Foto-Electric Football

Foto-Electric Football

For those who wanted a taste of the strategic side of football, before they were old enough to actually manage a team of players on the field, came an ingenious way to learn the skills necessary to carry your very own clipboard someday as an offensive/defensive coordinator or head coach. Foto-Electric Football provided all the training you needed – *Bucket of Gatorade not included.

Before the introduction of Foto-Electric Football, budding coaches had to rely on 1936’s Scientific Football to learn the cerebral intricacies of the game. A company Cadaco came up with a less lofty approach in the 40s, having already cut their teeth on other football related strategy games such as Varsity and Touchdown. Foto-Electric Football was the culmination of their previous efforts, a game that introduced players to the brainier side of the game.

Using a set of see-through overlay cards, opposing players called a series of plays, 12 on offense and 6 on defense. To see if their play calling efforts were successful, the magic of electricity took over, as a small light bulb illuminated the results, assisted by the handy “Foto-Electric Football Chart” and a set of three dice.

Following standard rules of American football, the game allowed a total of 30 plays per quarter, rather than utilizing a clock. All the necessary information about downs, plays left in the quarter, and, of course, the score, were tracked by a set of plastic dials. To keep track of where you were on the field, a handy little football kept track of the progress.

Over the next few decades, numerous updated versions of Foto-Electric Football were introduced, notably the “Hall of Fame” versions but none could fend off the eventual replacement by hand-held electronic games such as the iconic Mattel Electronics Football that every young fan of the game carried with him through the late 70s. Shortly after that, the home video game craze would be the preferred method of learning essential football strategy from the comforts of home – and putting it to the test in ways that the old-time fans of Foto-Electric Football could have never imagined.

Have you played Foto-Electric Football? Do you still own the game? Share your experiences and memories with us in our comments section below, as we remember this popular game from decades past, here at Retroland.

23 Responses to “Foto-Electric Football”

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  1. Gordon says:

    I owned an original Foto-Electric Football game as a child. I have remembered it all these years. I am now 52 and owned mine in the 60’s. I just showed my 10 year old son pictures of it on the internet and he thought it was really neat and cool. Man, the simplicity of fun back then!

    • Nick Martin says:

      Hey Gordon,
      I am 44 but I remember those good old days of playing Foto-Electric Football with my dad, family members, or friends. This game was great for those rainy summer days and we could not go outside to play. Heck, one year, my dad I played every Monday night for our own version of Monday Night Football. Fortunately, I still have mine. In the box with every thing still intact. I don’t have any sons, but I played with an old friend a couple of months ago. I don’t know if today’s kids would have the attention span to play this game. I believe video games have spoiled them. Anyway, take care.

  2. jeff says:

    Same with me! I played it constantly with a really good friend. I am 57 and he and I still talk about our foto-electric games– the plays, the cards, the defenses. One of the best games ever invented!

    • Walt says:

      Jeff: I’m ready to play a game of Foto Electric Football on the 1965 Hall of Fame version of the game. I already have my first down play selected, on both defense and offense.

  3. Craig Collier says:

    I still have the original Foto Electric Football game by Cadco. My dad and I played this game for quite a few years. I have kept it in my closet and look at it occasionally. Brings back good memories. I imagine my father bought it back in the 1940’s.

    • Walt says:

      I started playing Foto-Electric Football at age 10 in 1957 with the 50s version. Played it constantly. Years later, I discovered that there was a 1965 version. Played it constantly with college pals. The ’65 version was great, very precise play outcomes. I still know some play results. Against the best defense in the game, (Short Pass Left) offensive play Off Tackle gained 7 yards, the Bomb gained 23. I charted out and largely memorized which defenses stopped which offensive plays. Pals and I would play cat and mouse, trying to outguess each other on every play. Fantastic fun, very absorbing. These games can still be found in very playable shape on ebay; the ’65 game generally goes for between $25 and $50 depending on condition. I would be playing this game today if I could find a willing opponent.

  4. Tim Mahoney says:

    Loved that game. Anyone want to sell theirs?

    • Bob Lancellotti says:

      Tim….I have a mint Cadaco 1965 Foto-Electric Hall of Fame Football Game that I can sell….you can send me an email at, and I can send you pictures, price and answer any questions that you might have…thanks, Bob

  5. Bob Shasteen says:

    I just picked up a 1965 version for $12 at a thrift store that has everything except the rules, anyone know where I could find them? Thanks in advance. If anyone knows email me at

    • Walt says:

