Since my parents purchased "The N.F.L. Encyclopedia" for me in 1972 I have been obsessed with pro football. In the 45 years since I think I have played or owned any football game I could my hands on.
I spent alot of years with Paydirt, Satis Pro and the like. Then, in 1990 I found "Pro football Fantasim" and for a few years, my search was over. It was, quite simply, the finest simulation I have ever played. When it ended it's publication I went to Strat and APBA. Neither satisfied like Fantasim had done. Strat and APBA are more replay to me, where Fantasim was more simulation. What I mean is, I always felt with strat and APBA I was kind of locked in with how a team did statistically the prior year than with my decisions being able to compensate for that. Being a solo gamer, I am sure these would differ in say, a head to head league. With the advent of video games I spent years playing Madden and the various others available. Call me over critical, but they always had glaring or subtle deficiencies I could not get past. Fantasim has always been the measuring stick for me, so forgive me if I compare to that game a bit much.
I began my search for a new football board game this past summer. I could either fork over another $60 bucks for this year's version of Madden or go back to my first love of a table top simulation. I scoured E-bay, the web and read reviews. I thought of tracking down another copy of Fantasim and attempting to update and rate players on my own. Then, I remembered reading about 4Th st. Football so I visited the website.
The first thing that caught my attention was the similarities to Fantasim. After some more research and comparison's to other games on the market I ordered. Received my game and went up stairs and unpacked and began replaying the Packers 2015 campaign.
The components are not going to blow you away. They are simple and utilitarian and serve the purpose. I do not care about that, I am more interested in the details of game play. For those of you who do play video games from time to time, would you sacrifice some graphics for stellar game play? Beautiful graphics cannot hide poor or flawed game play and that is how I look at 4th st. May not be eye candy but it makes up for it with a level of detail I love.
You can order team sheets, or sheets with cut lines or perforated cards for players. I chose the perforated card stock as I enjoy putting the player cards on the grid's in their formation and platooning different packages in and out. You can do the same with team sheets and the numbered plastic chips provided. For offense #1 would be your QB on the grid and you place your other chip of like color and number on team sheet. Being older and void of any kind of social life outside of work, I have the time to use the player cards and sub in and out as needed. I even ordered another set of player grids to keep both teams offense and defense set up with out having to remove from grid for possession changes. This is much quicker if you were to use the team sheets and numbered chips I would imagine.
Unlike Fantasim, there are plenty of players here. 55 players for my Pack alone. I could even set up a practice squad if I wanted! No Jordy Nelson as he was out all last season (Nice touch guys, coaching adjustment right out of the box).
Several plays in each of the formations provided: Ace, Shotgun, Pro-set and double tight end with more available for order. Play is diagramed on individual card with the various possible match ups between offense and defensive player. This is another factor I love. For me, I need more than "inside run, outside run, short, medium or long pass" in my play calling. They've nailed it here with enough options to drive any DC nuts. I like being able to scout opposing defense and try to find mismatches to take advantage of. A majority of football games are to generic in this area whether they use individual player ratings or not. Plays like this allow more strategy and forethought to me. It does not mean you are automatically going to get the matchup you desire as that is based on a roll of D20, but it is still a preference for me. For example: I call shotgun #267 F1 quick pass (Randall Cobb is my flanker. I can see on the play card diagram on a D20 roll of 11-15 I will be able to use his "C" rating which is his short pass receiving rating of 9. Average is 7. Let's assume I am playing the rivaled Chicago Bears and they are in there base 3-4 defense. I'm hoping to catch them playing a zone pass coverage because I am hoping to get Cobb matched up on there OLB Willie Young, his zone pass defense rating is a 1. If I'm incorrect in there coverage, and they are playing Man, I have to assume there LCB Kyle Fuller will be matched up on him. Not a bad match up either, as his short pass defense rating is a 3.
I roll the D20, the D10 and two D6. Here is my roll D20:6, D10:4, 2D6=8. The D20 of 6 tells me the match up is my QB and his "C" or short pass rating which is a 9. The defense is in fact playing a zone pass coverage and Willie Young is there covering the zone called for. On a roll of 6-15 on the D20 he would be called on for defense. I subtract his rating "D" rating of 1 from Rodgers rating of 8 giving me a 7. I compare this to the D10 and if 7 or lower Rodgers wins the match up and I read result from his card, if D10 is 8 or over, we would read result from Young's card. D10 is a 4 so I look at the total of the 2D6 which is an 8. Look under Rodgers "C" column, result 8 and I see "11". Go to play result chart and 11 is 10+D10 yard gain. There are many other variables that can affect the outcome. What if Bears coach had positioned FS Antrelle Rolle in the zone as well? I would have had to add his "D" or zone pass defense rating with Youngs +1 more for a "stack" to the D10 before subtracting Rodgers rating, giving them a better chance of winning the match up. The result on Youngs card under his D column for the 2D6 is an incomplete pass. If in fact Rolle had been positioned there by coach, I could have had Rodgers attempt to audible to another play within same formation. Defensive coach could realign his defense after I make the audible call. And if we are at Soldier field, and not leading by 14 or more, I would subtract 2 from Rodgers audible rating (Crowd noise factor). If unsuccessful, I get flagged for a delay of game or, am forced to burn a time out to prevent the penalty.
