Rob’s Complete Guide to Retro Bowl: Introduction (2nd Important Update 4/20/21!)

New Star Games’ Retro Bowl is entirely too much fun.I say this as someone who is both inherently suspicious and inherently dismissive of phone games, and who plays them minimally. Long have I looked down upon the world of mobile games as a micro-transaction choked hellscape, a place where providing a legitimately fun experience is forever subservient to meting out just enough reward stimulus to keep players just engaged enough that they are compelled to give actual consideration to shelling out a dollar or two every now and again for some witheringly marginal benefit. Who needs any of that in their lives?

Retro Bowl avoids the worst excesses of the phone game genre, and provides a damn good football game, to boot. Yes, there are some micro-transactions, but you needn’t purchase any of them in order to succeed (with one exception, which I’ll talk about shortly). The control scheme collapses a lot of complicated football concepts into a small handful of intuitive motions. The ‘franchise’ aspects of the game ā€“ the roster management, franchise management, and year-to-year schedule differences ā€“ are simple enough to be fun, yet deep enough to remain interesting after several seasons of play.

As such, Retro Bowl has entirely consumed the rest of my football gaming habits. While I will always love Tecmo Super Bowl with all of my heart, I’ve also played it entirely too much over the years. While I had the good fortune of finding a used copy of the rightly revered NFL 2k5 a while back, and enjoyed my time with it, each and every aspect franchise management is so deep as to be inscrutable. The draft is so complex that it all but requires you to make your own, actual big board, and even if you do so, success is not guaranteed. Player development is essentially impossible, except at quarterback and the skill positions, and also requires playing the entirety of each and every preseason game. All free agents you sign, superstar and depth signing alike, are guaranteed to decline as soon as the digital ink on their contracts is dry. The on-field aspects of the game are fantastic, and miles ahead of any Madden I’ve ever played, but everything else is a reminder of how football is often no fun whatsoever.

Retro Bowl avoids these pitfalls, but that doesn’t mean success is guaranteed. When you’re first learning the game (and quite possibly, for a long time after that), your struggles will be frequent and seemingly insurmountable. It took me a long, long time to achieve consistent dominance on the field, but I’ve learned what it takes to win, and it was worth every crushing playoff loss and rage quit. Therefore, I have decided to share my accumulated Retro Bowl wisdom with the world in this series, which will serve as a guide to how to succeed Retro Bowl, and how to maintain that success. This introduction will establish the key assumptions I’ll be adopting for the duration of the series, and provide information on the series layout.

First and foremost, you must understand that I am assuming that you, the reader, are familiar with the rules of American football. As much as I believe it is possible for those with minimal interest in the sport to have a ton of fun playing Retro Bowl, I have a lot of stuff to talk about in this series and not a lot of time to write it, so I have to limit the scope of the series somehow. If you are not familiar with the rules of American football, this article provides a direct, concise summary of those rules, and this article provides an equally direct, concise summary of basic football strategy. If you’re interested in Retro Bowl but don’t know much about the actual sport of American football, I recommend reading both of those articles before going any further.

I am also assuming, albeit to a limited extent, that you have purchased the Unlimited Version of Retro Bowl. This assumption will be most pertinent to discussions of roster building, as the Unlimited Version lets you choose a maximum roster size of 10 or 12 star players, whereas the free version caps your roster at 10 star players. Normally, I would not make this kind of assumption, but since the Unlimited Version is only $0.99 plus tax, and since I recommend the game itself wholeheartedly, I’m willing to make an exception. And again, I am not making this assumption unilaterally, as I will be discussing how to stock both 10-player and 12-player rosters effectively.

That said, I am also assuming that you will not be making any micro-transactions other than purchasing the Unlimited Version. My goal in writing this guide is to give you a road map to building a successful team without purchasing additional credits. Micro-transactions are the worst, and I would never recommend making them, for any reason. Success in Retro Bowl does not require making any purchases at all, and I wouldn’t have given the game any of my time if it did. Also, please note that I have not received any compensation from New Star Games, or any other person or entity with a financial interest in Retro Bowl.

