Friday, 19 January 2018

Hutt Hutt - and not a Jabba in sight... More Gridiron action....


Check the Kickstarter out - https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2013971464/fourth-quarter-football-gridiron-miniature-game/comments

Morning Sports fans... It's Short and Folk here again to bring you the best of last nights action...
And what action it was JB as the Oakwood Raiders visited the Long Avenue Rams for the inaugural Conference Week Bowl.

It was another visit from my long suffering gaming pal Shaun Mc, this time to play Fourth Quarter Football. Another football US style game which has just smashed its Kickstarter target in a matter of days and is well into the stretch goals. I am lucky enough to be a kind of playtester and have enough of the official kit to be able to play the base game. Apparently this was the first ever game where the designer wasn't overseeing the game, obviously it was Shaun's first game and only really my second proper game. It is a testament to the rules that it went so smoothly - although we did have Andrew at the other end of FB messenger if needed, Kudos goes to the game play in that Shaun picked it up so quick and it ran intuitively. A caveat on the pictures - the pitch and my players are the official FQF ones but because I had undercoated (or am painting) all 14 up as one team Shaun had to use some Electric Football custom figures and I added a figure to the down marker and timer as well as the goals I made some time back.  Also obviously all the cards are not the final products.


Excitement from the third quarter - aka as me showing Shaun how the stuff works!

We join the action in the Fourth Quarter after a tight first three which saw the Rams leading by one point and the Raiders on their 25 after losing 5 yards on their first play.

Obviously (spoiler in the name) FQF has the action starting in the fourth quarter. This is a great mechanic as you can spend 90-120 minutes playing fairly detailed downs and actually feel like you get a game finished. Also means no abstraction of yardage/downs like in Techno Ball which kind of plays like flag. Again it uses 7 players a side as a base mainly because of ease of game play (time wise) and the ground scale. Again I see it as you are using the 7 players crucial to the play at that time and representing the area of influence around the line of scrimmage of a couple of players. There will be options to play games with more figures but apparently it takes more time - don't worry we will give it a go real soon. 



Coach McTague then tried a sweep around the right but the FB was stopped in his tracks as he failed to ram through the gap.
At this point JB I presumed it was going to be a very long maiden night for the rookie coach...

Shaun's QB was sacked on the first play by a blitz from the Line Backer. Sacking isn't done on the tackle stat but the sack stat and is essentially harder to do. I see this as being because the QB isn't intent on running through or round the tackler and not losing yards but rather self preservation and may duck and dive any way. Just being near him puts minus scores on passes etc.  But I rolled well :)
So on second down he ran a sweep.  A lack of blocking and poor evasion rolls soon put paid to that though and it was 3rd and about 12...



It didn't look good on the next down Marschall as the Rams seemed to have all the receivers covered and a blitz coming!

Yes JB it looked as if a sack party from the Rams LBs was the order of the day.

Shaun couldn't catch a break. my cover rolls were all spot on while his OL was underperforming giving me too many options for him to cover. Plus my sack rolls seemed to be on fire as I was rolling 10 plus every time. 

Well JB it seems like it was desperation time...
Wasn't going to happen Marschall - that coverage looked tight man... And there was the blitz again, and why not!



Corner back was all over that Split End but it looked like McTagues had the cajones to go for it. 



Holy crap on a cracker JB I'll never know how he caught it... 

Shaun had a Long Bomb card in his hand and used it... Was still a tough throw though but unfortunately I hadn't managed to double cover the SE like I wanted to, first time the dice turned, although it wouldn't be the last!  Although you need to factor in a number of things to the throw it becomes very quick and easy - the QB needed 7 to make the pass on target. There was however a minus three for the QB throwing to that zone (not his preferred side and a fair distance) added to this was a minus three for the receiver being covered. The saving grace was the pass play gave +3 to this zone (all these are easily seen on the stat and play card) and the SE gave a +2 as well. Shaun rolled a 4,4 and the plus five took it to 13 and the minus 6 back to 7 - he just got it on target and it was hauled in by the SE who was then thankfully tackled by the other defensive back moving in. Reading the above may make it seem complicated but in reality the cards make it very easy and quick. 



With 15 yards to go JB it didn't look too promising when the Split End slipped, the Flanker was covered and yet another blitz was on the way, McTague was finding it hard to keep those LBs away - although we always knew it left the backfield pretty open...
It's Jones' way though Marschall - all or nothing, all or nothing.. And this time it was everything, another trip to the ice bath for the QB !



