Actual Play Calling System

Reese Playcalling Tutorial

Reese Revised 10-19-19

I started playing APBA Football in the 1960s.  At that time, the rules suggested that you roll one die for the defense to determine if the line was a D (1 or 2), a S (3 or 4), or a G (5 or 6).  I didn’t think much about it.  But, after a while you could tell that something really wasn’t good with that situation.  Say, if the offense was facing 3rd and 21, then was the defense in a G-Alignment.

The master Game came out in the early 1980s, and it, too, presented some interesting things.  In addition to the three alignments, it added a Goal line defense, and a 5 and 6 Defensive back defense.  Still, when playing solo, a RANDOM dice roll was made which could result in any of those situations popping up.  Again, in most cases the down and distance was not really considered.

Then along came high school, girls, college, a career, etc., before I would begin to look hard at the Defensive Play Calling system.  What I saw was an unrealistic system.  I tried some of the others, but I didn’t warm up to them, so I decided to make my own.  Since I only play solo, I needed a formidable foe to take me on.

I quickly saw that the two-line increase for using two Tight Ends for rushing plays, and the two-line increase for using Three Wide Receivers for passing plays, was actually a really big difference.  Rushing play going from Play Result Numbers 17 and 18 rising to 15 and 16 was tremendous.  Additionally, the passing game was experiencing the same thing.  I quickly decided that I needed to create a defense that mostly mirrors the offense.  So, if the offense went to a ground-heavy attack (2 TEs) formation, then the defense would usually counter with a Goal Line defense.  Again, if the offense went to a wide set (WRs), the defense would usually counter with either 5 or 6 DBs.  After all, it only made sense.  I left some randomness to the idea.

With this original concept in mind, I set out to create my defensive play calling system.  I came up with a few constrictions.

  1. The system could only involve ONE DICE ROLL.
  2. Because of the real game sequence of play, the system had to key off of what formation the offense was showing to begin the play.
  3. And, the system had to be geared to the down and distance.

Note: Phase 2 of the system added rules for the score.

  1. Finally, the system had to be easy to use.

My defensive chart starts off with the four downs descending from the left column.  Each section (starting with the top) has various distances pertaining to that down.  Obviously, a defense facing 1st and 10 isn’t going to be the same as one facing 3rd and 10.  So, each roll had to be checked with the chart.

The dice roll is very simple, and can be used with, or without the offensive play calling system.  The offense simply announces its formation, and the defense then rolls two dice.  Using the red die is usually the only one that you need.  (The white die is used, occasionally, for blitzes.)  So, find the down and distance in the left column, then slide over to what offensive formation is being used, next find your single red die number to determine your defense.  This system is incredibly sophisticated, and it will be hard to beat.  On certain plays, a small “z” will appear which indicates that the defense is blitzing.  That’s it.  One dice roll and you have a very sophisticated and intelligent defense which will never be in a 6 DB set when the offense is working from a 2 TE formation with third and 1 yard to go.  Try it out.  I think that you will like it.  But, what about an offensive play calling system, do you have one of those?  Of course I do, and that’s next.

My idea of playing the football game is to allow the game to play itself.  I’m kind of an observer.  I don’t want to favor one team over the other, so I like to have the play calling system handle the duties.  But, what is really great about this system is that you can use it to call the offense, or the defense, or both.  It will be hard to beat.

The offensive play calling system works in the same manner.  Again the down and distance situation is located at the far left.  A roll of a pair of dice will yield the formation (red die) and the play (white die) all in one dice roll.  Since these are often influenced by down and distance, each roll will be different.

(Note: I have RP (Running Play) listed as a result.  That could be either an Inside or an Outside Play, and that option is left up to the game player.  Many times, the back is better at Inside Plays, or Outside Plays, and the game player is expected to know what’s best.  Additionally, most teams now just use a one-back set, so there is no mystery as to who is going to carry the ball.  Since this is the case, I don’t ever allow for “keying” on a RB.)

