A while ago Mr. Oguard 62, Greg Barath, published an advanced Football Penalty system created by Phil Molloy that I thought was just fantastic! So, I took his ideas and reconfigured them to work for me . . . . but, let’s give Phil all the credit for desgning the penalty system, because it is a big improvement over the game company’s.

But, the way I approach penalties is different. I mentioned on a previous post that I do NOT use the play result on the APBA boards. If the board says 12(TE), I ignore the “12”. I have always thought that the result on the play boards can really skew the statistics. Especially the dreaded “TD-TE.”

I mentioned that in a game in the mid-60’s this came up on a Bart Starr run and he ended up with a TD run of over 70 yards!

So, I ignore the result and just note that there is a penalty on the play. I then re-roll for the result and then roll again for the penalty. And, by doing it this way, I will typically have 1-2 plays in a game where I actually roll TWO penalty results on the same play – and I can have offsetting penalties, something about impossible to do under APBA’s rules.

I also ignore the letter after the penalty indicator. So, instead of “TE” or “TH” on my game boards, it simply has the letter “T.”

Then, when I roll for the penalty result, I add a third die to that roll (a yellow die) and that will give me the column to identify the penalty. The rest is pretty easy to grasp, but this system works really well for me.

The other thing you will notice is that I do not have any “dead-ball” fouls on my charts. No Delay of Game, no Encroachment, no False Starts . . . I have a deck of matchup cards that I use to help me set my defense, and some of the results on those cards are these dead ball fouls. When one of them comes up, the penalty is immediately assessed. With APBA’s rules, you would complete the entire play just to find out that the play should have been whistled dead . . . . with the match-up system (another article still to come), this is taken care of.

So, a big shout-out to Phil Molloy for doing all the research to come up with the correct distribution of penalties, and, as always, I welcome any comments or criticsm after you’ve had a chance to look this over.

Return Boards

This week I wanted to share my Return Boards – for Kick-Offs, Punts, Interceptions and Fumble Recoveries.  They work the same way my place-kicking boards work . . . you roll three dice.  The indicator die (mine is yellow) tells you which column to read the result in.  So, it is not predicated on which quarter you’re in, but it still gives you an array of results for each number on a return man’s card, which I like.  And, again, these boards are calibrated to recreate the APBA boards . . . they are just given a different range of results.  As always, I would love you to share any feedback on this idea . . . .


Return Boards

Place Kick Boards

Most people play APBA right out of the box.  Some, like Mark Zarb, like to create their own player cards to use.  I go the opposite route . . . I use the game company’s cards, but I like to build my own boards.  There are lots of reasons why, but the one aspect that the game company introduced not too long ago that I really don’t care for are the different board results based on which quarter you are in.  I never really understood the reasoning or the value in that approach.

I do, however, like the idea of having different results for the same dice roll, but I use a third die to help with that.  So, what I’ve attached here are my Place Kick boards (Extra Points and Field Goals).  They are, in essense, the game company’s boards, just re-packaged.  Instead of looking at the results based on which quarter you’re in, you roll a third die (I use a yellow die) and that will tell you which column to look up the result in.

I also use the field goal distance, not the line of scrimmage, to determine whether or not a kick is good.  So, a result of “7” can result in anywhere from a 39 yard field goal to a 45 yard field goal, depending on the indicator die.

Kick Boards

I was careful to try and keep the distribution of results consistent with the game company’s . . . it just seems to make more sense to me this way.  So, again, this is just how I do it, and it works for me.  Just thought I would take advantage of this forum to share this idea with you.  And, as always, I would love to hear any feedback you might have.


Football Innovations – Timing

Timing a football game has always been pretty straightforward . . . 30 plays a quarter, with all plays that stop the clock counted as ½ play.  But, with changes to NFL rules and a desire to have a more realistic approach to timing, especially at the end of each half, many gamers have tinkered with the timing rules.  So, what follows is my approach . . . and, as always, I’m looking for feedback and/or other enhancements that you have designed that could improve my innovation.

