A copy of Football Highlights 2052 sailed over my head, colliding with the neighbor’s Prius. Thank goodness the game was still in shrink.
As I picked the game up, Tony trotted over. “How much you wanna make a bet that I can throw a boardgame over that Prius?”, he queried.
“No thanks, Uncle Rico. I’m going home to review this.”
As I walked home, I turned around and witnessed something that I cannot explain to this day. Tony throwing a copy of Mechs vs. Minions 10 yards over the Prius. I never knew he had it in him.
Good for you, Tony. Good for you.
Football Highlights 2052 is a card game that simulates an American football game. The amount of card drafting that is used in the game can be tweaked. Football Highlights 2052 supports one to four players. Games can take between 20 to 60 minutes. For this review, I only played two-player games. A four-player game is simply two two-player games occurring simultaneously.
A game lasts two halves and plays out as follows:
- The first half begins with the offensive player plays their card, defense responds with their card, and the play is resolved. The defensive card is then rotated to its offensive side, the previous offensive player now plays THEIR defensive card and the play is resolved. This continues until both players have played 10 cards and the half is over.
- Both sides draft cards at halftime and build their deck for the second half.
- The second half plays the same as the first half.
The game ends after the last card is played. The team with the higher score is the winner!
I was excited to play this game. The mechanism of playing a card for your offensive play, then rotating that same card to its other side for your defensive call intrigued me, as did the draft to make halftime adjustments. I love trying to make tactical adjustments with limited resources. Unfortunately, it felt more random than tactical.
Let’s start with the good. The offensive/defensive card format and trying to decide if you give up yardage on defense to play the offensive play you want vs. stopping your opponent but playing a suboptimal offensive play is a neat design. I also liked the simplified way that the outcome of a play is determined. The offensive side has the type of play (run, pass, or maul), some footballs representing where the play is being run and text. The defensive side is the same, with footballs being replaced with helmets.
If your offensive play is a run and the defense picks pass, or vice versa, not only do you get the text result in your card (minus yards based on the number of helmets that match where your football is), but you draw a card from the Action Deck for additional yardage. If the defense matches your play type but does not cover all of your footballs with helmets, then the offensive text is used, minus yards based on matched helmets. Finally, if the defense picks the same type AND covers all footballs, the defensive text is used. It may sound confusing, but after the first few cards, it became second nature to quickly determine the result.
The other design I enjoyed was the halftime draft (both sides play 20 cards total, 10 per half). There are several different draft options presented in the game, some even at the start of the game, but the draft at halftime is mandatory. This gives you the ability to draft cards that can address issues you had in the 1st half, be it not having enough run defense cards or looking for turnover cards.
There were a couple of other aspects I liked: resolving field goals, penalties and injuries is easy (a flip of a card from the Action Deck), the use of the Action Deck for determining extra yardage, and the fact that a pass play can be negated if the yardage on the offensive card goes beyond the back of the endzone.
So why did I not enjoy Football Highlights 2025? The biggest issue I had was the amount of randomness in the game. You either start with a premade deck of 15 cards or draft 15 cards for your starting cards, depending on how you play the game. You shuffle the 15 cards and draw 10 cards for your opening hand. Of those 10 cards, you pick one as an audible card to be used later and replace it with a card from the deck. Since you cannot create your hand, you are at the whim of the draw. Four pass plays stuck in your deck? Too bad. Unfortunately, it does not get better with the halftime draft. You draft 5 cards and add them to your deck. The good news? You can choose which 5 cards to discard to get your deck to 15 cards. The bad news? Your hand is determined the same way as it is at the start of the game.
Audibles are no better. You can use three audibles during each half, of which you only know one—the card set aside at the start of each half. If you want to use your other two audibles, you draw them from the top of your deck, sight unseen. My son made two pass calls on back to back plays, guessing (correctly) that I did not have any pass defense cards in my hand based on cards I previously played. I audibled on both plays, drawing pass calls that perfectly matched his card. He was understandably frustrated.
I understand we cannot have perfect information or the game would be chess and not football; however, the randomness left a bad taste in my mouth and reduced my enjoyment of the game.
There were a couple of other issues that I had with the game. The rules, while simple, were not clear in a couple of circumstances. For example, the player aid fails to mention that helmets should reduce yardage if the play call matches, but it does state that in the main rulebook. Finally, I did not like the mechanism on some turnover cards where, if behind, the defense scored a touchdown. It reminded me of the blue shell from Mario Kart. I am not a fan of these type of catch up mechanisms.
I really thought Football Highlights 2052 would be right up my alley. I love football, I love card games, and I love drafting. But the randomness of audibles, the draft, and the last few plays of each half-diminished my enjoyment of the game. I would still encourage you to try Football Highlights 2052, as others have given the game praise. Unfortunately, it just did not work for me.
Final Score: 2.5 Stars – A card game that does an average judge simulating a football game.
• Gamification of football is too random
• Audibles are swingy
• Rulebook issues