Smackball fantasy league

What I think fantasy football is like

gaming tools

This month, I decided to design a game based on what I think fantasy football is. I don't actually know what fantasy football is. Apparently, according to Wikipedia, it's "a game in which participants assemble an imaginary team of real life football players and score points based on those players' actual statistical performance or their perceived contribution on the field of play." I still don't know what fantasy football is. So here's a game based on what I think it is.


Smackball is a fictional sport from the Stardrifter book series. In the books, it's a popular sport throughout the Alliance of Independent Nations (AIN), Corporatespace, and Noblespace. (Churchspace thinks the sport encourages gambling, so it doesn't show up all that much there.) Its exact origin is unknown (in the fictional universe, I mean, it's realworld origin is the author, David Collins-Rivera), but it seems to have developed during the expansion away from Earth out to the stars. Travellers on those early starliners and colony stations probably devised the game as a novel new way of leveraging the zero grav environments that were now common elements of their daily lives. Gambling and enthusiastic fandom grew around smackball pretty quickly.

It's a Creative Commons fictional universe, and I think it seems like a perfect fit for a fantasy league (ignoring the fact that I don't know what a fantasy league is or how it works).


Make a list of 10 players on your team.

Ideally, give your players thematic names, and then give the team itself a name. For example, Team Slasher might consist of Jason, Freddy, Pinhead, Leatherface, Joker, Hannibal, Mortarion, Sawtooth, Crank, and Toecutter.

There are 3 categories to track in the game: Wins, Income, and Trades. The game happens in rounds. In a round, you first Draft, then you Clash, and then you Resolve.

Here's an example game sheet:

A grid listing the three categories on the left, with column headings Draft, Clash, and Result

Your Team table, listing all Players in your Team, needs two column headings: MVP and Trade.

A grid listing players with two column headings: MVP and Trade


Roll 3d6 and assign one die result to one of the three categories (Wins, Income, Trades). This is your Draft roll.

The rounds table with 3 Wins, 4 Income, and 2 Trades.

Now it's time for your team to go out and play some Smackball!


In list order, roll 1d6 for each category (Wins, Income, Trades). These are your Clash rolls.

The rounds table with Clash values of 6 Wins, 3 Income, and 4 Trades.

Now it's time to Resolve your Draft and Clash rolls.


Draft > Clash

  • Clash - Draft = MVP penalty
  • Remove the resulting |absolute| number of MVP awards from players on your Team. An MVP award is either on or off, so stop removing MVP awards once all MVP awards are gone or if you have no MVP awards yet.

Draft ≤ Clash

  • Clash - Draft = MVP budget
  • Award MVP awards equal to your MVP budget to players with no current MVP award.


Draft > Clash

  • Draft - Clash = Income

Draft ≤ Clash

  • Clash + 0 = Income

Here's what you can do with Income:

  • Bank: Assign any number of Income to the Bank. You can't use Income once you've put it in the Bank, but you must have 20 points in the Bank to win.
  • Bonus: Use any number of Income points to negate that number of MVP penalties.


In the fast-paced world of pro ISA Smackball, coaches are always hunting for better players. The more tournaments you play, the more players are likely to receive offers from opposing coaches to leave your Team. If all players on your Team have Trade offers in hand, your Team will disband!

Draft > Clash

  • Clash + 0 = Trade offers

Draft ≤ Clash

  • Trade offers = 1

Distribute Trade offers to players on your Team, starting with MVPs. Each player can only have 1 Trade offer. Trade offers cannot be removed.

The rounds table showing 3 MVP points, 1 Income, and 1 Trade offer.

Win or lose

To win, you must have 20 Income points in the Bank, and all Players on your Team must have an active MVP award.

If all players have acquired 1 Trade offer, then your Team immediately disbands and and you lose the game.

Sports is boring

I'm not a fan of sport, so the concept of a fantasy league is very much just a curiosity for me. I don't think this little game captures the feel of managing a team of players, and I think that's because real fantasy leagues rely on statistics and the track record of each player. I did several passes of this game in which I tried to emulate player skill with dice rolls plus a cumulative modifier, and that rendered some interesting ideas but demanded way too much paperwork.

I do feel that the mechanics of this little game could work as one of those throwaway mobile apps. That way, it would have a fighting chance of feeling fun through hyperbolic player portraits and animations to suggest that a game had occured between rounds, and so on. I could probably even play around with giving weight to some variables to make things appear more connected than they actually are. For instance, what if a certain number of wins resulted in +1 Trade offers, assuming that coaches would want to poach players from winning teams?

The thing I like about these kinds of games, whether you play them on paper or a spreadsheet and electronic dice roller, or as a mobile app with wacky art and sound effects, is that it's a nice and quick distraction. You can take some time out of your day to play a round of Smackball Fantasy League, throw some numbers around, see how you go, and then get back to work. That's what games are good for.

Header photo by Amanda Jones on Unsplash.

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