've selected your team, now you've got to select one of the five modes to play as. Yep, 32 teams, five modes, see a pattern yet? This game has more replayability than that of games three times its cost! From the simple, elegant 7 on 7 action of Techno Mode to the complexity of 8 on 8 All Pro Mode to the sheer awesomeness of Inferno Mode, every mode carries with it a new experience. And the best part? Every mode is a worthy experience, and deserves to be played over and over. These are not just tutorial levels that lead up to a full game.

Teams and format selected, it's time to kickoff! Now we move onto the next strength of this incredible game. You get to design your own formations and plays. Yes, you heard it here first. Feel free to keel over in shock. I'll wait for you to come to.


You back yet? Okay, you get to design your own formations and plays. Well how do you design a play? After all, couldn't you just move whoever you want and change your mind completely as the play develops? This brings us to the meat of the game, the activation system.



Before every play, each coach makes a stack of five cards. These cards represent the players that you want to activate during the play. After the snap, each coach reveals the top card, and the play begins. Each turn the player that is on the revealed card is activated. This allows you to stack the cards of your star running back to pick up some quick yards, or send all your receivers deep for the pass. But many more activations than just the one per card happen during the course of a turn.

Whenever a player performs an action such as a block, pass, or tackle, they roll two dice, adding up modifiers based on the skills and abilities of the player performing the action.

On a 2-6, whatever action is being performed fails. And then your opponent activates ANY PLAYER ON THEIR TEAM.
On a 7-9, the action succeeds, but the opponent gets a partial activation of a player
On a 10-12, the action succeeds and you get another activation with any player.

Because Techno Bowl doesn't use straight-line probabilities, trying to get the right modifiers and bonuses in order to get that 10-12 result is key, and is truly the core of the game.

So let's just get this out of the way. The activation system sounds really weird and unintuitive. That's what I thought too when I first heard about the game. But in practice, it actually works strangely well. You just need to give it a try. Either through papercrafting a copy or watching one of the Thursday Night Football broadcasts, you can see just how well it ends up working to allow for the creation of plays. There's nothing like that satisfying feeling when your play works perfectly, or the frustration of a broken play. You can try to throw a quick pass to your Star wideout, or perhaps have your running back dive through a hole opened up by the tackle and tight end, or maybe even overthrow your receiver in hopes of beating the coverage!



Another great benefit to this game is the accessibility. You can literally tell how well a player can do at a fundamental action just by looking at the first number on their jersey. Higher numbers throw deeper and run faster, while lower numbers block and tackle better. Techno Bowl is filled with really ingeniously simple mechanics that come together to make a game with unparalleled realism and depth, and this is the perfect example of that.

Now skills. Skills on star players are what define a team. But don't worry about having to memorize a whole bunch of skills. There are only four skills in total on every team, meaning it is very easy to remember who has what skill and what that skill does. Each of the 26 skills is VERY different, and each leads to a different playstyle. The Pit Bulls (Steelers) for example have: Shove, Team Player, Blitz, and Tackle +1, one skill per star player. All four of these skills perform excellently on defense, and thus the Pit Bulls are known for having a very difficult defense to score off of. Or take the Big Cats (Rams). They have one player with Pocket Passer, and another player with Catch, Juke, and Spin. Therefore they have a very strong offense. Pocket Passer and Catch allow for a formidable passing game, while Juke and Spin are excellent running back skills. So it is difficult to know what play the Big Cats will go with. And so on.

Now let's talk about abstraction. Yes, there are some abstractions in the game. An overthrown pass can literally float for several turns, there are only eight players per side, yes you have four downs to score, and yes there are a few other abstractions. But Brent Spivey did an excellent job of knowing where to sacrifice realism for mechanics, employing a very similar strategy used by Brad Dalton in the bestseller Milennium Blades. And since those mechanics create the realism, it doesn't really matter that they are abstract anyway! The abstractions really aren't a problem, and are in fact a boon to the game and it's design and realism.

But now we get to the main point of my review. As far as Techno Bowl goes as a Football Sim, it simply blows all its predecessors out of the water. But Techno Bowl is more than just a Football Sim. Techno Bowl is a carefully crafted, completely unique game that deserves to be give a chance by anyone, football fan or not. Wargamers and fans of adventure games in particular will find this game to be a rollicking success, no matter what their standing is on football.


