Behold a game that is truly a rare breed! A genuinely offline game that offers hours and hours of enjoyment and a life cycle that balances itself: Retro Bowl.
Resurrecting a highly-successfully format from decades ago, Retro Bowl succeeds in giving American Football fans a simple, yet engaging mobile game to play their much-loved sport. The title pretty much sums up what it promises – a piece of Super Bowl competition in a retro, old school experience.
Retro Bowl is very much akin to hit late 80’s game, Tecmo Bowl, in terms of layout and the general “feel” of a game from the Nintedo/NES era (which fortunately includes the absence of ads). It is undeniably nostalgic especially to gamers who have taken up the lifestyle since. However, it is only ancient on the surface; it’s developer, New Star Games, played it smart to include modern elements such as circumstances involving CCTV footages and social media to give it a breath of timeliness.
In Retro Bowl, you will be constantly emerged in the decision making dynamics of offense (in gameplay) and in the challenges of managing a sports team. It is ultimately a game of decision. To help you sharpen your judgment, we’d like to focus this practical guide on providing pointers and facts that will align you with the game.
1. MATCH MATTERS: DECISION MAKING AND SCORING
While you get to choose to recruit defensive key players, the interactive part of gameplay is only with offense; everything on the defensive end is purely simulated. With that said, in order to win, you need to be impeccable in reading the options you have for offense and in capitalizing on what is available to you. This section is dedicated to tackle the matters that will hopefully lessen your attackers’ chances to be tackled or intercepted.
Choosing the right play is the most important gameplay element in Retro Bowl. Since defense is purely simulated, your quick thinking in offense is crucial to your success. The game follows the real-world American Football rule where you must be able to move forward with the ball at least 10 yards from the kickoff in a maximum of 4 attempts, 3 standard attempts and the 4th being an option to do another play or punt/kick (depending on your distance from the end zone). Failing to advance or score will result to a turnover.
To pick the best available play, feel free to check ALL the audible commands (formation and play) from your Quarterback, especially if you don’t yet see a favorable movement plan for your Wide Receivers and Tight Ends.
No matter how accurate your Quarterback is with his passes, if your main receivers cannot position themselves in a clear passing lane, the ball is in danger to be intercepted. Note that there is no time limit at each kickoff; calculate and predict accordingly and take as much time as you need.
Over time, you will be able to gauge how a clear passing lane looks, but for now, we’re sharing a few examples of how a solid movement plan looks to give you a better grip of the grid iron.
Focus on the directional arrow for the top-wing Wide Receiver. It shows that he is meant to advance a good distance first before sinking in the center of the field. This is a solid movement plan because the Wide Receiver would already meet the 10-yard advancement requirement before he can catch the ball.
We consider this as the most optimal movement plan because all it would take is a well-aimed pass to advance your yardage or make a break-away run for the end zone if your Wide Receiver can outrun any defenders.
For the play above, the formation suggests that our Tight End (J.R) will cover ten yards as he sinks deep into the centerfield and he will only go through 1 defender. If you see such a formation, prioritize passing to your Tight End. What makes this position good is that the top-wing Wide Receiver will cut quickly into the centerfield making him a viable second option in case the Tight End gets manned by 2 defenders.
In the illustrated movement plan above, it appears that our Tight End (B.C) and Wide Receivers (R.P and R. B) only need to go through one defender each before they can open themselves to receive a pass. If you see a play like this, take it as it almost guarantees a partial yardage advancement because your receivers would need little time to position themselves. Should they get stopped quickly and you did not meet the 10-yard requirement yet, no problem; you should be able to advance on the next kickoff.
In general, to discern a good opening from a kickoff, you have to consider the following:
1) The number of defenders your receivers must go through before they can be “safe” to catch the ball.
2) The time it will it take to “cook” the play a.k.a. how soon can your receivers achieve the drawn formation.
3) The space allowance your receivers need for long passes to avoid interception.
Once you factored in all three, the only hindrance for a good reception is the availability of a solid or decent opening, yes, there will be times that all audible commands will draw a difficult play (it’s simply part of the game).
