If 'The Fridge' brings to mind a 20 stone colossus who goes by the name William Perry, then you are likely to be part of a fast growing band of American Football fans. The popularity of this game has grown enormously over here in the last few years, mainly due to its coverage on Channel 4. The sport now has its own magazine, a league of clubs and an increasing number of players and supporters.
Addictive Games, the Bournemouth-based software house responsible for the immensely popular Football Manager, has turned its attention to American Football. The result is a game every bit as gripping as its predecessor.
Head Coach, by SJC Davies, follows the same format as Football Manager. You are the manager of an American Football club in one of six regional divisions. Your aim is to steer your club to the regional championships, thus qualifying for the Super Bowl play-offs.
There are four skill levels: novice, rookie, veteran and all-pro. Beginners are well advised to start with novice.
Having chosen your club, such as the New York Giants or Dallas, you then pick your team from a squad of 30-odd players. Don't be put off if you know nothing about the game, the positions and the tactics soon become clear. Running backs, tight ends, charter backs and kickers are different from goalkeepers, wingers and strikers, but similar principles apply.
You have to select both an offensive and defensive team, taking into account the form, fitness and ability of the various players. If you select an illegal line-up, such as two quarter backs, the program will point out your error and let you choose again.
Information about the opposing team is provided by scouts, but the accuracy of these reports varies during the 12 match season.
Once you've got your team, the match begins. This is shown on screen in a manner familiar to all Football Manager devotees. The two teams line up on the pitch, initial possession depending on home or away advantage. If you have possession, you can choose between passing the ball, going for a rush, attempting to gain short yardage or kicking for goal. If you are defending, you choose the tactic which you think the other side will take, or adopt a general defensive posture.
Passing the ball offers the greatest hope of scoring a touchdown, or gaining a substantial amount of yardage, but it also has the greatest chance of losing possession. The unexpected tactic can also be extremely successful, such as deciding to go for a rush when the opposition is set up for a pass.
An expert kicker is vital, though you need to be reasonably close to your opponent's goal in order to be successful. It is a tremendous thrill to kick a goal with the last play of the match when you are nine to seven down. It is surprising just how much adrenalin you can generate while guiding your team to victory - or defeat.
After each game you can strengthen your squad on the transfer market. Other clubs may offer players in return for a member of your team. They're not stupid, though, and any attempt to trade a no-hoper for a star is almost certain to be rejected.
At the end of the season, the divisional winners and a small number of wild card teams will be invited to the Super Bowl play offs. This is organised on a knock-out basis, the winners being accorded the accolade of Super Bowl champions.
After the Super Bowl, you get up-dated information about your playing squad. Some of the older players will retire and some of the younger players will improve their performance.
Then, you will be offered the chance to fill some of the gaps from the college draft - a new intake of players from the college system - before embarking on your second season in the game.
Head Coach is a must for everyone who enjoyed Football Manager. It should also appeal to all American Football fans.
For those who know nothing about American Football, Head Coach provides an excellent introduction to the game and now it works. Go for it.
Label: Addivtive Games
Author: SJC Davies
Reviewer: Brenda Gore
A must for all sports fans. If you thrilled to Football Manager, this one is unquestionably for you.
Match in progress. LA Raiders (right) have the ball. No score yet. LA Raiders are going for a Rush. Denver are on the defensive.
Team statistics. Denver has a squad of 32 players to choose from. Your record as a winning (or losing) coach is compiled from week to week.
Comparative strengths of the Denver and LA Raiders teams before the match. LA Raiders are ahead in every department and look like winning hand down. A hard pitch and no wind will favour a passing game.