Time once again for the annual Pizza Box Football exercise in which owners of the game play out the Super Bowl before it happens. It’s a little early, I know, to be thinking about the Bowl, but the 2010 team-specific sheets to the game include all four potential candidates and if you’re quick, you could play out the AFC and NFC championship games and see what happens.
For those unfamiliar with the exercise, it works like this: Get the game. Look for it at your FLGS (friendly, local game store, which should always be one’s first choice for obtaining a game; gotta keep these stores open and running), or order it on-line at www.pizzaboxfootball.com. They won’t be able to get it to you before the Championship games on Sunday, but they could certainly get it to you in time for the Super Bowl. Then go on-line and register on the site. This will make you eligible for downloading up-to-date result charts (by Monday) for the Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts (great article about the Colts’ owner, Jim Irsay, in this week’s edition, dated January 25, of Sports Illustrated, by the way), at which point, you can play a game with any combination that your heart desires. So what if the Jets don’t get in. Play them against the Vikings or Saints anyway and see what happens.
Charts and the playing field
The game, you see, while in its simplest form allows players to square off in a highly realistic, virtual football game (this is board, bits and dice, mind you, not a video game), is adjustable to the strengths and weaknesses of actual teams. The downloadable result charts for the actual teams, used to determine the outcome of each play, are published using the latest information about the teams. A team with a particularly strong passing attack (the Vikings, for example) will have a results chart that gives passing plays an edge when the dice roll. And dice do roll. Lots of them, in a rainbow of colors that reflect a variety of game-play situations. With the ‘Professional Game’ option, you’ll be playing a highly realistic football game with everything but booth consultations for disputed plays (hard to argue with dice, you know). It’ll take just about as much time as an actual football game and once you get the mechanics and the multiplicity of charts down solidly, things’ll run pretty smoothly.
This will mark the fifth year that Erik Smith, co-designer (with his brother) of Pizza Box Football, has been running a pre-Super Bowl event, in which he makes specific result sheets available and asks people to ‘play the game’ and report the results. He has gotten anywhere between 100 and 200 responses over the years (actual results of games played with the ‘pizza box;’ so-called because the game comes in a box that is the size of an actual small pizza box). The board game, played out across the country by hundreds of players, has managed to accurately predict the outcome of the real game four out of the five times; the Giants win over the Patriots being the only one they missed (and who didn’t miss that one?).
Smith has had the ‘charts’ for all of the 2010 playoff teams up for a few weeks now and while he hasn’t been getting the results of simulated playoff games in the numbers he’ll be picking up for the Super Bowl exercise, he does note that Jets fans seem to be having a lot of fun running their virtual team through its playoff paces. The ‘charts’ are not updated weekly, because as Smith notes, “one game isn’t going to change a season’s worth of stats (upon which the charts are based).”
Dice, dice and more dice
In producing the 2010 charts for the game, Smith has analyzed each of the teams, including the four remaining, in a way that reflects their various strengths and weaknesses, and offers for those with any interest a glimpse into this weekend’s matches, as well as the four potential combinations of the Super Bowl match.
“Indianapolis can’t run the ball, but they can throw it,” says Smith, “and the Jets, even though they’re ‘called’ the ‘top defense,’ their defense is not rated particularly high. What really makes the Jets click is their play calling. When they call plays, they do that really well.”
As to the Saints and Vikings matchup, Smith notes that more than anything, the Vikings do not want to find themselves in a situation where they are forced to play catch-up.
“When you score a lot of points, you turn your opponent into a single-dimensional team, as they try to catch up,” he says. “On offense, the Saints are nearly flawless. . . they can put up big numbers and when they do, they force their opponents to take risks.”
“It’ll come down to turnovers in that game,” he adds.
He sees Indianapolis getting by the Jets, although not by big numbers, and he sees the Saints putting Favre’s bid for another Super Bowl ring to an end. In the final matchup, he sees New Orleans emerging as the 2010 Super Bowl champions. But the real question is what will the virtual plays of these games show? In years past, not only has the analysis of virtual results elicited a hypothetical winner of the actual game, it has highlighted trends. Like, for example, the fact that in Super Bowl XLII, a report on all virtual games played predicted a win for New England, while at the same time demonstrating that in those virtual games, New York won 78% of them in which they held the Patriots to less than 20 points; actual score of Super Bowl XLII? New York 17, New England 14.
The important consideration here is not about whether the game can accurately predict the outcome of the real thing, but whether in playing the virtual game, its players have a good time.
And we do, every year. Join us. On or about Feburary 1st, I’ll report on the results of the virtual games played and provide some history of the exercise’s previous results to give you a perspective on the types of issues the virtual games measure and how they stacked up against the actual games played.
For more info: www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/17851/piiza-box-football