Discerning The Better Last Resort
In the event that you are unable to advance in your 3 standard offense attempts (incomplete), consider the distance from the end zone if you must risk for a 4th play instead of going for a punt or a goal kick. If the kickoff is within the midfield (40-50-40 yards), it is generally better to take a risk and go for another play.
Should the play be successful and you are finally able to advance 10 yards, that’s great; if you fail you are not entirely at a bad spot (unless, of course, if you are behind in points). After all, the chances of stopping the other team’s offense is about just as much as yours considering the equal distance from their goal.
If you are within your own half (30-20-10 yards) and you noticed that the defenders can quickly sack your Quarterback plus your passing lanes are being covered quickly, it will be wiser to go for a punt to at least send the ball further. Moreover, if you notice that your Wide Receivers cannot outrun their defenders, punting the ball is definitely the smarter option if you are trapped deep in your half.
For kicking, let the game clock be your guide. If there is less than 25 seconds left before the first or second half ends, closing the turn/possession with a kick is “generally” safe already if you are in a back-and-forth game and the kick gives you the lead. This is because the simulation time needed to complete a full-field play will need more than that.
We must share however, that in our playing experience (when the dynamic difficulty has increased so much), we were once scored at just with 4 seconds remaining. Still, the simulation time usually consumes 25-40 seconds for a strong, 4 to 5-star offense AI to get a touchdown.
Here are other scenarios where kicking would be more ideal:
1) If you notice that most of your plays are getting stifled by the other team’s defense. This is usually true when you are playing against a team with 4 to 5-star defense rating.
2) If your kicker has high range and accuracy stats.
3) If your main Quarterback is injured or his passing range and accuracy does not permit precise medium to long range passes.
The additional points after a touchdown will help you cement a lead or slowly mount a comeback. A successful kick will award you 1 point, it is the safer choice because you won’t have to hope for passing lanes to get cleared.
Meanwhile, going for an additional play is a plus 2, but it takes courage (since it is essentially a much bigger risk) and luck (as you may not be awarded with audible command options). The latter, albeit a gamble, will help you etch a lead especially that AIs prefer to kick more often (at dynamic 15 difficulty and below).
Mastering the concepts above will help you focus on the correct matters you have to think of while in a match. Your decision making will improve over time as you keep on playing. Mistakes and frustration are natural, but don’t worry, it’s all part of your journey as a head coach.
Your play call choices is as important as the ones you make outside of matches because they will determine the health of your career. Let’s now proceed to the management aspects of Retro Bowl and how to approach the judgment calls around it.
2. ECONOMIZE YOUR COACH CREDITS
Coach Credits (CC) is technically the only currency in Retro Bowl. You can use them to acquire coordinators, recruit players from the free agency, save players from fan criticisms, and–most importantly–do key upgrades through your Front Office.
The supply of CCs is constant, but very minimal. The only fixed means to get Coach Credits is by finishing a match. Depending on your fan following, you can gain 1 to 3 CCs after completing a game. There will also be dilemma moments that involve meeting with team owners–choosing that over whatever other option it is up against will award you with 1 CC.
They come in trickles but the amount required to purchase something drastic is quite a sum. As such, before being capable to get something great out of your CCs, you would have to do a solid, persistent crawl. We’d like to call it “grind,” but grinding in the gaming realm means focusing your efforts in nailing a particular goal (usually to gain levels, xp, resources, etc.) in the fastest way possible.
However, there is no such thing as grinding mechanism or a separate, deliberate path in Retro Bowl; you just simply have to keep on playing and winning.
Now that we’ve established its scarcity, we’d like to veer away from generic advices you’d get from other guides that simply says to exhaust and spend your Coach Credits. Instead, we’ll give here what we view as the wisest outlets you can let go your Coach Credits for.
1) Availing A Free Agent
If you lack a key player (yes, we’re only keeping it singular because it may literally take you 2 seasons if it’s plural), you can never go wrong in recruiting a high-value free agent. The players in the free agency have above average stats and they have plenty of years of action left in them (meaning they are not yet in the brink of retirement). Their solid stats will prove an asset to your team almost instantly.
