Best (American) Football Simulation PC Game?

Season two done in Hawaii and… I got invited to a Bowl Game!

It’s the Fenway Bowl which has a history stretching all the way back to… checks notes… last year.

We played Miami of Ohio at Fenway and it appeared they had to go through some World War I trench warfare on their way to Boston as most of their Offence is injured, so we win 42-14 in a bit of a laugher.

In the regular season the AD had set us a target of three wins again, which meant I was playing with house money after week six because our record was already 3-3. I was hoping we could use this to kick on and mount a proper challenge, but we promptly lost three games in a row.

For a second straight year we finished the regular season with a win over rivals San Jose State, but the game was a lot tighter this year, finishing 26-16.

San Jose Quarterback Marcus Gentry threw a fourth quarter pick-six with the score 19-16 to make the result a bit more comfortable than it had been.

We finished the season ranked #73 which is a big step up from finishing 108th the year before.

Roster construction has been a nightmare so far as I haven’t managed to get any talent at Defensive Line or Linebacker and it showed as the defence finished the season ranked 106th for opposition yards per game.

As a result, at level up I took the Coaching Skill that gives me more recruiting points every time I try to recruit someone with the “Run Stopper” archetype.

My Safety Terrance Galvan graduated last year and went into the NFL draft where he was selected 202nd overall - pick 23 in the 6th round.

Senior Wide Receiver Jordan Portillo graduates this year after setting multiple school records and is projected to go in the fourth round of the draft.

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New Mexico State and Tulsa both offer me Head Coaching roles. They’re both hot garbage, so I’m staying with Island Life for another season at least.

I can imagine how overjoyed a team from Hawaii would be to be playing outside in Boston during the Bowl season. :)

Right? That conversation must have been great.

“Good news guys! We’re going to a bowl game! … No, not that one. Not that one. No n… I’ll just tell you.”

“After we fly from Hawaii to Boston to play football outdoors in January, we’re playing Miami! … No, not that one.”

Well that worked.

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Dewitt was very heavily recruited by his hometowm Penn State and then also Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh and Wisconsin, but the fact that I got a free 100 recruiting points every time I talked to him meant I managed to keep pace with the bigger schools.

As soon as his indicator flipped over to “will commit soon” I sank in an NIL offer that was a couple hundred thousand above what Penn had offered and that was enough to seal the deal.

The fact he’s a JUCO transfer puts some limits on him, but a 76 OVR Junior with A potential will be comfortably the best player on my defence.

I should point out what a tremendously low bar that is though, as our defence finished the season ranked 111th in the country.

That was my fault as I’d done such a bad job recruiting players for the front 7, but even so, holy crap they were bad.

As a result, we opened the season 1-5 with losses in games where we scored 38 and 33 points before I completely changed the way I was calling the defence and we finally steadied.

The back half of the schedule was the easiest, but we still did much better overall, recovering from 1-5 to finish 5-7.

This went to 6-7 when we got another invite to an East Coast Bowl Game - this time the prestigious RoofClaim.com Bowl in Boca Raton - and won that 28-21.

Hawaii Legend Placekicker Parker Duncan broke his leg in the final regular season game of the year and so missed his final game of eligibility before graduating.

Replacement Kicker Gabriel Moffat missed an extra point in his honour.

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Maybe you can send him to the Cowboys to help out their kicker Maher.

I just got this and it seems interesting. I don’t like the context switching between recruiting and games though.

I’m not really understanding the playcall dynamics in the game. Curious what kind if playcalling change could produce this kind of drastic change.

To be up front some of it was because, as I mentioned, the back half of the schedule featured weaker opposition, but I also made a couple other changes that seemed to help.

My defence was tragically bad - I am a 3-4 coach and my starting four Linebackers had OVRs of 74, 71, 68 and 67. The first year of the game had featured a really thin Linebacker recruiting class, but instead of realising that and going for depth, I took swings at higher rated players I had no sensible chance of landing and so ended up with nothing.

In front of those 'Backers the Defensive Line was rated 79/74/70. So the front seven was just a dumpster fire.

I had started the year off using the gameplan option to “Play Starters More” in an attempt to keep the clueless backups off the field as much as possible. At the season’s halfway point I flipped this completely to “Play a deep rotation” and it seems that over the course of a game keeping a collection of fresh idiots on the field is better than flogging below average starters.

I also started to use the Practice Plays option after ignoring it. I had used the practice focus lock ins every week, but hadn’t bothered with the specific play practice because it says right there on the screen it offers no benefit.

