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Best Football Board Games

My picks for the best football-themed board games ever published

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Football (American football, not the sport also known as soccer) is my favorite sport. A lot of football-themed games have been published over the years, and here are my picks for the best of them.

What are your favorite football games? Share your favorites here.

1. 1st & Goal

1st & Goal
Image courtesy of R&R Games
For 2 to 4 players (best with 2), ages 13 and up. Designed by Stephen Glenn, published by R&R Games.
1st & Goal is my favorite football-themed game because I believe it best captures the decision-making, the excitement, and the feel of a football game. The game is driven by two decks of cards (offense and defense), each of which includes a 50-50 mix of running and passing plays, and a set of custom dice which determine the yardage gained or lost after each play. There are also 24 expansion teams available (such as the Salt Lake City Shakers), and each team has its own unique set of dice. As a fan of American football, 1st & Goal will always have a spot in my game collection. I cannot recommend it more highly.

2. Pizza Box Football

Pizza Box Football
Photo courtesy of On The Line Game Company
For 2 players, ages 8 and up. Designed by Erik Smith and Scott Smith, published by On The Line Game Company.
Pizza Box Football is a fun, action-packed, head-to-head play calling game. The basic plays are run, short pass, and long pass, although there are many possible outcomes within each category. (And the advanced rules add new categories, such as draw, screen, and play action.) The base game comes with two nondescript team cards, but various expansions simulate the strengths and weaknesses of 32 professional teams. Four game options allow players to determine the length of the game. After choosing a play, each player rolls dice and consults a chart to determine the outcome. Pizza Box Football is tremedously fun, and highly recommended.

3. Football Strategy

For 2 players, ages 8 and up. Designed by Thomas Shaw, published by Avalon Hill.
If rolling dice doesn't appeal to you, Football Strategy is almost completely dice-free. (Dice are used only to determine the outcome of kicks.) Before each game begins, each player chooses a style of offense which determines the plays available to them. During the game, the offensive player chooses a play from the cards in his hand, and the defensive player calls a play in the same way. The decisions are checked against a table of possible outcomes, and the result is carried out. Football Strategy was joined in the Avalon Hill line of games by two sister games, Baseball Strategy and Basketball Strategy.

4. Blood Bowl (Third Edition)

Blood Bowl - Elf
Image courtesy of Games Workshop
For 2 players, ages 12 and up. Designed by Jervis Johnson, published by Games Workshop.
Humans (or elves, or dwarves, or ...)take on orcs (or lizardmen, or the undead, or ...) in this game, a mix of American football and rugby. Each player has unique stats (movement, strength, agility, and armor), and each turn is limited to four minutes -- each player gets eight turns per half. On a turn, you assign a task to each player (e.g., move, blitz, pass) and carry them out. Most tasks are resolved with dice. League rules allow players to play an entire season, with players improving (or getting injured) along the way. Grind, published by Privateer Press, falls somewhere between Blood Bowl and Battleball (see below) on the complexity scale.

5. BattleBall

BattleBall
Image courtesy of Hasbro
For 2 players, ages 8 and up. Designed by Craig Van Ness and Stephen Baker, published by Milton Bradley / Hasbro.
BattleBall begins with each head coach lining up 11 players, after which the goal is to be the first team to score two touchdowns. Each futuristic team includes three running backs (very fast, but poor tacklers, represented by 20-sided dice), two safeties (12-sided), two linebackers (10-sided), two linemen (8-sided) and two tackles (very slow, but excellent tacklers, represented by 6-sided dice). Every time a tackle is attempted, at least one of the players involved is going to leave the field. Some injuries are temporary; others last until the game ends. Roaring good fun for players who don't take it too seriously, BattleBall is a game I can play again and again.

6. Strat-o-Matic Football

Strat-o-Matic Football
Image courtesy of Strat-o-Matic Game Co.
For 1 to 2 players, ages 12 and up. Designed by Hal Richman, published by Strat-o-Matic Game Company
This game, which has a devoted fan base (one reviewer at BoardGameGeek.com calls it "arguably the best head-to-head sports simulation game ever") features individual player cards for the offense, along with team defense cards. Strat-o-Matic uses actual statistics from the NFL, with updates published after each season. Some teams are available back to 1957. Strat-o-Matic even lets players create dream teams, like a Chicago Bears backfield with both Walter Payton and Gale Sayers.

7. GoLong Football Dice Game

GoLong
Image courtesy of GoZone Games
For 2 players, ages 6 and up. Designer not credited, published by GoZone Games.
Eight 12-sided dice and a pack of scoresheets -- that's it. But GoLong packs a lot of fun into a small package. Some dice are used for kick returns and penalties, but the white die, the three green dice and the blue die are the central components. The white die includes nine footballs, a penalty flag, a red star (potential turnover), and a sack. The green and blue dice include various yardages. As long as a football is rolled on the white die, you choose to keep one or more of the blue and green dice, determining how far you advance. Those seeking deep strategy should avoid GoLong, but anyone wanting a quick, light football game will find a lot of fun.

8. Statis Pro Football

For 1 to 2 players, ages 12 and up. Designed by Jim Barnes, published by Avalon Hill.
This is another football board game that uses player-specific stats, with individuals rated for their ability to run, throw, catch, block, rush the passer, and more. After each coach calls a play, a deck of cards ("fast action cards") are key to determining the outcome. Because the game uses individual stats, the defensive coach can adjust his players after the offensive formation is set. The downside to the game (although this is realistic) is that stronger teams will generally pound on weaker teams with little chance of an upset.

9. APBA Pro Football

APBA Pro Football
Image courtesy of APBA International

For 1 to 2 players, ages 10 and up. Designed by J. Richard Seitz, published by APBA International.
Players are individually rated in APBA Pro Football. The offense calls a play, while the defense calls a "line setting," and a key player (running back or receiver). The offense rolls dice to determine the outcome of the play, consulting a chart with the results being modified by the defensive play calls.

10. Paydirt

For 1 to2 players, ages 10 and up. Designed by David S. Neft and Dr. Thomas Nicely, published by Avalon Hill.
Originally published as Sports Illustrated Pro Football, this game is better known as Paydirt. Team charts are based on every NFL team, with the strengths and weaknesses of each. One side of the chart includes offensive plays; the other, defense. Offenses have nine plays to choose from, and defenses have five. Today, publisher Data-Driven Football continues to produce new team cards for Paydirt. A college version, known as Bowl Bound (and originally published as Sports Illustrated College Football), was also published by Avalon Hill.

11. Card Football

Card Football
Photo courtesy of CSE Games
For 2 players, ages 10 and up. Designer not credited, published by CSE Games.
A standard deck of cards and the game of Poker are the backbone of this clever game. Players begin with a five-card hand, playing one or more cards simultaneously to determine the outcome of each play. The highest Poker hand played wins each hand, then each player replenishes to five cards. Hand management becomes key, as players must decide when to play their best cards and when to hold back. A similar system is used in NHL Ice Breaker, also published by CSE Games.
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