Diggin’ Deep Football: Game Review

Have you ever quit on a game because it just didn’t click for you?

After a couple of stalled attempts to play Diggin’ Deep Football, I almost gave up. Something about it just wasn’t working for me and I blamed the game, because obviously it couldn’t have been my problem, right?

Sample Card

But I didn’t give up, and I’m glad I didn’t.

Though I initially struggled to grasp the fundamental setup of the game as well as the solitaire playcalling system, once the concepts did click for me I found Diggin Deep Football to be a terrific football simulation, that delivered smooth gameplay, accurate stats, and gave a thorough depiction of strengths and weaknesses of each of the teams on the field. For the solitaire replayer, such as I am, this game will provide many hours of entertaining football action.

DIGGIN’ DEEP FOOTBALL GAME REVIEW:

WHAT IS IT?
Diggin’ Deep Football is a cards & dice simulation of American Football designed for solitaire and head-to-head play. It is a “full play” game in which every offensive skill player is rated individually on individual player cards. The offensive line receives its own card. Defensive units (line, linebackers, secondary) each have their own card, but defensive players are not rated individually except for returns of fumbles and/or interceptions. On special teams, the punter is rated for distance and tendency toward a return. Kickers are rated for field goals/extra points only. Kickoff distance and returns are determined by the Kick Returners rating.

The central conceit of all Diggin Deep Sports titles is described by the designer like this:

Matchups are key in all sports. Normally, in any given circumstance, any one player has a chance to be better [than] his opponent. However, in certain situations that a players knows he/she performs well, they can ‘dig deep’ for that little something extra to tip the scales in their favor. This is the basic game theory behind all Diggin Deep games.

– Rob Lennon

WHAT DO YOU GET WHEN YOU BUY IT?
Diggin Deep Sports offers the game as either an E-Book (in pdf format) or as a Printed Bundle. The game is very reasonably priced, as an individual can typically purchase the full game and a complete season for less than $20 via e-delivery. The printed seasons range between $27.95 and $35.95 (price includes shipping), and all printed bundles that include a complete season and all game parts are currently (as of 2/12/2013) priced at $47.95.

This is a very new game on the market, as it was released less than a year ago. At this time, only a handful of NFL seasons (and one AFL) are available. However, Diggin Deep Football appears to be the first football game on the market this year to offer the 2012 NFL season available for sale.

I received the PDF version of the 1960 AFL, and so I can’t speak to the quality of the printed bundle, though Rob Lennon (designer of the game and Mr. Diggin Deep himself) did say that the printed game parts are produced by GEN1400 (publishers of DICE Baseball, and the “DICE Sports” brand), so it stands to reason that if you’ve purchased any printed game parts from GEN1400, the Diggin Deep game parts should be of equal quality.

The individual player cards are very well designed. They are easy to read and aesthetically clean, simple and intuitively laid-out. All the information you need to evaluate the player’s strengths – including basic stats – is on the card itself.

Also recently added to the game components is an “indicator chart” for each team that was developed to provide with some statistical accuracy help for the coach of any given team to determine a target on an individual play. The designer did make an odd choice to use a 20 sided die to activate the indicator charts, I thought, considering all other results in the game are determined by 10 sided dice.

The Scoreboard is useful in some respects, not as useful as it could be in others.

The Scoreboard is useful in some respects, not as useful as it could be in others.


The “Scoreboard” has a handy 55 yard field which can be used to mark the ball’s position, but I didn’t use it to mark time nor follow the down/yards-to-go. The game instructions indicate that the designer uses pennies as markers on these sections, but that didn’t work for me as the pennies were too large and I found myself wondering which space it was supposed to have been on. The Scoreboard does have some very helpful reference notes on the bottom half of it.

I also found that the Play Call and Game Boards were more confusing than helpful in my solo play, but I could see them being very useful in a head-to-head match. These are designed to be placed on the table, and the individual cards of each player on the field at any given time are to be placed on top of the board to show your opponent the package you are playing.

There are 6 pages full of charts. I printed the twelve yardage-result charts on heavy card stock (4 pages) and then cut each one out. It was easier and more comfortable for me to shuffle through them this way than to shuffle through the 8 1/2 x 11 sheets when I needed to find yardage.

HOW DO YOU PLAY?
This football game uses 4 10-sided dice. Basic gameplay works like this:

Once the offensive side has put its men on the field, the defensive side has chosen a formation and both sides have picked their play, then:

The 4 dice are rolled. The first three dice will determine which card to read the results from (QB, Target, Offensive Line, Defensive Line, Linebackers, Secondary), and what is the general result of the play. The final die will be used to resolve the exact yardage from the yardage chart.

Skill players are rated A+ through F for ability to run and/or receive (or throw, in the Quarterback’s case). The defense’s guess on any given play affects the Target’s rating for that particular play.

