Long term readers of this blog probably already know that I am a pretty big fan of football and especially the Green Bay Packers. When I found Vince Lombardi’s Game at a rummage sale I was really excited to pick it up. I will admit that I was more excited to pick up the game for collectible reasons than for the gameplay itself. With the game featuring arguably the best NFL coach of all time, I was gong to pick up the game no matter how good the actual gameplay was. I didn’t have very high expectations for the game because I worried that the game was going to be another generic football game that paid for the license to use Vince Lombardi’s name. While Vince Lombardi’s Game doesn’t live up to the greatness of the coach, for its’ time period it is actually a surprisingly solid football game.
How to Play Vince Lombardi’s Game
Setup is dependent on what version of the game you choose to play.
For the basic game you toss a coin to determine who will get the ball first in the first half. There is no other setup for the basic game.
For the intermediate game both players will choose one of the teams. Each team has a offensive play factor (OPF) for each of the offensive plays included in the game. Each team also has a defensive unit rating (DUR). Each team lists out their OPF for each play on a sheet of paper and then subtracts the other players DUR for each play. This will give the player a positive or negative number for each play in the game which is referred to as the “net play factor”.
For the advanced game each player will have to assemble their teams.
- Each player chooses the the eleven players that they will start on offense and defense along with their punter, kicker and return man. For each player they choose to use they will write down their name and the player’s factor(s).
- Total the numbers for each starting player on the offense and defense.
- These numbers are then compared to the following chart to get your “game offensive rating”.
- Play by play each player looks for the key player for each play. The letter for that player is used along with the game offensive rating to get the “net play factor” for each play by referencing the following charts.
Throughout the game the players will use their net play factor for each play to either move up or down the charts after rolling the dice. For example a player that has a +1 net play factor for a play will get to move down one additional spot on the chart. If the player has a -1 they will have to move up one spot from the number they rolled. These numbers can never be used to move a die roll above 66 or below 11.
Playing the Game
Before getting into how the game is played, I have to explain how dice rolls are used in the game. When a player rolls both dice, the player will use the lower roll for the tens place and the higher number for the ones place. So for example if a player rolls a two and a three, the player has rolled a 23 in the game.
Whichever player is kicking off for the first half rolls both dice and refers to the kick-off chart to see how far the ball was kicked. In this game the ball is kicked off from the 40 yard line. If the ball is kicked into the end zone (60+ yards) the other player can choose to take a touchback and get the ball at the 20, or they can roll both dice to return the ball. If the player returns the ball they will roll both dice and reference the K.O. Return chart to determine how many yards the ball was returned.
After the kickoff the game follows the normal rules of football. You have four downs to reach the first down marker which is ten yards past the spot where the ball started on first down. A play in Vince Lombardi’s Game consists of four steps:
- The defensive player selects one of their defensive cards and places it face down on the table. Each defensive play is strong against some offensive plays and weak against other plays.
- The offensive player then chooses one of the 23 plays and calls it out loud. The player can also choose to punt or kick a field goal if appropriate.
- The defensive player reveals the card that they played.
- The players determine the outcome of the play.
To determine the outcome of the play, the offensive player rolls both dice. The players find the number of the offensive play that was called. The players then choose the column based on what defensive play was called. The players then find the row corresponding to the dice roll. If the players are using the intermediate or advanced rules they move up or down from this spot based on the corresponding net play factor. The number/letter presented on the spot determines the outcome of the play.
Before dealing with yardage, players look to see if there is a letter on the spot. Letters refer to special events occurring in the game. The letters refer to the following special events which require additional actions:
- PI: Penalty or Injury
- X: Interception
- F: Fumble
After dealing with any letters, the player moves the location of the ball either forward or backwards depending on the number. If the ball has moved past the first down marker, the offensive player has earned a first down. If the ball has moved past the end zone the player has scored a touchdown. When a team scores a touchdown they kick the extra point using the rules for a field goal.
After a player has completed all of the actions for the current play, they mark off the next box on the clock. Each spot represents 15 seconds and when the clock is filled in a quarter has been completed.
Penalties and Injuries
When PI is rolled the offensive player will roll both dice. The number rolled will be used to reference the same chart and will indicate the outcome of the play. The player will then roll the dice again and use the outcome with the Penalty/Injury Chart.
If the result is an I there was an injury on the play and the offensive player rolls one die and consults the injury chart to determine who was injured.
If the result is a number and letter, a penalty was committed. The number indicates how many yards the penalty was for and the letter tells which team (O-Offense, D-Defense) committed the penalty.
If a player has thrown an interception, the other team will go on offense. The position of the ball is determined by the number that went along with the X. This number indicates the position of the ball in relation to the original line of scrimmage. For example if the ball was on the offensive team’s 30 before the play and the chart said I +10 the ball would be moved to the 40 yard line. If the chart said I – 10 the ball would be moved to the 20 yard line.