We must, however, state that before you even get to farm enough CCs to pull a player from the free agency, you may likely have developed and grown to be comfortable with the current ones in your roster. The fine print for this advice is to only get a free agent to fill in a slot that a key player of yours would vacate in lieu of retirement or a long injury that happened at a critical time (i.e. approaching the playoffs or at the playoffs).
Additionally, since most free agents are already players with relatively successful career, they will take a good chunk of your Salary Cap and this, you have to keep in mind when availing one.
2) Brewing A Beneficial Backend
By backend, we are referring to the offensive and defensive coordinators you can hire for your team. We all start with “basic” coaches, those with no special traits and they come as free. In the same way, if their contracts expire, the game will simply replace them at no cost. We’d like to clarify that having coordinators with no special traits are okay; you can still win a championship with them.
However, coordinator traits are something that would be too good to pass up. The bonuses they can give to your team will help your franchise’s improvements. We are listing them below in order of what we perceive as their level of importance and functionality, as well as our brief analysis. Note that we will only expound on the top 3.
#1 Physio: gives a 5% condition boost after every game for the players that will be under that coordinator (offense or defense). If you are running a relatively fresh roster–meaning they still have stats ceilings to grow into as they level up–having a Physio coordinator will be beneficial. The 5% condition boost they give offers some peace of mind that your players will be adequately conditioned for the next match.
A physio coordinator will also work to almost totally offset the condition cost differential between light and normal intensity training. Choosing light intensity training assures that your players will be at 87% to 100% condition for every match as they won’t get beat up in training; picking normal, on the other hand, will gradually burn more condition. Having a physio coordinator lets you put your players under normal training (and reap the XP benefits of such) while only dealing the fatigue impact of a light training.
#2 Likeable: gives a 5% xp boost after every match to players that will be under the coordinator (offense or defense); the morale of players will take a hit if the coordinator is fired. Having a likeable coordinator will mean that his wards will level up quicker which will be amplified the harder your training regimen is and the more advanced your training facilities are.
A likeable coach will be beneficial both to players that are yet developing and those that have already maxed out their potential since he/she can facilitate a faster skills grading or a quicker CC turnout, respectively. Players who have maxed their stats will grant you 1 CC each time they level up. Since its effect is progressive, the benefit that a likeable coordinator brings will spread unto your future recruits.
#3 Talent Spotter: increases the potential of your key players by half a star. This will translate to an increase in their preset stats’ ceiling if the current limit is not at max (or 10) yet. Players that are already rated as 5-stars cannot be improved further.
Veterans of Retro Bowl maintain that this is the best coordinator trait and we would not argue that. After all, the star rating improvement and stats gain that comes with it are permanent and stackable—you simply need to hire a new coordinator bearing the same trait and your players will again grade up by half a star until they become 5-stars.
However, we intend for this article to be a practical guide. The game recognizes that talent spotter is the most beneficial trait in Retro Bowl, so coordinators bearing this trait are naturally expensive. Just to share, hiring coordinators costs from 18 to 30 CCs and in the 5 separate saves/careers we played, we have only encountered an 18 CC worth talent spotter once.
Also, you would need to hire more than one talent spotter to get your players up to 5-stars and the set of available coordinators takes 3 weeks to refresh; worse, there is no guarantee that the next set would have an option that bears this trait. Therefore, for function and benefits, talent spotter is the best trait. However, taking into account feasibility and practicality, we’re only rating it as the third.
#4 Experience: gives an instant level up to the players that will be under the coordinator (defense or offense). Works exactly like the talent spotter trait in terms of stacking, but is rather an unreliable and expensive way to push your players to level up; having a likeable coach is far more functional.
#5 Negotiator: toxic players cannot affect the morale of the rest of the team. Defense Coordinators can only contain defensive players and Offense Coordinators can only manage offensive players. Players with toxic disposition or naturally low morale cannot be “cured” by winning.
Meeting sessions will help a bit, but a toxic player will require a handful of those. If you deem that a toxic key player is too important in your lineup and cutting him will hurt your team’s chances at winning (for a season at least), hiring a negotiator would be your way to neutralize the situation.
