Pizza Box Football

Reviewer Reviewed On Publisher Designer Published In Rating
September 18, 2005 On the LIne Game Company Scott and Erik Smith 2005 8
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My friend Joe and I have the same problem with electronic sports games. For the most part, they do a good job simulating a game, but most of them tend to favor the player who is better with the joystick, rather than the player who utilizes better strategy. So for us, anyway, board games are a more intriguing way to simulate a sports game. The problem with many sports games (Statis Pro, Strat-O-Matic, etc.) is that they tend to be complex, long affairs. For me, playing a game such as Harry's Grand Slam Baseball game was just as enjoyable - even though it was simpler - because the experience was reminiscent of a baseball game but done in an easier, faster manner.

Pizza Box Football (On the Line Game Company, 2005 - Scott and Erik Smith) is one such game. As football is harder to simulate than baseball, thus Pizza Box Football (PBF) is a bit more complicated than Harry's Baseball. PBF manages to keep the player interested by having enough options and strategy, while retaining sheer simplicity and fun. I'm not a huge American football fan, but I have had a blast playing PBF, and final scores represent what I would normally see in a football game. It's remarkably intuitive, and even though the box is full of charts and tables - they're all easy and simple to read, and games run quickly and painlessly.

There are four different types of games in the rulebook, ranging from the Red Zone Shootout, to the Professional Full Game. Each has a different level of strategy and time amount, but all generally use the same mechanics - with the main difference being game-time management, and special team rules. Instead of explaining each game in full, I'm going to just go over some of the points of the game.

1.) Plays: Two large, laminated play sequence cards are included in the game, one for each player. They detail how a normal play occurs, which is this:
- The defense picks one of three defensive plays (run, short pass, or long pass), and hides in their hand a colored die (red, yellow, or green) that matches the play, along with a white die.
- The offense then announces out loud whether they will run, do a short pass, or attempt a long pass.
- The defense reveals their dice and rolls them. Depending on the combination of two plays, one of nine charts is consulted to see the "defense effect". This ranges from a "-2" to a "+2", and also can add or cancel "bonus" dice.
- The offense then rolls three six-sided dice, adding in the "defense effect" modifier to the result. They then compare the final number to a chart that corresponds to the offensive play they picked to find out the result. There is a wide range of results that can occur, such as fumbles, interceptions, quarterback pressure, incomplete passes, gains, losses, and mishaps.
- When the offensive player loses or gains yards, they roll dice equal to the amount shown on the chart. If the dice are "bonus" dice, then "6"s are rolled again and continued to be rolled until no sixes occur.
- The markers on the board are moved to demonstrate the play that just occurred.
This entire process is simplistic and easy. Some folk will probably complain about the limited number of plays; but once the game is purchased, more plays (using the same dice) can be found on the company's website, www.PizzaBoxFootball.com. I like using the expansion game plays myself, as they have six offensive plays (run, short pass, long pass, draw, screen pass, and play action) and six defensive plays (run, short pass, long pass, run blitz, route jump, and quarterback blitz). However, others prefer the simple simplicity of the original plays. What is nice is that while the play combinations matter (if you try to run and your opponent picks a run defense, life won't be so good), they don't matter too much, as lucky die rolls can bypass anything.

2.) Dice: Several dice are included with the game, all six-sided, colored red, yellow, green, black, and white. The game could have easily been produced with just five white six-sided dice, but the colored dice (and various sizes) really help differentiate the rolls. If I am rolling three black dice, it's because I'm finding a result of a play. Several large white dice are for yardage, etc. This helps notice at a glance at what the result of a die roll means.

3.) Pizza Box: The name of the game loudly states just what type of box the game comes in, and it's not an exaggeration. I'm not sure that a pizza box is ideal for storage and durability, but it certainly is unique. Even more importantly, the football field fits into the open box very nicely, and it creates a good effect. Either way, the name - and idea - is catchy, and it will create more interest in the game. It's fun to ask people if they want to play "Pizza Box" Football. Sounds more fun than "Statis Pro", eh?

4.) Charts: The charts involved with the game are very simple and easy to read - all of them printed on laminated cardstock. While there are many charts (Defense Effect Roll, Offense Plays, Mishaps, QB Pressure, Kickoff, Punt, Onside Kickoff, Short Punt, Punt Return, Field Goal, and Breakaway Factor), many of them aren't used except in certain situations. Many of the charts are on the two play sequence cards, so that both players have easy access to them.

5.) Football rules: While most living, breathing Americans know the rules to American football, PBF doesn't take that for granted. On the back of each Play Sequence Card, there are descriptions of the different plays, the different results, and how that translates into game turns. Someone like me, who has only a very moderate interest in football, can easily turn to this and find out exactly what the difference is between a punt and a short punt, for example.

6.) Leagues and Scoresheets: For the clinically insane, a stat sheet is provided that allows players to keep track of the entire game, with play results and statistics. I haven't yet filled this sheet out - I prefer the game to be fast and fun - but I do understand the longing to have this information (I spent many long hours keeping track of this information as a child with baseball). While the game is fun, I'm not sure I'll be diving into league play, but the rules do include it for people who want to complete an entire season. In fact, the company has promised an expansion with different bonuses and effects for the different football teams.

7.) Time: In the Professional Full Game, a system using "Professional Time Units" is involved, having players keep track of how much time each play and/or result takes. This sounds complicated, but it's actually rather simple, allows players to utilize time-outs, and choose plays based on the clock, not just their field position. While this is easy and fascinating, I prefer the Smashmouth Full Game, which simply has 30 plays in a quarter.

8.) Strategy: The strategy in the game does increase with each type of game, with the Professional Full Game having the most; but even at that top level, it's very easy. There are only three plays to choose from (in the basic game), so it's not that hard to choose. What makes the choice hard, if at all, is the fact that you don't know what play your opponent will pick. This means that there is a certain amount of bluffing that occurs, and that adds a lot of "Fun Factor" to the game. Purists who enjoy taking hours upon hours to detail every little effect in a sports game may scoff at PBF, but I found that the strategy and simplicity combo were excellent.

If you enjoy the sport of American Football and want to play it in a fast, fun way, Pizza Box Football is the only game I've played up until this point that does it in an excellent manner. It's fast, simple, and fun. And those three things are good requirements for a sports game, I think. Even for someone like me, who is most certainly not a football fan (I can barely remember all the team names), this was a fun game and allowed me to recreate a football game in a pizza box - of all places.

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games."