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Jan 19

Masters of the Gridiron: Description and Review

Masters of the Gridiron, from Sports Mogul Inc., is a football simulation card game in which players compete head to head using decks made up of real players and teams from the 2013 season.  Control your favorite team with a pre-made deck or build a team of free agents from all of the teams using salary cap and playbook restrictions.  If you have ever wanted to run a football franchise and crush your most hated rival team, Masters of the Gridiron gives you that chance and more!

As Masters of the Gridiron will soon be launching their Kickstarter, it is important to realize that I am reviewing prototype components and can not be sure of the final packaging or appearance of the cards.  As such, I can only comment on what I received and if you want to learn more about the final product you will have check out the project on Kickstarter.com .

Basic Rules

If you are just playing a preconstructed team, simply take out the deck, remove the top eight cards which are used for advanced rules, and separate your cards into three piles:  Offense Cards, Defense Cards, and Playbook Cards.

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Offense Cards:  These cards have a player’s name, NFL history, and offensive attributes such as:  Rushing, Receiving, Passing, etc…

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Defense Cards:  These cards have a player’s name, NFL history, and defensive attributes, such as: Pass Rush, Tackling, etc..

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Playbook Cards:  These cards show a scoring attempt (field goal or touchdown) offensive attributes to use, position bonus, and needed defense attribute to stop it.

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After separating the card types, each player draws three Offense Cards, three Defense Cards, and four Playbook Cards.  Establish which player is going first by whatever manner you wish and play begins.

Each turn, the offense player picks one Playbook Card and one Offense Card and declares his scoring attempt, the modified attribute score, and what defense attributes are needed to stop the play.  The defensive player then picks a player with one of the required attributes and plays it face up in play.  If the defensive attribute is higher than the modified offensive total the scoring attempt is stopped.  If it is lower the offense successfully scores either the field goal or touchdown as the Playbook Card indicates.  Regardless of the result, both players refill their hand with the appropriate card types; ie the types they just used, and now they trade roles from offense to defense.  This process is repeated until the second player is unable to draw another offense card after his turn.  At this point the game is over and the team with the highest score is the winner.

In the unlikely event that the player on offense does not have a play in hand that matches the attributes of his players he must still select one of each and reveal them with no effect.  This is considered a punt.  The defensive player must still pick a player to discard, which will presumably be the weakest player in his hand.

Advanced Rules

Overtime:  The advanced rules provide for the opportunity to resolve tie games through overtime.

Two-Point Conversions:  In the advanced game, a player my choose to go for two after a touchdown by running another offensive play.  Reveal Playbook Cards until two offensive plays are available, then choose one and assign a player from your hand to carry it out.  The defensive player than tries to stop it normally.  If the play succeeds score two.  If it fails you use the card to show your touchdown is minus one point.  Regardless of the result, the Offense and Defense  Cards are returned to their player’s hands.

Defensive Plays and Team Cards:  In the advanced game, players add the additional eight cards that were set aside.  These  are a few additional players, and what are called Team cards or Defensive Playbook Cards.  Defensive Playbook Cards work in a nearly identical fashion to normal Playbook Cards, except the help the defense stop scoring attempts.  When the defender is selecting his Defense Card he may also play a Defensive Playbook Card if he has one in hand that adds a bonus to the appropriate attribute.  Team Cards are also Playbook Cards that add to either Defense or Offensive as per the card, that happen to be themed towards the team to which they apply.  For example, Chicago has primarily defense based Team Cards and Denver has a more offense based team cards.  If as the result of Defense Playbook Cards and Team Cards the modified defense score is greater than the modified offense score by 20+ points the defense scores!

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Salary Cap Team Building:  In this version of the game, each player constructs his team with any players he chooses, but is limited to 100 million dollars in contract values.  He must still fill every position, and maintain a certain mix of playbook types, but other than that the players may customize their teams as they wish.

My Review

There is no need to tap dance around things…  I really enjoyed Masters of the Gridiron!  I think it has done as good of a job of capturing the feel of NFL football and breaking it down into about a 20 minute game as could have been done!  While I feel the basic game is a little too simple, it serves its intended purpose as a teaching tool that any true gamer/football fan will quickly leave behind for the advanced rules.  While playing constructed teams with the advanced rules is a solid game that I would rate a 6.75 out of 10.0, the game truly takes on a life of its own when the salary cap deck building variant is used!  In this version, not only does a player face the tactical decisions of play calling, he must also take into consideration strategic ideas like cap management, offense/defense philosophy, and whether to embrace a few super stars or field a team of solid upper to mid level talent.  This version is a much more complete game in my opinion and I would rate it 7.75 out of a possible 10.0 earning it the 39th position in the Life in Games Top 50 Games!   Considering that I only received six teams I imagine that it would make for even more interesting deck construction with all 32 and as a result its rating has the potential to climb even higher!  I have even taken matters one step further by playing a home variant of the salary cap version where all of the players and plays are laid out with players drafting for deck construction.  In an age obsessed with fantasy football, Masters of the Gridiron is a game whose time has come!  If you are a gamer that is also a rabid football and fantasy football fan as I am, I would strongly recommend Masters of the Gridiron!

