Introducing Soccer Tactics World
The 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup is nearing its closing stages in Germany, and either Japan or the USA will lift the trophy in the final - who do you think will win? Given the excitement of this international tournament, now is the perfect time to take a look at a fun board game about the beautiful game: Soccer. Or Football. No matter what you call it, it's still a beautiful game. And so is this: Soccer Tactics World. A first edition appeared around the time of the 2006 World Cup in Germany with the title "Fussball Taktik 2006" (Football Tactics 2006), and was subsequently released in English as "Soccer Tactics World" (2007), and more recently again in a new and improved international edition. The big appeal of this game is that it simulates the feel of a game of soccer. Sure, there's a lot of dice-rolling and luck, but it really does have the ebb and flow of an actual soccer game. You move your 11 players around the field, you pass, kick and capture the ball, and you shoot for goal. As such, this is a game with a huge appeal for soccer fans. If you're a fan of games but can't stand soccer, this is probably not a game for you. But if you're a fan of soccer, you're almost certain to love this game - whether you're a gamer or not! So let's kick off this review and find out more!
The game box is square and solid, and the multitude of flags helps generate the flavour of a game that has a truly international appeal. For the record, this game has already sold nearly 20,000 copies to soccer fans around the world, which is proof of its popularity and success!
The back of the box offers a short synopsis about the game that's worth repeating here, as a useful introduction to the game:
"Soccer Tactics WORLD combines the strategy of soccer with the heart of the game. Eleven players per team on a traditional full-length field. This game includes dribbling, passing and capturing the ball; and intense battles for ball control. But watch out - yellow and red cards can be handed out. There are short and long passes, and offensive and defensive strategies. Free Kicks, Goal Kicks, Corner Kicks and Penalty Kicks. And don't be caught Off-Side! Play a full 90 minutes (or set your own time). This game plays like the real thing. Soccer Tactics World is Pure Soccer Emotion."
Now that may sound like pure marketing spiel. But actually it's pretty much on the money, and for something that is actually a game and not a simulation or dexterity product, it does do a pretty good job of capturing the feel of real soccer! The box back also showcases a picture of the game in play - and yes it really does look like a game of soccer doesn't it?!
Back of the game box
Note that the newest edition of the game features budding soccer star Gianni Patino on the cover. It's essentially the same as the game featured in this review, with a few small changes (e.g. to the artwork on the board) that are mostly cosmetic.
The current international edition
The complete list of components is as follows:
● 1 game board and 2 score dials
● 1 soccer disc
● 2 teams of 11 pawns each (red and blue)
● 2 player dice and 1 shooting die
● 1 game timer
● 5 red cards and 10 yellow cards
● 2 spinners
● 1 trophy
● 1 rulebook and 1 quickstart rules
Everything that comes inside the box
The game board folds into quarters, and is a well constructed and very solid-feeling product, designed to look just like a soccer pitch. Lines are marked just as they are in a real field, and the board is also marked with rectangular spaces on which players will be placed, and along which they and the ball will move. The artwork features flags around the soccer pitch, again helping promote an international feel to the game. Along both sides of the board are spaces for yellow and red cards to be placed, in the event they are acquired by particular players of both teams.
The soccer field
On each side of the board are two score dials, one for each player to help keep track of the score for each team. These are cardboard discs that are rotated to show the current score.
In the center of the board a metal spinner is placed, which will only used when shooting for goal. An extra metal spinner is included as a spare. It's somewhat awkward to insert, and fortunately there's also a special shooting die that's included as well, which you can use instead of the spinner (do note that the odds of scoring are the same for both spinner and die, but the odds of getting a corner kick or goal kick are slightly different - see this thread for further discussion on this).
Shooting spinner and die
What's a soccer game without a ball? In this game you'll use a thick wooden disc appropriately decorated for this purpose - this is the ball you'll kick around the field.
The game `ball'
And of course to get that ball moving around the field, we need some players to kick it! The game comes with two teams of 11 players each, in red and blue.
Both teams of 11 players
Each team consists of three different types of players, which are visually distinguished from one another:
Keeper - appropriately numbered #1, he's the biggest and largest guy on the team.
Defenders - these are non-descript looking pawns that may not be placed in your opponent's half, but will give you a bonus when battling for the ball to increase their likelihood of winning a tackle.
Strikers and midfielders - these are the guys you'll be sending upfield and passing the ball to in an effort to score goals.
The different types of players
Each player gets a die that they'll use to determine how far they move the ball or move a player. As mentioned already, there's also a shooting die that you can use instead of the centre spinner.
Red & yellow cards
What happens if your players tackle too fiercely? Oh yes it can happen, even in this game, when battling for the ball! That's where the 5 red cards and 10 yellow cards come in - these are made of chunky colourful cardboard.
As much as we'd like to, we can't spend all day playing soccer. Included with the game is a digital timer for keeping track of the time. You set the clock at however long you want each half to take - 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 45 minutes, or anything you like really - and the timer will sound at the end of the half.
The game timer
This is pure chrome: a beautiful little trophy that will be awarded to the winner of the game!