After the play is determined, I either personally select the RB, usually I have no choice, and  I then use the Finder Column to determine who my receiver is going to be.  I include all of the receivers on the team, and I simply and I assume that that receiver is in the game since he is the target.  As I have mentioned before, I don’t pay any attention to individual ratings as they relate to routine substitutions made during the game.

If I am selecting the RB, then no dice roll is made.  If I am using the Finder Column for the Receiver, then I do roll the dice for that.  (Of course, that’s optional.)  Then, I roll the dice for the defense, and then roll for the play result.

In putting it all together:

  1. My Offensive Index was determined, as previously mention, prior to the quarter.
  2. The dice are rolled to determine my offensive formation, and play. (The dice could be rolled to determine the Receiver Finder Column, or RB column—if you use that, too.)
  3. The dice are rolled for the defensive line setting.
  4. The dice are rolled for the result.

So, in three (maybe four dice rolls), you have a very credible system for calling plays, and a very formidable foe on defense.

This final segment deals with changes that I have made since the system was first completed.  The system was significantly revised in this last version.  This is far better than the original because the original had plays such as the Draw Play and the Screen Pass being used at times when they probably shouldn’t have been.  Those have been revised, and are much more realistic.  If you have Version I or II, you will be amazed at Version III.

Finally, the system is not robotic.  There is enough randomization to keep the system from being completely predictable.  And, most importantly, IT’S EASY TO USE. I challenge you to take it for a whirl.  This system will call plays, or will defend plays, better than many of the human players that you will ever play.  Additionally, for the solo replay gamer like myself, it will yield great realistic results.


Reese Solitaire “Method of Play” (1 of 2)

This site has some of the brightest minds that have ever been gathered as authors for everything associated with APBA Football, so, I was pleased when Greg asked me to address what he called the “missing void on his site”. There is ample guidance for preparing and conducting a full-season replay and Greg Well’s is doing a superb job covering the finer aspect of Face-to-Face play. Ray Dunlap is posting his tournament, innovations and clarifying rules/scoring. Dave Urban has provided historical information. Mark Zarb is expertly replaying the 1978 NFL season and Greg is working his way through 1974. So what’s missing? What about the casual player who enjoys grabbing two teams and playing a game without all of the prep work that goes into a replay or tournament but still yearns for some added realism. The following excerpt is from my email correspondence with Greg, “Doug, I truly believe that your Offensive Index methodology and Play Calling/Defensive system is perfectly suited for the casual player. Without question, it’s an upgrade over the +8/-8 system for determining offensive indexes and not as time-consuming as the Offensive Index Finder System. Your Play Calling/Defensive system was not created in a vacuum, but thoroughly play-tested and continuously being improved upon.” This article will address my alternative for determining each team’s offensive index.

First, the offensive and defensive indexes are computed as normal, and the differential for each team’s passing and rushing offenses are compared to the opposition’s defensive team’s totals. In my system, teams that have a differential of eight or more points above the opposing defense are always in “A” index. Conversely, teams that are eight or more point below the opposing defense are always in “C “index. That’s easy enough. All of the rest of the teams are in a B-Offense category. So far, this looks just like the Basic Game rules. But, here is where it changes:

Let’s use some actual team ratings from the current 2016 season as an illustration. Let’s look at the first two teams on our sheet, Buffalo and Miami. (You just knew that I would pick Miami, didn’t you?) We will look at Buffalo’s offense. Buffalo’s pass offense is 35 and their rushing offense is a 39. Miami’s passing defense is a 37, and their rushing defense is a 35. So, Buffalo will be a Minus 2 in passing offense, but a Plus 4 in rushing offense.

I have divided the deferential totals into three tiers. The first tier is for teams that have a 1 or 2 point differential; the second tier is for teams that fall into the 3, 4, and 5 range; while the third tier is for teams that fall into the 6 and 7 point differential range. What do these tier ranges really mean? Well, the first tier means that the team will be a B-Offense for all but one quarter. For that one quarter, it will change. If the team has a positive rating, it will rise to an A-Offense for that quarter; if it has a negative rating, then it will fall to a C-Offense for one quarter. Teams in the second tier will do the same, but they will do it for two quarters, while teams in the third tier will rise or fall for three quarters.

