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Subject: NFL Strategy: Hut One, Hut Two rss

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Gil Hansen
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NFL Strategy: Hut One, Hut Two…


As a diehard football fan – American football, that is – I fell in love with NFL Strategy when I was just 15. More than four decades later (but who’s counting), I still love to haul this game out during the fall and winter. My first copy was the old “flickerbead” version…played the snot out of it with my brother. We played NFL games and NCAA games, creating our own “Bowl” match-ups. Eventually the defensive cards began to peel so it was a boon when Mom bought the updated and upgraded leatherette edition…she was great! Sadly, this game is no longer in circulation and there is no indication that Tudor Games, Inc. will ever resurrect it.

Perusing BoardGameGeek, I have noticed that this game has a comparatively small fan base. Most postings date two years back or more (quite a bit more), and while there have been more recent comments posted on some of these older threads, the traffic is still pretty light. Understandably, NFL Strategy is more of a seasonal favorite and limited to a specific sport’s “niche”, but if you like American football, this is a wonderful game. No, it isn’t computerized (although there is a VASSAL module). No, it doesn’t showcase specific teams or players. The emphasis is purely upon the strategy generated by the individual play selection between two opponents.

Below is a brief summary and overview of this fine game. Hopefully, this review might generate some additional interest and prompt someone to go out and grab a copy on eBay or Amazon, or maybe get someone to dust off their copy for another go.

Aesthetics
There is no question that the leatherette version is a HUGE improvement on the earlier offerings. Not only does it do away with the flickerbead (something that will be addressed later), it also lends the game a degree of class. The case provides self-contained storage with felt lining and sufficient compartments for game pieces, cards and manual on one side and a metal playing field, time clock and “score board” on the other. The game pieces are high-end, from the dice to the pegs for recording down, quarter and score (definitely NOT Battleship-quality pegs) to the magnetic ball and down marker which mark the position of the ball on the field and the first down. The only knock on the case is the handle which is only attached by rather small set screws which pull out easily.

Mechanics
The game mechanics are simple and straightforward, providing a great deal of realism in play. The rules are easily understood and applied. The quarter, down, timeouts and score are recorded with quality pegs placed in the appropriate holes. The time clock is governed manually using a clearly prescribed formula for runs and passes based upon yards gained. Special teams play is also prescribed.

There are 46 double-sided offensive plays which include runs, passes and play action. There are 15 one-sided, defensive play cards including two for special situations. Both offensive and defensive cards display a diagram of how the play will run at the top of the card. Finally, there is one double-sided Special Teams card for all special teams play. There is also an official “Playbook” which, in addition to laying out the rules, provides detailed information for each play plus some excellent color commentary and advice.

Play
After each player selects a card, the cards are placed together with the clear defensive card on top. Because of the clear design, it is possible for the players to see how the two plays match up. Below the schematic are five “windows” visible through the defensive card which give the possible results of the play. Since the game provides for the ball to be placed either on the left, center or right hashmark (which are color-coded for ease of identification), there are actually three possible results within each window. This means that on any given play, there will be 15 possible results depending on the roll of the dice and the position of the ball. Utilizing a simple 2d6 roll, a mathematical probability scale determines the actual play result by indicating which window is to be consulted. Once a specific window is indicated by the dice, the players take the result which matches the position of the ball on the field. The down is recorded with the appropriate peg, the time clock is advanced the proper number of seconds, and the process starts over until the offense scores, loses the ball or is forced to punt. With each change of possession, the players swap cards and continue play.

Personal Review
Having played NFL Strategy for decades, I have some definite opinions relating to its strengths and weaknesses. Personally, I believe its strengths far outweigh its weaknesses, so I will begin with those.