Let’s start with the NFL rule change from a couple of years ago that should have a pretty significant impact on the APBA experience.  In an effort to speed up the game, the NFL no longer stops the clock on out-of-bounds plays, unless there are 2:00 or less remaining in the first half or 5:00 or less remaining in the fourth quarter.  If you watch the game on TV, you’ll see them stop the clock on an out-of-bounds result temporarily until the ref places the ball on the nearest hash-mark, and then the clock starts immediately.  So, the only plays from scrimmage that I mark as ½ play are incompletions and scoring plays – plays that actually do stop the clock.

So, what happens after I reach the 2:00 warning in the first half or the 5:00 mark in the fourth quarter?  I add a third die when I roll for the result.  I use a yellow die so it is easy to differentiate.  On any pass play or outside running play, if that yellow die is either a “1” or a “6” then the play ends up out-of-bounds, and I time it accordingly.  An “Inside” run never results in an out-of-bounds.

But, I also wanted to add a strategic element to timing a game, so I had made some additional modifications after the 2:00 warning in each half.  I have included a copy of my Time Sheet with this post.  As you view it you should notice that a normal play of 30-seconds requires two blocks to be marked off.  A 15-second play would only require one block to be marked off.

But everything changes after the two minute warning.  Now, my “Time Sheet” goes from 15 second intervals to 5 second intervals, and the amount of time that elapses on each play can depend on how long the play result is.

For example, an incomplete short pass is only 5 seconds (1 “tic”).  An incomplete medium or long pass is 10 seconds, or 2 tics.  A normal play that stays inbounds where no time-out is called is still 30 seconds, but this is now 6 tics instead of two, because each tic is 5 seconds.

But, here is where the strategy comes in.  In an effort to manage the clock, the offensive team can use timeouts, can run the “hurry-up” offense, can spike the ball or can try to throw a pass to the sideline to increase the odds that the receiver will be able to get out of bounds.

And, if you look at my Time Sheet you will see that in the Two-Minute Timing box, each of these strategies will be timed differently depending on the yardage gained or lost on the play.

So, if the “Clock is Stopped,” either because the player went out of bounds or a time-out was called, any result up to 15 yards would be 5 seconds (1 tic).  Results of 16-30 yards would be 10 seconds (2 tics); and plays that travel 31 yards or more would be 15 seconds, or 3 tics.

On a QB Spike, after an offensive play has been completed, the offensive coach can choose to spike the ball.  If that previous play resulted in anything up to a 15 yard gain, it would be 10 seconds (2 tics).  A 16-30 yard gain would be 15 seconds (3 tics), and anything 31 yards or greater would be 20 seconds (4 tics).  And, this would make sense, because this timing actually represents TWO offensive plays – the preceding play that resulted in some gain or loss, and the spike (incompletion) itself.

The ”Hurry-Up” is different.  You run a play and immediately line up to run another.  So, let’s say I just ran the ball for 8 yards and it did not end up in an out-of-bounds result, and, now, I want to hurry up and run my next play.  I only mark off 15 seconds for the 8 yard run, because we’re not going into the huddle which would take more time.  But, if I choose to use the “Hurry-Up” option, I cannot substitute on offense.  The same guys that were on the previous play must remain on the field for the subsequent play . . . and that makes sense to me.

The “Pass to the Sideline” option is treated differently.  If I choose to throw a pass to the sideline, I will read the result down an offensive column.  If the play would normally be read in the “A” column, I look in the “B” column for the result, and so-on.  In my view, there should be a trade-off if you’re trying to manage the clock, and this seems appropriate to me – fewer yards and a lower completion expectation for a higher chance of stopping the clock.  Then, when I roll for the result, I still use that third yellow die, but this time I want to get either a 2,3,4 or 5.  If the play results in a completion and one of those numbers comes up on the indicator (yellow) die, then the receiver successfully got out of bounds.  So, in this instance, the 1 and the 6 on that indicator die means that the receiver was unable to get to the sideline.

Under these rules, as you can probably imagine, it is so much more exciting to manage the “Two-Minute” offense, because you have to use strategy to try and preserve time-outs . . . and, at least for me, this makes the exercise much more entertaining!

Would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!

Ray Dunlap

TIME SHEET 2019Football Field

Sack Modification

Keeping with Ray Dunlap’s weekly contribution to APBA Innovations, I wanted to contribute a simple innovation that I’ve used for several years. Whenever the QB’s card renders a sack (play results 28, 29 or 30), determine defender awarded the sack through whatever allocation system you use (i.e., locator columns, dice range calculator, automated locators, etc.)

