Tom Landry Strategy Football logo

You have to be well into American football to remember Tom Landry. He gave up coaching at the end of the Eighties after more than 30 years in the game, during which time he helped the Dallas Cowboys earn the name 'America's Team' because they were more than pretty good and won a couple of Superbowls.

Still, at least he knows his stuff and in this American football management game you're going to have to know yours as well. You don't want to be confusing your Hail Mary's with your Right Inside Linebackers, when you've got an ineligible receiver downfield!

One or two players can battle it out on the gridiron (or pitch to you and me) and if you're playing in two player mode there's the added bonus of a modem link for remote gaming. If that option isn't available to you, then you'll have to look away from the screen while your opponent makes his calls for the next play.

On the menu tonight
So here's how the game works: you make each and every play call for your team (both offence and defence) and then sit back and watch the short animation of the play (or not if you've turned it off to speed things up) as it's executed on the field.

You can then make your decision on how to call the next play depending on how successful the last one was - easy really, just like any other American football management game you've ever played.

Play calling is easy as you simply click on menus to cycle through the options then click on Go! when you've set the play up to your liking. You get to decide everything you would expect to make that perfect play: passing or running play, who to hand the ball to or who you'd like to throw it to, what pattern they should run, and so on.

It's all neatly presented and easy to control, and the animated sequence showing the play happening is all right if a little crude and jerky. There's also a handy game Help option for those who don't know anything about the game which lead novices through the basic rules and strategies.

The kick is up... it's good!
The best way to play is in two player mode, against a fellow American football fan. However, the computer plays a decent game against you and will punish you for bad play calling which is good to see. An, of course, not every play that you call will run precisely as it should because, hey, they're only human out there.

Tom Landry Strategy Football is structured well enough not to let the novice feel completely swamped with a whole load of player and game statistics - which become more important as you become more familiar with the game and it's good to see the game tries hard to let you make effective use of the game clock (many American football games are won or lost in the last few seconds of a game that's taken some three hours to play!)

It's well presented and easy to actually play (as distinct from understanding), there are more than enough plays to call and plenty of options to alter the game set-up to your taste.

When the plays are being executed you do feel as if your decisions are important - with enough of a random element to keep things tense. Just don't try playing until you understand the basics of the real game and can follow your way round a chalkboard.

Management für Eierköpfe

Tom Landry Strategy Football logo

Versoftungen des amerikanischen Nationalsports für Raufbolde gibt es inzwischen ja schon fast so häufig wie Sand im Orkpelz, reine Managerprogramme muß man jedoch noch mit der Lupe suchen. Ah, hier ist eines!

Unter den Fittichen von Merit Software beglückt Mr Landry, der ehemaligen Headcoach der Dallas Cowboys, nun die Football-Strategen mit einem Programm, bei den sich jeden Match problemlos in genau ausgetüftelte Spielzüge zerlegen läßt.

Auf dem Planungs-Screen für Offensive bzw. Defensive klickt man die Vorgehensweise an, welche man gerade von seinen Ledereitretern erwartet, kümmert sich um Feinheiten wie etwa lange oder kurze Pässe, Mann- bzw. Raumdeckung, und alsbald kann man auf dem für ein Strategical recht nett animierten Rasen die praktische Ausführung des gewünschten Winkelzugs bewundern.

Eilige Zeitgenossen dürfen die Stadion-Action auch streichen, sie lassen sich das Ergebnis (Raumgewinn bzw. -verlust in Yards sowie eventuelle "Tore") anzeigen. Anschließend geht es dann wieder zurück zum Grübel-Bildschirm - und immer so weiter bis zum Abpfiff.

Viele weitere Optionen wie Liga- oder Playoff-Modus, Einbeziehung von Heimvorteil, Verletzungen usw. sorgen für zusätzliche Kopfarbeit, Stadionrennen plus ein paar FX samt nuschliger Sprachausgabe für Atmosphäre, und an der Handhabung per Maus und Menüs gibt es rein gar nix zu kritteln.