Before we get too confused, let’s look at our Buffalo and Miami example. Buffalo’s passing was a Minus 2, so that’s a tier one change. So, Buffalo will be a B-Passing Offense for three quarters, but they will fall to a C-Offense for one quarter in the game. Buffalo’s rushing offense, however, is good. They have a Plus 4 differential, so they will be a B-Rushing Offense for two quarters, but will rise to an A-Rushing Offense for the other two quarters. That’s pretty team specific, and it provides exactly what we were looking for.

But, when does this happen? Well, at the start of the game, for all B-rated offenses, you roll a die for the passing team rating and a die for the rush team rating. If the die was an odd number, then the change occurs for that quarter. If not, then they will be a B-Offense for that quarter and you will have to wait until the next quarter to roll again. For example, let’s say that we rolled a 6 for the passing offense and a 1 for the rushing offense. The 6 is an even number, so no change occurs this quarter for the passing offense, as they will continue to be a B-Offense. But, the 1 is an odd number, so a change will occur for the rushing offense. Since Buffalo is a Plus-rated offense, for this quarter, the will rise to an A-rated rushing offense. Make note that one of the two designated changes has occurred. As you progress to the second quarter, another die roll is made. Any odd numbers will activate the change. So, if you rolled a 5 Passing) and a 3 (rushing), then both will change this period. The passing offense would drop to a C-Rated Offense, but the rushing offense would again be a A-rated offense.

Continuing with the example, at this point, the passing offense would have changed once, and the rushing offense would have changed twice. Since that is the total number of required changes, Buffalo will not be making any more changes in the game, and they will be a B-Offense for the rest of the game.

If each successive period passes without a change being made, then automatic changes will be forced to occur. Say, for example, the first two rolls for Buffalo’s rushing offense were even die rolls, then Buffalo would be an A-rated rushing offense for the rest of the game because they would need to change twice, and there are only two quarters left to change. So the change is automatic. You have to monitor the possible changes, and the quarters left in the game to accommodate these changes.

If the team has a zero differential, then the team is a B-rated offense for the entire game with no changes.

That’s it. It’s simple, it accomplishes exactly what you want, and it works. It cuts out about between 120 to 130 additional dice rolls if using the Offensive Index Finder System for each play and still places an emphasis on the differential aspect of the game. I have tested it, and I am extremely happy with it, and I believe that you will be, too. Try it out, and let me know what you think.

My next article will cover version III of my “Play Calling/Defensive system.

Two-Carded Players & Generic Cards

Let me just touch on the topic of two-carded players now. In the old days, everything seemed to fit on one card. After all, you had three columns. But, what would happen if the player rushed the ball, passed the ball, was a back-up punter, and returner kick offs and punts. With this situation, this guy would need five columns. Obviously he would need two cards. Additionally, with the new Extra Point rules, and the new kick off rules whereby the ball often goes into the end zone for a touchback, you may need a column for kick offs, one for field goals, one for extra points, and another for a pass for a Fake Kick, or one used as a back-up punter. Again, you have more than three columns, so you need more than one card. These players are actually kind of rare. I would estimate that there are only about 25 players in a season set that have two cards.

There are two final areas that we need to discuss before we can make our decision about which set to buy. Many face-to-face leagues, by rules, will drop the receiver’s card down on passing plays to indicate that that player is the intended target. But, how do you drop down Dez Bryant’s card, if you don’t have a Dez Bryant card? Well, APBA has provided APBA WR generic cards, or even APBA generic cards that resemble the regular football cards on the back, and those can be used as a substitute for the non-existent Dez Bryant (or others) card. Each set of blank cards cost $10, and is available, if needed. While many game players use the locator columns to determine who the pass is going to be thrown to, this blank card method is a way for those who like to personally make their selections.