Roll dice, if dice roll is between 11 – 51, award defender full sack. If dice roll is 52 – 66, roll dice again and check for new defender via “allocation” system. If same player, award defender full sack. If different defender, each player is credited with half a sack.

APBA Football Innovations – The Locator System

So, this is less of an “innovation” and more of a “utility.”  But, if you play the football game and you’d like an accurate distribution of Sacks and Interceptions, you can use the “QS” and “W” ratings on the defensive players’ cards to get there.

So, the attached spreadsheet is just a handy way to break this down.  Simply put in the name of each defensive player that has a QS or a W rating, along with those ratings, and the program will calculate the APBA dice-roll range.  Do this for each team and you will have an easy way to account for these defensive stats in a replay, tournament or simply a head-to-head matchup.  Now, when there is a sack or a pick during a game, you roll the dice, read them “APBA-style” and it will tell you who to give the credit to.

Here’s what the current (2019) Atlanta Falcons look like:

Falcons Sack and Pick

And, here’s the Spreadsheet if you’d like to give it a whirl . . . .

Team Sack and Interception Quotas


APBA Football Innovations – Measurement

OK – a lot of the enhancements I have added to the Football Game are pretty advanced, but this is a simple one . . . but, it is also an innovation that initially did not work at all!

Back in the early 1980’s, when I ran a face-to-face football league in Tampa, I introduced the idea of a measurement thinking it would add an element of suspense to the games.  So, we put this rule in place that said that, if the result of the play took you exactly to the first down marker, you would roll one die – odd: you made the first down, even: you were inches short.

Well, the rule was a disaster!  And that’s because it went against one of my foundational guidelines – and that is this – an innovation needs to be fair to both the offense and the defense.  And this rule ONLY benefited the defense!  Because, if you got the necessary yardage to record a first down, you could be penalized, but not the defense . . . they could only benefit on 50% of the rolls!  So, the other coaches in my league voted the rule out!!

Then, ironically, I got hired to be the head statistician for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and in my very first game (thankfully, it was a pre-season game), I made a pretty big mistake.  On a 1st & 10 play, Doug Williams hit Jimmy Giles on a pass and he was tackled right near the first down marker.  A measurement showed that he was about an inch short.  Well, I’m doing the math and I think . . . 9.972 yards?  I’ll just round up and give him 10 yards.  Certainly seemed to make sense to me.

Then, on the next play, James Wilder carried the ball and got stopped right at the line.  Only, a subsequent measurement showed that he had actually made the first down by about 2 inches.  So, again, I’m looking at a 3-inch gain – which I recorded as a 0 yard gain.  Again, that seemed to make sense to me.

Well, when the game ended I got a pretty good tongue-lashing by Steve Hirdt of the Elias Sports Bureau.  They were the organization hired by the NFL to be the league’s official statistical record keepers.  He informed me that you cannot get a first down on a ZERO yard carry.  Likewise, when there are ten yards to go for a first down, even if you’re only an inch short, you cannot get credit for a 10-yard gain.  So, the correct scoring for those two plays was a 9-yard pass to Giles and a 1-yard run for Wilder.  Suffice it to say that I never made that mistake again.

But, it got me thinking about APBA Football and my ill-fated attempt to add the “measurement” to the game.  And, like a light-bulb going off, I realized that it was a pretty easy fix.  Whenever you land either exactly on the first down (or touchdown) or whenever you land one yard shy of the first down (or touchdown), you have a measurement.  Roll the one die – odd: you make it – even: you don’t!

Under this rule it is now fair for both the offense and the defense, and it makes for some very interesting and pretty suspenseful drama during a game – especially when it comes to goal line stands!  I use it, and I love it!

So, this is just a little, very subtle tweak to the game, but I think you might have some fun with it!

Ray Dunlap

Football Innovation – Penalties

This little wrinkle that I add to the game was born way back in the mid-60’s.  I was playing a game with a buddy of mine and he was coaching the Packers.  Late in the first half he ran Bart Starr . . . I’m not sure why . . . maybe he was just trying to run the clock out.  Well, the play result was a TD(TE), and the penalty was on me.  So, Bart Starr, who probably ran the 40 in about 9 seconds, scored on an 86 yard run!

