“Midfield steps and spins from the bounce… torpedos the ball to forward pocket who takes it for a screamer! Forward pocket plays on, but is tackled by… oh no! Coat hanger resulting in a 50m penalty and … GOAL!!!” This isn’t the sort of commentary you’d normally associate with a dice game, but it’s the perfect companion for Aussie Rules Pocket Footy – a fast-paced dice game in the Pocket Sports series.
Pocket Sports work on a simple premise: provide the player with a simple yet enjoyable game, which is portable enough to be able to be played almost anywhere. Each game consists of only 8 custom dice in a cloth bag with instructions, but you don’t need more than this as the pieces are enough to provide a framework that’s easy to pick up, but detailed enough to be interesting.
Dice are used in Pocket AFL to simulate player positions and game events. The game starts with one player rolling a black “contested ball” die (simulating the centre bounce), the result of which determines who gains possession of the ball. That player grabs the yellow, midfield die and must then determine the course of play – and hopefully score themselves a goal.
Pocket AFL uses 5 coloured “player dice” to replicate key positions on the field. The defence, midfield, and wing dice aren’t able to shoot at goal, so their aim is purely to get the virtual ball to full forward or forward pocket without losing possession in the process. This is a ridiculously easy task, and merely involves rolling the die for the position currently in possession of the ball, and then actioning the result.
Instructions on the dice are very easy to follow and usually fall into three main move types. The first is an uncontested action – this is where the die gives an action description and result. For example, if you rolled the orange wing die and got “Handball M,” this would mean you give possession of the ball to midfield, and so you would roll their yellow die next. Another example of this would be “Hit posts 1 behind” or “kicks GOAL!,” which are scoring rolls. On occasion, you may roll a result with a “T” listed (e.g. “Out of bounds T”. This T stands for turnover and indicates that the other player takes possession of the ball (meaning they roll their red defence die).
The second move type is a contested action. These are indicated with a % symbol and are usually alongside a kick type (e.g. “Torpedo % FF” is a contested kick to the full forward position). When this result is achieved, the player rolls the purple pass success die to determine the result of the kick. The instructions on this die vary, and much like the real game can result in a clean mark, change of possession, or the ball being gathered up by another member of your team.
The final move type is “Run & Bounce.” Any time this appears on a die, the opposing player tackles by rolling the white tackle die. This has a 50% chance of gaining possession, but also carries the risk of incurring a penalty, allowing the player currently in possession to move the ball one position closer to goal.
While the complexity may seem daunting at first, it shouldn’t take you long to get into the swing of things. Each die is individually coloured to help quickly identify the one you need – essential in a timed game where a high score at the end determines victory. The simplicity is further enhanced by strict instructions and lack of decision making – which can work against the title if you’re after a game that requires strategy. Games are meant to be played in four quarters of five minutes each; however, in my opinion, you should play to a score for your first few games to familiarise yourself with the dice and play style.
As with other games in the Pocket Sports series, Pocket AFL does a fantastic job of capturing the spirit and competitive nature of Aussie Rules, whilst still providing an enjoyable tabletop experience. While it obviously targets fans of AFL, it’s cleverly designed and should appeal to anyone who enjoys dice games.