Hand-To-Balls: Front Page Sports Football

American Football, invented by Colonel Pigskin Madden in the mid-nineteenth century, was originally a tabletop game played with miniature figures on a hex grid. Players would spend hours drawing up plans before each encounter, creating complex playbooks that contained all the secrets of the game. The Colonel once claimed that Football was not only “the best turn-based tactical game of the Reconstruction Era” but would continue to be the most important game of its type until “those Gollop boys get to work in the rootin’ tootin’ 1980s”. Front Page Sports Football is a veteran franchise that has been missing in the wilderness for some time. A new release is due this month and the sport most suited to PC will hopefully return in style.

It’s not all miniatures and cardboard fields anymore, of course. The game changed with the advent of television, when initial broadcasts proved what the organisers had feared – the cardboard and plastic miniatures were too indistinct for the tiny televisions of the time, so the decision was made to replace the miniatures with actual men. The turn-based element remains, though heavily tweaked, which makes the lack of American Football games on PC remarkably odd.

There’s Blood Bowl, of course, which shares developer/publisher Cyanide with Front Page Sports Football, and Gridiron Solitaire is a simple but elegant card-based take on the sport. What’s needed is something on the scale of Football Manager, except with the complication of tactical plays that make invasion plans seem like a doddle rather than contract negotiations that would put Bastard O’Lawyer to shame.

Not to be confused with the free-to-play browser effort that Cyanide dabbled with a few years ago, this new revival will have more than 2,300 plays.

It’s up to you to scout, draft, and sign the best players. Name your team and build its identity with your choice of uniform, stadiums, and even nickname. It’s up to you to train your team, to manage its morale and finances, and to lead your team to victory.

Every good coach needs to have a game plan for the field. With the Playbook, you’ll have access to thousands of plays with which to create your team’s strategy. Use 3D replays and statistics to analyze your team’s performance, find your opponent’s weakness, and dominate the league.

It’s out September 25th, which makes me wonder how this can possibly be the first I’ve heard of it.

24 Comments

  1. FieldyGB says:

    Is this any relation to the absolute bona fide classic TV Sports Football from Cinemaware??

    I loved it enough to buy the 1mg ram upgrade just to hear the touchdown celebrations.. blimey I was easily pleased..

  2. Zankmam says:

    Although it doesn’t have fancy 3D graphics and a big production house behind it, there *is* Football Mogul – the latest being Football Mogul 15 – made by Sports Mogul.

    I haven’t tried it, but, I *have* tried Baseball Mogul 15… And if that is a good benchmark, then, mark my words, Football Mogul 15 is a great game.

    Baseball Mogul 15 has *loads*, LOADS of options… Latest teams, historic teams, custom teams/league editor, randomization options, city options and balancing (!), in-depth tactical options when actually in-game, a in-game simulator to compare to real life, a nice pre-, during and post-match screen, loads and loads of stats…

    I haven’t tried the now famous Out of the Parks Baseball (15), but I can’t even begin to imagine what it is like – since it is heralded as being “perfect”, while Baseball Mogul is ignored – yet – having tried it, I can’t even begin to imagine what OOTPB would have to have to be better than it.

    So, if you have interest in Baseball and Football, there is actually a decent amount of choice out there. Both Mogul games cost 30+ Dollars (a bit too much? Yes? No?), but, you can try the free Demos.

    So, I’d recommend that!

    • Mr Bismarck says:

      I understand people like the Baseball Mogul games, but if you’re going to pay for a Handegg simulator, then you’re better off giving your money to Solecismic for their Front Office Football 7.

      The UI is ugly, but once you learn your way around there’s a fantastic game beneath, which will both challenge you to win and tell great stories as your football universe develops over the decades. By comparison, Football Mogul is very sparse, especially in the off-season.

      • SAM-site says:

        Do either Football Mogul or Front Office Football offer an online/PBeM multiplayer option? I’d go look, but I prefer to offer you fine people the chance to be experts.

        • Mr Bismarck says:

          Yes. Front Office Football has a solid online multiplayer community. Some of the folks have been playing the game for a long time, so getting up to speed, competitively, can be painful, but they’re a routinely welcoming bunch.

          You can even find leagues that are GM only, requiring use of standard playbooks, if you prefer that side of things.

      • Jason Moyer says:

        Out Of The Park Baseball and Front Office Football are so much better than the Mogul games that I find it difficult to believe that anyone buys the latter.

        • gombicek says:

          Yeah, Out of The Park Baseball is probably the best baseball sim out there. And they are also working on football now.

        • Zankmam says:

          How so?

          Again, I’ve only tried Baseball Mogul and… Well, I didn’t see anything wrong or “missing”.

      • Zankmam says:

        Yeah, that’s the other one, I forgot the name.

        Is it really so much better?

    • Canadave says:

      I’ve only played the demo and older versions of Baseball Mogul, so take this with a grain of salt, but for my money, OOTP is just way more polished and detailed than Baseball Mogul. Having poked around with BM15 a bit, I can’t find any way of playing a non-MLB league or creating a custom set-up, there doesn’t seem to be any way to tweak the league rules or simulation, I don’t seem to have any control over my minor league system, scouting and finances seem pretty shallow, and there seem to be fewer options for negotiating contracts and trades. Oh, and that UI is bloody awful.

      I didn’t get far enough to get a real impression of how realistic the simulation is, but from what I’ve heard it doesn’t tend to be quite as good as OOTP either.

  3. kevinspell says:

    I still think “football” is a moronic name for a sport where 95% of the time you use your hands. Also, Blood Bowl is much better.