On the following down I truly thought there was no way through for them Marschall, again the secondary had them covered well...

The difference here JB was the OL had finally decided to get up off their asses and do their job, McTague must have given them a rollicking...

Indeed fortunes changed on an excellent roll for the OL on the first phase of the play. In FQF the line roll to see how well they do their job in the seconds after the hike - Shaun had been rolling average up til this point, meaning his line had been performing average. BUT a natural 

12 changed that. On a pass action Line roll a natural 12 (6,6) gave a 'fantastic snap' allowing two DL to be engaged and the QB a plus one on the throw roll. THEN on the pass to the receiver, who was covered by one player and had another next to them (which I was hoping would slow them down by making the evade roll awkward) saw Shaun play a middle slant - this meant he had a +1 from the flanker in that zone, (from play card) +1 for the flanker liking to catch in that zone (from player card) and +2 (from QB card) as it was a preferred side and zone. Overall plus 4 and an extra from the snap - +5 total. Receiver was covered -3 but I had the LB not in same zone but adjacent for -1 for a total of -4. Shaun rolled an 10 (take no notice of dice in photo) +5, -4 for an 11 over all. Now this is 4 over the target of 7 which is good (base mechanic to remember in the game is +4 over target something good happens, -4 under target something bad happens, natural 12 something very good happens and natural 2 something very bad happens). On a pass +4 the receiver gets a free one square move - in this case INTO THE ENDZONE!

Seemed to be against the run of play JB and we both thought the Rams would come out strong again and after all a TD would give them the lead again, and time would then be against the Raiders....

That's what we thought Marschall, that's what we thought.



Incomplete pass on what should have been a bread and butter catch JB - it was then that the rot set in I think...
I agree Marschall it seemed to set the trend...

 Quick slant and then a first and sit to the tight end saw the rams marching up the field...
But JB they stalled on a couple and time was running out as they needed two scores...






Slow march was no good as I needed to score as the clock marched on...I had been keeping my Long Bomb play card for such an occasion. In the base game one has a deck of plays which are drawn from, a hand of 3 sees one card going on the play slot, one on the audible (which  you can swap to after the lines are set - also where trick plays go) slot and one to be kept. After the play has finished the one you used is discarded, the one you didn't into the redraw pile and you draw back up to three. This adds a deck building and management mechanic into the game although there will, I believe, be options for open play books and limited open play books for the purists. Anyway it was time for the bomb!


 It seemed the Rams had pulled one out the bag Marschall... as soon as it left the hand though it looked a little wobbly...

Yeh JB good idea but the final execution let them down and as it bobbled it looked like the pick was on...and what a pick it turned out to be!

Yeh it seemed I had done it, but the modified pass roll saw it a an Inaccurate Throw (4 under target score) meaning my receiver had a chance to catch it still, but he didn't as he was being covered well. Then the next closest player can try and catch it and Shaun's corner back DID !!!! Interception. 





Then the race was on... you can't activate the same player in consecutive phases and my QB tried to head him off, obviously guilt ridden!




Honestly my Ipad ran out of juice at this stage .... but needless to say my QB was blocked and although my defensive back did catch up as I used the fatigue mechanic to push him - the same mechanic made his tackle less effective and the game effectively ended on a 100 yard Pick Six... Obviously I let Shaun win to get hime to play again cough cough...












A brilliant, fun game which took us about 2 1/2 hours but that included a curry break and Shaun learning the rules! Post match talk turned to a comparison with Techno Bowl (which Shaun really enjoys playing). The games are different beasts - while TnB can't be fobbed off as just a football 'like game' there are a lot of things that are abstracted and make it feel more like playing flag football, don't get me wrong I love the game. BUT FQF feels a lot more like football, you need to call the plays and stick too them, you can improvise and there are mechanics and rules for scrambling etc but if you are forced or choose to deviate from the play you shouldn't expect a very high success rate. Just like real pitch action you do it when there is no real choice. Obviously, I haven't access to ALL the rules for player skills etc and we are playing the BASE game but I hope you can see how fun it is... I can't wait to get all the rules for team progression etc etc. More telling is I think Shaun decided that this was going to be the game we would be playing to get our Paydirt fix...  