It was then that I realized that the TD(TE) penalty was nuts!!  And that yardage should be determined by the player’s card – and NOT a penalty number.  So, it was at this point that I started reading all penalties differently.  If a penalty number came up, I would acknowledge that there was a flag on the play, but I would ignore the yardage listed on the penalty number and re-roll and look at either the running-back’s or the quarterback’s card to get the result, and then determine what the penalty was.  This way, the yardage gained or lost would be more indicative of that player’s actual performance, and not skewed by some very random and unrealistic big play result.  So, now, Bart Starr could never again gallop 86 yards for a TD!

Also, this rule comes with another important benefit, and that is the fact that you can now have offsetting penalties!  Because, if the original dice roll results in a penalty, and you have to re-roll to get your result, there is a chance that you could roll another penalty, resulting in two flags on the same play!  And, for me, this typically happens once or twice a game.  And, at least to me, this replicates real life in a more efficient way than the game company’s treatment of penalties.

Finally, there are dead-ball fouls – False Start, Encroachment, Delay-of-Game.  These occur prior to the ball being snapped and the ref will immediately blow his (or her) whistle and play stops.  But, not in APBA!  You must run a complete play and then roll for the penalty before finding out that a dead ball infraction has occurred.

Well, this was another thing that kind of drove me crazy.  But, years later, when I had my face-to-face league in Tampa, we created a matchup system to allow individual players ratings to have more impact on plays.  After the defensive coach set his defense verbally, the offensive coach would reveal his play.  Then the defensive coach would take the top card from the match-up deck to see if any of the players on the field might impact how the play result would be read.  And, after using that system for a year, I realized that we could “fix” this dead-ball penalty issue by adding these penalties to the matchup cards.  Then, when the defensive coach revealed the match-up card, a small percentage of the results would simply indicate that there was a False Start, Encroachment or Delay-of-Game penalty . . . immediately stopping play to allow marking off the infraction.

Later, when I re-configured my match-up system for solo play, I kept those penalties in there.  And it really does help because you’re not running a full play just to find out that one of these dead-ball fouls occurred.

Now, if you don’t use my match-up system (first of all – why not??!!!??), but would still like to have these dead-ball penalties come up BEFORE you roll for the result of the play, you can simulate what I’ve done on the match-up cards by using a regular old set of 52 playing cards.  Simply shuffle the playing cards before the game and before each play from scrimmage (including punts and place kicks), draw the top card of the deck.  If it is an ACE, then play stops because there is a dead ball foul.  A Black Ace – Clubs (♣) or Spades (♠) – would be a False Start penalty.  An Ace of Hearts (♥) results in an Encroachment or Neutral Zone Violation, and an Ace of Diamonds (♦) would be a Delay-of-Game.  Any other card drawn is ignored and you move on with the play.  This will add almost no time to the game, and you won’t have to go through the silly completing of a play, just to find out the play should have been whistled dead!  And, based on the probability of drawing a single card from a deck of 52, the distribution of these fouls should be very close to actual NFL penalty stats.

Finally, when a “Delay” penalty comes up, I always give the offensive team the option of using a time-out to nullify the penalty.  Don’t we see that all the time in an actual NFL game?

Anyway, this is just my take on penalties . . . and I would love to hear your feedback or other ideas regarding how you handle penalties if you care to share!!

Ray Dunlap

APBA Football Innovations – Offensive Indexes

I read so many things on the boards about Offensive Indexes for the football game, I thought I would throw my “two cents” into the ring.  And, we’ll start with a little history lesson.  When I started playing the game back in the mid-60’s, we did not have the array of statistical data that we have today.  Back then, you had to wait until Street & Smith’s Pro Football Annual hit the stands and you might get the leaders for the NFL and the AFL in the different statistical categories, but it was typically limited to passing, rushing, receiving, returning and kicking.  Heck, sacks weren’t even an official stat yet!  And we certainly didn’t get statistics on playing time for non-skilled players.