      To kick off, just spin the spinner for kick, and that will tell you how far the kick traveled. Then spin for return, and that will tell you how many yards the kick returner got. Calculate where that is, and put the little red sliding football there, and adjust the red 10-yard slider. You need two players, but you can do this alone if you must. Player 1 selects one of the 12 green offensive plays and places it green-side-down on the viewer, which should be in closed position with the light turned on. A small round hole lets light show through. If the set of plays that came with your game is Series D, and it most likely is in a 1965 game, the little patch of green and white stripes at the bottom of the offensive play should be illuminated in that hole. Player 2 selects one of six defensive cards and places that defensive card printed-side-up on top of the offensive play. Player 2 must position the defensive play Left-Left, Left, Center, Right, or Right-Right. If Player 1 lined up the offensive play to the extreme right, Player 2 will not be able to align the defensive card at Right-Right. The green and white lines on the defensive card should correspond with the lines on the face-down offensive card — white on white, green on green. Slowly pull out the heavy cardboard card, thus letting the bright light illuminate the offensive player’s on-field action and progress. Watching the play unfold on the viewing screen was a big thrill before video games ruined the world. When the ball carrier runs into a green square, he has been tackled. In the 1965 game with Series D plays, the tackles should be pretty clear. A tackle by a red dot indicates a fumble, which requires the spinner to determine the outcome. A pass that hits a green square is knocked down, incomplete. A pass that hits a red dot is intercepted. If the star that indicates a completed pass is covered by a green square, the pass is also intercepted. For intercepted passes, go to the spinner to determine how far the intercepted pass was run back toward the opponent’s goal. Play football just like football is played. After every play, count the number of yards gained or lost and move the red sliding football accordingly. The offense gets four downs to gain 10 yards and earn a first down. If the offensive player doesn’t gain 10 yards in three downs, it’s time to punt, using the spinner to determine how many yards the punt traveled and how many yards the punt-returner got. Note, two good defenses are Draw Left and Short Pass Right. That may be Draw Right and Short Pass Left. (It’s been 40 years.) Experiment finding the most fruitful plays on offense and defense. Then play a war of wits trying to out-fox your opponent. Beware, don’t leave the viewing screen wide open after a play. Protect the screen by sliding the big piece of cardboard back and thus darkening the screen completely, otherwise you will scorch the screen permanently. And turn off the light completely during long pauses. Reply if you can.

      • Eisman says:

        I loved this game and wish I still had it. Am looking for one. Does anyone remember the time keeping aspect of the game? I can’t remember if a quarter was a certain number of plays or if there was a ‘clock’ where the amount of time that elapsed was dependent on play type and length. I am thinking the later as I seem to remember keeping pages with a long list of numbers but that was over 40 years ago.

  6. Mike Smith says:

    I’m 70 years of age and as a teenager I played this game all the time, I loved it. I would love to be able to buy one does anybody know how I could get one now?

  7. BJB says:

    I had a similar game in the 60s (could have been +10 years older) – perhaps a knock-off – that I remember as being quite basic: Perhaps a dozen translucent play sheets – red and black lines representing the running or passing play route – with notches to offset the run or pass by a column or two to evade the defenders. A single lightbulb in a simple box – none of the packaging, bright colors, crowds shown in the post here. Anyone got an ID on this game and where I can find details/mfg/etc? I will post back if I find it first. Thanks!

  8. Tedbry says:

    I am looking for a set of offensive cards for the hall of fame game. Or perhaps copies that I could use to make a set. My game is missing about half the offensive plays.

  9. Thomas says:

    I am looking for one, so if anyone knows of one for sale please give me a reply at

  10. gary says:

    Hi guys,
    I read your comments and just turned 10 years old again…. Im not ashamed to admit the thrill and excitement playing this game. YOU were the owner, player, coach, ref and fan. No smack; no millionaire bruised egos; no “dont hit the quarterback” rules….just football..AND YOUR IMAGINATION!

    Oh, there seems to be some games out there; but, I guess our time is gone… but our memories are forever!

  11. Gary says:

    I played Foto Electric football in the early 60’s as a teenager. When I was in Vietnam in 1967-1968 many of the guys played cards. But, I hated cards. So I ordered a Foto=Electric football game from Chicago, paid the shipping and got it through the mail at my APO SF Zip Code 96308. What a wonderful game to play against your Army friends from different states to help keep our minds off the situation in South Vietnam. I kept records and ended up 41-8-1 for 50 games. No overtime in college football until 1996. I was SMU and we were good. Thank you, Cadeco. I am 70 years young!

  12. Charlie Harrell says:

    I have one of these games (for over 50 years now) , but I don’t see one exactly like mine on any of the game sites.
    My set was manufactured in 1961 (printed on the game).

    The cover is different. The pass receiver (Number 5) is clad in a spiffy, red-and-white uniform. He’s in front of a stadium clock, and no other figures are on the top lid. There is a very mean-looking Number 9 player on each of the lid’s side panels

    Anybody know why mine would be not-the-same as everybody else’s Foto Electric Football game?

  13. Gary Seskes says:

    WOW! What great memories. My cousin Jim & I would play this game for hours and hours and hours. We even created a league of teams and players and kept stats for all the games, by pencil and paper of course. The great thing about this game is you had to use your brain to enact your strategies. It also taught me quite a bit about offensive and defensive formations which was a tremendous benefit when I began organized football. I wish I had one of these today.

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