Masters of the Gridiron: A Kickstarter Preview

Masters of the Gridiron

With the Super Bowl less than two weeks away, the smell of football is in the air! It is in this most appropriate season that Sports Mogul, Inc., has launched a Kickstarter campaign for their football-themed card game, Masters of the Gridiron. We were recently given the opportunity to play this game, which, according to the publisher, has been in development for over four years.

Gameplay

Masters of the Gridiron is a 2-player card game that lasts about 15 minutes. Each player chooses a team deck, which contains offense, defense, and playbook cards. To begin the game, each player separates the deck into 3 separate draw piles, one for each card type, and draws a 10-card hand (3 offense cards, 3 defense cards, and 4 playbook cards).

Masters of the Gridiron components

The object of the game is to score the most points by completing either touchdowns or field goals, as determined by the playbook cards. Players alternate turns on offense and defense. The offensive player chooses an offense card and a playbook card, which together determine a numeric offensive rating and potential score (7 points for a touchdown, 3 points for a field goal). The defensive player chooses a defense card to counter the offense. If the offensive rating is greater than the defensive rating, the offensive player scores the points shown on the playbook card.

The offensive and defensive ratings must correspond to what is displayed on the playbook cards. For example, a particular playbook card might list "goal line or rushing" as the offensive ratings for the play and "tackling" as the defensive rating. Each offense and defense card corresponds to a specific NFL player and lists several different ratings for that player — in order to be used with this playbook card, an offense card must have a rating for goal line and/or rushing (if both, the higher number is selected). Similarly, a defense card must have a rating for tackling. In addition, some playbook cards also give a bonus to a rating of a specific position (e.g., +3 to a QB goal line rating).

Masters of the Gridiron offense example

Players continue alternating on offense and defense until each player runs out of offense and defense cards to draw. The player with the most points wins.

Several advanced rules are also included with the game for players who want to dive a bit deeper. These include 2-point conversions, defensive plays (with additional cards included with each deck), and even a deck building option in which players can draft their own customized teams to compete.

Review

The elephant in the room, as it were, is that this game is not a licensed NFL product. Team jerseys and colors correspond to the actual teams, and even the players and stats are real, but you will not see any NFL logos anywhere. This might be a deal-breaker for some, but for us this didn't necessarily detract from the game.

One thing that Masters of the Gridiron does well is that it is a very simple game to learn and play, especially when compared to other football games on the market. In its basic form, it has the feel of War with some lightly-strategic elements, such as choosing a specific play and player from your hand. The only learning curve is how to interpret the large amount of information on each card, much of which is irrelevant to gameplay (but is included for thematic reasons). For instance, each playbook card contains a map of a specific play, its name ("Singleback Flex Power O") and play type ("Outside Run"), which can be ignored. Each offense and defense card shows the player's name, position, jersey, measurements, age, history, salary, and 2012 stats, most of which are irrelevant. Once familiar with the cards, however, it is easy to select a playbook card and find a corresponding offense or defense card with the appropriate rating(s).

Another plus is that the cards appear to be well-researched. The real player stats and plays, while not essential to gameplay, will interest the hardcore football fan. The ratings contained on each card are derived from the individual player's stats, thus a star player will have higher ratings than an average player.

The drawback to the rating system, however, is that better-ranked teams will tend to outperform other teams, by design — possibly leaving one player at a disadvantage. In a 2-player game of San Francisco vs. Dallas, San Francisco won hands-down because most of the player ratings were higher in comparison. It seemed that little could be done to counteract this, and the losing player became frustrated. For a more balanced game, it is recommended to take advantage of the deck building rule, which allows players to draft a customized deck from several different teams, up to a recommended salary cap of $100 million per team. If a player drafts his own cards, he is responsible for the strength of his team and therefore his win or loss is more the result of his own choices.

In addition to the deck building option, the other advanced rules seem to add better depth and strategy to the basic game. The basic game itself is largely based on luck and most choices are rather obvious (i.e., choose the highest rated player to score the most amount of points). While the basic rules are fine for new or younger players, the advanced rules should definitely be checked out by anyone who really wants to get into the game.

The final game will include your choice of teams and will be shipped in March. If you're interested, take a look at the Kickstarter campaign from now through February 19, 2014.

Pros: Simple, well-researched, competitive, advanced rules offer more depth and strategy

Cons: Extraneous information on cards, some teams have an advantage over other teams, not a licensed NFL product

Disclosure: this preview is based on our evaluation of an unpublished prototype of the game, which is subject to change prior to publication. While a modest payment was received to expedite the review process, our thoughts and opinions expressed here are honest and accurate.