by The Beast
(Boardgame Beast HQ)
Finger Football (many NFL editions)
Number of players:
2 (or possibly in teams)
NFL Finger Football is a fun way to pass time, whether it be between real NFL games on TV, or as part of an organized party. It’s probably fair to say this game works better if the participants enjoy — and are currently enjoying — beer.
The game and gameplay
Each edition of the game is sponsored by one of the NFL teams and is plastered with the logo. Here they all are!
The game arrives in a large plastic tube and contains everything you’ll need for a night of finger-flicking fun. The field is a kind of robust, yet flexible plastic sheeting with the regular markings printed on it, plus a few additional ones I’ll cover in a moment.
One player takes offense and their opponent has little to do but roll dice and goad their friend/enemy into silly errors. The dice have various zones and play types on them. Throwing, for example, Zone 3 and Running, means the offense player has to aim for a running circle in the defensive Zone 3.
Aiming for the zones is done using your finger to flick a ball bearing inside a plastic ring — much like the ‘puck’ in the 1970s classic game, CrossFire. The weight and heft of this ball makes it JUST perfect, as friction on the field slows it up.
The challenge in NFL Finger Football is to get the pace and direction of your flick just right and land inside the targeted zone. If you succeed, it’s a first down from there; if not, the defender rolls the dice again and another play appears.
Now to the symbols on the field. Running zones are large circles and pass zones are smaller ones. Making a pass is more difficult than a run, which is why this feature was designed into the game. Once the offense crosses the half-way line, the zones reverse. So zone 1 is always closest to the center and zone 3 is always closest to the endzone.
If a TD symbol comes up on a dice, the offensive quarterback must go for a touchdown. If CHOICE comes up, the quarterback can opt for any zone and any type of play, or may decide to go for a TD, no matter where on field the play is.
Landing anywhere on a yellow penalty flag incurs a penalty in yards the same as the number on the flag, while landing on a football symbol means you have either fumbled or thrown an interception and the play turns over.
On fourth down, you may opt to go for broke or punt. The play turns over to an opposition first down wherever your punt comes to rest. Punting the ball into the endzone returns the first down to the 20 yard line. If a punt goes out of bounds on the field, play resumes from that point.
After a touchdown, you get to attempt the conversion. The defender makes an “H” shape with their fingers, while the scoring team attempts to kick over it with a foam football. This is actually the LEAST fun bit of the game, but it’s still quite challenging (the temptation to abuse this opportunity to bug a housemate or party guest with a three-inch foam football may be too great to resist!).
Pros and cons
NFL Finger Football IS football! That’s the truth. It plays more or less identically to the actual sport. You don’t need body protection to play this version (though if things get heated…).
The ‘ball’ is perfectly weighted. Even with practice, you can really mess up a play and lose yourself either a promising position or even the game. Also the feeling when you score a hail Mary long TD pass is no less awesome in NFL Finger Football than I imagine it must be in real life.
The foam football part of play looks like it’s going to be a riot, but is rather tedious in practice. It’s probably the best solution to this part of football, but I didn’t enjoy it.
You can tell a lot of love went into the design of this game. It’s really fun — and I speak as somebody who is at best neutral to football (I’m a rabid soccer fan). Even people on the fence about football (or sport in general) could get something out of this, but a total sport-phobe would not enjoy it.
NFL Finger Football is about the most fun you can have with your clothes on. Crack open a case or two of your best beer, crank up iTunes and have a blast.