Being a fan of sports in general, I am always interested in trying new sports board games. One thing I have always liked doing was simulating running a sports franchise. One of my favorite things to do in the Madden video game series was to take a team and create a dynasty in the franchise mode. In the past there have been some board games that have simulated running a sports franchise with the most popular probably being the Strat-O-Matic series of games. Since the Strat-O-Matic series strives for accuracy it has always been a little on the technical side for a board game. Therefore I have been looking to find a lighter strategy game that would simulate running a team without being so technical. I was hoping that Sports Dynasty would be that game. Unfortunately Sports Dynasty fails to come even close to what I was hoping it would be.
How to Play Sports Dynasty
Each player takes the following things:
- One player token (placed on the admission gate space)
- $8.2 million from the bank.
- One superstar from each of the four sports
- Three other random superstars
Shuffle the Lucky Break and Tough Luck cards and place them on their corresponding spots on the gameboard. All of the players roll the dice with the highest roller getting to go first. The first player also get to choose which sport will start the game (the current season marker is used to indicate the current sport).
Playing A Sports Season
Before the current sport’s season begins the bank puts $700,000 into the prize pool for the championship and each player pays $300,000 to the prize pool for each superstar that they control for the current sport.
On a player’s turn they roll the dice and move clockwise around the board the number of spaces that they rolled. The player will then take the action corresponding to the space that they landed on. The various actions in the game are listed below.
When a player rolls doubles or lands on the Championship Trophy space, the playoffs for the current sport begin. Any player who has no superstars for the current sport cannot compete in the playoffs. The playoff brackets are created based on the number of superstars for the current sport that each player controls. The player with the most superstars is the top seat followed by the player with the next highest, and so on. Tiebreakers are resolved by rolling the dice.
In a playoff game each player will roll dice equal to the number of superstars that they have for that sport. For example if a player has two superstars they will roll two dice and if a player has three superstars they will roll three dice. Players add up the total of all of the dice they rolled. The player who rolled a higher total wins the playoff game. If there is a tie each player rolls one die until someone rolls a higher number.
Whichever player wins the championship will receive all of the money in the prize pool. The player will also take a trophy corresponding to the sport that they won (football: blue, baseball: green, basketball: red, hockey: yellow). The next sports season begins by moving the current season marker to the next sport clockwise in the center of the gameboard.
Admission Gate: Players receive $1 million from the bank when they land on or pass the admission gate.
Mid-Season Acquisition: The player can acquire a superstar of the current sport (from the bank) by paying $1.5 million to the bank.
Free Agent Bidding: The current player chooses any superstar from another player. All of the players now bid on this player. Whoever bids the most pays their bid to the bank and takes the superstar.
Free Agent Offer: The current player chooses any superstar from another player. They make a one time offer for the player. If the current owner wants to keep the superstar they have to pay the amount of the offer to the bank. Otherwise the current player pays the offer to the bank and takes the superstar.
#1 Draft Pick Selection: For $1.5 million the current player may take one superstar card from the bank for any sport other than the current sport.
#1 Draft Pick Bidding: The current player chooses any superstar from the bank. All of the players then bid on the superstar with the highest bidder paying their bid to the bank and taking the superstar.
Regular Season Competition: The current player and the player to their left will compete in a regular season game for the amount of money printed on the space. Each player rolls as many dice as the number of superstars that they have for the current sport. Whoever rolls a lower total has to pay the money to the player who rolls higher. If the player who landed on the space does not have a superstar for the current sport, they must pay $300,000 to the prize pool and the competition is never held.
Lucky Break: Draw the top Lucky Break card and do what the card says.
Tough Luck: Draw the top Tough Luck card and do what the card says.
Career Ending Injury: The current player must return one of their superstars from the current sport to the bank. If the player doesn’t have any superstars for the current sport, they do nothing.
All Star Game Break: The current player moves their pawn to the admission gate space and collects $1 million.
Championship Trophy: The playoffs begin.
Player’s Strike: The current sports season ends with no playoffs. The next sports season begins like normal with all prize money from the previous season going to the winner of the next sport’s season.
Team Sponsor: The current player receives $300,000 (from the bank) for each superstar they have for the current sport.
End of Game
If a player ever runs out of money and can’t work out a trade or sale to settle their debt, they are eliminated from the game.
A player can win Sports Dynasty in three different ways:
- Win three trophies for the same sport (color)
- Win two trophies for two different sports
- All of the other players go bankrupt
My Thoughts on Sports Dynasty
No matter how much I dislike a board game, there have been few board games that I have ever stopped playing before they were finished. I usually like to give a board game a full playthrough since while it rarely happens a game could get better near the end or the game could grow on you the more you play it. Unfortunately Sports Dynasty is one of the few games that I had to stop playing. I ended up playing the game for 10-15 minutes and I didn’t have any fun with it. With the game looking like it would last at least an hour or possibly even two hours I just didn’t see it being worth wasting more time with it. I couldn’t see any way that Sports Dynasty would magically get better so there really wasn’t any reason to keep playing the game.
Since I am going to spend most of this review talking about why I really disliked Sports Dynasty, I thought I might as well start with the couple things I actually liked about it. When you first look at Sports Dynasty it looks like your typical Monopoly clone. The game has the square board with spaces around the edges of the board. There is play money which you use to purchase athletes which felt like the properties from Monopoly. While Sports Dynasty takes some obvious inspiration from Monopoly, I was actually surprised that it doesn’t really play like Monopoly.
