Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The Beautiful Game(s)

In honor of the USA vs. Belgium later today (go USA!), I bring you a hybrid classic post. That's right, it's the merging of two posts into one sprawling mess of a single post!

Soccer was the first sport I ever felt semi-competent at as a kid... which probably has a lot to do with my enjoyment of the game, particularly played at World Cup level. It's the only sport I've ever "officially" coached. (Note: I coached Under 6 soccer, which is kind of like saying, "I herded cats while they played with a white ball & got distracted by their surroundings.")

I'm not a great soccer player - I don't have the stamina, the coordination or the willingness to practice to get better in those areas. I can handle the ball & can "see the field," which means I was (once upon a time) a passable midfielder. (And by "passable midfielder", I mean "I was slightly better than having no one playing the position... but only by a small amount".)

Soccer, by the way, is probably the easiest of the team sports to teach to young kids. While I enjoy watching the royal mess that is T-Ball, those kids have no idea what they're doing and/or why. But as long as you can sling up two goals, mark the edges of the field & get a decent ball on the ground, you can play soccer. (You may not play it well, but you can play.)

All of this is introduction to my "real" topic, soccer board games. There are a LOT of soccer board games available (Tony A over on BGG has an excellent Geeklist entitled Kick Off & Goal! that contains 50+ of them)... and I've only played 5-6 of them. That won't stop me, of course, from commenting on them.

Soccer Tactics

This is a dice-based game which is played in real time (stopwatch included) and has a nice fluidity to the game (once you get past the tik-takky stuff in the rules). It has a bad reputation due to [a] a ill-conceived design choice to put the scoring spinner in the middle of the board (which has been solved by the addition of a scoring die), and [b] by the less-than-congenial relationship that the company has had with BGG.

The game usually runs a little long... so it didn't hit the table often enough to justify hanging onto it and was traded away in the Great Game Purge of 2013. I'd still be happy to play it - but I no longer have a copy.

Finale

Finale was only published in German in the 2-player Kosmos line... and as far as I can tell, is very much out of print. It borrows the rotating card mechanic from the Settlers of Catan Card Game combined with a set of tactics cards to create a pretty nice simulation of coaching a soccer team. Fouls & injuries are a little too common, though.

The problem with the game is that it's a tad fiddly, what with all the marking & turning of player cards. I've got my copy up for trade, but I like it enough that it would take a really good offer for me to part with it. It even managed to survive the Purge - but i'm thinking that mostly due to lack of interest.

Streetsoccer

This is a backgammon-ish 5-on-5 soccer game that plays quickly (25 turns) is incredibly simple to learn. Don't let that fool you - the folks who are good at the game are REALLY good at the game.(You can play online.)

It doesn't so much simulate soccer (like Pursue the Pennant attempts to simulate baseball)... instead, it uses a simple dice-based mechanic to simulate the feel of a soccer game - and does so brilliantly. In fact, it's not only my favorite soccer game, it's one of my favorite games, period.

Like playing backgammon, winning at Streetsoccer is as much about the position you leave yourself in as well as pushing hard to score. 

Here's two other soccer games:
  • Subbuteo - A very cool flicking game that has a RABID following. Someday, I'll trade somebody for a couple of teams so I can play it when I want to...
  • Lego Soccer - I have 3 different sets thrown together, so I can make a pretty large field. Sadly, it's cooler in theory than it is in actual play... but, hey, it's Lego!

Sadly, I have never played The World Cup Game... something I aim to remedy this year. I'd also love to try W├╝rfel Kick (from one of my favorite designers, Wolfgang Riedesser.)

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