Not only that, but the NFL and AFL card sets were 30 players on a team!  Think about that . . . an offense, a defense, a couple of kickers and a whopping total of 6 substitutes!  So, when you placed your starters in their respective positions and then calculated the offensive index for each team, it was pretty simple.

Today, things are much different . . . and, I believe a new approach to offensive indexes in the APBA Football game is required.  Why?  Because, no one plays every down.  When I watch the Steelers play, I see T.J. Watt, even if he’s healthy enough to play in the game, sit out a number of plays.  You’ll be watching TV and you will see him on the sideline catching his breath.  Would that EVER happen in an APBA game?  Maybe if he’s injured . . . but, what coach, in their right mind, would ever take a “5” rated player out of the game, even for one play?

Not only that . . . but, who wants to go through the recalculation of indexes every time you sub out a player.  So, for most of us, we put the best players in at the beginning of a game and that’s what we base our index on.

What complicates this even further is if you use the “Finder” system to determine who gets credited with a sack or an interception.  And that’s because, in an effort to achieve statistical accuracy, every player who recorded a sack or a pick has to be considered to be on the field of play for EVERY down!  Think about it.  A reserve defensive lineman who actually had a sack in the regular NFL season has the chance to get one based on the “Finder” system.  But, that would mean that he must have been on the field in order to do so . . . and, let’s say that, if he were on the field and he replaced someone rated “3” that the reduction in team points that should have been calculated may have impacted that sack on the boards into an incompletion – not a sack!

But, who is going to go through this level of detail, where this “1” rated defensive tackle plays four downs in one game, for example?  I don’t know anyone who will go to those lengths to achieve that level or accuracy.

But, today, with all the advancement in statistical compilations, we can actually pull up, on websites like Pro Football Reference, the actual number of snaps that each player had during the regular season.  So, why not take that number and calculate what percentage of all the plays each player participated in, multiply that percentage by each of his numerical V-Ratings (for pass and run), total those numbers and divide them by 11 (to reflect every position on both sides of the ball) and come up with one number that would give us each team’s Offensive and Defensive points.

This way you have point totals that are no longer just a reflection of the starters . . . but of all the players in the card-set prorated by their actual playing time!  So, comparing the offensive totals of one team to the defensive totals of the other team gives you a more accurate reflection of what the offensive index ought to be.  Forget about injuries or substitutions.  This number has already taken those two things into consideration.

So, I have created a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that does this specific calculation.  And, as an example, I have attached the results for the current 2019 version of the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals, where I reviewed and included all the carded players who participated in a play from scrimmage for each team.  A look at the numbers is fascinating.

Baltimore Indexes

Cincinnati Indexes

Baltimore comes out with a weighted offensive point total of 39 for passing plays and 41 for running plays.  When you compare this to the Bengals weighted defensive totals of 29 for both passes and runs, the Ravens get a +10 advantage on passing plays and a +12 on rushing plays.

Conversely, Cincinnati’s offense clocks in, ironically, at 29 points again for both passes and runs, while Baltimore’s defense tallies 39 for both passes and runs . . . so the Bengals would have an Offensive Index for both runs and passes based on a difference of -10.  And, that seems reasonable to me given their respective records in 2019 – Baltimore was 14-2 while Cincy was 2-14.

This concept now allows the game company’s Defensive Play calling cards to be easily integrated into your game playing experience, as it also does for the Finder system.  Essentially, you won’t know who is on the field for each play – but that’s actually great because you certainly won’t have to recalculate points for substitutions . . . . which most of us will never do anyway!

And, honestly?  This system may be more equitable and fair as well.  Take Baltimore’s two “5” rated defensive starters – Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey.  Humphrey played 962 snaps during the Ravens’ 2019 season while Peters only played 577 snaps.  Therefore, Humphrey’s “5” rating should carry more weight than Peters’ . . . and, under this system, it does!

One additional note of interest has to do with Baltimore’s Patrick Ricard . . . because he played both offense and defense for them: 342 snaps on offense and 2 on defense – but all his efforts are accounted for in the formula.

So, my plan is to publish on this site each team’s totals when the new cards come out in June, but, in the meantime, I would love to hear any feedback you would care to share with me on this innovation.  And, if anyone would like this spreadsheet to play around with it, please shoot me an email ( and I will be happy to send it to you.