Except the hidden benefit was really teaching me what options exist in the opponent’s playbook.

This also taught me things like how Short Zone Cover 2 isn’t a terrible run defence. It’ll give up three yards consistently, whereas something like Slant Weak or Gap Press can stuff runs for no gain, but the variance is lower when it’s the “wrong” call.

On top of this I just recognised some quirks in the game engine because I’ve been playing longer.

For example - the power of Play Action passes on clear passing downs.

If the opponent comes out on 3rd & 9 in Pistol Weak with 21 personnel I don’t feel like I should need to be in Dime defence. Calling Nickel Cover 3 Cloud should be a giant neon sign to my defenders that they should expect a pass and yet we constantly leaked first down conversions to play action passes.

Switching to Dime package and calling Cover 3 or even the Safety blitz option seemed to drive home to my shitty defenders that they shouldn’t bite on play action and the opposition third down conversion rate dropped steeply as a result.

Thanks for writing up your impressions - I got this a few days ago and have just started my second season, where we nearly got turned over by American Samoa. What a disaster, but we scraped a 3 point win having been down 10.

Like you, I’ve been starting as a small three star team (New Jersey) and it has been pretty fun, though frustrating in some ways. I like the recruiting aspect and have made plenty of mistakes there (I didn’t seem to actually improve my team for season 2, just overfill it with chaff, but I have a good handle on it for this year), and was looking forward to the playcalling though this has been a very mixed bag.

I’m still calling Offense, but have handed over the defensive playcalling to my coach. This is something I used to love in Madden, so that’s a pity, but having a historically bad front seven meant that I couldn’t really tell if my playcalling was ineffective, or it was just the team. I’ll try that again in a few seasons when I get better talent.

The other frustration is with the UI - especially as the default ‘back’ action takes you right out to the root menu and forgets all your settings. For example if you’re browsing your D linemen and press back, it takes you right back out to the initial view of the offense, and loses the setting for ‘more detail’, so you have to select those things again to check the next guy. And as far as I can tell, there is no way to view all player stats/attributes on one page (eg by WR group), you have to look at each player individually.

But not to sound overly negative - I’m enjoying it a lot, playing it every moment I can, and can live with these minor frustrations for now. Hopefully the dev will improve these things as he goes along.

I’ve been reading this thread and enjoy hearing about these games. A couple of questions…

I’m not a fan of college football in real life, do you think this game has appeal just as a football strategy game? Do you feel the results are pretty believable based on the player ratings and their interaction with play calling results?

Also, I know the basics of football formations and such (you’d think I’d know more after watching it for 40+ years), but I don’t know a lot of the intricacies. What PC football game do you think does the best job at teaching about formations and play calling?

I’m not from the US so I know almost nothing about college football. One of the aspects of this game is that you can invite prospective recruits to a game during the season (ideally you want to invite them to a game where you have a good chance of winning to get max benefit). I’d be looking at the games and going, hmmm, Ohio sounds vaguely familiar, better not take them to that game (and sure enough, Ohio put up 70 points on us). So I have to click in to the team to see their prestige ranking rather than them being instantly recognisable.

The results are believable to a point, I think. I won 4 games the first season, against other awful teams, and got well beaten by the better teams. However you have that whole gaming curve thing where you’re gonna be beating Ohio in a few years, I hope, so there is that. But based on the talent I have available, results don’t seem to be unusual.

One thing I would note - I was up 3 against American Samoa with 24 seconds left and they ran the ball twice and time expired. They were at their own 20 yard line, so I guess it’s technically possible they could do that in real life, but something to keep an eye on.

I’ve only ever played Front Office Football (?) before and it was too overwhelming for me at the time so I can’t help here. I learned all this by playing Madden, which is a great strategy game in its own right if you’re playing against other players (and really quite good if you are only going against the AI). If you could pick up a cheap copy from a previous year, it would be a great learning tool (though you still have to make the connection between running a particular play and why it is effective or not in that situation). But essentially you’re making plays on the spectrum of very conservative and higher success percentage (runs, short passing) to higher risk (medium, long passes) and balancing that against your player attributes (a slow WR, an LB who can’t tackle) etc. Sorry if this is very obvious to you already!

This particular game doesn’t give great feedback on why a play succeeded or failed (yet, anyway) so you’d be operating a bit blind there.