The “Diggin Deep” concept is the cornerstone of the game company’s brand and a novel game mechanic for Tabletop Sports games. In Diggin Deep Football, on any given play either the offense or the defense may elect to have one of their players “dig deep”. When “diggin deep” all play results will come off of that player’s card. It is an interesting and fun twist that works especially well in the football setting.

I really enjoyed the way timing works in the game. The type of play can determine the amount of time to take off the clock, and an offense trying to run down the clock can tick 45 seconds off by running an inside run, or a no-huddle offense can work quickly taking as little as 15 seconds to run a play (as little as 5 within the two-minute warning). It seemed very realistic, and the number of plays per game was accurate with this method as well.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS GAME?
In the introduction to the rulebook, Lennon lays out his vision of the game as “a great fit for the casual football fan who loves fantasy football.” I can see his reasoning there. The game rewards and highlights individual greatness on the field, and the game could easily be used to create draft leagues. I would argue that the gameplay might be a little long for a truly casual football fan. Based on some anecdotal reports and from my own game testing, two hours seems to be about the typical solitaire play time. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that head-to-head matches play a little faster, however.

The hardcore football fan will enjoy the depth and accuracy of the player and unit ratings, and will enjoy trying to out-wit opponents in head-to-head matchups. When using the 1960 AFL set, I was particularly impressed by the individual ratings of some of the lesser-known players. The “history-comes-to-life” aspect of the older seasons in release will appeal to fans of football history.

WHAT IS THIS GAME MISSING?
Most notably, the inventory of seasons available for purchase is very small. At time of this writing, the game company has become the first of the football games to release the 2012 season, which brings its total season offerings to this list: 2012, 2011, 1992, 1972, 1960 (AFL & NFL).

Some hardcore football fans might feel that the tactical options are limited in Diggin Deep Football, especially when playing solo. For example, all run plays are essentially the same in all regards except as to how much time they take off the clock. Defensive formations are general – there is no option to call a specific defensive play, like a safety blitz or a “Cover 2” for instance.

Personally, I thought the game did a great job of offering a middle ground between basic and advanced strategy. I love football, but I am by no means a master tactician. I’ve lost interest quickly in other football games that bog down with too much “strategery.”

HOW STEEP IS THE LEARNING CURVE?
This is a tough question for me to answer, because although the rules and the gameplay mechanics were easy to grasp, I had a difficult time figuring out how to play the game.

Certainly, those of us who are aficionados of tabletop-sports can each name off the top of our heads a game that seemed to have everything we could ask for but for some reason, we just couldn’t get into it.

At first, I feared that Diggin Deep Football was going to be one of these games for me. It wasn’t until I took a step back and thought about the game and planned how I was going to physically setup my tabletop, how I was going to keep score (I ended up ditching the scorecards that came with the game and building my own Excel scorekeeper [download here]), what aspects of the game I just didn’t feel comfortable with (the solo play charts, adjustments for offensive packages), that I was able to put together a plan for how I wanted to play the game – and voila, it worked. Suddenly, the game was flowing smoothly and I wasn’t thinking about how to play the game anymore, I was just playing it.

The learning curve is reasonable, and I would merely suggest that gamers read the rules before attempting to play a game and then have patience with the process and feel free to customize the experience to your liking. Once I did, it all came together for me.

IS THERE AN ONLINE COMMUNITY OF ENTHUSIASTS?:
Diggin Deep Football is represented on a couple of Delphi Forums, and there seem to be new fans of the game popping up all the time. Additionally, the game designer is very accommodating to his customers, answering questions and joining in discussions on the board regularly.

SUMMARY:
Despite my initial struggle to master the logistics (though, notably, not the mechanics) of the game, Diggin Deep Football has quickly become my favorite football game. The game doesn’t get bogged down in the minutiae of coaching a football team, but does offer enough tactical choices to the gamer to keep him engaged. Some hardcore football fans may prefer more tactical options, however. The game company offers a very limited selection of past seasons at the moment, but has an advantage over other games right now, as Diggin Deep is currently the only game company to have released the 2012 season cards. The game components are visually appealing, and the game designer is accessible to answer questions posed by his customers.

TL;DR:
Once I worked through my initial hiccups with setting up and playing the game solo, I found that Diggin Deep Football is a terrific game. Gameplay will appeal to the average football fan, but might offer too much detail for the casual gamer and might not offer enough tactical options for the hardcore head coach wannabe. If you’re looking for the 2012 NFL season, this is currently the only game in town but it’s a good one, and worth your investment of time.

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2 Comments

  1. Love the write up. I particularly like the play-by – play in your starts keeper. Very much like the \”SPI football\” method that I grew up with. Great review.

  2. That\’s exactly the kind of thing APBA football needs, the psychological and emotional impact of the game. Avalon Hill\’s Squad Leader game incorporated a leadership component, and Red, White & Blue Racing has a hot-headedness aspect in which drivers can duel and feud.

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