Pass on the details of the KS as there isn't much time left and I WANT those final stretch goals LOL

Saturday, 13 January 2018

NFL Live - well almost

Well, American Football games, ever since the very early 80s I have been playing 'football' board games, Statis Pro, Paydirt and a host of others including the 80s table top miniatures game made in England (charts and more charts with a very very long game play)... And the search for a playable game went on and on, including making my own and helping out testing for the THW CVL football game. But either they were abstract like the early board games, complicated and long (like most attempts at miniature games) or far, far too  random (like the First and Goal dice/board game - which is very good until you realise the way to win is to do the most likely football play in that situation lol).

Then along came the kick starter for Techno Bowl (based it says on the old 80s video games) and then late last year the kickstarter for Fourth Quarter Football (which I had heard good things about from Meeples and Miniatures Neil). As the sci-f/fantasy games left a lot to be desired (Bloodbowl, Dreadball, Guild Ball) when it came to NFL feeling the two mentioned above showed/.show real promise. Luckily I got a copy of Techno Bowl and am sort of playtesting for Fourth Quarter Football so I am in a lucky spot - even just finished my own rules as well but they will be put aside for now maybe. But there is obviously going to be a question over which one is 'best' - So at the EFL (Enfield Football League) we are going to try and answer some of your questions... And what better way than through a few playthroughs of the games.

Firstly a caveat I suppose - Fourth Quarter Football is not completed, it is funded and well on the road but the rules may well change with playtesting and open beta testing, so one can't go by what you see completely (indeed I am playing by memory and don't have access to the full rules etc). Secondly I think it is fair to say that both games are going to really only appeal to football fans who are gamers. I think as it stands it would be near on impossible to get a football fan who isn't a gamer hooked on either or a gamer who isn't a football fan - the alien concepts either way would give a VERY steep learning curve indeed. Not impossible by any means, but I can't imagine it happening on a large scale. So niche market with either game I think.

Techno bowl (TnB from now) is more a board game in looks, Fourth Quarter Football (FQF from now) is more a miniature game in looks - the figures are brilliant believe me. However, TnB can be played with figures and FQF could be played with tokens - in fact both are played out on identical boards set up wise. TnB squares are inches and FQF uses 32mm squares and as both use a base 7 a side (8 in Pro mode for TnB and 8-11 is possible in FQF if the coach wants). Throughout this series of articles I will use the term Coach for the actual live human player and the term Player meaning the model represented on the field.

So on with the action - first a TnB game with my long suffering gaming mate Shaun (who has played gridiron and follows it). This was played a week after my hand in the first live streamed game of FQF which can be found here:
LIVE FQF with yours truly as the opposition

Evening sports fans; its your hosts JB Short and Marschal Folk her welcoming you  to the Bush Hill stadium (known locally as THE COVE) as the Bush Hill Revolt take on the Winchmore Chefs in a grudge match on playoff weekend.

We are using electric football figures and not the token/blocks you get with the game. 
Well Marschal it looks like a tense, noise filled stadium and the Chefs win the toss and decide to receive the ball, ending with first down on their 20 yard line...


Evening JB, evening viewers it sure looks like the Revolt are showing a blitz trying to put the pressure on the Chefs QB (Brett Rabatin) and ignoring the running threat of 55 Christian Okeydokay and 70 Deacon Holmes. Is it going to pay off JB?





Well is certainly looks like it did Marschal, I believe that is a sack from Larry Thompson on the first play of the game, what a start from the Revolt, the Chefs didn't know what had hit them.

The learning curve game play in TnB is steep - while the rules are not overly complex if you are used to wargames or even boardgames the interaction between the players and the teams is. It is never really anyone coaches 'go' in TnB as the dice rolls for attempted action can give supplementary actions to either team (depending on the success or failure of the roll for the action being attempted). Even a partial success (meaning the player does the action being attempted) gives a half move to any opposing player. Get a full success and the coach gets another activation for one of their other players while a total failure gives the opposition a FULL activation with any of their players). Things compile and things can, and do get hectic. For instance a total fail will see one of the opposition players bearing down on you like crazy, but it they attempt an action and fail it can lead to one of your players being able to do something useful. Modified dice rolls of  >10 are total successes, 7-9 partial successes and <6 see a total failure. While this sounds crazy and unmanageable it does in fact mimic the carnage on the scrimmage line very, very well and in fact after a half a game becomes very intuitive.  On the first down my safety blitzed, a risky move as Shaun's receiver took off down field and was uncovered. However, a disaster on the line from Shaun's lineman gave me a full activation and #7 went in with a tackle for a sack. If Shaun's line man had blocked moderately well (rolled a 7 plus rather than a 4) then no doubt the receiver would have been away and been very hard to stop. 