    • David Bliff says:

      The name comes from the original iteration of the sport, which involved a lot more kicking and was basically just a derivation of rugby (think Aussie rules football).

    • Eightball says:

      Do you refer to association football as “divegrass”?

    • Jad says:

      *sigh* If you’re British, you should be ashamed, since you named all of these sports.

      Football has nothing to do with kicking a ball with your feet. It is simply a name for a game with a ball that is played on foot — as opposed to horseback or in the water or whatever.

      Football is not a single sport. It is the name for a category of sports.

      The full name for rugby is rugby football. The full name of the sport that recently had a big tournament in Brazil is association football. That’s what the “A” in “FIFA” stands for.

      A hundred years ago or so everyone in Britain knew that sport as “soccer”, which is a shortened form of “association”. The US and Australia, which were colonized by Britain, called it that as well, and still do. For some reason, Britain forgot the word they invented and now laugh at America for their “made-up name for football”, which is very stupid.

      There are many other forms of football. Like Australian rules football. Gaelic football. And gridiron football, which has two sub-forms, American and Canadian. This article is about an American gridiron football videogame.

      American football is derived from rugby, and so has a mostly hands-based interaction with the ball. The ball is not perfectly spherical, just like rugby balls. But it is still played on foot, and it still shares ancestry with the pastoral “foot ball” games played in English villages hundreds of years ago, just like all the other forms of football.

      I realize that you may already know this, and were being ironic; however know that this is the internet, and blind pedantry is our national sport.

      • Martel says:

        I’m from the US so even if she/he already knew it, I appreciate your post.

      • Richard Burton says:

        I’m from England and I appreciate the history of American Football, unlike ignoramus kevinspell here. Thanks for posting that wonderful piece. However, I expect that poor know-it-all (yet knows nothing) Kevin will never reply or say thank you, as is typical for the usual self-important know-it-all who can never admit they are wrong. Well said, sir!

  4. Erithtotl says:

    I was a huge fan of the original Front Page Sports football games. They were miles ahead of Madden at the time in terms of depth. Other than the name though I’m wondering what this has in common with the original, which if I remember allowed full on field control as well as management.

    Very interested but wary of this.

  5. raiders5000 says:

    “It’s out September 25th, which makes me wonder how this can possibly be the first I’ve heard of it.”

    HELLO!!

  6. Juke says:

    Wow, Front Page Sports Football… talk about a name I never thought I’d hear again. I can still recall playing this on our old 486 IBM-clone PC. I remember it had a really detailed create-a-team (name, uniforms, stadium, etc) mode, and the ability to design your own plays. The game action with its little sprite-guys wasn’t very electric, but it delivered on a franchise mode when that wasn’t a very common theme in sports games.

    I will say that, while I like the idea of this revival, and it does seem they’ve created a similar feel with the menus and not-quite-accurate franchise and player names (the originals didn’t have an NFLPA license, either,) it does have the look of a shallow first pass and not a fully formed owner/coach simulator. And if we won’t have control over any plays, the sim aspects need to be deep and accurate.

    Tentative curiosity for now, though.

  7. Sparkasaurusmex says:

    I’ve been waiting for a PC NFL-type game since 2008. Even in 2008 the PC version of Madden was what was then “last-gen”

    EA has an exclusive license with NFL (I think until 2016) but I’d take a knock off just based on US Football.

    A Pigskin Manager would be amazing.

    • phanatic62 says:

      Yeah I miss being able to play an “action” football game on PC. I have little interest in the management sims, but I miss being able to drive down the field with just seconds left in the game to set myself up for the game-winning field goal.

      I have a copy of Madded 08, and there are community patches and rosters to update it, but it’s a bit more effort than I feel like putting into it at the moment. I don’t even really care about having the NFL license, just something! It seems like a golden opportunity for an indie dev to step in. If only I had the skills to do the work!

  8. SAM-site says:

    For those who don’t need no flashy graphics to enjoy some football I direct you toward Gridiron 3. If you ever took part in a play by mail game you’ll have a good sense of what it offers already, however the best part of the game is the community.

    The league runs 2 seasons per year which is pretty slow but it really builds a sense of anticipation and camaraderie among head coaches. Prior to the autumn/fall season the league operates a live draft in Bristol where you turn up and make your selection from college graduates live, it’s really quite something.

    The league I’m in is the almighty Delta, and we’re coming up on our 11th season in existence. They run a free trial system called Jumpstart, but if you decide to opt in it’s £15 per season and worth every penny. The new season is due to kick off in the next two weeks, so if you fancy something cerebral give it a look!

    (I don’t work on the game, I’m just an enthusiastic fan and this is an appropriate point to shamelessly pimp it. As far as FPSF is concerned, consider at least one copy sold to me.)

  9. Jason Moyer says:

    The Front Page Sports games (including the final iteration of FPS Golf, i.e. PGA Championship Edition 2000), were all phenomenal and while I’d love to see a management-only return of the series using similar mechanics this doesn’t appear to bear any relation to those games other than the branding.

    Also, I find it odd that this is coming out in a month and there still isn’t a Steam page for it.

  10. Richard Burton says:

    I like the sound of this but… presumably (and I really hope there is) there’s a full editor in the game so we can put the actual 32 NFL teams into it ourselves? I just thought it was strange that there’s no mention of EA Sports having exclusive rights to the NFL license anywhere in this article… at all. So if we are forced to use fictional teams, this might be a sour point for potential buyers. So, what’s the deal? I looked on their website but couldn’t see any mention of a teams editor. Thanks in advance for the info.