APBA Football Innovations

I started playing APBA Football back in 1966, and fell in love with this game instantly!  But, there were always certain aspects of the game that I felt could be improved.  And I have spent the better part of the past six decades tweaking how I play the game in ways that I believe have either increased statistical accuracy, enhanced the strategic experience or just made it more fun!

So, I reached out to Greg Barath (Oguard62) and we talked about using his extraordinary website as a platform for me to introduce to all his followers exactly how I play the game with all the changes and enhancements that I have implemented over the years.  And, please understand that the majority of my innovations are my own creation . . . but, some I have flat-out stolen (!) and others were the result of collaborating with other brilliant gamers in our community.

Now, like anyone who tinkers with the game and attempts to create new ways of doing things, I am pretty proud of my changes and think that I have advanced the gaming experience in a very positive way.  But, I’m not alone.  Rest assured that Mr. Barath believes that his approach to playing the game is the absolute best way to do so, as, I’m certain, does Mark Zarb, Doug Reece, Greg Wells, Dick Moore, Mark DerGarabedian, John Bowen, Mike Harlow, Denny Hodge, Jerry Zajack, Dave Urban, Phil Molloy, Scott Griffin and anyone else who pounds through replays and tournaments and who has put in the time and effort to add something new to his APBA Football experience.

So, my goal is to post my unique approach to playing this game and the changes that I use.  And honestly?  Some of the methods-of-play that I introduce will very possibly resonate with you immediately and you’ll be encouraged to implement them into your own gaming experience.  But, I’m just as certain that some of my other ideas will have you scratching your head wondering what the heck I must have been smoking when I came up with that concept!  And that’s OK . . . I don’t pretend to have a monopoly on every great idea, but I’ll bet there will be one or two things you’ll learn from me that you will latch on to.

And then?  When I have presented all my original concepts, which will take a couple of months, then I hope to learn something from you!!  So, I will ask that you share some of the ideas and changes that you have implemented in your own games that make it more fun or realistic for you.  And, if you do so, I will feature them in a future article along with an accompanying critique – things I like about your ideas and, perhaps, a way you might be able to improve on them.  Also, I may just lean on some of my fellow Hall-of-Famers to chime in with their own observations and recommendations as well.

Maybe this “Community Approach” of idea-sharing will pay some big dividends in helping all of us find a concept or strategy that we had not thought of that might just increase our enjoyment of this hobby we all share!

So, here is a “teaser” rule change that I sincerely believe everyone should consider for immediate implementation!  And, honestly, I really do believe that it is an improvement over the game company’s rule . . . and it has to do with the “Audible.”

The game company rules allow for an offensive coach to call an audible once per quarter, effectively allowing for a brand new play to be sent in.  The problem with the audible is that it is completely one-sided – it only benefits the offense.  And, when I implement a rule, I really believe that it needs to be balanced so that it does not favor either just the offense or just the defense.

So, here is my take on the whole “audible” concept.  When you first sit down to play APBA Football, you are told that you are the coach.  And this makes sense, because you’re not suiting up – you are calling the plays and making substitutions.  Coaches don’t call audibles . . . the quarterback does.  But, as a coach, if you’re standing on the sideline and you look at the defensive alignment and realize that the play you sent in is not likely to work, you have one option – you already know it – and that’s to call a time-out!

And this idea cuts both ways.

If you are the defensive coach and you look at the offensive formation and realize that you have a mismatch and your defense could be compromised, you can do the same thing – call a time-out!

So, rather than allow audibles, that benefit the offense only and where there are no negative repercussions, allow each team to use one time-out per quarter whenever they want to nullify a potential play.  Each coach will have to weigh the pros and cons of using one of their timeouts, but it does create a balance, because both offenses and defenses can take advantage of this idea, and, unlike the game company’s version of an audible, now there would be a tangible consequence because, to take advantage of this rule, a coach will have to use up, what could be, a valuable time-out.

So, that’s an example of one idea that I think is worth considering.  Please stay tuned for lots more strategies and innovations . . . and be sure to send me your comments, feedback and your own great innovations!  Let’s make this an awesome format for honest improvements to one of the greatest board-games ever created!

Ray Dunlap