The Short Version:

If you are a fan of football, buy this game as soon as you can.
If you hate football, still look into this game. There is a lot of cool stuff going on.


Rating (using the seven-point scale):

6/7



NOTE: I DID NOT RECEIVE ANY PAYMENT OR REPARATIONS (including but not limited to a free copy) OF ANY FORM FROM BRENT SPIVEY, BOMBSHELL GAMES, OR THE MFL. THIS IS AN UNPAID REVIEW
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Everett
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Those mods only gave me 1.3 GG.
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Brian Jones
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Just found this on Kickstarter and I am intrigued, and thank you for the detailed review. I have not played the game or read the rules, so I'm not sure I understand everything you talked about, but it was a great overview.

The biggest problem I am having is that the play system you describe sounds interesting, but slow. How long does an average game take, with inexperienced players? How long does each play take to resolve?
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Brent Spivey
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bclayj wrote:
Just found this on Kickstarter and I am intrigued, and thank you for the detailed review. I have not played the game or read the rules, so I'm not sure I understand everything you talked about, but it was a great overview.

The biggest problem I am having is that the play system you describe sounds interesting, but slow. How long does an average game take, with inexperienced players? How long does each play take to resolve?

The maximum amount a time it takes for both coaches to create their formations and call a play is 3 minutes as that is on a real world timer. In reality, it will usually clock in at 2 minutes to complete that portion. When I would demo a game at Gen Con, if a player watched me run a couple a plays against another player, they could jump right in and start playing the basic game without special skill or abilities. Those comes would come in at around 1 hour plus-or-minuse depending on the number of running versus passing plays and whether or not a timeout was called.

As far as the length of time to resolve a play, you can get sacked in the backfield on the second card of your play hand and the play be over in under a minute or be involved in a long developing pass play that empties the bench of cards. It's highly variable.

Two players that have played the game a few times will usually finish a game in around 45-60 minutes unless there are a lot of passes and timeouts are used. The gameplay/instruction video here on the site is around 45 minutes for one half of play and that includes a 5-10 minute pregame intro, very slow and deliberate play with explanations, teaching, commentary, and a timeout. That's about the worst case scenario in terms of game length!
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Everett
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bclayj wrote:
Just found this on Kickstarter and I am intrigued, and thank you for the detailed review. I have not played the game or read the rules, so I'm not sure I understand everything you talked about, but it was a great overview.

The biggest problem I am having is that the play system you describe sounds interesting, but slow. How long does an average game take, with inexperienced players? How long does each play take to resolve?



My games usually go around 80 minutes, but more experienced players than me can go like 45-70 apparently.
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Brian Jones
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Toenail21 wrote:
bclayj wrote:
Just found this on Kickstarter and I am intrigued, and thank you for the detailed review. I have not played the game or read the rules, so I'm not sure I understand everything you talked about, but it was a great overview.

The biggest problem I am having is that the play system you describe sounds interesting, but slow. How long does an average game take, with inexperienced players? How long does each play take to resolve?



My games usually go around 80 minutes, but more experienced players than me can go like 45-70 apparently.


Thanks for the replies, I was hoping to hear that even inexperienced players could get in a game under 90 minutes.
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Brent Spivey
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bclayj wrote:
Thanks for the replies, I was hoping to hear that even inexperienced players could get in a game under 90 minutes.

That should be the case. In the most recent video I posted, the gameplay came in at just under an hour and that include a few timeouts and overtime. I think most experienced board gamers will be able to easily get a game finished in under 90 minutes after only a single 'learning' game [as long as you use the formation/play call timers].
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Ismael Descolado
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[sorry my english]

I love NFL and I'm "dating" this game. I'm working in translate the rules to Brazilian Portuguese.

Question: Which prevents I use "first down" in this game? By the rules, nothing, right?
PUNT RETURN I think is more complex, but is possible also.
FIELD GOAL formations? (to allow the opponent block the kick). Hummm... I can think something.
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Jamel Rha
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If you compare this game to Baseball 2045, would you say it is as much fun? Btw I am solo playing mainly.
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Andy Pymont
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I'm sure Everett will offer his own opinions, however in the meantime here are my 2c:

descolado1 wrote:
[sorry my english]

Much better than my Portuguese! Please say if I have misunderstood any of your questions.
descolado1 wrote:
Question: Which prevents I use "first down" in this game? By the rules, nothing, right?