I don’t know that there’s a game out there that will teach you football. I actually learned a lot about basketball by playing the Be A Legend mode of NBA2k, but Madden is such a bad representation of the sport I don’t even play it for free on Gamepass.

Football Coach College Dynasty does have a thing where you pick a play on offence and defence, then press go and it’ll sim that matchup 100 times and present the results. But from there everything is inference as it doesn’t tell you why something did or did not work.

Oh boy… a winning record! And a Conference Championship! And I won Conference Coach of the Year!

All things that have never happened before.

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After opening 2-4 we won seven games in a row, the last of which was a 34-27 win over Boise State in the Moutain West Conference Championship game.

We’d also never beaten Boise before.

9-4 became 9-5 when we travelled all the way to the East Coast for a bowl game, again, and lost 37-24 to UCF in Alabama as Hawaii QB Rylan Guerra set a team single-game record with four interceptions.

But the real story of 2025 was Stupid Erick Marino.

Marino and Guerra had backed up former Hawaii starter Greyson Tran and when Tran graduated both Guerra and Marino demanded to be the new starter. I picked Guerra and so Marino entered the transfer portal and left and I immediately forgot he existed because he was awful.

Fast Forward to week 2 of 2025 and the 1-0 Hawaii Rainbow Warriors are hosting Utah State and their Quarterback… Erick Marino.

Our team misfired a little, but we still had a 22-10 lead going into the Fourth Quarter, where Kicker Gabriel Moffat missed a field goal and then Quarterback Guerra threw an interception in the end zone.

That meant that with four seconds left, Utah had the ball at our 46 trailing 22-16 and then Stupid Erick Marino did this.

I don’t know if the game gives people boosts for facing their former teams, but it was the only game Utah and Marino won all year.

That’s a pretty impressive record!

After a fair bit of restart-itis, I thought I’d mostly figured it out (apart from the playcalling), so I loaded the community team file and started a new game - I’d been playing as New Jersey, which it turns out is Rutgers.

Coaches and CEO selected based on their recruiting and training skills, and first season went pretty well at 6-6!

However, I was suckered into a sense of my own importance - my 83-rated QB left after his sophomore year to enter the draft, and was taken late in round 2. Delighted for him. My main pass rusher also entered the draft and was a sixth rounder.

Second season I went 2-10 :(

Just absolutely destroyed in every way, and all my facilities took a step back. My DC actually lost an attribute point at the end of the season; I had to decrement one of his attributes.

Third season is in between - started very badly 1-6 (all my ranked opposition is front loaded), but have scraped my way back to 4-6 with two winnable games to finish.

Biggest scalp so far:

Rutgers Wins

I must say I have flip-flopped a lot on how I feel about the game and what it is doing. For a while I thought it was basically a recruiting simulator (that part is very well done), but I’m starting to appreciate the game simulation side a bit more now.

Gameplay wise, I’m primarily trying to stop the run first, then taking my chances with their passing game/blitzing etc. I’ve had a lot of drama (in my head) with my QBs - one entered the draft, one transferred, and I had two freshmen battling it out playing one half each at the start of this season.

Pretty good game.

Having a player declare early for the draft really sucks if you don’t have a succession plan lined up. Another thing that can catch you out is when you spend a few years developing the perfect co-ordinator for your system with all the right skill buffs and then someone nabs him to be Head Coach of their program.

The win over USC is very nice - I don’t think I beat a ranked team yet. My win over Boise came in the only year they haven’t been in the top 25.

I obsessed over this game for a few days and then interest fell off*, which I was surprised at. I think it might be the recruiting aspect that has put me off - eventually you’re just going through the motions with the same actions week after week.

I think the main thing that needs work at the moment (and it is EA and being actively worked on) is the playcalling - the ‘suggested play’ is rather random, especially on defense, with no consideration of what formation your opponent comes out in. It would be nice if the suggested plays were from an appropriate scheme like nickel or dime depending on the formation the AI comes out in. Also, the AI calls play action in about 95% of third and long situations; I’m guessing it’s based on play success rate or something at the moment, so I’m sure that will be refined.

A good game; I’ll come back to it later but it might need something more than its two main gameplay aspects - recruiting and playcalling - to hold my personal interest, but I don’t think that’s a reasonable ask (never mind what any addition would actually be) given the scope of the game at the moment.

Edit: I should say that in the week+ I played it, I put in 60 hours, some of which was the game open in the background and dipping in, but I got a lot of value out of it so my coment above re: playtime might be a bit misleading.