TC Tennis is a tennis simulation strategy boardgame. TC Tennis (TCT) simulates the statistical realism and deviation (via dice) rather than the twitch/dexterity elements of tennis. Designer Terry Coleman spent much time on tweaking the numbers to find the right ratios and probabilities. TCT comes with 24 champion tennis player stat cards that you can play, from modern players to players from the 1920s. Each player card has is ranked from AA to F on four different surfaces: Grass, Clay, Hard, and Indoor. The card backs have a short bio of each player. Lots of hard work went into gathering and organizing information on each athlete. Coleman is no stranger to sports games and sports data because he has worked on several sports videogames for Electronic Arts.
Each player gets a starting hand of Strategy cards equal to the Rating of the opponent's Player Card. You also have to decide to play on Grass, Clay, Hard, or Indoor court. Each athlete performs differently on different surfaces. A turn begins with a roll of two black and one blue d6 dice. If you roll a 1-4 on the blue die, then you can take one Action, a 6 means you Rally, and and roll of 5 allows a choice between an Action or a Rally. An Action can be playing a Tactic or End Set cards that have long-term strategic effects; playing, face-down, a Stroke card on your Holding Box; peeking at your opponent's Holding Box cards; drawing one Strategy card; or discarding and drawing up to two strategy cards.
The heart of the game lies in managing your hand of strategy cards, playing Offense and Defense cards in the Holding Box. The Holding Box, numbered one through seven, are representative of plays or techniques such as First Serve (1) and Backhand Volley (4), and their strength and effectiveness are listed each Player Card. Since all Player Cards have strengths and weakness, the hard choice is between working on defense or on offense. You can play Defense cards into weaker Holding Boxes for extra defense or play Offense cards to strong Holding Boxes to setup a high-scoring Rally.
If the blue die rolls a 5 or 6, the black dice show different Stroke possibilities. The values of two black dice, can be used by the player as singletons or as a sum. Thus, a roll of 2 and 5 can be used as a Second Serve (2), Forehand Volley (5), or Touch (7). Whatever number the player choose to use, the opponent must also use. Therefore a Forehand Volley (5) play must be matched Forehand Volley (5). When doubles are rolled on black dice, random event chits are drawn.
TCT uses randomness perfectly. Although dice are used to initiate and resolve events, and to trigger and score Strokes, it is clever card play, risk management, matching strengths against weakness, and some bluffing that determines the winner. Coleman tames the chaos of dice by using several luck-mitigating mechanics like picking two and playing one event chit, playing cards into Holding Boxes before they are triggered, dice reroll Challenges and more. Game designers and game design instructors should take a look at TCT as a superb example of how to use randomness lavishly yet have it under tight parameters.