When a player fumbles the ball, the offensive team rolls a die to determine which team recovered the ball.
When a player decides to punt the ball they tell the other player that they intend to punt the ball. They roll both dice and consult the punt chart. The other player then has the opportunity to call for the fair catch or roll the dice and reference the punt return chart.
If a player has chosen to kick a field goal, they tell the other player. The player then rolls both dice and references the field goal chart. The number on the chart indicates from how long the kick will be good. If the distance between the line of scrimmage and the goal line is less than or equal to the number, the field goal is good. If the distance is greater than the number the field goal is not good.
Extra points are handled the same way as field goals.
End of Game
After four quarters have been played, the game ends. If one team has scored more points than the other team they have won the game. The game does not have official rules for handling ties so if you want to break the tie you will have to come up with your own tie breaking system.
My Thoughts on Vince Lombardi’s Game
Before playing Vince Lombardi’s Game I was leery that is was going to be simplistic football game. Being created in 1970 I didn’t think that the game was going to be all that strategic. While Strat-O-Matic Pro Football was released two years earlier, I thought the game was going to be a more casual take on football trying to appeal to more casual football fans. While I am guessing that games like Strat-O-Matic Pro Football will be more strategic than Vince Lombardi’s Game, I was actually surprised that the game has more strategy than you would expect.
I have to give the game a lot of credit in actually doing a pretty good job simulating a game of football. Before starting the game you can choose which level of detail you want to use in the game. You can choose the basic game that gives you a generic team and gets you right into the action. The intermediate option lets you choose a team which gives each player an advantage on some plays and a disadvantage on other plays. The final option is the advanced game which allows you to pick your entire roster. If you choose this option you get to pick all of your starters, and the strengths and weaknesses of your team are determined by the players you pick.
Of the three different ways to play the game, I personally would recommend using the intermediate game. Basically the differences between the three modes revolve around the setup phase. Of the three modes I think the basic game is the worst. The basic game is lacking the flavor of a NFL game since you aren’t even really playing as a real team. I also like the idea net play factor where each team is better and worse at certain plays. This gives players more options as you can either play to your team’s strengths or play to you weaknesses to try and catch the other team off guard. Overall the basic game just feels like it is missing something.
While the basic game feels like it is missing something, the advanced game has the opposite problem. While I appreciate the amount of detail that was put into the game to allow a player to choose their lineup, the setup for the advanced game is too tedious. Between writing down your lineup to referencing all of the charts to determine the net play factor for every play, I just doesn’t feel like it is worth the effort. I would guess that the setup for the advanced game will take most people around twenty to thirty minutes. For the little benefit you get from the advanced game I think you are better off just sticking with the intermediate game.
Outside the setup there are two main mechanics in Vince Lombardi’s Game.
The first mechanic involves play calling. This mechanic is not particularly deep but I think it actually does a pretty good job simulating play calling in a football game. Both players choose which play they are going to run. As each play works well against some plays and poor against other plays, both players are trying to guess what play the other player is going to choose. For football fans this presents an interesting scenario as football fans have a good idea what offensive and defensive play should be called in various situations. If both players are knowledgeable fans though they will know what the other player should call in a particular situation. This leads to second guessing as both players know that the other player is thinking they are going to make the obvious play call so they might choose to do something else. This back and forth can get interesting as the player who guesses correctly will have a pretty big advantage in the play.
I think the thing I liked most about the play calling in the game was the fact that effort was put into designing the plays. With the age I was expecting that the game would only have a couple offensive and defensive plays. For example I thought there was going to be an inside run, outside run, short pass, and long pass plays for the offense. For the offense though Vince Lombardi’s Game includes 23 different offensive plays which include inside runs, outside runs, delayed runs, screens, short passes, medium passes, long passes and even a trick play. For each of these categories there are even several different choices for plays. Meanwhile on defense there are eight different plays. While this doesn’t compare to actual NFL playbooks, I was actually really surprised by how many plays the game included.
In addition to the number of plays I am quite surprised with how the game implemented the play calling into the outcome of the plays. There is actually quite a bit of strategic value choosing a play that works well against against your opponents play. Match ups come into play because every offensive play has a different chart based on what defensive play is called. If the offensive play is a good call against the defensive play, the chart includes more positive plays and the max yards you can earn increases. The opposite is true when the defensive team picks a good play since it makes it more likely that the player will gain no yards or even negative yardage. There are also opportunities for turnovers. With good play calling you can gain a pretty big advantage in the game.
Other than calling plays the other major mechanic in Vince Lombardi’s Game involves dice rolling. Basically to determine the outcome of any given play you roll the dice. While this basically plays like any dice rolling mechanic, I like how the game combines the two dice into one number. Having one dice represent the ones place and the other represent the tens place was pretty creative in my opinion. This makes it much easier to look up outcomes since it would have been difficult looking up a bunch of different dice combinations.
