Saturday, February 25, 2017


     Normally, in a game of APBA Football, the offensive player has the usual complement of starting skill players (running backs and receivers) and a handful of back-up players. During play, you roll dice to determine who the intended receiver is to be on a pass play, while the player himself decides on a ball carrier for running plays. The dice roll for the receiver is intended to prevent a player from even subconsciously over-using his best receivers. This works well especially in solitaire play when there is no double coverage (at least there isn't the way I play it).

     This is all wonderful, but I take it one step further. Not only do I roll for the receiver, I also roll for the ball carrier in order to replicate a realistic distribution of carries. In the same way that the dice prevent you from unrealistically over-using your best receiver(s), my dice does the same thing for the runners.

Bertelsen after the Rams added color to their uniforms (1973)
      My method is certainly not complicated and only requires a minute or two of research. First, I go to Pro Football Reference and check out the rushing stats for my team. Then I simply calculate the percentage of times each player ran the ball over the course of the year. For example, in my recent game featuring the 1972 Los Angeles Rams, I found that Willie Ellison ran 170 times, Jim Bertlesen 123 times, Bob Thomas 77, and Larry Smith 60. All these guys are included in the APBA card set for the '72 season, so for each I calculate their running attempt percentages.
     Ellison: 39%
     Bertelsen: 28%
     Thomas: 18%
     Smith: 14%.
     Then I just translate these figures into a 2d10 dice roll range, thus:
     Ellison: 0-38
     Bertelsen: 39-66
     Thomas: 67-84
     Smith: 85-99

The Rams' stable of running backs.
      So for the Rams, whenever I decide they are going to run the ball, I roll 2x10-sided dice, a red and a blue. If the result falls within a runner's range, he's the ball carrier. For example, a roll of 1(red) and a 9(blue) equals 19, which means Ellison is the ball carrier. A roll of 7(r)5(b) would give the ball to Thomas because 75 falls within his range of 67-84. At the end of the day, each ball carrier will have a realistic percentage of the Rams' carries for the season.
     For this reason, I don't juggle players in and out of the game. In effect, all players are in the game at all times. Same with the receivers. I don't roll the dice only to find that the receiver I just rolled up is not currently in the game and then roll again, as the rules suggest you do. I just assume that whatever receiver I roll up is indeed currently in the game.
     From a realism standpoint, this doesn't bother me much because in the real football world players are constantly being juggled in and out -- due to fatigue, slight injury, equipment malfunction or what-have-you. As early as 1971 or so, Tom Landry of the Cowboys was using receivers (tight ends, I think) to shuttle plays in and out of the offensive huddle. So each play would have a different set of receivers on the field. Plus, it relieves me, the APBA player, from having to shuffle my receiver cards for no good real world reason. Short of some actual fatigue and coverage rules, I don't really want to have to do that.


     APBA Football is a wonderful game. There is something oddly rewarding about rolling dice and consulting charts. I enjoy that in wargames, too (God help me!). At the very least, you always know why something happens. (Well, I rolled a "66," that's why!) In the end that is what is so superior about manual games over computer games. With most computer games, you never really know why anything happens. It doesn't have to be that way, it just, for some reason, is. Action PC Football, for example, clearly has some sort of  built-in "mystery factor" involved in obtaining its results. Apart from driving me nuts, it is this "mystery factor" -- among other things --  that keeps me from playing this game as much as I otherwise would.

      One of the problems I've been having with APBA, on the other hand, is an overall lousy performance by my passing game. In my last game, Rams vs. Saints, for example, Gabriel went 10-of-18 for only 53 yards. Manning was little better: 11-24 for 82. What the hell? Part of the problem is that I might be throwing too many Medium passes.