Among the many positive features possessed by Masters of the Gridiron, are that it is easy to learn and quick to play.  The basic game can be learned and played in less than hour total time spent.  Adding the advanced rules afterwards only adds more depth, but practically zero complexity.  As a result future games can be played in roughly 20 minutes with a best two out of three showdown taking about an hour.  By utilizing the salary cap method, there are virtually infinite possibilities for potential team match-ups which lends itself to having tremendous replay value!  By constructing some sort of draft process, a group larger than two could easily hold a day long tournament or play an entire season over a longer period of time.  By providing a simple and effective football simulation that is enjoyable in of itself, Masters of the Gridiron allows for massive amounts of customization of the style in which it played.  This fact is sure to increase the fun factor of any group playing it, as they will be able to make the experience exactly what they want it to be!  Few games are able to achieve both providing a structured experience and a customizable one as well and Masters of the Gridiron succeeds on both fronts.  Another excellent feature of Masters of the Gridiron is that it can be played by kids.  I would say that a sharp eight year old should be able to learn how to play with little difficulty.  Lastly, and as a bit of a qualifier, it needs to be noted that I am a huge football fan, and an avid fantasy football enthusiast.  Therefore my excitement is likely to exceed that of non-football fans, but my description of the game-play elements and the versatility of the game are true regardless of my football fandom.  Masters of the Gridiron is a solid game if you are ho-hum about football and great if you love it!

As far as any negatives go, like most games, Masters of the Gridiron has a few.  One of which is uncertainty about the final product.  Sports Mogul Inc. has produced games before and is a professional operation which helps to alleviate some of the Kickstarter jitters, but  the exact finished product is a little unknown.  No pictures of the players and no use of the team logos.  Sadly, Masters of the Gridiron is not licensed by the NFL and therefore the team cards only refer to the city.  Honestly, I do not know what would be required to make this license happen, probably ridiculous amounts of cash, but if it is at all possible I think it would be a win win for all parties involved.  As a kid I made my own games using football cards and it seems like it would be a monster cash cow with the NFL behind it.  Another negative is the amount of randomness in the playbook decks.  Players begin with four in hand out of a minimum of 24 cards.  Each team gets only eight possessions.  This means that under normal circumstances a player will only see 12 of his total plays leaving a lot to chance.  In addition, there is no guarantee that you will have the right players with the right plays at the same time.  Playing with the deckbuilding part of the game will allow for mitigation of these issues to some extent, but there will still be the potential for bad luck to decide the outcome of the game.  Another concern could be the length of the game.  I know that I listed “plays quick” as a positive, but there are also negatives attached to being such a short game.  I wonder just how much strategic depth can be explored when the game will be over after eight turns for each player.  Even with deck construction, it seems that such a quick game lends itself to very straight forward play without room for much nuance in your decision-making process.  It is also worth noting that non-football fans may find little or no interest in playing Masters of the Gridiron.  I find this ironic to some extent as numerous gamers happily acknowledge the tacked on nature of many themes, but would object Masters of the Gridiron based on not liking football.  Still, it is worth noting that if you dislike football this game is probably not for you.  Mechanically, the only complaint that I can see some people having, is that there are tons of math computations to be done.  They are very easy, and nothing more than double-digit addition, but some people are completely turned off by math and there is most certainly math to be done on every turn in Masters of the Gridiron.  Not a problem for me, but I know some people find it tedious and it is always worth mentioning when discussing a game involving constant math usage.  Lastly, I do not know exactly how the game will be packaged.  I received six individually package teams, but I am unaware if it will be sold as team packs or in one big box containing the whole league.  Hopefully, it will come as a self-contained game, but at this point I do not know for sure.

In Conclusion

Masters of the Gridiron accomplishes its goal of providing a quick and easy game that effectively captures the feel of NFL football.  Yes there are elements that are abstracted, such as field goals using pass or run play attributes, but the fact remains that Masters of Gridiron’s simplicity is its greatest strength, and it is that very simplicity that allows it to be playable by such a wide audience.  If you share a love of both gaming and football, as I do, Masters of the Gridiron is sure to score big with you!

 

*  The Kickstarter campaign for Masters of the Gridiron is now live!  If you are interested in learning more about Masters of the Gridiron, simply click on the widget below.


 

 

Let it be known to all readers and government officials alike, that Life in Games received a free copy of this game for the purpose of providing an objective review.  No further compensation of any sort changed hands between myself and the publisher.

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