Pro Draft (1974)

6 Sep

As the pro football season is just days from starting, I thought I’d take a look at a game that lets you build your own NFL team. With the rise in popularity in fantasy football, I’m surprised this concept hasn’t been re-explored in recent years. 1974’s Pro Draft puts players in the General Manager’s role (sort of) with the goal of building the best team possible (kind of).

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3 or 4 players can play Pro Draft. A game should only take about 30 minutes. As you may expect, the game is pretty easy to play. A turn only consists choosing one of three options: whether to use an Option Card as an action…

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… or to try your luck with the spinner, and do the action listed on that. By the way, the spinner? Officially gets my vote for “Most awesome game piece of the month.” It has places for all the Option, Contract, and Value cards – as well as a larger spot for the player cards.

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You can also take a player from your sidelines and put them into your starting lineup.

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My team does not look very imposing so far.

Pro Draft is actually about as far from an actual draft as you can get. Most players are acquired through what the game calls “Open Drafts” or “Closed Drafts” which are actually auctions. Each player will have a hand of contract cards which are used throughout the game to bid on players.

IMG_0485Once you get a player, you either add them to your lineup, or set them next to the lineup if that spot is already full. You also will take a value card with each player. The value cards are briefly shown to all players before being placed behind the cards, out of view. There are two kinds of Value Cards, A & B. A cards have a point value from 0 to 100. So if you get an A, you have a chance of pulling a real superstar, or a total bust. B cards range from 20 to 65. So no great players, but not any real duds either. I do like the little “scouting report” blurbs on these cards.

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These Value cards are shuffled together into one deck. Therefore, when you draft a player, all you know is which deck their value card comes from. That makes “drafting” any player a real crap shoot (which I guess is thematic).

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Yeah, just call my team the Browns.

Once one player actually finishes drafting an entire team, the game ends immediately. Again, this makes it less of a drafting game, and more of a race game. The first person to finish also gets a 75 point bonus. Highest valued starting lineup (sidelined players don’t count) wins. To be honest – I don’t see how being the only player at the table with a full team and a 75 point bonus makes it possible for anyone else to win in almost all occasions.

With all that being said, I still kind of enjoy Pro Draft. There’s a ton of luck involved for sure. There are some Option cards called “Trade” which will quite honestly allow you to trade your worst player for any opponent’s best player (if you can remember where their best Value cards are), and there’s nothing that can be done. It should be called “Theft”.  I can see a player with a very high Value card pulled early in the game bouncing around the table multiple times throughout a game, which could be funny or frustrating depending on your point of view.

The biggest down side, in my mind, is that you do all this to draft a team, and then you just clean up and move on. I’d like to see a second part of the game where teams can square off and see which ones can actually win on the field. Because we all know that you can have a great team on paper, but you don’t win championships on paper (I’m looking at you, 2008 Chicago Cubs).

I really would like to see a more modern take on a sports team drafting theme (even better if there is a way to simulate season performance as well). There surely could be some negotiation angles as well (trading future picks etc). Is there something I’m missing, or something in the pipeline? If so, I’d love to know about it.

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