#6 Fan Favourite: guarantees a +1% increase in fan base after every game and firing him/her will backfire on how fans esteem your team. When you lose, your fan base will decrease by 3 to 10% each time; having a fan favorite coordinator will mitigate some of that. A fan favorite coach is most optimal if you are not yet earning 3 CCs after every match. Hiring one is a good idea when you are starting a “bounce back” season to speed up your fan base’s growth and CC farming.
#7 Motivator: instantly boosts the morale of all the players that will be under the coordinator. Perhaps the coordinator trait that brings an instant bang-for-the-buck. The morale boost is equivalent to one morale-improvement meeting, which costs around 3-6 CCs (depending on how low the morale of a player is). Since hiring a motivator will affect multiple players, it is an economical choice. The boost, however, is just a one-time thing.
#8 Positive: the morale of players under the coordinator will not be affected by their tiredness (or lack of conditioning). Generally, a good trait because it negates the morale penalty of being in low condition. You won’t have to worry that your offense players will fumble and your defenders would only exert half the effort in stopping the other team if their condition is under 60%.
However, this is rather a band-aid solution and will not save your players from the risk of injury. Players with low condition are more prone to injuries and when you are deep into a season already, an untimely injury can be a serious blow to your chances of winning the Retro Bowl.
#9 Scout: gives you 3 additional scouting tips per draft. Plain and simple, a scout coordinator will let you explore more prospects for every draft. Normally, you’d check 2 to 3 aspirants for a particular position you want to fill and that’s usually enough.
This trait is not too functional (which is why it is at the bottom of the list) since you will rarely need to use more than the standard 10-14 scouting tips to draft 3 players. The only exemption is if you have traded or cut most of your key players prior to that season’s draft.
As you may have noticed, some traits offer good and immediate fixes while others provide constant and long-term benefits. Our recommendation when picking coordinators is to get the ones that will address your most urgent target(s), provided that you have the CC to hire them.
3. KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR KEY PLAYERS
Offense is the tone of the game in Retro Bowl and your role players bring the following value for your team:
Quarter Back (QB)—The leader of the team, his passes will dictate your team’s offensive tone with his audible commands. Your Quarterback is technically involved in every touchdown that you make and if your QB is injured you will definitely feel the effect because the reserve QB (non-key player) has a limited passing range and the aiming line takes an extra second to zero-in to a desired spot.
His ability to aim his passes quicker relies on the throwing accuracy stat and the arm strength defines the maximum range of passes. If you’d be blessed with a QB with a high speed stat (7 to 10), you can use him for rush plays in coverages or red zone attacks.
Wide Receiver (WR) – Wide Receivers act like wings positioned at both the top and bottom ends of the gridiron and, just like wings, they are capable to help your team soar up with touchdowns. They are your primary receivers because of their positioning and usual movement plans.
Speed is of utmost importance for wide receivers because it will define their ability to make any chasing defenders eat dust. Their speed also dictates how quick they can position themselves to receive a pass and sidestep away from chasers.Having a wide receiver with 8 to 10 speed will be crucial for your team as they have the ability to run all the way for a touchdown worrying little if defenders can catch up. A team may field two WRs at once
Tight End (TE) – Tight Ends are meant to rush toward the end zone preferring the centerfield and they act as the second-priority receivers when your WRs are well-guarded. They tie the loose ends (or technically close the gaps) of your offense and it is highly encouraged that you immediately draft/recruit one. Note that when you start with a new team, there is usually no TE in the roster.
Since Tight Ends are meant to muscle their way through defenders and must get to position swiftly, it is important for one to be a strong hybrid with above average stats in catching, strength, and speed.
Running Back (RB) – As the only teammate the Quarterback can directly give a quick and safe pass to, the Running Back can take advantage of defense formations with noticeable gaps for short coverages. In a kickoff, your RB is encircled in blue and you may tap him to prompt the QB to pass the ball.
The pass may take about 2 seconds to happen and as you wait for the ball to fly toward the RB, you can already swipe up and down to position himt in anticipation of the defensive line he must negotiate with.