Strengths
1. Simplicity. NFL Strategy is extremely simple to play. There is virtually no learning curve…you can begin play right out of the box. Almost all of the details are self-explanatory, the rules being intuitive and requiring very little examination of the manual. Just pick your plays, match them up, and roll the dice. Another asset, particularly for the leatherette version, is that the game can be stopped and restarted at any time without losing your place. If you can’t finish a game, simply remove the pegs and close the case. The ball, first down marker and time clock remain unaffected.
2. Realism. A lot of study has apparently gone into NFL Strategy. The results for any given combination of plays is mathematically adjusted utilizing a probability scale applied by the dice. The game makes allowance for the types of plays called and the position of the ball on the field. The manual time clock also seems to be a fairly accurate tool.
3. Strategy. One of the greatest strengths of NFL Strategy is its emphasis on individual strategy. Each game begins on a level playing field with parity programed into the game. There are no “favorites” or special players. Victory depends upon the same two elements found in the real game: play selection and execution (i.e. the roll of the dice).
4. Replay value. No two games will play out the exact same way. Even when two exact same plays are selected, there will be 15 possible results making for a diverse gaming experience.

Weaknesses
1. Turnovers. From my playing experience, the most troublesome and frustrating flaw in the game design is the relatively high ratio of turnovers. I have played games where there have been five turnovers and just one penalty in only 1½ quarters of play. Because of this tendency, I have worked out a basic formula for turnover resolution:
a. Whenever the roll indicates a turnover, a second roll of the dice determines if the result stands or is overturned (2-5: the result stands; 6-12: the result is overturned). Another way I have approached this is to have a “roll off” with the offensive and defensive players rolling separately; high roll wins.
b. If the result is overturned, I take the yardage indicated, throwing out any negatives (everything is positive gain). Of course, this may seem a bit arbitrary, but I have found it enhances play by keeping offensive momentum. Games bogged down by “sloppy play” bore me.
c. Turnovers created in Special Teams play cannot be overturned.
2. Field Goals. This is probably my second most irritating bug-a-boo with NFL Strategy. The Special Teams card, in my estimation, is formatted to a very weak placekicker. If the ball is beyond the 17 yard line, there is less than a 50% chance of scoring, which means that your average kicker has trouble making anything beyond 34 yards (factoring in the additional 17 yards for the goal post and ball placement). Kickers have gotten stronger and more accurate since NFL Strategy was introduced. To address this, and to once again keep offensive momentum, I have converted all results to reflect a 20+ range. Of course, the Blk -10 and NG remain unaffected, but the 9 becomes 29; the 13 becomes 23; etc. While some may view this as a swing too far in the opposite direction, it simplifies “the math” without completely rewriting the results, and it still pushes the offense to close to at least the 25 yard line to have a decent chance of success.

And about that “flickerbead”: For those still using the earlier edition, you have no doubt noticed that the flickerbead method is vulnerable to manipulation. I have read some posts which have offered thoughts on reducing this tendency. For me and my brother, the simple way to avoid manipulation was, once the play cards were inserted into the slot (by the defender), the Special Teams card was immediately placed over it to act as a blind. That way neither of us could see the results until after the bead was “flicked”.

To be sure, NFL Strategy has its flaws and limitations, but by-and-large the game does an admirable job of recreating a table top simulation of the real thing. I highly recommend this game for anyone who loves American football.
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David Lang
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Nice to see a review of a classic from my youth. The “flickerbead” was one of my favorite features. I agree with the “hide” mechanism since you were able to “learn” how to get a desired result. I actually played solo with semi-random card stacks for different types of plays for the opposition. I don’t remember the specifics, but I might pick up a used copy. Never heard of the leatherette version....
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Kevin
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There's a blast from the past! I also played many, many hours of solo games. Two full seasons and then some. I shuffled the cards, stacked them and played them in order so the play calling was less than optimal (think Hue Jackson). Built up a callus on my flicker finger and actually "eroded" the area below the bead. Ha!

My first Super Bowl was Patriots-Giants looooooong before they played in real life. Super Bowl II was Saints-Chargers. Still a chance for that one this year.