      I analyzed Roman Gabriel's card, and here is what I found.
     For Medium passes, I've broken down the likely completions against good, average and poor competition.
     Vs. Good: Gabriel can expect to go 7-36 on medium passes.
     Vs. Average: 10-36.
     Vs. Poor: 13-36.
     As you can see, pretty much a losing proposition all the way around. I've been throwing all Medium passes when the receiver is a wideout, short or medium to TEs and short only to backs. I do this based on the tendencies of the time. QBs threw deeper passes in those days. Fewer completions, more yards. Unfortunately, barring extraordinarily good luck, the APBA cards don't bear this out. 10-for-18 is a pretty standard passing day for 1972 -- but not for just 53 yards. (And even Medium pass completions often go for less than 10 yards!) It should be more like 153. What to do about this? I don't know.
     But I analyzed Gabriel's card for short passes, too.
     Vs. Good: 14-36.
     Vs. Average: 16-36.
     Vs. Poor: 18-36.
     As you can see, it's going to take a little luck no matter what you do. For now, I'm going to try throwing more short passes, even to wide receivers. We'll see if this helps. If I can't get the YPC (yards-per-catch) up significantly, APBA may not be long for my table.
     In my playings so far, it's been feast-or-famine: roll a couple of "66s" and you can have a pretty reasonable day. This is why 1st downs are unrealistically low, too. Maybe my dice are loaded....We'll keep trying....

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


     Look, here's the bottom line: the '72 Packers are just better than the '72 Browns. Face it, Browns. The verdict is in. Two-out-of-two football games can't be wrong.
     First it was APBA. This time it's Action PC Football (get it here).
     So I've started the '72 season in both APBA and now Action and I can't make up my mind which game to go with. Both have strengths. Both are strong statistically. But both have weaknesses, too. One of these days, I'll blog about my small collection of football games. For now, I guess I'll just keep playing both until a clear winner emerges (and I'll be able to tell that because that's the one I'll keep going back to).
      Anyway, let's have a look at how the game went.
     Things started off very poorly for the Packers. A blocked punt resulted in a TD for the Browns, followed by a MacArthur Lane fumble, setting up a Don Cockroft field goal. 10-0 Browns before my first sip of Gatorade. Here's how things stood at the half.

     A Ken Ellis 58-yd interception return and a Browns' fumble give the Pack two freebie field goals and a long drive culminates in a John Brockington touchdown run. But Lane is the star on the ground so far. The Packers defense is playing lights-out and the green-and-gold are dominating overall, but lead only by 3.
     Turnovers keep the Browns in the game in the second half. But the Packers taketh away as well. Safety Jim Hill picks Phipps twice. And Phipps, well, he'll have better days. Gang Green is tough as nails. Bob Brown and Mike McCoy were standouts on the line. Dave Robinson comes through on a sack. Great defense, a solid running game, and Chester Marcol should form a winning combination for the Packers in 1972. The Browns are no slouches, either, but they could do nothing today.

Packers start off in a quick hole, but slow and steady wins the race.
Browns passing attack: GROUNDED!!
Not glowing stats for either side. Phipps' numbers jump out at you, though.
This is where the action is -- Defense! Big Bob Brown has most of his columns filled in. Charlie Hall has a busy day for the Browns

Friday, February 17, 2017

1972 APBA Football Underway!

     The 1972 APBA football season is officially underway! So far, I have four games under my belt, but the one I was really looking forward to is right here: Green Bay at Cleveland. The Packers won this in real life, 26-10. This one was a little closer, but the stats are remarkably similar.

The hero of my youth: John Brockington. The very name is magic to me!
Brockington-and-Lane. It's like peanut-butter-and-jelly.
Leroy Kelly.
The game stats.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Blitz, Sam, Blitz!

     A lot of you have been asking where the logo I'm using for the title of this blog comes from. That's the "Sam-Will Blitz" defensive card from "NFL Strategy," a game I played a lot back when I was a kid.

     It was a surprisingly sophisticated pro football sim for something so mass-marketed ( I think I got it out of the J.C. Penny catalog in '73 or '74). You played by selecting an offensive card and matching it to a defensive card which gave you a range of results. One I remember in particular was a corner pattern pass vs. a strong zone defense which yielded a gain of 22 yards in one of the big spaces. (In real life, Dom Capers is always running this stinking zone play and the opposing team never fails to get 22 yards against it!)

