AdamPFarnsworth gives this a solid "Rad" on the Ghost Scale
This is fun, with very few issues, and is well worth your time.
AdamPFarnsworth gives this a "Rad" on the Ghost Scale
This is fun, with very few issues, and is well worth your time.
First, I will say this game is not for everyone, hence why EA hasn't made versions every year like the Madden series. But it's one of my favorites, and every time I play it, I spend hours on it.

I will try and give a fairly in depth explanation on the game, and not assume one would know much about football.

First you start out the Career Mode and choose which team you'd like to be the head coach of. As you're choosing the team, you have the option of playing as the current (everything was current when it came out, of course it's outdated now, but still fun) head coach, or create your own.

I'm pretty into myself, so I enjoy creating a head coach that has my name and always do that. You get to type in whatever first and last name you'd like your coach to have, choose what he looks like (you have over 100 options on a coach avatar, but basically you're choosing between an old white guy or an old black guy) and what "style" of coach. You have maybe 10-15 styles to choose from, but I've not figured out what difference they make honestly.

You then get to assign skill points to your coach. This is similar to World of Warcraft, where you pick how you want to upgrade your coach. You can choose between Skills (which determine how quickly your players improve generally, by specific position) and Special Skills (which usually grant your players above average abilities). The Special Skills branch out, so first you would improve a players route running (how they run around to get open for a pass), then you would improve how well they catch in the next Special Skill, for example. There's probably thousands of combinations you can choose. I generally favor the pass, so I load up my Skills and Special Skills that relate to the passing game (Quarterback and Wide Receiver stats and abilities).

You also have a staff of assist coaches that have Skills and Special Skills. These are more specific skills though. For example you have a Defensive Coordinator that has all the possible defensive skills available, for all the defensive players. Then you also have the Linebackers coach who just has skills that relate to the linebackers. You don't get to pick your staff at the beginning, but after every season you evaluate them and decided to keep them or not.

After choosing and modifying your coach, you then select your playbook. You can stick with what the team already knows, or you have the option to choose any style you'd like, defensively or offensively. Some playbooks are much weaker than others, so changing can be a very helpful thing, but then your players aren't going to be as familiar with running those plays as they would have been had you stuck with your normal playbook. That said, I generally mix it up and choose something that fits my playing style (heavy passing on offense and heavy blitzing on defense) and deal with the players having to learn the plays.

Now it's time to begin playing the game!

You can choose to start the game either in the Off Season or the Preseason. I always start in the Off Season, but you can skip ahead to the Preseason to actually start playing football if you'd like. (If you're not a big fan of the Off Season, the game probably isn't quite right for you. You might just enjoy Madden more)

In the Off Season, you scout college players for the upcoming draft. You can look at your roster and see where you need improvement and focus on specific positions to draft, or you can just try to grab the best players available. This is debated in real life as well. I generally go for position needs in the first few rounds, then grab the "best player available" in the later rounds.

This is where I really love the game. All the college players start out with national rankings. They have an overall grade of 1-100 (as do all players in the game) that is based on a composite score of their attributes. Some guys are stronger, some run faster, some hit harder, some jump higher, some catch better, some throw faster, some throw more accurately, and so on and so on.

You start off knowing basically nothing about the players, other than their overall national grade. These are usually skewed, just like they'd be in real life, based on many things. Sometimes kids from bigger schools are on national television more, so they're assumed better than a kid from a smaller school. So it's up to you to learn more about the college players.

First they have basically an all-star game. It's not played out in the Head Coach game, but basically it's a group of kids gathered in a group. You then get to choose which of them you want to talk to. How many at each position is determined on how good of a General Manager you have (one of you assistant coaches. This actually isn't an assistant coach in real life, he's usually either equal to or above the coach, but for the game's purposes, he's basically a special assistant coach). You get to select x number of QBs to interview, x number of RB (running backs. They carry the ball rather than catch it, generally), x of WR (wide receivers. They catch the ball, rather than running it, generally), and so on. This unlocks some of the player's real grade and personality. (Their personality determines how easily you can agree upon a contract with, how well they take being a bench player/starter, ect).

Of course, not every college player gets invited to the all star game, so the NFL has a Combine. Here most of the players (but again, not all) get evaluated by running drills. It's here you find out the statistics on the players. You will see how tall, how fast, how strong, etc they are. Some stats are important, some aren't, and it depends on your team's style. Usually QB speed isn't important because the QB usually stands behind the Offensive Line and throws the ball. Some movement in necessary, but they're not going to be running like a WR, RB or Safety.

You again, get to choose some of these players to interview, to unlock more of their real grade.

Then you have Pro Days. I don't remember how many but it's somewhere around 12-15. A Pro Day is hosted at a college. Each Pro Day has 4-6 or so colleges available, and you only get to choose one. You'll usually have to choose between big schools (with many players, some worth drafting, some not worth it) and small schools (with 1 or 2 players who might be diamonds in the rough, or possibly a waste of your time). Here you'll again unlock more grades and get to know more players.

*Here's a hint. There's a Draft Preview available to you (I won't get into the actual game play, but you can find it if you cycle through all the options on your clipboard) that lists Overrated and Underrated Players at each position. Never interview or draft an Overrated player. Always look into the Underrated players.*

As the Pro Days are progressing you also get to bring in individual players for an individual workout. This will unlock everything about the player, including the most important stat "Potential". This is how well the player will eventually play for your team. He might have a starting Overall Grade of say 75, and look like he's not worth your time, but if his potential is above 85 (the magical number in Head Coach), and preferably above 90, he's a kid you want to scoop up.

I can't remember how many Individual Workouts you get, but I'd say it's around 10 or so. Choose these VERY wisely. It sucks when you bring in a player for an individual workout and his potential ends up being low.

Finally, it's draft time! Hopefully through all your scouting you have a sense of who you want to draft, and where to take them. Sometimes you know of a player that has a high Potential, but has a low national grade that you can get in a lower round, but be careful of waiting too long to pick draft someone, as another team might grab him first.

During the draft, you have the option to trade picks and players. You can trade up to a high draft position to grab a player you *need* to get, but that's usually costly. You'll usually have to trade away future draft picks that are very valuable, so trade wisely. There are 7 rounds, 32 picks a round and you usually have 1 pick a round. You might have more or less than 1 a round, depending on how you trade (or trades made in the past).

The draft is tons of fun for me. Sometimes I'll save the game right before the draft, so that after the draft I can restart and do it again, trying to get even better picks. I know, I'm a dork lol.

There are two days of the draft. Day 1 has Rounds 1 and 2, Day 2 has Rounds 3-7. Then after the draft you can pick up to 5 undrafted players for cheap 1 year deals. Some of these are going to be incredible values, but most will be guys you end up cutting from your roster.

I want to write so much more! I haven't even made it to the Preseason yet! But I have to go, so I will write more later!

AdamPFarnsworth   Post Author wrote on 01/30/2012 at 12:14am

This looks so much better truncated!

jdodson   Admin wrote on 02/04/2012 at 04:07pm

Adym showed me this game and it's cool. If you love football and want to try managing a team, check it out. It's basically a turn based football strategy game.

I thought it was cool you could negotiate contracts with players. Was lost a bit due to my un knowledge of football.

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