How to Play Famous First Downs

Table of Contents

  1. Welcome
    • Let's get started!
  2. Setup
    • Cards for offense and defense
    • Using coins to track statistics
    • Keeping organized with the playmat
    • Creating a score sheet
  3. Playcalling
    • The offense selects a play
    • The defense responds facedown
    • The offense declares a play option
  4. Yards and Downs
    • Determining yards gained on a play
    • Claiming yards from the defense
    • Moving the downs marker
  5. Scoring Points
    • Touchdowns for 7 points
    • Field goals for 3 points
    • Missed field goal attempts
  6. Ending the Drive
    • Setting up for the next drive
    • Gambling on 4th down
    • The result of a turnover on downs
    • The new defense prepares the first down
  7. Introducing Momentum
    • The ebb and flow of fortune
    • How to earn momentum
    • Carrying momentum between drives
    • Running out of momentum
    • Spending your momentum
  8. Spending Momentum on Offense
    • 10¢ for +10 yards on a field goal
    • 20¢ for +5 yards on a trick play
    • 30¢ for a repeated down
  9. Spending Momentum on Defense
    • 30¢ for a quarterback sack (-5 yards)
    • Some formations don’t allow sacks
    • 40¢ for a repeated down
    • 70¢ for a fumble or interception
  10. Winning the Game
    • Conceding defeat
    • Declaring victory and resolving ties
    • Thank you!

Looking for the rules to our Famous First Downs football card game?

Let Coach show you how to play!


So you want to be a famous football player... Well, suit up, champ, and I’ll make sure you’ve got your head in the game.

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Flip a coin to decide who will start on offense. That player takes the three double-sided offense cards. The other player takes the six single-sided defense cards.

There are a lot of statistics in football. We track them with different types of coins.

  • 7 nickels and 15 pennies track yardage.
  • 10 dimes track momentum.
  • 1 penny tracks the downs.

Although it’s not required, you can use a playmat like this one to help keep everything organized. When the game begins, the defense holds all 50 yards and places 10 of them in the neutral zone for first down.

You’ll also need a score sheet to track the results of your scoring drives. A typical scoring drive will last five minutes. We recommend giving each player three scoring drives but you can play as may or as few as you like.


Football is all about playcalling. Each turn, also called a down, the offense is going to select a play from their hand and place it face up on the mat.

It’s the defense’s job to respond to that play with one of their own. Each offensive play is covered by three to four defensive plays but none of them offer 100% coverage.

The defense plays a card facedown. The offense then declares one of the three available options available on his play. The defense reveals his play.

A shield icon indicates a blocked play, meaning the offense gained no yards. Otherwise, add up the offensive and defensive numbers to determine how many yards were gained.

Yards and Downs

A shield icon indicates a blocked play, meaning the offense gained no yards. Otherwise, add up the offensive and defensive numbers to determine how many yards were gained.

The offense takes coins from the Yards to First Down space equal to the number of yards gained. If there are none left, he has earned a First Down and gets to claim any excess yardage coins from the defense.

The offense only gets four chances to gain their first down. Before each attempt, the downs marker moves along its track. For each new first down, the marker returns to the top of its track and the defense must surrender 10 yards to the center area.

Scoring Points

If the offense plays well, they’ll quickly capture all 50 yards from the defense. If you claim the final one, congratulations! You’ve just completed your scoring drive with a 7-point touchdown!

Another way to score is to kick a 3-point field goal on your fourth down. If you’re within 20 yards of the goal line, it’s guaranteed. For every 10 yards beyond that, rounded up, you’ll have to flip a coin.

It’s okay to miss a field goal attempt. Although you don’t score the 3 points, the kick still ensures that your opponent has to gain back a lot of yards before he can score points of his own.

Ending the Drive

When the drive ends, players swap cards and it’s now the other player’s turn to be on offense. If the drive ended in a touchdown or a field goal attempt, the new defender gets to claim all 50 cents of yardage.

In some cases, however, the offense may decide to run a play on fourth down rather than attempting a field goal. If they get the yards they need, they earn a new first down. But if they don’t, it results in a turnover on downs.

A turnover on downs ends the offense’s scoring drive. Even worse, it means the defense won’t have as far to go on their upcoming drive. The defense claims the remaining yards to first down, then cards are exchanged.

To mark the start of a new scoring drive, the new defender resets the down marker and ensures there are 10 yards to first down. As you can see, a turnover can leave the new defender extremely vulnerable.

Introducing Momentum

Amidst all the playcalling, downs and scoring points, there’s another vital element to the sport of football. It’s called momentum: the ebb and flow of each team’s fortunes on the field.

The defense earns momentum every time they block a play with a shield icon. The offense earns momentum every time they gain a new first down, provided they didn’t spend momentum that turn to achieve it.

Also, momentum carries over from one scoring drive to the next. Momentum earned while on defense can be spent while on offense and vice versa.

If there’s no momentum left to claim, your opponent discards momentum instead. As a result, there’s a constant tug-of-war for momentum throughout the game.

Momentum is always spent at the end of a play to change something after the fact. If both players want to spend momentum, only the most expensive purchase takes effect. The other player’s momentum is refunded.

Spending Momentum on Offense

For the offense, the cheapest purchase is an additional 10 yards on a field goal attempt. If you guessed a coin flip incorrectly, you can pay a single momentum to correct your guess. You can pay this fee as many times as needed to complete your kick.

The offense can also spend two momentum to purchase 5 additional yards on a trick play, as indicated by a yellow arrow on their card. Trick plays cannot be purchased if blocked by a shield icon on the defense’s card.

Last of all, if the offense doesn’t like how a given play turns out, they can spend three momentum to cancel the results and repeat the down. Any yards gained or lost plus any previous momentum spent on the play is refunded.

Spending Momentum on Defense

For the defense, whenever they earn momentum from a blocked play, they can immediately spend three momentum to purchase a quarterback sack. This forces the offense to add 5 yards to the yards to first down.

Sacks can be canceled by a repeated down. They also cannot be purchased while the offense’s Shotgun formation or defense’s Quarter formation are in play.

Just like the offense, the defense can spend momentum to repeat a down they don’t like. Doing so while on defense, however, costs four momentum.

A defense with 7 momentum is very dangerous as they can purchase a fumble or interception, ending the scoring drive immediately. The offense claims any yards gained on the play and the defense claims the remainder before switching cards.

Winning the Game

At any point, if the player with the fewest points does not have enough scoring drives remaining to tie the game, he is welcome concede defeat, ending the game in a loss.

The winner is the player with the most points after each player has had three scoring drives. In the case of a tie, each player receives an additional scoring drive and the game continues until a winner can be determined.

Football’s a complex sport, champ, but that also makes it one of the most rewarding. Thanks for keeping your head in the game and making it to the end of training camp.Now get out on the field and move those yardsticks.

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