Version Reviewed: 1.1.6
App Reviewed on: iPad 2
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From the depths of high school stereotypes come 2 distinct groups: jocks and nerds. These unfortunate social constructs and their classic enmity would seem to indicate that people either roll dice or throw balls, with no common ground to be found. But along comes 1st & Goal, a digital adaptation of a board game and a unique - some might say impossible - juxtaposition of genres. It's a dice-chucking board game about football. Those flavors may seem distinct, almost un-mixable, like cleats and pocket protectors (though no one in history has ever worn a pocket-protector un-ironically). However, 1st & Goal attempts to fuse the tactical elements of football with board game mechanics and delivery, creating something that lives in both the gym and the library.
Using cards and dice, 1st & Goal lets players face off against either each other or a computer AI. Every turn they'll pick from available play cards, with the team on offense trying to move the ball downfield as effectively as possible and defense trying it crush that effort at every opportunity. Once both teams have chosen their plays the cards are compared, resulting in a set of dice to be rolled for the down. These dice reflect how well the defensive and offensive plays match up - for example, an offensive passing play matched against a running defense will result in a dice pool that favors the offense, because the defensive team used a play ill-suited to countering the offensive one. Whereas a short offensive run matched against a blitz will be stymied and therefor have far more negative dice to roll, wearing down the offense. There are even dice that represent the referee and penalties. After this comparison the dice are rolled, total yardage is calculated, and the next down begins.
The game's visuals are nicely presented, retaining their fundamental 'board gaminess' while adding smooth rolling animations for the dice and cartoonish graphics to show the result of each play. Audio is fairly minimal, with the sound of the crowd frequently the only accompaniment to your game. 1st & Goal features lots of team options as well as the opportunity to design your own team logo, and there are many expansions available for purchase to bring in new teams that will offer different balances of offense and defense plays. It’s a genuinely clever way of making an unorthodox combination work.
So the big question is simply this - is it fun? The answer is a resounding yes. Though not action-packed, the dice-rolling mechanic adds a great bit of tension to each play and the unpredictability of those dice brings some great moments of triumph and anguish as your team struggles to make big plays and stop your opponent. Even for folks who know nothing about football, its intuitive and straightforward, with a simple, almost rock-paper-scissor core driving the gameplay.
In short, 1st & Goal is a board gamer’s football game as well as a football fan's board game, and it's well worth a look.