That brings us to our final area of what to do if a player who doesn’t have a card is suddenly designated as intercepting a pass, or recovering a fumble, etc.   Well, if you have the Jumbo Set, your problem is solved. You already have a player card so you can proceed directly to that for your result. But, what if the player in question doesn’t have a card? Now what do you do? Well, APBA has created what they call GENERIC CARDS. These cards are all the same in each category, and actually have the same results contained as the actual player cards (in most cases) for those who do have cards in the Jumbo Set. The players are generally grouped by their position which is given a letter grade that corresponds with a generic card of that letter. For example, most offensive linemen are As, and most receivers and defensive backs are Bs, etc. Whenever an event comes up that requires a player who does not possess a card to do something, his name on the roster directs the game player to the corresponding card with that letter grade, and then that generic card is used for the outcome of the play. In most cases, these cards don’t usually amount to much of a return, but they do match the actual player card in the Jumbo Set, so everything is good. It really isn’t difficult, and it really isn’t as confusing as I may have made it out to be.



APBA’s New Extra Point Columns

It was once voted as being “the most boring play in football.”  Yes, I’m talking about the Point After Touchdown (PAT), also known as the “Extra Point.”

When I first started playing real football, and the APBA Football Game, the goal post was located on the goal line.  With the ball being placed at the 2-yardline, and the kicker a mere seven yards (at that time) behind the line of scrimmage, the kick only had to travel a total of nine yards to make it through the goal post.  No wonder it was so boring.  In fact, even a decent kicker on a high school team had no difficulty making that kick.

As a side note, I remember one year our kicker missed two Extra Points because he kicked the ball UNDER the crossbar.  He didn’t get the ball high enough, and it just went under it.   The OPPOSING coach was furious.  He yelled at his players because the ball barely went over their heads, and anyone could have easily blocked it. The issue was that every one of them were treating the play as being so routine that they weren’t even trying.  That’s why they got chewed out.  The Extra Point was really a big waste of time.

In any case, continuing with our brief history lesson, in the 1974 NFL season the goal posts were moved back ten yards to the end line.  This move wasn’t really intended to make the kick harder.  It was actually intended to protect the players as many of them had been injured crashing into the stanchion holding the goal post up.  As a Wide Receiver, I remember often trying to use the stanchions as a sort of “pick play” to get away from the pass defender.   So, even though the NFL had moved the goal post, the success rate for the Extra Point was still phenomenally high.

The NFL rules stayed the same until the 2015 season.  This time, it wasn’t the goal post that was moved; it was the yard line that changed.  The new rules called for the ball to be placed at the 15-yard line, instead of the 2-yard line.  Adding the extra 13 yards seemed to make a difference.  For example, in the 2014 season, only 8 PATs were missed all year.  That’s a 99.3 success rate.  (NFL kickers are really good.)  But, in 2015, the first year of the new rule, 71 PATs were missed.  That translates to a 94.2 success rate.  That’s exactly what the NFL wanted.

So, how does this affect the APBA game?  Well, I’ll go over that in the following paragraphs.

When the new rules went into effect, we were waiting to see what APBA would do.  I was certain that APBA would need to change their game boards.  But, I was wrong.  They didn’t take that approach.  Instead, APBA approached this situation from an entirely different perspective.  When they didn’t change the boards, I was certain that they would make the game player use the 33-yard line for the Extra Point.  After all, it would only make sense.  But, I was wrong again as that didn’t happen, either.

So, what did they do, you ask?  They changed the cards.  Some kickers, for example, were able to hit long field goals, with a very high rate of success, but for some reason, the same kickers had trouble making the now 33-yard Extra Point.  It was really difficult for APBA to make a good kicking card with so many variables.  So, APBA did something really clever.  The kept the Extra Point Chart, but some kickers, who had some unique kicking stats, are made to use one of the other columns to determine Extra Points.  So, if they are attempting a Field Goal, then they would use their traditional K-column to determine the outcome of the kick.  But, if they were attempting an Extra Point, then either the R-column or the P-column would be used.  To me, it was a stroke of genius.  By using a separate column, the Field Goal and the Extra Point stats can be accurately accomplished.  Keep in mind many kickers also use one of the other columns for their Kick Offs, as well.  So, many kickers use all three columns.

