The special, immersive world of Strat-O-Matic football

Would last year's Broncos have beaten John Elway's champion groups of old?

Could Carson Palmer and the Cardinals have composed a different ending to last season with a few tactical tweaks in the NFC title video game?How Joe Namath’s ‘68 would Jets fare in a time-machine showdown with Bill Belichick's 2001 Patriots?For a curious and dedicated group of sports gamers, all these questions have responses. Solutions that have played out in many methods on rainy afternoons from kitchen tables across America or, today, in online battles waged by a dedicated collection of real-life players. Unforgettable rivalries, weathers and eras of old all rest at the fingertips with Strat-O-Matic.Developed in 1961 by Hal Richman, Strat-O-Matic first got in the world as a baseball parlor game, winning over fans with its offering of real players, unmatched strategy and statistical accuracy. As Strat grew in appeal, Richman thought up the football variation in 1968.

"There was a seven-year difference, and there were a couple reasons why," Richman said. "I might hardly pay for one video game. In 1961, I was all of 25 years old, and 25-year-olds back then didn't go into company on their own. And I only went into business for myself because nobody desired my product. I said, 'All right, I'm going to provide it a flier,' and I did." While crafting a baseball game came naturally to Richman, designing a strategy-based football video game was a different monster."I had an excellent knowledge of baseball-- it was my puppy love. My father gave me a book when I had to do with 8 years old on the great Hall of Fame players, and that truly got to me," Richman stated. "Football I didn't know that much about, so what I had to do, I got season tickets for the New York Giants, went a couple years, kept in mind and then created a video game. And it took a lot of [in-game] screening. I evaluated my buddies, essentially, and it was totally various video games than anything out there."

It was years before the earliest video games would serve as a tractor beam to the young and football fans in the 1960’s were out of luck on the gaming front. Low-level dice contests and loveable-but-clunky Electric Football couldn't touch exactly what Richman cooked up: Full lineups of real gamers who carried out just like they performed in real life. Strat football enabled you to quickly line up your favorite group in multiple offending formations and defensive fronts against your sibling, next-door neighbor or parent.

The rich detail of the video game offered a much closer facsimile of real-life football than anything you'd find in the early computer offerings of the day. Each gamer featured his own individual playing card-- a shopping list of numbers and scores that represented a dice function. When you dial up a deep pass with the 1986 Giants, rolling a set of dice would determine if Phil Simms linked downfield with Phil McConkey for a drive-saving first down-- or took the unusual sack.

"The movement of the players was something unique," Richman said. "This provided you a chance to move the linebacker and the safety, and it made the game a totally different animal than anything else out there. We needed to play it a lot because it's an extremely subjective game-- a great deal of ability included-- and we needed to get data that worked. It was fulfilled with approval immediately because we already had a big audience in baseball, which had a credibility. It wasn't like the baseball game, which was a leader and had to go through a lot of difficulty-- the football video game did not, financially, in that regard."

Who still plays? Separated folk nerding out in the middle of the night?

"You have to be an unique type of person, I believe, to play Strat-O-Matic football because you desire more of a difficulty," Richman said. Playing Strat-O-Matic, you're actually the coach. The Strat-O-Matic football player is an individual who desires to be much more involved beyond surface area response.If not a magnet for millennial, Strat-O-Matic today still boasts an established legion of fans. Long time broadcasters Bob Costas and Jon Miller matured playing Strat baseball, while director Spike Lee turned his real-life obsession of replaying the Brooklyn Dodgers' '53 season into a subplot in his 1994 film "Crooklyn.".

Beyond the well-known names, today's Strat-O-Matic football neighborhood is quite that-- a neighborhood. The parlor game developed into a digital variation more than a decade back, enabling modern players to contend in extremely organized online leagues that feature everything today's inmost dream leagues offer: dynasty drafts, trades, long-term searching. And there's little room for fly-by-nighters."I believe once people purchase and play the game, once they select it up, it can enter your blood quite quickly," said long time gamer Tom Cooke. "I believe probably anybody who's into any sort of gaming, whether it's those old Avalon Hill Civil War technique games, and even men into Xbox or hard-core PC video games, whatever's hot right now, I think there's an addicting quality to all that kind of gaming, in basic. The majority of the men who play Strat football are older-- 35 and older, easily."

Cooke plays almost exclusively online against a collection of longtime coaches who-- similar to Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh-- know each other's strengths, weaknesses and strategic impulses. Unlike fantasy football, Strat issues its yearly player-card release in August. So, later this summer, players of both the board game and computer variation will get their very first peek at last year's novices and Super Bowl-champion Broncos.

"Trying to play alone versus the computer, for me, does not have that same kind of enjoyment," said Dennis Crowley, who initially found the parlor game in 1985 before finding the PC variation in 2004. "What I like about it is the method head-to-head, that cat-and-mouse you get, where you can influence the other coach's choice by continually hammering at his weak points."Individually showdowns are in style; however Strat-O-Matic's football household likewise includes its share of Thoreau types, committed to revisiting history in quiet rooms across the country.

"There's absolutely a group of solo replacers," Crowley stated. "They get the computer game and they replay the 1961 season or the 1967 weather or they take a franchise from the beginning of Strat-O-Matic years and play every year and keep encyclopedias, where they're creating their own kind of alternate universe. And after that there's other men who just play the parlor game, which takes forever, however they delight in that seclusion of rolling the dice and writing the statistics down and computing it by hand.".

I'm one of those solitary gamers

When the NFL very first grabbed me as a slightly lost middle-schooler in the mid-1980’s, I fell hard for the Cleveland Browns. This developed a range of concerns for someone living on the East Coast. We didn't have cable television, and I wasn't old sufficient to strike the sports bar. I just saw the Browns when they used "Monday Night Football" or fought the local Jets or Giants.I'd record the few games I had access to and rewatch those lots of times. This is how I discovered the remote world of dice football.Tucked in the closing pages of a Street & Smith's, I found an ad for APBA football, a video game comparable to Strat-O-Matic. My 13-year-old world was spinning.

When the cards and board game arrived weeks later on, I was connected. The contents were pure magic: More than 800 playing cards from all 28 NFL teams. I dabbled primarily with the 1987 Browns, a franchise anchored by quarterback Bernie Kosar and a ferocious defense.Why did it click with me? At the core, the video game found me at the best time. I was too young to drive and anchored to the homefront, while girls in my grade were laser-focused on older men. My calendar was open-- large open-- and the thought of taking total control of the Browns played well with my propensity to delve into dream worlds. I introduced the game to a handful of buddies, however the majority of shrugged it off, which I understood.

It was this adolescent hobby I chased after in the quiet of my house, alone. And after that, in time, it faded from the scene as I moved through high school, into college and towards new pursuits.I never forgot that little world of dice football, though, a galaxy from the past that came alive again for me when I discovered Strat-O-Matic's online game last November. I'd constantly learnt about Strat-O-Matic and understood its basic conceit, having actually played a comparable video game. Exactly what I wasn't anticipating to discover was a dedicated group of players who had actually turned those old, dirty board games of their youth into a lively activity.

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July 25, 2016 10:31 AM
Games

Would last year's Broncos have beaten John Elway's champion groups of old?

July 25, 2016 10:31 AM
Games

Would last year's Broncos have beaten John Elway's champion groups of old?

July 25, 2016 10:31 AM
Games

Would last year's Broncos have beaten John Elway's champion groups of old?