I have only played this game solitaire and am writing this review from that perspective.
This dice and chart game allows you to play NHL games on your tabletop with teams from the current season as well as from many past seasons.
The game can be played in three levels of complexity: Basic, Advanced or Super-Advanced. I have found a mix of the Basic, Advanced and Add-On rules works well and provides all of the action, detail and statistics I am looking for in a hockey game. The Add-On rules are listed at the end of the article.
Strat-O-Matic offers a full, latest-season version that includes all the NHL teams from the latest completed NHL season. Strat-O-Matic also offers a Selector Set version of the game that allows you to choose five teams from the latest completed NHL season.
Each version of the game comes with all the pieces, charts, card decks and dice needed to play.
Each NHL team card set is composed of 16 skater player cards and 2 goalie cards.
Additional Extra Player cards for every team can also be ordered.
Each skater has a rating for Tendency, Intimidation Ability, Skating, Face-off, Offense, Defense, Penalty and Breakaway/Penetration. Each skater card is primarily constructed of a grid of 5 categories (Outside Shot, Inside Shot, Rebound Shot/Breakaway Shot, Passing, Defense) and 11 results for each category (the results of a 2D6 roll).
The Action Card Deck (Basic or Advanced) drives the gameplay. Each Action Deck consists of 30 cards. When the Action Deck is depleted, one period of hockey has been played.
In the Basic Game, the Action Deck determines the main result of the action for the current team in possession of the puck.
In the Advanced and Super-Advanced game, the Advanced Action Deck provides the main result of the action for the current team in possession of the puck based on the Offensive Setting and Defensive Setting currently in use by each team.
In all Game Levels, after finding the result from the Action Deck, if necessary, the proper Player Card is then considered.
The Split Deck is used for a few things:
-Determines random numbers between 1 and 20 (that are needed in a myriad of situations)
-Rebound Results on shots when the goalie fails to control the puck
-Icing: In Super-Advanced Power Play games
-Loose Puck: In Super-Advanced Power Play games
-Passing: Inside Passing results in Advanced and Super-Advanced situations
-Assists: Determines which players earned assists on goals scored
-Injury: Determines which player is injured and the length of injury
Forward Line changes and Defensive Line changes are marked within the action deck using provided cards inserted into the deck at determined intervals.
The game instructions recommend one Forward Line change 10 cards from the top of the deck, followed by a Defensive Line change 5 cards later and then finished with another Forward Line Change 5 cards after that.
Strat-O-Matic Hockey players adjust these line-change intervals to suit their play styles.
Power Plays are abstracted but are effective and efficient. When a Penalty occurs (usually as a result from a Player Card or the Action Deck), one Split Card is drawn. The random number on the Split Card is used against the Power Play chart to determine which players will shoot on goal for the duration of the penalty (Power Play players and Penalty Kill players each can get shots). Each shot is then resolved as either a Goal or a Not-Goal. (I recommended writing down each teams 2 Power Play and 2 Penalty Kill lines as not each member of each line is needed on every Power Play/Penalty Kill.)
OFFENSIVE/DEFENSIVE SETTINGS (Advanced, Super-Advanced Only)
Offensive Settings range 1 to 3, conservative to aggressive.
Defensive Settings (Forecheckers) range 0 to 3, conservative to aggressive.
The Offensive Setting Determines how aggressive the Defensive Settings (Forecheckers) can be. An Offensive Setting of 1 can only have 0-1 forecheckers while an Offensive Setting of 3 can have 2 or 3 forcheckers.
Changes to Offensive and Defensive Settings can only be made at the start of periods, during forward line changes and at face-offs.
Set out the Home team and visiting player positions in this sequence, left to right:
Visitor: RW RD C LD LW G
Home: G LW LD C RD RW
Most of the player interaction will occur between players directly opposite from each other. Setting out the player cards in this manner greatly helps playing the game. If you choose to use the game board, this layout will be used. I find the game board not necessary for the way I play the game.
The game is built for each team to play with 3 Forward Lines and 2 Defensive Lines. The extra players available will allow the game to played with 4 Forward Lines and 3 Defensive Lines.