Unfortunately for the Chefs and head coach McTague is looks like the second down is going the same way JB,,. An all out blitz gave Rabatin no where to go...



I'm amazed he managed to avoid the safety JB; looks like it is going to be a hard long night for the Chefs, unless they can get #70 Jamal Childs going...

Again the blitz paid off, you have a minute to set your line and a minute to set your play in TnB - the play setting involves picking 5 player cards (the players you want to activate) and putting them in the order you want them to go... both players then flip the top card to see who activates first, the fastest player (higher first digit) choosing. There is a lot of subtlety in this section as you can use both player cards in your hand, the ones left on the bench can be used (especially by the defence) to 'read and react' (meaning you can activate that player instead of the one flipped) and to add bonuses to actions, there is also the chance to go in motion and to make adjustments - all of which are done in a smooth way which doesn't slow down game play at all. It does make the game very reactive indeed, but with a price (read and react players can't do the half move and take an action option when they activate). In this play I blitzed my safety again knowing he couldn't risk a quick throw. I had placed my strongest lineman wide so with my second card I could use him to rush and 'block' and with a plus 2 having a good chance of getting the 10 plus I needed to take #7 in for the sack again. Unfortunately though Shaun had now got used to this tactic and it was harder from then on. However, for the moment Shaun had 3rd and LONG. In TnB you have 4 downs to score, not make 10 yards. This, to be honest, put me off when I first came across it and is, at the very least, taking the game a long way from being a simulation. On the other hand if you can take that each 'play' is the highlight sequence of that 'set of downs' then the drive downfield quickly becomes 'sensible'. The truth is with the game play and the scale of the board it would be nigh on impossible to stop someone making 2 squares (10 yards) in 4 plays and would break the game unless you had 10 squares to each 10 yards and then playing a quarter would take longer than watching a live game!  Indeed both games default at 7 players a side (TnB goes to 8 in Pro mode and FQF can be played with more players with the understanding it is going to take a lot longer to play). This has rankled some fans (probably light gamers) who see anything less than 11 players a side as not being realistic. Again game design sensibility has to win, the game scale if you used 11 players would have to be 1:1 ground scale. or at least 26 squares across meaning at least 52 long even if you kept it as not to true scale. This would be crazy for a game to designer hoped to at least catch on with people. I see it as the seven player models on the field represent a field of influence by the players who contribute to the play, and therefore you don't need all 11 players represented. Anyway back to the game at hand...

One thing Marschal it can't go any worse on this down for Coach McTague,
You'd sincerely hope not JB but let's see shall we...

OH no JB the pockets collapsing again, but wait, Rabatin wiggles out of it...
And there waiting Marschal is Tom Vincent and Jamaal Child, there is a combination we are used to...



Gods of the |Dice finally decided to stop kicking Shaun in the nether regions and an outlet pass to the split end got him away from the safety zone. There is no punting in the game - mainly as you have the four downs to score not make yardage. So, fourth and long will involve trying to get to the endzone, and was I assumed fairly easy to stop with a take on  a zone 'prevent' defence. Trouble is playing a zone defence is a steep learning curve. Trick is to have a hand of cards that are line men and then read and react with the backfield off the bench, trouble is when the O split down the zones forcing you to choose and then the fact that the back field react player is limited and can't do the move and action activation. Luckily though the cards came my way and I managed a tackle and took the ball over.

JB, I thought the Chefs had it then, split the zones with that pass, Childs was unlucky not to spin out of that pass like he normally does.
Certainly was unlucky Marschal, but now we get to see the Revolts option based O in action...





Don Fast sets up in shotgun, oh my they they haven't picked up #70 on the blitz JB...
Looks like a bit of payback time to me, but wait, he's pitched it to Thompson and he's off, we have seen it time and time again, this young rookie is hard to take down....
OOOO well normally JB, normally...

