Dissecting “Football Game” – US Patent #2,479,160

Over in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle newspaper today, Sean Lahman (most famous for the Lahman Baseball Database) presents an interesting look at the history of board games by delving into the US Patents for some antique games.

Early in the piece he discusses a game created by Inventor Frank Graves in 1949 that is referred to in the patent simply as “Football Game.”  Intrigued, I did a quick search over at prior-ip.com, which is a website that organizes most of the world’s patents into a  searchable database.  Here is the drawing of the game board for Frank Graves’ 1949 “Football Game”:

US Patent #2,479,160 - "Football Game" by Inventor Frank Graves


The instructions for the game are interesting.  Graves delineates 2 distinct ways to play the game: “The game may be played as a game of chance with a spinner or with dice, or as a game of skill either with a standard deck of playing cards or with a deck specially made for this purpose.”

Here are instructions for the dice-based game:

“There are two pair of dice used, that is, a total of four dice.  The two pairs of dice are differently colored…thus, one pair may be red and the other pair white.

” The player who has possession of the ball rolls all four dice.  One pair of dice, for instance, the red pair, indicates a loss of yardage, while the other pair of dice indicates a gain of yardage.  The difference between the totals of the two pair of dice will give the yardage gained or lost.”

The instructions for the playing card version of the game a little more intricate, but can be described briefly as a face-to-face game whereby opponents draw a hand of cards then battle by each laying a card at the same time.  Black cards are positive yardage, red cards negative.  Therefore, the defensive player hopes he has a greater red card on the table than the offensive player has black card.

There are also scenarios – such as penalties – that pop up on the game board should you happen to land on one.

In the first paragraph of the patent instructions, Graves calls his invention “a game simulating the outdoor game of football,” maybe inventing the “sports simulation” game.  However, we would hardly call this game a simulation today.  It’s a board game, simple in concept and design, but nonetheless a game I think two twelve-year-olds would certainly have fun with on a rainy afternoon.

Bookmark the permalink.

One Comment

  1. Sounds like Risk for football geeks. Cool.

Leave a Reply