So I will say that I was surprised by how well Vince Lombardi’s Game simulates football. At the same time though I will say that it is not a perfect game.
As I have already alluded to the game does rely quite a bit on luck. Any game that utilizes dice for a main mechanic is going to rely pretty heavily on luck. In Vince Lombardi’s Game you have next to no chance of winning the game if you don’t roll well. You could pick the best play every time but if you roll poorly you still won’t be able to move the ball. This is disappointing since I actually really liked the play calling aspect of the game and this luck of the roll limits the importance of it. If one player has better luck rolling the dice they are almost guaranteed to win the game.
Luck also seems to come into play with the play calling itself. If you are really good at reading people you might not have to rely on a lot of luck for the play calling. If you aren’t good at reading people though there is quite a bit of luck involved with guessing what the other player is going to do. While there are plays that make more sense to call than others for most situations, I didn’t feel like that really helped with making a decision of what play to call. The problem comes from the back and forth of I know you know, etc. You basically need to get lucky that you guess right more often than the other player.
The other significant problem that I had with Vince Lombardi’s Game is the fact that when using the normal rules the game takes way too long. Based on the normal rules, there will be 240 plays in one game. Since most NFL games only have around 120 plays I don’t really understand why the game thought that the game needed so many plays. If you would follow the normal rules I wouldn’t be surprised if a game took close to two hours. What is odd about the length of the game is the fact that the length of a quarter would actually work pretty well as the length for a half. I personally would recommend only playing two quarters and treating each quarter as a half. This would make the game take around an hour which seems to be the right amount of time for the game.
The final somewhat minor complaint that I have with the game has to do with the game being kind of outdated. Being created in the 1970s it is not surprising that the game simulates 1970s football and doesn’t do a great job recreating modern day football. Just like with 1970s football, running seems to have a much larger role in the game than passing. Running was a lot bigger in 1970s football so I don’t blame the designers for not anticipating the rise of passing in the modern NFL. Basically when you play Vince Lombardi’s Game you have to pretend that it is the 1960s/1970s as if you try to approach it like modern football you are probably going to struggle.
One thing I am a little curious to try out sometime are the rules for the single player game. Basically for the single player game you are coaching a game against Vince Lombardi. The game is played like the normal game but the game includes some charts which determine which play Vince Lombardi chooses based on the situation and the results of a dice roll. I don’t know how the single player plays but I give the game credit for coming up with a way to play the game if you don’t have two players. While you could play as both teams, I don’t think that would work out well since you know what play the other team is going to pick. I doubt the single player is as fun as the two player game but I appreciate that the game gave players an option to play the game without another player.
As far as the components are concerned I would say that they are pretty average. I will give the game credit for putting in an effort to make a game that relies heavily on statistics and rolling dice as easy to follow as possible. While the game contains a lot of charts, the charts are easy to follow which makes the game a lot easier to play than you would expect. At the same time though I will admit that the component quality is nothing special. The artwork is also quite bland as it is basically just charts. While I can see the game not wasting a lot of time with cosmetics, I think the game could have done a little better making the game a little more visually appealing.
So I had fun with Vince Lombardi’s Game and I wouldn’t have a problem recommending the game to people who are looking for a more strategic football board game. I have a feeling that there are better simulation football games out there though. While I have never played it before, one name that comes to my mind is Strat-O-Matic Pro Football. Strat-O-Matic is generally regarded as the best line of board games for strategic sports board games. I have a feeling that Strat-O-Matic Pro Football is a better game that Vince Lombardi’s Game. With how popular football is I would also be interested in seeing if some of the other football games are a more enjoyable football simulation.
Should You Buy Vince Lombardi’s Game?
Going into Vince Lombardi’s Game I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting a lot. I mostly bought the game as a collectible since I am a big fan of the Green Bay Packers. After diving into the game though I have to give it quite a bit of credit since you can tell that effort was put into the game. Real effort was put into the play calling element of the game as there are actually a lot of different plays that you can call and what offensive and defensive plays are called actually matter. The game also seems to have put a lot of work into making the outcomes of different plays realistic. The problem with the game is that it still relies on a lot of luck. If you don’t roll well you aren’t going to do well in the game. You also need to either be really good at reading the other player or guessing what play they are going to pick. When you add in that the game is too long with the normal rules, there are areas for improvement in Vince Lombardi’s Game.
If you not a big fan of football or don’t really like strategic number crunching games, Vince Lombardi’s Game is not going to be for you. If you already own a game like Strat-O-Matic Pro Football or another good simulation football game, I don’t think Vince Lombardi’s Game is good enough to warrant a purchase. If you are looking for a solid football strategy game that has more depth to it than you would expect though, I think you should consider picking up Vince Lombardi’s Game.
If you would like to purchase Vince Lombardi’s Game you can find it online: eBay