***Update 4/20/21: The original version of this article stated the Complete Guide to Retro Bowl would be in three parts, and was then updated on 4/14/21 to indicate the guide would be-re-divided into five parts. However, in order to accommodate my goals for this guide, and to prevent any single part of the guide from ballooning into a 10,000+ word monstrosity, I am further dividing this guide into six installments. I have also decided to remove the numbered part designations from each installment of the guide. Each installment will be subtitled with the installment’s main topic(s), for ease of navigation. All existing installments of the guide have been re-titled accordingly. The description of each installment, below, has also been updated. This article has been further edited for continuity and clarity.***

In the first installment, I’m going to discuss how to build your front office when you’re starting out with your first team. I’ll examine each aspect of front office infrastructure, as well as what to look for when making decisions about your coaching staff. I’ll break down of how to spend your credits, and how to prioritize your spending. This part of the guide will also cover some of the additional basics of Retro Bowl.

In the second installment, I’ll discuss roster basics and player evaluation. I’ll discuss each player position in depth, outline what positions are most important to a successful team, and describe what to look for in a prospect at each position.

For the third installment, I’ll springboard off of my breakdown of roster evaluation to look at drafting players and managing your roster. I’ll take a long, hard look at how to rebuild a team from scratch using the draft, and provide counsel for how to conduct your first two drafts. I’ll also cover how to navigate player trades, how to manage player morale, and how to successfully deal with post-game and pre-game events in this part of the guide.

The fourth installment will cover how to win on the football field. Most of this part will be given over to film study. I’ll provide screen shots of a variety of plays and route combinations, and break down what details to key in on when deciding where the play should go. I’ll take a look at specific routes and run paths, and the situations in which they are most likely to succeed (or fail). I’ll also discuss how to read defenses before the snap, and how to make good decisions based on defensive alignment. This installment will conclude with a look at other strategic considerations, such as when to use audibles, when (and how) to attempt 2-point and 4th down conversions, and how to manage the clock effectively.

In the fifth installment, I’ll discuss how to maintain a winning team. I’ll take a detailed look at salary cap management, centered around identifying the core of your team, which will enable you to make savvy decisions that will keep that core intact and your roster under the salary cap. I’ll also take a look at how to navigate the subtle shifts in draft strategy that occur once you’ve established a winning team, and what to look for when shopping for open-market free agents and coaching staff.

For the final installment, I’ll synthesize the information from every previous installment to talk about when and how to change teams.

I will update this post below to include direct links to each part in the series as it is posted. Until then, I will list each installment along with its scheduled release date. If the schedule changes, for any reason, I will update this section accordingly.

Links to Rob’s Complete Guide to Retro Bowl

The Front Office

Roster Basics and Player Evaluation

Drafting and Managing Players

Winning Football Games

Maintaining a Winning Team

Changing Teams

8 thoughts on “Rob’s Complete Guide to Retro Bowl: Introduction (2nd Important Update 4/20/21!)

  1. Hello Rob, i find this article very interesting. I just wanted to ask where you get your passion for retro bowl and what else you write about. Me and my friends are trying to make an official RB (retro bowl) league and we want to ask you if you think its a good idea.

    PS. I love your nfl articles


    1. Hi Billy! Glad you like the guide and the NFL columns! Always great to hear from people who dig the site!

      Anyway, I started playing Retro Bowl in July 2020, and I always like how it was easy to pick up and play like Tecmo Super Bowl, and also has the exact right amount of franchise management stuff. I don’t know if you’ve ever played NFL 2K5 but I was playing a bunch of it right before I started playing Retro Bowl, and while the game absolutely rules in terms of the actual on the field gameplay I always found the franchise management a real pain, so I think I was really taken with how RB handles it. After a few months I realized I was winning Retro Bowls pretty consistently, and seemed to have a few things figured out, so I started working on the guide.

      As the URL suggests, I write about an odd hodgepodge of topics. Up top of the site, you’ll see a topics menu, and that includes all of the main ones. That said, I have a seasonal rotation of sorts. In the fall, I do the NFL column each week, and the Great British Baking Show column which just finished up for the year. Once the NFL season is done, I’ll probably go back to writing about whatever other video games I’m playing, which these days is mostly assorted Western RPGs and strategy stuff.

      Yes, absolutely start a Retro Bowl league if you wish! Unfortunately, I haven’t done any league play so I have no advice to impart on how to get it going, or how it works. But yes, absolutely go for it!


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