Shaun thought he would take a leaf out of my playbook and blitz around the safety... However, Fast, my QB, has the special skills of pitch and option... this means he can 'handoff' up to 3 squares and also can interrupt the opponent when someone enters his threat zone and pitch the ball, so long as a sports check is made (in other words anything but a double). In this case he did and pitched it to #7 who is my star runner with juke and spin meaning he is harder to take down (another different coloured dice is added to the roll and if this is the same as either of the normal dice it will negate it - meaning you would normally be looking at a fail unless you roll an unmatched 6 and have a positive modifier. However he got gang tackled. If I hadn't used the option then the route was being run by #64 Angus. There is no play calling in the sense that you put a play card down like in other games. At face value this makes things too reactive. However, you do have to set your play as in choose which players act when and on O there is little chance to change the sequence. This does mean improvising from the play you have in your head when you set your cards is at the whim of the dice gods as you are hoping for extra activations being generated. 







Oh my JB what is happening, looks like another blitz and the option could be on again.
Indeed Marschal here is come the old shovel pass to the tight end Tesla...., Oh noooooo
He's fumbled it JB he's fumbled it, that ball is bobbling around like my belly after thanksgiving... Vincent is off, swooping up the ball he's reversed and is free, look at him go,,, no one is going to catch him its a touchdown, JB a touchdown...

Indeed it was - a combination of a fumbled option shovel pass and then a series of players fumbling it on the attempted pick ups (remember this only happens on a double being thrown!) and one of Shaun's hardest players to take down got the ball and ran out wide with the help of rolls from Shaun succeeding completely and me giving him activations by complete failures lol !

Well the Revolt only have a few minutes left in the half JB looks like a few time outs will be used by Coach Jones.
Indeed Marschal looks like they will have to...



Well how wrong could we be Marschal...
Yeh the Revolt marched down to the end zone so quickly... looks like the premature time outs might bit Jones in the butt, the chefs have time to score if they hurry.

Yeh I scored too quickly after adding my time out blocks to the timer and Shaun was left with one play to try and take the score to 14 - 7 at the half . I went for a prevent defence and finally bought his receiver down with a luck roll to leave the score equal at the half. 





















The second half was tense, very tense indeed.  A quick score by myself  on a post route 
was countered by Shaun on a long bomb...


I then scored quickly on a couple of run plays leaving the score 21 -14 to me (not as it says on the scoreboard) with one play left....


What a game JB it's going down to the wire...
Can the Chefs do it Marschal? 
I think in this game anything could happen JB anything...



I risked a blitz while leaving some deep cover and it seemed to be working until the dice gods struck again and a series of extra activations and me having the wrong cards on the bench saw a very successful post route from Shaun come to fruition and the game was set for overtime (which we didn't have time to play out - and I am not sure is covered by the rules as is). 

The game was only our second real game and lasted about 90 minutes but we had to look up a few things as we went along and didn't enforce the one minute timer to set plays. In the end we were not even using the QRS and the action is very intuitive and smooth. 

It is an excellent game and great fun to play, the plays feel like playing out a play but obviously over a larger portion of the field on the whole... this is the suspension of belief you have to make to ensure the game works. 

Downside of the game:
No models - you have stand up pixel looking players ala the old computer games. They are fine in themselves but models look better - FQF figures wouldn't fit in the squares, but you could play TnB on the FQF pitch with bigger figures. 
Abstracted game play - no penalties, no punts no first downs as such - apart from the actual mechanics of the play the game is not football really. Weirdly this doesn't seem to matter when you are playing though!
Restricted opponents - especially in the UK we are going to find it hard to find opponents, they need to be a gamer and a football fan. 
DICE GODS - you are totally at the whim of the dice gods - this is true of any game really I suppose but because of the extra activations things can get out of hand REAL QUICK... again maybe not a bad thing as football plays out on those little lucky moments IRL - but it is a warning - you can't really play safe lol
Very reactive - at least on face value, in the end you realise that running plays you haven't got the cards set for is very risky, maybe again like real life.
Like flag or playground football - no real positions set for the player and you use both on O and D - easy fix with house rules though.
Easy to dismiss as 'not really football' - this however is a false view which soon fades when you have a game or two. 

Upside of the game. 
Innovative play setting - I love the activation system and the extra activation mechanics - works very well for a game with a lot of off the ball contact. 
Very good components - excellent pitch and cards - the dice hate me though lol 
Very good gameplay - once your suspension of belief kicks in and you concentrate on the players and play mechanics. 
Extremely fun to play. 

If it wasn't for Fourth Quarter looming on the horizon this would have made my YEAR and I would stop my quest for a gridiron game... As it stands it is going against a game which has far more immediate football feel and look. In the end it may just boil down to individual preference - I will probably end up playing both, depending on whom I am playing against.