The Mad Hatter will no longer roam the Death Valley sidelines, looking for a tasty blade of grass to chew on during a tense late season game against the Crimson Tide. News out of Baton Rouge on Sunday, September 25 is that head coach Coach Les Miles and his offensive coordinator were relieved of their duties by the athletic director, after a shocking loss to unranked Auburn.
LSU fans are divided over the firing, although the division was probably not 50/50. How best to quell the uncertainty as to who will lead the great LSU program for the time being and for next season, too?
If your team has started out this season in disappointing fashion, or is already mathematically eliminated from the college football playoffs after only four games, then spice up your game nights with a great college themed game, Hand-Off: The Card Football Board Game (LSU Edition)!
CSE Games sent me a review copy right after the Krewe got back from GenCon. True to form, the Krewe brought back a stadium full of new hotness from the convention, and we have been wading through those games. But, tugging in the back of my mind as each college football weekend unfolded was that brand new copy of a poker-flavored game just waiting for me to play. So, when LSU announced the news about Coach Miles, it was a perfect time to break open the box and try a few games.
LSU Hand Off is a card game that apparently streamlines the original game called Card Football. The game is geared for two players and plays quickly, in only about 45 minutes. The game is played over four “quarters”, with all of the different aspects of a good football game: time outs, special teams, big offensive plays, penalties and great goal line defensive stops. All of these can and will happen during the course of a game.
The set up is easy. The board is a flat representation of LSU’s Tiger Stadium, affectionately known by Louisianians as “Death Valley.” Although the crowd noise and bourbon fueled frenzy does not come in the box, the field has almost all of the appropriate views of the stadium and field — with one exception, namely that Tiger Stadium marks the yardage in 5 yard increments not 10 yard increments — and there are spaces for four downs for each player. Shuffle the standard poker deck, and deal each player five cards. That’s it.
The game play is equally easy and fairly intuitive. Each player tries to build the best modified poker hand (high card < pair < two pair < three of a kind) during the downs, and are allowed to add cards to a play if they can help build one of those hands. The highest hand at the time of that down gets to enact the play on the card, which could be anything from a big offensive play or a defensive stop, or even a penalty.
The game comes with a football marker and a referee marker, which shows you were the ball is and how far you need to go for the first down. I do have to complain here, as both my son and I had trouble moving the markers down the field as each yard is pretty tightly placed next to each other. Making the board a little bit bigger (I would love to see it on the Ticket To Ride 10th Anniversary sized board!) would definitely have made that part easier.
Frankly, I was surprised at how much fun the game was, and how much it felt like watching a football game. There was momentum when you saw that you had a chance to combo some good cards into a long drive. There was drama as teams got into the red zone or a penalty potentially wiped out a big play. Field position — just like in real football — was crucially important, and you have to manage your time outs to give yourself a chance to get those good cards you need in the red zone. Kudos to the designers who must be big football fans, because this really plays like a football game simulator.
I like the addition of the trump cards, too. A number of LSU’s greatest teams are represented by a small card that each player chooses. These can be played as a trump card if the player ends up with that very card in his hand. The implementation of the trump cards was a little bit of a let down, as they were just small square cards with some facts about the team. Artwork, photographs, flavor text — any of those would have spiced up those trump cards and I think the designer missed on that part.
But the whiffs are few, as the game plays very smoothly. I have never played the original implementation, but it feels like this is a 2.0 of that game. If I had to quibble, the rule book does need a little bit of development, as I think it could have been organized better. An index would have helped, too. But those are minor quibbles, because we were able to stop play as needed to check the rules and almost always got to the rule we needed fairly quickly.
In summary, on the pro side, I love the speedy play, easy to pick up poker mechanics, and the drama that comes as a tense drive begins building up and crosses the midfield. The game is a breeze to teach, and should definitely excite any college fan. I imagine it is a great game for tailgating — and I will test it out at the Ole Miss game coming up next month to make sure.
On the con side, the stadium is too small and missed out on some accuracy, the rule book needs a graphic designer and a developer, and the all time trump cards need some spice. These are not things that would dissuade me from buying the game, but they do need to be fixed in the future.
Both my son and I really enjoyed playing the game, and look forward to many more plays this season. It is definitely staying in my collection, and although I cannot recommend it for everybody, I can definitely recommend it to any gamers out there who like college football and want a quick and easy game to play. Note that the game also comes in a Florida Gator version, too.
Until next time, laissez Le Bon temps rouler!