The game is designed for a very 'arcade' style of football. There are no first downs: you have 4 downs to reach a Touchdown! At first this may not sound such a good simulation, but actually the fact you can build your own plays allows you to play out some very football-like situations. Plus spaces on the board are 5 yards, so if you play with first downs every 10 yards, it'll be very easy for whoever begins with the ball!

descolado1 wrote:
PUNT RETURN I think is more complex, but is possible also.

There are no punts in Tech?No! Bowl in the current rules. As I say above though, it still creates very realistic gridiron situations which work well within its particular ruleset.

descolado1 wrote:
FIELD GOAL formations? (to allow the opponent block the kick). Hummm... I can think something.

There are rules for field goals. If they miss you can assume they were deflected but not blocked/returned. Perhaps return rules could be added but I think it makes sense in the current game to have you choose between kicking and trying to score a touchdown: you've already dropped points if you have to kick on 4th down.
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Andy Pymont
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Jamelrha wrote:
If you compare this game to Baseball 2045, would you say it is as much fun? Btw I am solo playing mainly.

Baseball Highlights 2045 has an excellent solo mode and also excels as a "tournament" game with 4 players (or 8+ if you have multiple copies of the game). I don't think this game is quite as developed as a solo or tournament experience *yet*, but Brent may introduce some new rules for us.

As a 2 player game, it is good fun and isn't as long as some football simulations. It's not much like Baseball Highlights 2045 in terms of mechanics, but it's very similar in that it doesn't simulate every rule of football and yet still manages to create an excellent abstraction of the game with some similar situations arising. You can do things like an "I formation" in Tech?No! Bowl and they work in a similar way to real football despite only having 7 or 8 players per side on the field.
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Jamel Rha
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NormandyWept wrote:
Jamelrha wrote:
If you compare this game to Baseball 2045, would you say it is as much fun? Btw I am solo playing mainly.

Baseball Highlights 2045 has an excellent solo mode and also excels as a "tournament" game with 4 players (or 8+ if you have multiple copies of the game). I don't think this game is quite as developed as a solo or tournament experience *yet*, but Brent may introduce some new rules for us.

As a 2 player game, it is good fun and isn't as long as some football simulations. It's not much like Baseball Highlights 2045 in terms of mechanics, but it's very similar in that it doesn't simulate every rule of football and yet still manages to create an excellent abstraction of the game with some similar situations arising. You can do things like an "I formation" in Tech?No! Bowl and they work in a similar way to real football despite only having 7 or 8 players per side on the field.


Yeah i must admit the solo mode is what is drawing me in. The price is good and the shipping is reasonable for a Canadian... what would be lacking in the solo mode ?
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Andy Pymont
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Jamelrha wrote:
Yeah i must admit the solo mode is what is drawing me in. The price is good and the shipping is reasonable for a Canadian... what would be lacking in the solo mode ?

In the current rules, solo play means playing as both sides (or at least randomising a play for one/both and then executing it as best as you can!) That said, the activation system does mean that plays develop in unexpected ways and once they do so and both teams are "reacting" rather than planning, obviously that's a point where you can solo both sides quite well.

I believe Brent is interested in solo possibilities and it's not impossible that more solo-specific rules are added in future. There was already a brief start at this in the main thread which I imagine will be expanded in time (you can go and look there to see what Brent was replying to):

voodooink wrote:
- shuffle up the defense's cards and then randomly build a play without looking
- after the snap, play them as you did in you were already doing
- if at any point you decide to read-and-react with the defense or perform a bench boost, you flip the defensive bench around so that you can see the cards and make the swap or pull the card [this will allow you to know the play cards but not the order]
- shuffle the defensive bench cards and place them back on the bench
- if the play call cards run out, pull cards like you did in the game you played
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Everett
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NormandyWept wrote:
I'm sure Everett will offer his own opinions, however in the meantime here are my 2c:



Who, me?


But you got everything right there Andy.
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Jef Addley
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Nice review .. i have added to kickstarter despite it being a sports game... and colonial as well.
Actually Gridiron football is the only sort i like too watch... but now i am trying to work out all the "coincidences" in team colours and names..we dont get to see as many of the games on this side of the pond.. tho this year i have seen a very confusing program called red zone... i never quite now which team i am looking at it swaps so fast.. was that black team raiders or falcons ..was it vikings or ravens.. in my defense i have retinopathy and am not so slowly going blind which prob doesnt help.

Anyway I hope the KS goes well
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