Above: Columbus Checkers host the Dayton Gems. Markers on the right are for momentum (red), possession (black), and submission (blue). They start in the neutral position and slide up or down to either team as dictated by game events. Gray spaces are penalty boxes.

Each game of Hockey Blast is typically made up of 30 to 50 game-turns (depending on how many lull minutes are generated), with a line change occuring on almost every turn. A line change involves handling every stack of player cards in each of the ten positions, moving the top player in each stack to the bottom.

This amount of card handling is seen as a downside to the game, so a larger game board is included with the boxed game to allow all the player cards in play to be spread out, and the current line on the ice marked with a token. This eliminates card handling but creates a cluttered appearance where the majority of cards in view are inactive at any given moment.

I prefer the "stacks" method, where only the current lines on the ice are in view. But I'm also not keen on that much card handling. It slows down play, and wears out the cards.

My solution is to play on vassal. I created a module consisting of just the playing board, marker discs, and dice roller. The board is just a simple grid for displaying the player cards in an efficient layout; there is no ice-rink background or hockey player clipart, sorry.

The players cards are not included in the module. They are incorporated as vassal extensions: one extension per hockey season.

hockey-blast-rdm.vmod Hockey Blast module
hb-1966-ihl.vmdx 1966-67 International League extension

Once you've got your five stacks of players for each team in their board positions, line changes are accomplished by box-selecting all ten stacks and pressing the right-arrow key.

The colored discs of the boxed game are available in the module as game-piece images in the Markers palette. Markers that are placed on the board occupy the top-most game-piece layer, so line changes can occur without effecting the positioning of the marker discs.

You will still use a paper and pencil scoresheet, and the spiral-bound game book. Everything else takes place in the module.

The module includes only the 1966-67 International League (carded by Ed Meek) that is a free download from plaay.com website. This league includes the Columbus Checkers, which was my hometown team when I was a teenager. The Checkers did not win the majority of their games, but I remember them as Ed describes them in his intro to the card set: hard hitters with lots of penalties!

Hockey Blast is built with a game system that Keith Avallone calls the "blast engine" - used also in Soccer Blast and Lacrosse Blast (now retired from the plaay lineup). So you don't need to buy all three to get the blast experience.

Real-life hockey, lacrosse, and soccer all have the same basic structure: two teams on a wide rectangular surface trying to advance an object into a narrow goal space.

Basketball is similar (absent the goal-tenders) so it is will be interesting to see what Keith comes up with for his "hoops" design. A pro basketball game has about 100 shot attempts: current NBA averages are 89 field goal attempts and 22 foul shots. Because of this high number of shots and the repetitive nature of play, it appears that a new game engine will be designed with the goal of completing a tabletop game in about 40 minutes.