Weil man gegen Freund (Modem möglich) oder Rechner spielen kann und der deutsche Vertrieb schließlich sogar eine übersetzte Kurzanleitung samt Regelwerk versprochen hat, dürfte das Game für Eierball-Regisseure derzeit wohl erste Wahl sein.

Fazit: Kein Touchdown, aber viel besser als immer nur Zugucken... (jn)

Tom Landry Strategy Football logo

More plays than a year at drama school!

Now here's a subject I could witter on about for hours if anyone would be bothered to listen. American Football - I love it. Beneath the surface of glamour and violence, American Football is actually an extremely tactical game. It takes place as a series of plays, with each team trying to outwit its opponents with clever formations and tactics.

Tom Landry Strategy Football is a simulation of the sport which concentrates entirely on the strategy aspects, without any concessions to arcade action.

Basically, you're the Head Coach and it's up to you to call the plays. You can play the computer or another human (over a modem link if you like), and choose your teams from a list of 28. It wuld seem that the game doesn't have a licence for the NFL teams, because the teams are just place names like San Francisco and Dallas. The team colours are pretty accurate though, so you can easily pretend you're in the NFL.

At first there is a baffling array of options, but it doesn't take long to get stuck into the proper game. Whether you're 'Defense' or 'Offense', you get an extremely comprehensive array of plays to choose from.

You can easily pretend you're in the NFL

Once you've come up with your formations and plays, you can either watch the play acted out in animation or just see the result of the tangle. The animations are full-screen, and are about the ebst I've seen in any management simulation, so it's well worth keeping them on, just to remind you that it's American Football you're playing and not chess.

John Madden is the best American Football game you can buy, but it's a little unfair to compare it with this because the two games have very different styles of gameplay. Having said that, Madden has a good strategy element as well as the chance to get yourself playing the game arcade style.

I'd recommend Madden first, but if you're a complete American Football nut, this comes next. It really does give you the feel of the game, and battling wits against an opposing coach is incredibly absorbing. Unfortunately, you can't customise the teams and put your own name in as manager, which I personally would have liked.
And there's no option to call an 'audible' at the line of scrimmage, so once you've called a play, you're stuck with it.

For the non-fan, I'm not so sure. It's certainly a great way to introduce yourself to the game, as it gives you all the information you need and there are help menus available too. But, if you like strategy games, well, that's exactly what this is, and you may find you like it. And as for me - I'll be playing it for ages.

Tom Landry Strategy Football logo


Just by reading the title of this game you know you're running into trouble. Tom Landry? Never heard of him. Strategic? That means no action, right? Football? Yes, the American kind.

Avoiding the popular action format, Merit have opted to take us behind the scenes for a head coach's eye view of the game. Your contribution to the team takes place on the tactics screen. Here you assign what defence or attack they are to execute. When this is done you simply sit back and watch the players battle it out. What's frustrating about this part is that the graphics are actually very good, and if you were given the opportunity to control the players this would be a rather excellent game.

So what do you do when the computer informs you that the offences are lining up for a shotgun? In my case I selected the likeliest looking formation and hoped for the best. It worked. I won my first match against New England 59-3. The manual touches on the various plays suggesting which ones are appropriate for certain situations, but even then it's impossible to 'read' the opposition to work out what they're planning.

With each quarter lasting 15 minutes, not including the time it takes select a play, boredom soon smacks you square between the eyes. There aren't that many plays, and by the time you finish a game your synapses have evolved to a sufficient level to actually understand them.

After that much play, I'd seen enough to convince me that I really didn't want to play again. It's exceedingly repetitive - which probably has more to do with the limited nature of the game than the subject matter. I doubt that even genuine American fans of the game would find much lasting interest here.

If Merit were aiming for a management game they missed the mark by not including transfers, draft picks, training, financial difficulties and the heart problems which dog most NFL head coaches.

This is the kind of game whose ancestors were text-only titles back on the ZX81. Unfortunately the addition of some nice graphics and a decent user-interface doesn't cover-up the primitive gameplay and a total lack of action. You're much better off sticking with the mix of action and strategy offered in EA's excellent.