No matter what level of football
I have been associated with over the years, you can get the match up you want and still not succeed. If, in our original result, 2D6 had been a 4, and we look under Rodgers "C" column and see the result is a 46. Go to result chart and see pass is incomplete.
The one thing that is different about 4th st, and another review I read commented on this as well, is the lack of a "defensive" play call and that said call either having a positive or negative modifier added or subtracted respectively to the dice results and or offensive plays. Instead you are placing defense in areas on the grid based on what you think the offense is going to run. Long pass, maybe you you place both safeties in the deep zone, while placing an OLB in row A to rush the QB. If you do, other areas will be weakened. At first, as I was comparing to Fantasm, this bothered me. After playing several games, it is no longer an issue. In a sense you are making a "defensive call" how you position your defense. The real life Packers play a 3-4 defense, but since I am in control and the game system allows me to change personel and formations, I have switched to 4-3 defensive scheme. Nick Perry is the sadly the odd man out in this defense and I moved Mike Neal to MLB and kicked Matthews back out to his natural OLB position. That is my "defensive play call" and I modify even more based on down and distance and game situation, and how and where I position them. I can double team Calvin Johnson, or play combo pass coverage or zone. If I'm playing "combo" coverage and the deep zone is called on play card for match up, I get a "stack" if Clinton-Dix is back there covering the deep zone because CB, say Shields, is covering man to man and follows receiver into area. Your play call is on the grid with your personel and it works. Watch a game on Sunday and you can tell what the defense is expecting by how they line up. Pass: Nickel, Dime defense, stack the line of scrimmage if it's short yardage and then react to the offense when the ball is snapped with they have on the field. Not to get side tracked on a different subject, but it is the age old debate I used to have with my peers in coaching about do the better athletes play on offense or defense? Offense has all the advantage before the ball is snapped. So defense here is much the same. Position your players and personel to your strength and if the play goes to an area or zone you left uncovered, then the offense player wins the match up and rightfully so. Remember the Packers in last year's play offs letting Fitzgerald run free in over time?? Bad alignment on the grid! Even with this, it does not mean your defense is going to get burned. It is well balanced and not all the results on an offensive players card are great results, same with a defensive player winning a match up. Like I said earlier, you can get the favorable match up you want and still have it not go your way. This is the beauty of both offense and defense in this game and you see it every Sunday on T.V.
Now, I play solitaire and I love the solitaire version. There are ways to simplify and speed up but I choose not to do so because I enjoy the level of detail. I also do not like a solitaire system where I have to call offensive plays for both teams. I want to run the offense and defense for just my team. I will use the call offense for both teams only when my season has ended and I play post season games with no vested interest in the out come. This game allows you to do both ways. Defensive play cards based on 3-4, 4-3, short, and long are included and team sheets have the personel for each. I have modified these to include different pass coverages based on who I am playing. The instructions give you options for speeding up the solitaire game such as strictly playing zone defense for each team. This is quicker and simpler, but again, I enjoy the varied out comes.
There are offensive play call sheets for every team and they vary based on formation. This is where you have to help your solitaire opponent and not "cheat" the system. If it's 3rd and 20 and you use the "short" or "slow down" 2 T.E. formation for there play call, you will probably get a favorable result while not really getting a realistic simulation. "Shotgun/long" would be a better choice and you still may be fooled.
I also like the fatigue system, though it is optional. It prevents you from constantly taking advantage of your all pro players and using them as intended receiver or runner over and over. Not to worry as most of those players have a solid rating in this area anyway, but you will not be able to call there number on every play with out decreasing there ratings. I love this aspect as it really has you thinking ahead and managing your players and play calling. I need James Jones as a deep threat but how much do I use him now based on game situation? What if he is his gassed and and it's late in the game and I'm down by a score? Do I put him in with the reduced rating, or do I go with Ty Montgomery who is fresh but does not have the ratings Jones does? Maybe Jone's ratings even fatigued would be better than who I have available.
I have rambled a bit but I want to say that with this game you can make it as simple or as detailed as you lime. There are also a set of solitaire play cards for pro set vs. 3-4 or 4-3 you can order for even more streamlined play. I used one game with these and they do speed things up and are quite enjoyable.
The other area I need to comment on is customer service. An industry I work in and am serious about. People don't have to buy your product, everyone has a competitor with similar products and this is where you differentiate. 4th st does a fantastic job. Much better experience than I had with Fantasim back in the day. The rules could use some work for clarification but no worries. Send them an e-mail with your question as I have done several times and always get a response. Quick and professional shipping. Even had my other set if grids and charts by week 2!
I will always miss Fantasim and it is still my favorite. But this is the closest to it and that is the highest praise I can offer. What's better is it looks like they will be around for awhile to support it. It is an investment of time to play but really quickens up as the mechanics become second nature. I have so much fun I don't really notice the time pass and that is another compliment I can give. Audibles, weather fatigue, injury, home field advantage, weird plays, it's all here and for that I say thanks and job well done. And these guys are from Minnesota! I can't believe I'm saying this!
I regret spinning this off in one of my game downsizing efforts. I might have to buy back in even though it would definitely only see solitaire play. Thanks for discussing your solitaire experience with it.