On occasion, you will even see a kicker with TWO cards.  Why? There are actually several reasons. That kicker may also be the back-up punter, or he could have thrown a pass or run with the ball on a Fake Kick.  With two cards, the player could have as many as six columns to work with.

I’m very impressed with how APBA has approached this.  To test it out—because that’s what I do–I took five different kickers and had them try Field Goals and Extra Points, and the stats were incredibly close to real life.  They sold me with their accuracy.

As a last point, I wanted to mention this.  Don’t think that all kickers will all have these special columns, however.  I don’t know APBA’s formula for making cards, but some stats can apparently work fine by simply using the K-column for both Field Goals and Extra Points, while others need two.  In fact, the majority of the cards don’t require a separate column for Extra points and Field Goals.  So, until you get the hang of all of the ratings, just double check that you are using the appropriate column for the kick that the player is making.

Overview of Jumbo Set

But, if there are 751 cards in the Basic Set, how many of them are in the Jumbo Set? The Jumbo Set is like the old card set that you remember, but it now contains EVERY PLAYER who played that year. So, if that player played one down during the whole season, then he has a card. The answer to your question about how many cards the Jumbo Set has is in the current set is 2022. That averages out to about 63 cards per team, and that’s just about triple the amount of cards contained in the Basic Set. In fact, if you purchase the Jumbo Set, you get two envelopes for each team because one obviously won’t hold all of them.   But, if you desire to have a card (sometimes two) for each player, just like the good ol’ days, then the Jumbo Set is for you.

But, before you go and make your decision, let’s explore some other things.   Price: The Basic Set is listed at $70, while the Jumbo Set is double that, and is listed at $140. That’s certainly a consideration for some potential buyers.

Another potential issue could be that 2022 cards are just too many cards and can be a storage nightmare. That’s probably sacrilege to say, but 2022 players really are quite a few cards. Why would anyone want that many cards? Well, from what I have observed, many game players who play in leagues like to have a card for each player. It certainly does make it easier when that player is involved in a return, and a card wasn’t issued for him. We’ll get to that in a minute, as well. With all of the players you never have an issue with trying to establish your depth chart. You can see all of the players, and arrange them in the order that best suits you.

Overview of Basic Set

The new Basic Set is not what you remember it to be. The old Basic Set had 34 cards, and contained the most-used players. With the set, you got all of the starters, and most of the back-ups. For most people, the Basic Set was fine.   But, if you really wanted extra flexibility, you could always purchase the XF set, which added another six players per team (at an additional cost, of course), bringing your total up to 40. So, 40 cards per team was the maximum amount that you could ever have, at least until the 2014 season.

As of 2014, APBA changed its season set plan. At first glance you will notice that the new Basic Set, as a rule, no longer provides cards for linemen. In fact, the set does not provide a card for any player if they didn’t pass/run/kick/or return the ball in some fashion, or another.

Notice, I didn’t say “catch” the ball. A receiver, such as Dez Bryant, doesn’t receive a card if all he did was catch it. This caused a huge stir during the 2014 season, but since then, many have adjusted to the concept. It seemed very weird, indeed, that a seldom known receiver on the team like Dwayne Harris, who rushed for four times for 7 yards and who only caught 7 passes all year, would get a card when a super star receiver like Dez Bryant who caught 88 passes would not. But, that is how it is set up.

So, how many cards do you get with the Basic Set? Well, with the current 2016-17 season, you get 751 cards. Notice also, I said cards, not players. Some players actually have two cards, but we will address that a little later.

The cost for the Basic set it $70.