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Dan Manning
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I bought a really nice copy (with flickerbead) a few years back. I remember my friend owning this years ago and enjoying it. I haven't played it since we used to play it back then, but I'm happy to own it.
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Barry Kendall
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Thanks for lighting up "NFL Strategy." I've loved this game ever since I first played someone else's copy in college 45 years ago. As soon as I could afford a copy, I bought it. With Flickerbead, of course, and the automatic mechanical timer.

Bought a second copy in the smaller box later; some cards, both offensive and defensive, were added, and I believe others were changed. The flickerbead was still there, but gone was the mechanical timer, replaced by a 20-seconds-per-pass-play, forty-seconds-per-running play rubric and a manual dial to record time.

Still holding onto both copies. Was glad to find a flea market copy for son-in-law a few years ago.

I'll play this game anytime. Love it.

Didn't know about a "leatherette" version--what's it like?
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Gil Hansen
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Barry Kendall wrote:
Didn't know about a "leatherette" version--what's it like?


It's a thin brief case-style case made of leatherette with the NFL logo printed on top. The case provides self-contained storage with felt lining and sufficient compartments for game pieces, cards and manual on one side and a metal playing field, time clock and “score board” on the other. The game pieces are high-end, from the dice to the pegs for recording down, quarter and score (definitely NOT Battleship-quality pegs) to the magnetic ball and down marker which mark the position of the ball on the field and the first down. The only knock on the case is the handle which is only attached by rather small set screws which pull out easily...you wouldn't want to carry it by the handle too much.

The center compartment is ideal for rolling the dice. The time clock is a ruler-like affair with 12 second intervals and a red slide marker. The ball field doesn't have the cheap look, really nice. The magnetic football can be placed on either the right, left or center hashmark, and there is a ten yard marker to show where you need to go for a first down. Pegs are used to indicate quarter, down, score and timeouts.

The dice replace the flickerbead, breaking down each possible roll result into five possibilities by percentage. I like it because it removes potential for manipulation...the roll is what it is.

There you have it...it appears that we have a couple genre-interests in common, Barry.

Regards,
Gil
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Gil Hansen
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gotribefan2 wrote:
I actually played solo with semi-random card stacks for different types of plays for the opposition.


NFL Strategy is not an ideal solo game but I have played it solo as well, using a random number selector app on my phone. I use it for the defense only, selecting TWO cards and then picking the one that would make the most sense (conservatively speaking) in that particular situation. I also remove the "short yardage" and "prevent" cards. I employ them separately when the situation warrants.

Obviously, this arrangement favors the offense but it has never produced a "runaway game" with enormous scoring. I still get "three-and-outs", loss of yardage, and the dreaded turnovers.

Of course, I avoid playing teams that I favor so that I can remain as unbiased as possible.
 
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Gil Hansen
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kelstro wrote:
My first Super Bowl was Patriots-Giants looooooong before they played in real life. Super Bowl II was Saints-Chargers. Still a chance for that one this year.


Very cool! I've never tried a full season...and you're right, you might have another time-warp Super Bowl match-up. By the way, who won those games? Score?

I will also need to try your solo method. Did you follow the on-card restrictions in your rotation for both offense and defense?
 
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Brad Miller
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I think Football Strategy will always be the better game, and there are so many takes on football games...

The flicky-bead thing was pretty cool though...

laugh

I've thrifted a few of these over the years, but think I don't own a copy now. Need to remedy.
 
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Gil Hansen
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I have never owned or played Football Strategy...I will keep my eyes open for a copy.
 
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Cheroking1 wrote:
Barry Kendall wrote:
Didn't know about a "leatherette" version--what's it like?


It's a thin brief case-style case made of leatherette with the NFL logo printed on top.



Click that image to see it in higher resolution. The image folder for this game is definitely worth browsing; there are only 40-something pictures total but shots showing details of all the various versions are in there.

Cheroking1 wrote:
My first copy was the old “flickerbead” version… Eventually the defensive cards began to peel...

That was my experience as well. I eventually found and traded for a pristine copy here on BGG.