Sports Dynasty mostly plays like your typical roll and move game. You roll the dice, move, and perform the action of the space you landed on. Basically the only other thing in the game is the regular season and playoff games which are basically roll offs. While it is not a good game, I have to give the designer(s) credit for their attempts at trying to implement the sports owner theme into the game. There is real effort to create mechanics that simulate elements of the sports world. Free agency utilizes a bidding mechanic. Salaries are implemented by paying money into the pot at the beginning of the season. Endorsements, career ending injuries, league strikes, along with other elements actually have mechanics in the game. These mechanics actually do a decent job of simulating the elements that they are supposed to represent. With all of these different elements represented in the game you would think the game would have some potential.
The problem though is that while the game has all of these mechanics, none of them are any fun and they end up creating some really strange side effects when they are actually used in the game. To illustrate I would like to tell you the tale of Taterman (this is just an example of how bad some of the nicknames in the game truly are). It was the beginning of the season and Taterman was ready to play for his first team of the season. Early in the season he signed a contract with his second team of the season. A couple turns later another team tries to poach him but failed. Eventually a third team was successful in poaching him. In the course of just one season Taterman was signed (not traded) by three teams. Unless this league lets players sign one month contracts this makes absolutely no sense in real life. While I won’t go into other examples, this is just one of the examples of where the game tried to simulate sports and ended up creating a situation that in no way represents owning professional sports teams.
The previous example actually shows my biggest issue with Sports Dynasty. In Sports Dynasty players are constantly trying to steal superstars from the other players. While this was meant to represent free agency in pro sports, it creates a lot of problems for the game. Basically the game has players lose superstars to other players without getting anything in return. A player can steal a player from you and instead of paying you the money, the money is paid to the bank. If you want to keep your own players you have pay your own money to keep them. While it wouldn’t have completely fixed the game, players who lost superstars should have at least been paid instead of the bank.
Since none of the money actually goes to the other players, it is quite easy to bleed the other players of their money or superstars. If you want to hurt one of the players you can just keep putting their players up for free agency. One of two things will then happen. They could pay to keep the player. This will allow them to remain competitive in the playoff games but they will start running out of money. If they choose to let the player leave they will have a hard time winning championships which means they will rarely ever make any money and without superstars you can’t win the game.
I have never been a huge fan of take that mechanics and these mechanics in Sports Dynasty are really bad for take that. It is actually really easy for all of the players to gang up on one player and basically eliminate them from the game. I also hate these mechanics because it discourages you from actually building up the number of superstars that you control. If you get a lot of superstars the other players will just target you and either steal your superstars or force you to pay even more money to keep them. These mechanics are not fun and are the main reason I stopped playing Sports Dynasty.
The next problem that I have with Sports Dynasty is that every season ends way too quickly. A season ends if a player lands on the trophy space or a player rolls doubles. Since it is actually not that hard to roll doubles, seasons can end really quickly. In fact one of the seasons we played ended in three turns. One player didn’t even have the opportunity to take a turn in that season. This mechanic makes no sense thematically or for gameplay since each player should at least get a change to take a turn in each season.
The playoff mechanics are interesting but they don’t work that well in my opinion. I like that having more superstars gives you a better chance of winning a championship but it creates several problems. While a player with more superstars has a significant advantage in a face-off, upsets do happen and actually happened in one of the seasons that we played. This kind of defeats the purpose of acquiring superstars if a lucky roll of the dice can make acquiring superstars pointless. This also creates a problem where the rich will keep getting richer. Every time you win a championship you will receive the prize money. The winner can then use this money to acquire more superstars. More superstars will make it easier to win more championships. This will lead to a lot of games of Sports Dynasty ending in a blowout.
Another issue with the game involves the components. Sports Dynasty’s components are just plain bad. The game’s artwork is extremely bland and the quality is not very good. The cards in particular are made of really cheap cardboard. The plastic components aren’t great either. While none of the components are so bad that they will impact gameplay, you can tell that Sports Dynasty was made by a small publisher just by looking at the game’s components.
While Sports Dynasty has a lot of broken mechanics, the game’s biggest flaw is that it is just so boring. While broken mechanics are never good for a board game, it is even worse to be considered boring. If you don’t have any fun with a game, what more can you really say about it. When we played the game it just felt like a never ending exercise of rolling and moving. There really are no rewarding decisions in the game and it just feels like an exercise of who will roll the best and win the game.
Should You Buy Sports Dynasty?
Being a fan of sports I thought the idea of playing as a sports owner was an interesting idea for the game. I give the game credit for trying to add a lot of elements from the sports world into the game. Unfortunately so many of the mechanics in the game just don’t work. You are constantly forced to fight to keep your own players and when you lose them you get nothing in return. Players are constantly trying to steal players and mess with the other players. All of Sports Dynasty’s mechanics lead to a game that relies almost entirely on luck and just a very boring game.
Unless you absolutely love the game’s theme, and don’t mind a lot of luck, I can’t recommend Sports Dynasty. The game has just so many problems that it is hard to recommend to anyone. I can only recommend the game if you really like the premise and can find Sports Dynasty for really cheap.