Your Running Back will be the quickest non-outlier to break from the kickoff “wall,” which is why one should have high strength and speed stats to be formidable attacker.
Offensive Lineman (OL) – The Offensive Lineman shields the Quarterback from attackers essentially buying you more time to decide and aim for a pass. Without an OL, a QB would just usually have 3-4 seconds before defenders can rush in to sack him; with an OL, a QB may have as much as 5 seconds.
Most formation takes 4 seconds to mature, which is why having an Offensive Lineman is crucial when playing at higher difficulty levels where defense is more tight. A decent OL should have high or maxed blocking and strength stats.
Kicker (K) – The Kicker serves as your last-resort scoring option for when you run out of available plays or for the potential +1 point after every touchdown. We recommend getting a kicker with at least a range of 3 and accuracy of 5.
If you find yourself having to kick more often than we recommend, try to secure a kicker with a range of 8-10 and an accuracy of 5 so you will have a decent chance to land field goals from as far as 50 yards.
4. MANAGE YOUR TEAM’S MORALE
Morale is an important factor in Retro Bowl that discussing it deserves its own section. Just like in real life, your morale defines your drive to push for your objectives. In Retro Bowl, morale defines your team members’ effectiveness on their roles.
If an offensive player has just an “okay” morale, hehas a chance to fumble whenever he catches the ball or sustains a tackle attempt. Naturally, if the morale is lower than okay (bad or toxic), fumbles would happen more often.
There is no direct resource that says how defensive players are impacted by morale, but our best guess is that it affects their willingness to intercept passes and their tackling ability. You may have encountered a game where a player of yours got dived at and the defender’s tackle attempt just got shrugged off (the ball carrier simply kept on running)—it is very likely that.
As for coordinators, the less morale they have, the lesser XP your players will get from the training sessions in between matches. If your Offense Coordinator has low morale, your offensive players will not get as much XP; the same is true at the defensive end.
Their morale however is not as important as that of your players, so when you are faced with a dilemma moment between blaming a player or the coaching staff, pin it on the coordinator.
We consider morale as more impacting than condition because the recuperation rate of condition can be helped by lessening the training intensity. Moreover, benching a player for one full game will get the conditioning level to full for the game after that. Condition issues arising from injuries may sideline a player for up to 3 games, after which that player will be fully recovered. Meanwhile, not even a three-game winning streak can “cure” a player with bad/toxic morale.
The only fixed means to individually address morale is by arranging a meeting with a particular player that needs help. Depending on how low their morale is, the cost of arranging a meeting may span from 2-6 CCs. So yes, the only deliberate and controllable way to address morale issues is by spending Coach Credits. Outside of that, it will be the random moments that allow you to praise a particular team member or coach which may occur after matches (this may happen even on loses).
The idea in managing morale is to focus on the impact of the times where it can be increased and decreased. For example, you lose a game and there’s a dilemma scenario between blaming a player who performed poorly or pinning the blame on a coach.
Choosing the latter will save the player’s morale. Alternatively, there will also be dilemmas where you can man up for a player’s bad performance. It is generally best to take the blame even if you’re trying to save CCs, because it would require you more than 1 CC to nurse a low morale player back to good mental health.
Pinning it on a player can still be the “better” option if the player’s morale is exceptional or good and if his demeanor never had issues since you acquired him. A player who’s always been happy offers a layer of security that he will regain morale over time even without your conscious intervention.
In dilemma moments where players face scandals or practice-related blunders, the permanent opposite option is to ignore the fine. Ignoring to fine the player will negatively impact the entire team’s morale. The easier choice here is to just fine the offending player because the impact on morale will only be for that player. An exemption however is if your team’s morale is already high (80% and above).
As their careers progress and as seasons take shape, some players may eventually grow toxic. Having a toxic player in your lineup will eventually rot everyone’s morale. A player with toxic morale will be expensive to address because it will take time and multiple morale-boosting meetings which will eat up a lot of CCs. Having a Negotiator will save you from such trouble as hinted in the traits section earlier.