Cheroking1 wrote:
And about that “flickerbead”: For those still using the earlier edition, you have no doubt noticed that the flickerbead method is vulnerable to manipulation. I have read some posts which have offered thoughts on reducing this tendency. For me and my brother, the simple way to avoid manipulation was, once the play cards were inserted into the slot (by the defender), the Special Teams card was immediately placed over it to act as a blind. That way neither of us could see the results until after the bead was “flicked”.

My own solution back in the day was to create a cardboard overlay, marked with lines that matched those on the sides of the bead track but with d20 results specified for each. Measuring the five result areas and comparing the widths I determined that the smallest band was 5% of the bead landing area, the next smallest being double the size and therefore 10%, and the remaining 85% proportionally distributed between the three larger regions. A d20 models results in 5% increments perfectly so it was an obvious choice. I imagine it was cheaper to go with a 2d6 model in later versions of the game - d20s weren't as common in those days.

A pair of d6 dice can't model the proportions of the original landing zones quite as accurately as a d20, but the difference may be too small to worry about, depending on how you look at it. The glass half full folks can point out that the least likely result is now 5.56%, less than a percentage point off in terms of the overall total, but a glass half empty player can counter by noting that the least likely result is now 11% more likely than before.
 
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Kevin
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Cheroking1 wrote:
kelstro wrote:
My first Super Bowl was Patriots-Giants looooooong before they played in real life. Super Bowl II was Saints-Chargers. Still a chance for that one this year.


Very cool! I've never tried a full season...and you're right, you might have another time-warp Super Bowl match-up. By the way, who won those games? Score?

I will also need to try your solo method. Did you follow the on-card restrictions in your rotation for both offense and defense?


I *think* I only used the Short Yardage defense when allowed but don't remember if I did the same with the offense cards. Looking back, my totally random methods had some shortcomings - like running a 42 Dive on 3rd & 20. LOL

So..... I was able to dig the game out of a spare closet and the little hand-sized spiral notepads I used to track everything were still there 35 or so years later!

Super Bowl I: Patriots 35, Giants 10 (matched the real life SB I score!)
Suber Bowl II: Chargers 38, Saints 31 (New Orleans was in the red zone and threatening as time expired...) Ah, those days of innocence!


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Gil Hansen
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Thanks for the image, Sphere! I did read D. Hurst's post (and your comments) about using a d20. My mind is kinda fuzzy on how the flickerbead track broke down and how many possibilities there were (D. Hurst references 11). I just remember the five but that may be because I have had the 2d6 version with just five windows for quite a long time now and barely remember my first copy...with the manual time dial (not the automated one).

I have actually experimented with a 12d, using the "1" for either:
1. A general "bonus" - the offensive player can pick the result he wants (limited by ball position, of course).
2. A bonus only on plays where a "star" impact player is involved and might make a difference (i.e. pass plays with Tom Brady; RB running plays with Zeke E.). I use only 2d6 on everything else. This adds another dimension of strategy, since your opponent knows you are going to try to exploit your "advantage". Of course, this works only on the offensive side of the ball.
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Cheroking1 wrote:
Thanks for the image, Sphere! I did read D. Hurst's post (and your comments) about using a d20. My mind is kinda fuzzy on how the flickerbead track broke down and how many possibilities there were (D. Hurst references 11). I just remember the five but that may be because I have had the 2d6 version with just five windows for quite a long time now and barely remember my first copy...with the manual time dial (not the automated one).

You're welcome. There are pics of the older version in the game folder as well; this one zooms in on the track itself:

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Windopaene wrote:
I think Football Strategy will always be the better game, and there are so many takes on football games...

I really enjoyed Football Strategy, but I switched allegiance when NFL Strategy came out. The bead was cool, the playbook was cool, but seeing the x's and o's for the play and then seeing the defense superimposd on top was killer. I remember when the community here was buzzing over the cards when Gloom came out, and I was thinking "yeah, it is cool, but NFL Strategy did that 35 years earlier".
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