A sample of the offensive playbook.

     The game emphasized the location of the hash marks in the 1970s. When you were on the left hash, it was easier to run a play to the right (because there was more room to maneuver).  The defensive player knew this, of course, so you could run a play to the left knowing he'd be over-stacked in the other direction. There was a lot of cat-and-mouse in this game.
Some of the defenses.
     When you laid the defensive card over the top of the offensive card, the yardage results showed in the little boxes (see pic above). Each box corresponds to a percentage chance of occurring, as depicted by the length of the bars on the right of the defensive cards. You would then slide both cards into a randomizer slot on the game board and draw the spring-loaded bead that would then land in one of the spaces. The larger the space, the greater was the chance of landing there. The result was a pretty decent simulation of football.
     For example, a quick slant killed a blitz, as did screen passes. You could play man-to-man or zone. TE crosses over the middle worked well against zones, for another example. Really a pretty awesome game.
     I found a Vassal version of the game here if you want to play it. You need the current version of Vassal, which you can find on the same site. It's all free.
     This game was my introduction to the terms "Sam" and "Will." The thing you have to remember about Sam is that Sam Will Blitz. (Groan!) It's what he does.

Friday, February 10, 2017


     The last time I played APBA Football, I replayed the entire 1974 1975. Now, after having just received my new game via UPS a couple of days ago, I'm preparing for another full season replay: 1972. After 40 years, seems I'm regressing -- in more ways than one!

Basic and Master Game + 1972 Season arrived on Wednesday.

     I've spent the past couple days playing my first "pre-season" game, the Chiefs vs. the Vikings. The game is a little more complex than I remember it. The solitaire rules are definitely more robust, but most of the other rules enhancements seem to be made for recent seasons and can be safely disregarded for seasons from football's Golden Age: the 70s. Who needs blitzing, 6 DBs and 3 wideouts? All new-fangled fluff. And get off my lawn!

     Anyway, I've made a couple of minor changes, mainly in the usage rules. But I'll talk about those in another post. Right now, let's just bask in the first, and only, pre-season game of the 1972 season. The real thing starts this weekend with the St. Louis Cardinals taking on the Baltimore Colts.

Ed Podolak carried the load vs. the Vikings
Fran Tarkenton. The Chiefs D stymied him.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

1989, A Majik Year

     (From week 5 of the 1989 NFL season, using Action PC Football by Dave Koch Sports. For this game, I'll be handling all the Saints coaching duties, both offense and defense, while the computer controls the 49ers.)

     You're looking LIVE at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana where today the undefeated New Orleans Saints are taking on the 3-and-1 San Francisco 49ers. For the 49ers, Joe Montana is out, so in at quarterback is Steve Young, the 5th year pro out of BYU. Bobby Hebert leads the Saints....
     In the early going it was all San Fran. To start things off, a 12-play drive resulted in a field goal. A three-and-out by New Orleans (3 plays, 0 yards) was followed by a 1-play 68-yard TD strike, Young to Rice, for a 10-0 lead, just like that -- the worst beginning imaginable for the Saints. But there's no quit in these Loosianna Tigers... Let's have a look at the first quarter stats:

     With the Niners, it's pick your poison. After his early TD, I decided to concentrate on Rice and I got a healthy dose of the running the game as a result. Sometimes you have to just decide you don't care. Let Craig run, I reasoned (through clenched teeth), I'm not going to let Rice beat me. That's tough medicine, though, believe me.
     On offense, I didn't even try to run. It was Hebert early and often. Later, I started mixing in some screens. Hilliard is dangerous out of the backfield and the Niners were keying on him in the run game.

