Wild Card Fantasy Football is a simplified, yet satisfying spin on fantasy sports

Football season is upon us once again, and we all know what that means: it’s time to start up the league. Not the National Football League, mind you, but the Ted’s Garage and Eatery 2011 League. That’s right, folks – we’re talking fantasy football. For some people, it’s a much beloved past time. For the rest of us, it’s a terribly intimidating concept that we steer clear of, for fear of feeling completely lost and utterly confused. But fear not! Publisher 6 waves has released Wild Card Fantasy Football on Facebook – a new game that simplifies the experience so much that even folks who don’t know football can enjoy.

Wild Card Fantasy Football takes the basic idea of a fantasy league – creating your own team of players made up of real players from different teams in the NFL – and turns it into an ultra-simple collectible card game (or CCG). Rather than getting involved in a complicated player draft, you’ll simply open packs of cards that will feature different players on them, and you can choose which of these players you want to start on your offensive and defensive lines each week.

Wild Card Fantasy Football

The cards themselves are clean and try to showcase some basic info to help those not familiar with individual players to make the best choices. In addition to obvious things like a player’s name, team, and position, each card gives a rating and a rank. The rating is a five star score you can glimpse at the top of each card, and the rank is where they sit in terms of effectiveness as either a defensive or offensive player. So if you’re not sure if you want to start Derek Anderson or Matt Cassel as your quarterback, you can see that Cassel sits at an offensive rank of 36 while Anderson sits at a rank of 93.

Of course, if sorting through you cards and picking each and every position isn’t your thing, you can always click “Set Best Lineup!” to pick the top ranked players automatically. It’s something of a cheat, but even if you’re into picking your own players individually, this can give you a great starting block to work from before tweaking.

In addition to player cards, much of the Wild Card experience revolves around power cards. This is where the casual-friendly train starts to fall off the tracks a little. You can attach a power card to any player, and these will give point modifiers for this week’s games, such as “x2 Rushing Touchdowns” or “+2 Sacks.” Simple enough in theory, but if you don’t know the game of football too well, you may not realize which power cards apply to which positions. You could attach a “x3 Field Goals” to a defensive linemen, rendering it completely unattainable. I love how the “Best Lineup” feature works for players, and can’t begin to imagine why a “Best Power Cards” option wasn’t also added into the mix.

The freemium elements here are surprisingly gentle. You’re given the opportunity to purchase new packs of cards at reasonable prices, but at the same time, the game is more than happy to give you new packs at regular intervals. You’ll get to pick one as a daily reward each day you log in, and you’ll also get to participate in a game of pick’em, where each correctly picked game could give you a booster pack featuring cards of players from that winning team (though there’s a limit in place). Play your cards right, and you could be walking away with upwards of 10 free packs a week. Should you want to buy some packs instead, there are even some neat limited time packs available in the store.

Wild Card Fantasy Football

With the simplicity also comes a painful lack of information. For example, while I can see how everyone in the league is doing in terms of points, I can’t see what players they used to get there. Likewise, while I can gift a card to another player, without being able to see their rosters it’s pretty much impossible to use this gifting feature to make an amicable trade. In fact, a lack of social interactions like this really end up being Wild Card Fantasy Football‘s Achilles Heel.

Not only is the game lacking in a trading aspect, but there’s really no head-to-head league play to speak of. My team doesn’t go up against your team in a virtual season – instead this is a game that’s just about the points. It’s hard to see the leagues as anything more than a high score leader board due to the total lack of significant player interaction. As a result, the fantasy football experience in Wild Card feels more like a solo game than a real virtual league.

Finally though, we found a hiccup in the game that might have been an isolated incident, but could easily turn players off if it were to creep up with any regularity. On Saturday, we had a Matt Cassel card that said he was injured. As it turns out, that was bogus – he came out to play on Sunday and had a dismal performance against the Buffalo Bills. Worse yet though, on Monday our Matt Cassel card was gone. Vanished, like the Lindbergh baby. There was no rhyme or reason to it – the card simply disappeared, and was seemingly replaced by a card for the rather mediocre David Carr.

There’s a lot to like in Wild Card Fantasy Football. It’s wonderfully accessible, doesn’t intimidate, and offers a great CCG-based spin on the whole formula. The trade off, though, is that it’s also a game with limited social interaction – something that the fantasy football experience thrives on. This lack of a true competitive spirit robs Wild Card of a place in my starting line up, and the strange card-related hiccup is definitely a 15 yard penalty, but thanks to the rest of the fun and friendly elements, it’s still a player I’ll want to keep on my team.