The League
Each league is structured like the NFL. Most leagues have two conferences of three divisions each. The number of teams in a league is not fixed. It will usually be either 30, with the teams distributed the same as in the NFL, or 24, with four teams in each division (this makes it quicker to fill new leagues starting up, and allows a balanced schedule to be produced more easily).


Warm-Up Games
With this rulebook you should find a blank turnsheet to use for your first warm-up game. Warm-up games allow you to become accustomed to the game system and enable you to work out a basic strategy before entering a league and playing competitive games against other players. You play against one of three "standard teams", either the Portland Bills (balanced offence, strong defence), the Weymouth Wildcats (passing offence, wobbly defence) or the Dorchester Romans (strong running team). If you don't say which team you want to play against you'll be matched against Portland. Warm-up games are important because they don't involve team strengths. They use a "level" playing field for both teams.


Joining A League
As soon as you're ready to enter a league and face real competition you should complete the league application form and send it in. If you take a team in a new league setting up you will be sent an “initial selection list” from which to select your initial roster, along with the relevant sections of the rules if you don't have them already (they’re usually in a separate booklet because they're the same in all three versions of the game). You can still play warm-up games, but as soon as you've made your roster selection you will find it more interesting to play pre-season games instead.
Figure 1 : League Structure (NFLAB Shown Below)

American Football Conference (AFC)

National Football Conference (NFC)
Eastern Division Buffalo Bills Eastern Division Arizona Cardinals
Miami Dolphins Dallas Cowboys
New England Patriots Philadelphia Eagles
New York Jets Washington Redskins
Central Division Baltimore Ravens Central Division Chicago Bears
Cincinnati Bengals Detroit Lions
Pittsburgh Steelers Minnesota Vikings
Tennessee Titans Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Western Division Denver Broncos Western Division Atlanta Falcons
Kansas City Chiefs New Orleans Saints
Oakland Raiders San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks St Louis Rams
Only NFL teams play in the league. When NFL teams move between cities the teams in Gameplan may also move at the start of the next season.


Stand-By Positions
At most times there are some teams available in leagues already running. The quickest way to get started is to join as a stand-by or replacement, taking over from a coach who has dropped out. In this case you will normally receive either a draft sheet or a listing of your roster and a copy of the league roundup, plus the game and league reports from the last turn played. This is also the most realistic way to start, and may be the only way of getting hold of a popular team. Don't forget that taking over a team with a poor record will usually be to your advantage. Teams in Gameplan usually lose games through either poor strategy or bad luck. A new coach often changes both luck and strategy, and usually has the advantage of early draft picks.


The pre-season begins when the first team joins the league. Initial pre-season games are not scheduled, but are played against whichever team is next to send instructions. They differ from warm-up games in that team strengths count the same for pre-season games as for regular season games. When the league is full you will be told the "end of pre-season" deadline, which is the last date for the arrival of your initial roster selection and for pre-season games. Once this deadline is past the league roundup (listing the coaches and outline details of each roster) and schedule will be issued along
with a roundup of pre-season results. There is also one round of scheduled pre-season games before the start of the regular season schedule.


Regular Season
During the regular season each team plays each other team in its own division twice. In a 24 team league each team plays each of the remaining teams in the conference once, plus two teams from the other conference, making up a 16 week schedule. For the first season in a 24 team league there are no inter-conference games (the schedule is only 14 weeks so that teams with poor initial selections don't have to wait so long for the first draft).


Playoff Schedule
In each conference the winners of each division go forward into the playoffs, and the two teams that didn't win their divisions but had the best records during the regular season play in the wild card game (first round of the playoffs). The winners of the wild card game then play the division winner with the best regular season record (unless the teams are from the same division, in which case they play the next best) while the other two division winners make up the second "divisional game" (second round of the playoffs). The winners go forward to the championship game (third round of the playoffs), and the two conference champions play in the Superbowl (final round of the playoffs). In Gameplan all standings are calculated on the basis of the won-lost record, with tied games counting as half a win. Ties in the standings are broken by net points (i.e. best points difference).


Playoff Venues
For all playoff games the team with the best regular season record always have home-field advantage, except that a wild-card team always play on the road against a team which won its division, even if their record was superior.


Consolation Bowl
There is a second set of post season games, as the teams that didn't make it to the playoffs go into a playoff style competition of their own. This is the Consolation Bowl, and it exists so that everyone always has something to play for at the end of the season. It's your chance to show how you would have won the Superbowl if only you'd got your act together sooner. Games are scheduled so that the teams with the best records face the toughest schedule, and those with the worst records the easiest.


The Draft
At the end of each season you have the option of signing up again for the following season and participating in the college draft. This is carried out during the playoffs (to save time). The teams with the worst regular season records draft first and can obtain the strongest players. The rules for the draft are in a separate guide.