Move the Chains: Offensive Plays, Results and Realism

Move the Chains - Offensive Play Card, Heavy FormationAfter introducing “Move the Chains!” yesterday, I thought I would take a deeper dive on the way that plays are carried out.  This will lead into how the Clock/Results deck works and, ultimately, how to make all of this realistic.

I look at the realism thing in two different ways: (1) Does it *feel* realistic (or “about right”) to the players while they play? And (2) Does it produce actual realistic results, whether it feels right or not?  Also, how much will realism need to be sacrificed in order to make a smoothly-playing game of a good length that is exciting and fun for the players?  I see this as the main issue to deal with during the design cycle on this project, as I’ll detail below.

A little background info first … Each player will have a deck of offensive play cards. The player currently on offense will have this deck distributed between their hand (5-7 cards), cards used to mark progress on the current drive, a discard pile of cards already used in the drive , and a draw deck.  A typical play will go like this …

  1. Offense selects a play card from his hand and presents it face-down so that defense can see the formation shown.
  2. Defense places one defense card face-down (this is the type of play the defense will be “weak” against) and one defense card face-up (this is the type of play the defense will be “strong” against)
  3. Once both are set, the face-down cards are revealed
  4. The top card on the Clock/Results deck is flipped face-up
  5. Result of the play is determined from the grid on the offensive play card, using the defense’s Strong/Norm./Weak status and the big Shield/Equals/Football symbol on the top half of the Clock/Results card

 Move the Chains - Heavy Formation, Run Inside Example

Besides the different type of results shown onthe example card above, there can also be “No Gain” or “Gain Lost.”  This last one means that if you already had made some progress toward a first down, it has been lost … think of a QB sack or a tackle-for-loss on a run play.

REALISM: So, the reason for setting this up in detail is to highlight the 2 areas where I see an issue with how to balance between realism and fun/interesting gameplay: (1) Play Results and (2) the Game Clock.

I would very much like to get your feedback on these 2 areas and how you would expect a “fantasy football level” football game to play.

PLAY RESULTS: Foremost, I want the results of a play to be realistic, based on how strong the defense is against that type of play and the situation you use it in.  I want to encourage some risk taking (like throwing a pass on 3rd-and-short sometimes) without encouraging stupid-crazy play choices all the time (ALWAYS throwing deep on 3rd-and-short).  To do this, there will need to always be some risk involved with selecting a longer-distance play … as in: you may not complete a long pass even if the defense is weak against it. But, for the most part, I’d like for players to naturally gravitate toward the normal plays you would expect to see based on the situation. (The Player Cards, which I haven’t explained yet, may help in this regard.)

Move the Chains - Player Card - BackWill I be able to do this with just 9 possible outcomes per play card? One way I plan to do this is to have different versions of the same formation/play … so some versions of that play will be more “flat” and stick to the middle of the bell curve, while another version will show a higher risk/reward combination of results.  Another way is a bit more heavy-handed: I plan to limit when you can use long and medium length passes. Those plays will always yield a “no gain” result when you are getting close to a touchdown. Also, those not-yet-explained Player Cards will change up how results are handled. (I suppose I should do a post on those soon too, eh?)

I will test things with this current 9-results grid-on-a-card setup for now, but will be open to having some other additional way to determine the results … as long as it doesn’t add much complexity or time to the game play. I want each play to be quick and easy to carry out.

GAME CLOCK: The Clock/Results deck is made up of 32 cards. At the start of each half, they are shuffled and the top 6 cards are set to the side as timeouts available (3 to each player).  For the most part, you use 1 results card per play.  When the deck has been used up, the period is over. However, there are a couple of ways that modify this:

  • Move the Chains - Clock/Results Card ExamplesBreakaways: If you look at the cell in the lower-right corner of the play card above (“weak” defense + Football symbol), you’ll see a “First Down” result followed by a really fast dude with a lightning blot on his chest.  The fast dude icon represents a “breakaway” … meaning the play has broken free of the defense and has the potential for an even bigger gain.  When this happens, the offense already gains whatever result is showing in the cell, plus the *next* Clock/Results card is flipped and the results showing in the lower-left breakaway section of that card is added as well.  Sometimes the result is simply a touchdown (“TD!” in starburst in the example pic to the right).  On rare occasions, there is no added-on yardage.  But, by flipping the extra results card, big plays like these take more time off the clock.
  • Optional Clock-Chewing Runs: After a run that has any positive gain, the offensive player has the option to flip over 1 more Clock/Results card. This extra card isn’t used for anything, but means that the clock is getting used up more quickly.
  • Timeouts: When a player wishes to use a timeout, they simply take one of their 3 timeout cards and set it back on top of the deck. This can be done even when the deck has been used up for the period.  It essentially gives each player the chance to run 3 additional plays each half, if needed.

Now, according to this cool article I found, a pro team will usually run 60-70 offensive plays in a game, unless one side totally dominates the other on time of possession.  This usually means 120-140 total plays per game.  With a 32-card clock deck, that would mean a single time through the deck would be just one quarter of the game. So: 2 times through the deck would be half-time … 4 times through the deck for a full game.

How long will this take in real time? That’s going to be an important part of the early testing. I expect that players familiar with the game will be able to turn over each play in 20-30 seconds … so, 2-3 plays per minute … or about 15 minutes per quarter — maybe an hour to play out a full game?

I think I would be okay with that, but would more casual gamers? And if it takes longer to run each play, would it work okay to run only half as many plays in a game?

Your thoughts are appreciated. 🙂

About MattWorden

My name is Matt Worden, and this is my website ... I live in Minnetrista, MN, with my wife and our 2 awesome kids.
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