      I was running a mixture of man and zone on defense. I was doubling Rice whenever possible but going zone to limit Young on the scrambles. When the D turns its back to him, he takes off. Hebert to Hill for a 48-yd TD in the 2nd was pay-back for the earlier Rice score. By that time, the pass pressure was starting to heat up on Young, too.

     Hebert goes to a short-medium passing game. TE Brenner sees plenty of balls and keeps the chains moving. 21-10, New Orleans, after 3.

A big sequence in the 4th. After a "Roughing the Passer" call nullifies a 49ers' interception, Hebert calls for play action and goes deep to Eric Martin, hitting him in stride for a 48-yard touchdown and a 28-10 lead.
     Final, in an upset: New Orleans 28, San Francisco 16. In the end 7 sacks on Young were too much to overcome. The Saints took few chances on defense, blitzing little. It was the front 3 that got to Young, Frank Warren recording 3 sacks on the day.  Young was knocked out of the game with 3 minutes to go. With Montana already out, Steve Bono took over. Might as well have been Sonny Bono for as much difference as it made. That was just blood in the water to the Saints' D.

     A look at the stats shows that Craig and Rathman ran all over the Saints, but, after that 68-yarder, Rice put up a big fat goose-egg. Taylor, whom I also started doubling late, catches 1 for 17 yards. Oh, yeah, the Saints' defense showed up big today. And here they are (check out the Sack column):
     New Orleans advances to 5-0 on the year. San Francisco falls to a disappointing 3-2.

Monday, February 6, 2017


     After one month of play, the National League looks just like you'd suppose it would: Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and LA all vying for the top spot. I'm less familiar with the American League, but you gotta believe Boston will be there in the end.

The Pirates have faced a heavy dose of the Eastern Division. The Cardinals have a tough lineup, led by Ted Simmons and Lou Brock. I could only manage a split with them. Oh, but could every opponent be the Expos!
I've been inputting player photos as needed for games. I haven't needed Joe Morgan yet, but I should make a special exception and go download his photo now since he leads in just about every batting category. In fact, the Big Red Machine is well-represented throughout the stats.
Al Oliver and Dave Parker lead the way for Pittsburgh. Stargell has excellent stats, but for one. No homers. I expect that to change soon.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Lumbering Lumber

    You gotta love offense. The 75 Pirates are nothing but offense. Even the No. 8 batter is hitting well over .300. Power through position 7.
     Lessons learned so far: Don't get too fancy on the base-running. These guys score runs the hard way -- one hit at a time. And there are plenty of those. What a Murderer's Row: Oliver, Stargell, Zisk and Parker. Stennett, Sanguillen, Hebner, and Taveras are no slouches. What we lack is A-grade pitching. We'll see how this plays out over the course of the season.
     On the downside, they have struggled so far against quality pitching, namely Seaver (NYM) and Gibson (STL). 
11 Games in. The Cardinals could contend this year.
Bob Gibson opens up against the Pirates.
1st and Third. Taveras at the plate.

Ducks on the Pond for Kirkpatrick. He whiffs.
With a man on, Zisk homers. It's the Pirate way.

Friday, February 3, 2017

OOTP 1975 Pittsburgh Pirates Off and Running

     The first game of the 1975 season is in the books. It was the Pittsburgh Pirates over the Chicago Cubs in Chicago 3-0. Rennie Stennett batted in the game-winner in the 7th and Richie Hebner iced the win with a two-run homer in the ninth. Pitching for the Pirates, Dock Ellis held the Cubs to 3 hits.
      Interestingly, the heart of the Pirates lineup -- Oliver, Stargell, Zisk and Parker -- went 1-for-13 on the day. Pinch-hitters Ed Kirkpatrick and Bill Robinson were 2-for-2  with 2 runs scored while Stennett, Hebner and Sanguillen combined for 4 hits and 3 RBIs.
     1975 is off to a rousing start!

     *If I'm not mistaken, Pete LaCock was or is the son of famous game show host Peter Marshall. Correct me if I'm wrong. Paul Lynde to block, Peter.