I grew up playing Football Manager on PC and love the sport as a whole. There are not many board games that try to replicate this sport and when I came across this game a few months back I just had to try it. In The Football Game you will take the managers role of a club and take control of it throughout a season. The board have set you expectations and the club who exceeds these the most are crowned the winners.
The Beautiful Game
The Football Game blends dice rolling, action selection and hand management to give you all the excitement of the modern game. It’s played over six rounds and the rounds represent six weeks of a football season. The clever use of random dealt players and managers determine your squad strength, in-turn settings the board's expectations (victory condition).
The components of The Football Game really surprised me as they are all of exceptional quality. The cardboard wads of money, dice and even the box lid that looks like a stadium all fit the feel and theme of the game too. The art reminds me of those quirky cartoons you used to get in Sunday papers.
Players don’t have real names and use terms like ‘wonder kid’ and the like, again this fits the theme well and doesn’t detract from the feel of being a football manager.
As I said above, the victory conditions are to exceed expectations by the furthest amount and make your fans happy, not to win the league (although that would certainly do it).
To set up the game:
- Each player takes a club mat and token of the same colour. The token gets placed on the mid-table area of the main board.
- Shuffle the Event, Tactics, Manager, Injury and Footballer decks and place these face-down.
- Deal each player seven Footballer cards to form each squad.
- Total up the score on the cards to see what level of club you are running. I.E, a total of 17 squad points will give you a rating of class C.
- Deal each player two manager cards and let them choose one.
- Deal each player Tactics cards equal to their Manager’s Tactics Rating PLUS OR MINUS the modifier based on their Club’s Class. For example class c has no change but class b gets two more cards.
- Give money to each player as instructed on the manager card.
- Give each player a Chairman card which details the Victory conditions depending on your class.
- Lastly you create the transfer market by drawing five cards from the Players deck and place them face-up.
That’s it, the game is set-up and ready to be played.
In each round a player will take one turn and this is split in to two phases:
- Pre-match - Here you will organise your squad set tactics and more.
- Match Day - Here you will roll the dice to see if players score, play tactics cards and more.
In a typical round you will buy players, swap out injured players, change your tactics and then move on to match day. Here you will roll dice which are colour coded and if they match any player's colours you score. The game flows great and after one or two turns you will know everything there is to this game.
There is an events phase where players can get injured or events take place, which adds a bit of randomness to the game while still maintaining the feel of football. There is even a mid-season break where the transfer market will change, more budget is allocated and new tactic cards are given.
Overall the game does feel like a football game and there is everything included you would expect.
Post-Match Analysis on The Football Game
Over to the studio to hear the verdict of what was an exciting match. What did I think of The Football Game? First off you need to know I am a huge football fan and some of my criticisms may be done to this.
The Football Game looks brilliant and play is fun. The fact real team names are missing is most probably down to a license issue (like Pro Evo vs Fifa computer games), at first this was disappointing but in all honesty, it doesn’t affect the game at all. Players being named after ‘Traits’ was another minor issue that I soon got over and I think the way it’s done is better than fake names like ‘Rinaldo’ and ‘Bockhan’.
Gameplay was something that I immediately liked a lot. The first few times I played this I had so much fun. The way your own goals don’t actually reflect what others try to achieve is great and fits the theme. The way you can buy players is also fun and holding on to your money or buying early are both a viable strategy. After multiple plays though the randomness of the scoring being dictated by a dice was very disappointing.
It's fun and I get that scoring is sometimes lucky in games but here there is very little you can do to influence if you will score or not. That means the whole league comes down to who rolls the better dice. I would of liked to see some sort of point allocation on attributes to mitigate dice rolls.
Overall The Football Game is great. If you can deal with the luck factor then you will get many plays out of this game. The randomness of the teams and victory conditions mean every game will be different and there will always be something new to contend with. Player interaction is a bit less than I would like and I would of liked to of seen more elements like press conferences where you talk about the other teams and play mind games, or maybe even poaching players from other teams.
One final point I would like to make clear is you don’t have to love football, in fact you don’t even have to understand football it to enjoy this game, it’s a mechanically sound board game with a layer of football theme added on top.