4th and Goal – Redesigned Cards for a little more realism

[This is a repost of an old (2013) article on another popular board game site that shall not be named. Moving here for posterity]


When I first got 1st and Goal, I thought it was a genius design. No need to refer to any charts because they’re printed on the cards themselves. The dice are optimized depending on what play you call, the clock is the offense deck of cards, magnetic football! So many things going for it; except the fact that the card combinations really made no sense realistically. Throwing a bomb against a Prevent defense shouldn’t be a guaranteed loss of yards, why couldn’t the QB dump off a pass short? It basically boiled down to randomly playing cards against each other because the type of play you selected had no strategic value.

This is my attempt to keep the core of 1st and Goal intact, but add some sort of realistic playcalling strategy to the game while keeping it fun. This game really isn’t far off from being the best football board game out there. Not necessarily the most realistic simulation, but certainly the most fun.

Card Redesign
The cards are the weakness. The dice in the base game have sufficient variation to get almost any result you need, but it’s the cards that made this a game of random chance. First and foremost the result tables needed to be changed. I just didn’t find the results realistic so I made my own table with what I felt would be the typical yard ranges that could happen on the play combos.


I tried to take into account how long an offensive play would take to develop, and whether or not the play itself was inherently more risky than any other play call. This meant I needed to add some other results to compensate for this, like the defense getting to roll the Play die twice, and choose which of the results to use. Or on a pass play against a deep pass defense, to simulate a dump off it would be a short yardage result with an automatic breakaway roll on top of it.

I then had the task of coming up with die combos that would yield something close to the expected yardage results. I tried to respect the die colors and use red/white/brown on Run plays more than on Pass plays. It wasn’t possible on all the results, but the effort was there. I tried these results using the NorthEast expansion that I had, and on average the results are the same, but the variation in the expansion dice is greater. So in general you’ll get much larger and much lower results than the base game dice. To be honest I didn’t really care for the expansion dice, and looking through the die faces for all the expansions I noticed that the average results are all identical anyway.


Now you’ll notice that there’s a column for “packages.” This was the big thing for me in adding a layer of playcalling strategy. On the field, defenses are constantly reacting to which personnel the offense send onto the field. In turn, the QB takes a look at the defense before snapping the ball, and both of these adjustments are necessary in a game and I wanted to simulate that somehow.


The cards now have formations listed on them. So the idea is the offense picks their play and holds it out face down so the defensive player can see what formation he’s chosen. Then the defensive player does the same. If the offensive player doesn’t like the play he’s called, he can now “audible” to another play as long as it’s the same formation.


Most of the time, the defense will choose the package that best defends the personnel the offense has chosen, as in real life. But there are times when the defense wants to load the box, and the offense has an opportunity to counter that. Before, it just wasn’t believable to me that the offense could somehow sneak a “Bomb” play with 5WR and the defense somehow plays Goalline defense. That wouldn’t happen.


The cards alone make the game much more enjoyable for me. The results have been pretty close in games I’ve played, and for some reason it just feels a little more rewarding to call that perfect play when you know the defense had a chance to defend it.


One thing I had to add though, is some sense of personality. The NFL is all about it’s stars, and good teams have big personalities. Plus everybody loves variable player powers in board games.

07 08

Now these are in no way completely balanced yet, but we’ve tried a few of them and despite being powerful they add another layer to the game. It’s simple, but it was still fun to know that each team has a star player with a big ability. I could really use some help in balancing these out too-


Anyway, I had meant to write this up like a rules summary but instead it reads like a journal. I know I’ve been playing with some other small rules tweaks but I can’t remember at the moment.

You may download if you wish…


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