Determine these line combinations/parings for each team and set the cards aside in any manner that works for you. I stack my lines/combinations by position.
Determine the Power Play and Penalty Kill lines/combinations for each team and write them down along with their individual Defense Ratings.
A roster sheet and line combinations for every team is provided. These lines can always be adjusted to your liking.
Keep the charts within easy reach and leave yourself a spot to roll the dice.
GAMEPLAY EXAMPLE (from the Game Instruction Manual)
Split Card Drawn = 1
Chart Result = Home Left Wing
The Home Left Wing has the puck.
Offense Strategy = 1 Defensive Strategy = 1
Action Card Result = Opponent Defense 3
The opponent of the Home Left Wing is the Visitor Right Wing. The Visitor Right Wing defense column needs to be referenced in the 3 box. The result is: Inside Shot for Right Wing. This means the Home Left Wing has made a pass to the Home Right Wing and set him up for an Inside shot on goal.
The Home Right Wing is shooting the puck.
2D6 are rolled = 12
Reading from the Home Right Wing's player card we see his Inside Shot column and his 12 box results in: Goal 1-8. A Split Card needs to be drawn – if the number on the card is 1-8, a goal is scored, if not, the goalie will freeze the puck. A Split Card is drawn and the random number is 19. The shot is saved by the goalie and he freezes the puck.
A face-off in the visitor offensive zone would happen next.
Stat keeping is simple. You can easily track goal scorers while Assists are awarded off of the Split Deck cards. I recommend writing down the Power Play/Penalty Kill lines. You could track Penalties and Power Play opportunities. Time keeping is done through the Action Decks.
The learning curve is not too steep for the Basic Game out of the box. Like Strat-O-Matic Baseball, the instructions were written well, but required playing the game for about 30 minutes before I understood the gameplay flow. The learning curve does increase as you move into the Advanced and Super Advanced Game or if you wish to use any Add-On rules. The game can be as simple or as complex as you want to play it - and this is one of the reasons the game is such a good game.
Each game produces accurate amounts of shots on goal. Power Plays are fun and effectively handled. Scoring seems fair and balanced - there will be 3-2 games as well as final scores of 7-1.
The action is always moving because the puck is always moving. The puck will move around the ice and from player to player to player. It will even sometimes get bogged down between two players who seem to be banging around in the corner fighting for possession. Shot results are simple to determine and the goalie cards are easy to read. A good passer will find an open shot for a teammate more often than not, scorers are going to produce results as long as they are able to get the puck.
I played four games using the rules as written. I began to notice things that I thought could be improved.
The adaptability and customizability of this game is unique and a great feature of the game. The internet is a great source of help, suggestions and resources for assistance with this game. Listed below are items I thought could be tweaked/improved and the solution I found for each one of them.
I only use the Basic Action Deck.
The Advanced Action Deck requires Offense and Defense setting for each team. For my Solo play those were two (four) extra decisions I just did not want to have to worry about. The Basic Action Deck works fine for me and the games are always fun. If I played a Head-to-Head game I would use the Advanced Action deck for sure.
Instead of always matching FWD Line #1 vs. FWD line #1 to begin a game and then cycling through in order at each Line Change, I roll a D6 at the start of each game to determine the FWD line rotations for the game (1-2-3, 1-3-2, 2-1-3, 2-3-1, 3-1-2, 3-2-1). I make the line changes in the same order for each Period to ensure all lines receive the same time on the ice.
I change DEF Pairs on the 7th 15th and 23rd card of the Action Deck.
I change FWD Lines on the 10th and 20th cards of the Action Deck.
Deciding If A Player Will Shoot, Attempt To Penetrate For An Inside Shot or Attempt A Pass
The Random Actions Chart (based on a player’s carded Tendency Rating: http://strat-hockey.net/tips-suggestions/article22.html
Alternate Penetration Attempt For Inside Shot Matchup Chart
Passing Situations (Instead of using the Split Card result)
The Super Advanced Wilkerson Goldberg Passing Chart: http://strat-hockey.net/tips-suggestions/article43.pdf
Possible Breakaways (Used along with the Split Card result)
“Possible Breakaway” article on this page: http://strat-hockey.net
Main Resource Page
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