5. UNORTHODOX ADVICES
As we have already relayed in the above sections everything vital to the gameplay and other meaty matters around it, allow us to share additional tips that aren’t really game-breaking (or game-making), but may prove helpful in your overall Retro Bowl experience.
1) Pick Contrasting Uniforms
Since the game is practically 8-bit, there are no color gradients, everything is in solid color, and the difference in shades aren’t much. Add to that the fact that most teams have a neutral-colored uniform. Simply put, it can get confusing especially when the players start moving around. Your best measure against any visual confusion is to manually set the most contrasting uniforms available for your team and the other team.
After all, you wouldn’t want to give the other team a free possession just because you mistook an opposing Linebacker as your Wide Reciever, right?
2) Dedicate A Drive Direction
If you’re playing for a bit of realism, you can ignore this tip, but if you wish to fine tune your aiming for passing, it will be best to only set one attacking side (so you won’t have to reorient). When as quarter’s time expires, you switch sides and it can get a bit puzzling when you have a preferred play direction in mind and you suddenly found that you’re already aiming for the other end zone.
Our suggestion is to nominate the side you are more comfortable with. Just be mindful of accidentally tapping your Running Back when you are actually trying to aim a pass to your outliers.
3) Go Dynamic
Hardcore players may favor the extreme difficulty setting, but those elite guys are few and far between. We suggest selecting the dynamic mode because it balances out the element of challenge and fairness. In dynamic mode, the difficulty of matches scales up after each win and slightly tones down when you are on a losing streak. Still, 5-starred opponents will play as is, so you aren’t really “cheating” for easier matches in this way.
6. CAREER AND EXPECTATIONS
In the making of this guide, we have tried a lot of things “for science.” That includes running a lineup with only 2 defenders, taking on a season with 5 defenders, and competing with no key players. The results are as expected.
We won 2 championships with a pure-offense lineup, but we were met with bad RNG in the defense play simulations; we experienced double-touchdowns (at the game half-transitions) and even got scored on thrice with under 10 seconds left on the timer in separate matches.
The defense-heavy lineup awarded us with a lot of interceptions—the possessions from them, however, we cannot capitalize on because our offense tools are limited. We were fortunate to have won a Retro Bowl title once, but we’re forced to make adjustments in the succeeding seasons.
Meanwhile, in our bid to test out the viability of setting the training level to hard then benching our key players every two games for condition recovery, we struggled a lot; we were only able to win once. These experiences inspired to make other players aware of the realities in Retro Bowl.
As we have mentioned in the intro, Retro Bowl is game that has a life cycle that balances itself. This is most accurate when you play on dynamic difficulty. Still, even in other difficulty levels, staying as the champion can be tricky. The reason being the fact that players get old, eventually reaching the age of retirement and your dominant players will progressively request for higher salaries.
A 5-star player’s asking price can get up to 33 million for a 2- year contract. If you try to maintain all your key players that have reached 5-stars, the default 150m salary cap is not enough and pushing so would leave you with a shaky lineup that can only sustain 4 to 5 key players; the rest would be nameless reserves. You can increase your salary cap at 25-million increments by paying 100 CC—farming this amount would take multiple seasons if you’re on free-to-play.
The playing ability of multi-starred key players will not degrade even as they age, but their ability to recover from training after games decreases over time. Since you cannot handpick the training intensity level for players, trying to “go soft” for an older player will delay the xp gain of your younger guns.
These balance mechanisms make Retro Bowl a true sports game because it introduces players to the realities of a sport franchise’s life cycle. If you’re hardcore and you really wish to challenge yourself, try and aim for the grand slam.
In your quest to bag consecutive championships, feel free to revisit this guide to get you reminded of tips, tricks, and strategies that will help you become a successful head coach in Retro Bowl.
The game has been out for a few years now and if you have played it longer than us and you noticed that we have missed to share something vital, feel free to impart your wisdom through the comment section below.
Thanks for your time reading our Retro Bowl practical guide and we hope you enjoyed it as much as we took delight preparing it for you. We hope that you can bag multiple titles! Know that we are rooting for you. See you at the gridiron, brace for the next kickoff!