The 28 page rulebook included with my copy of the game is bilingual, but the English instructions consist of only about 10 pages, so it's quite manageable.
The rules include ample illustrations and examples that make learning the game so much easier. There are a few fiddly rules for specific situations (e.g. off-side, corner kicks, free kicks), but these rules are quite easy to learn because they reflect the details of the same rules in a real game of soccer. The basic rules themselves are quite easy to learn and follow.
Sample pages with illustrations inside the rulebook
In addition to the main rulebook, there's also a "Short Rules", which reduces the core rules to a single page (for five different languages).
Short Rules on a single sheet
You can download all the rules from the publisher's webpage here.
Set-up and Kick-Off
Each player sets up their players on the rows and columns as follows, with the goal keeper on row 1 in the goal area, four defenders on row 4, four midfielders on row 6, and two strikers on row 8. The starting positions are fixed, except for the strikers.
Start of a game
Players decide on the length of the game and set the timer accordingly for each half, and then roll the dice to see who kicks off the first half. Let's blow the whistle and start the game!
Kick-off for a 45 minute half
At kick-off, the starting team rolls the die to kick the ball and moves it that many spaces, and then rolls the die again to move a player (other than the one who kicked-off) in an attempt to capture the ball. Now we're underway, so let's look at how the basics of gameplay work!
Let's first explain the basics of how the players and the ball move.
To move a pawn, you roll a die, and then move straight and/or diagonally exactly that number, changing direction once at most. Pawns can move through their own team-mates, but not through pawns of the other team, and defensive pawns can't move past the center line. The example on the right shows possible options for moving a pawn when rolling a four.
Moving the ball
The ball moves in the same way as pawns, i.e. by rolling a die and then moving the ball exactly that number, but with two small differences: 1. The ball can move through/over all pawns, not just your own team's; 2. The ball can't move back through a row or column it has already passed (this rule is thematic, to keep the ball from travelling along strange and unnatural angles!). The example on the right shows possible options for moving the ball when rolling a four.
Flow of Play
So how does this work in a game situation?
Each time you gain possession, your team begins an "Offensive Set", which consists of the following:
● Move a player: First roll the die and move one of your pawns (not the one with the ball) that amount
● Move the ball: Roll a die and move the ball that amount.
So what happens after the ball moves? One of two possibilities:
a) If the ball goes directly to a team-mate - it's considered a direct pass and you can roll the die and move the ball again in the same way (although this will end your turn even if it's a second consecutive direct pass, and now your opponent gets a chance to roll and move a player to the space with the ball, to battle for the ball).
b) If the ball does not go directly to a team-mate but to an empty space on the field - then you and then your opponent both roll a die and try to move a pawn to the space with the ball in an attempt to capture the ball.
Battling for the ball
If the defensive player manages to get a pawn to the space occupied by the offensive team with the ball (usually after a second direct pass, or after the offensive player has captured the ball on a free space), then both players battle for the ball by each rolling a die, with the high roller (re-roll on ties) getting possession and starting a new offensive set. Remember that the "defender pawns" get +1 added to their die roll, so they are great for battling for the ball! If one team rolls a 6 and the other rolls a 1 when battling for the ball, the team that rolled a 1 has committed a foul, and gets a yellow card beside the number of the pawn that committed the foul - if the same pawn commits a second foul, it gets a red card and is sent off the field!
Blue #11 wins the battle and captures the ball, while Red #9 gets a yellow card!
Sample flow of play
To help give a sense of the feel and flow of the game, here's how a particular series of plays might look:
● Red rolls a 3 and kicks off by moving the ball 3 spaces.
● Red rolls a 4 and moves a different pawn 4 spaces to the space with the ball to capture the ball.
● Blue rolls a 2 and moves a pawn to the square with the ball.
● Blue and red battle for the ball, red rolls a 3 and blue rolls a 5 to win and gains possession to begin a new offensive set.
Blue's offensive set
● Blue rolls a 6 and moves a pawn 6 spaces.
● Blue rolls a 2 and moves the ball to a pawn with a direct pass.
● Blue rolls a 4 and moves the ball to another pawn with a second direct pass.
● Red rolls a 3 and moves a pawn to the square with the ball
● Blue and red battle for the ball, red rolls a 1 and blue rolls a 4 to win and retain possession for a new offensive set.
Blue's offensive set
● Blue rolls a 5 and moves a pawn 5 spaces.
● Blue rolls a 2 and moves the ball with a direct pass to a pawn who is alone on a star square just outside the penalty box.
● Blue shoots for goal using the spinner (or shooting die) and scores a goal!
Don't be fooled by all the dice-rolling - although the battling for the ball does come down to luck, where you position your players and where you send the ball is all important!
So how do you actually score a goal? The game continues in the manner described above, until one team manages to get the ball into scoring position - which happens when you make a direct pass to a pawn in the Penalty Area or to a pawn on the white star just outside the penalty area. At this point the defending team does not get the chance to move to this space as normal in an effort to battle the ball, but you immediately spin the spinner (or roll the scoring die), and have a 50% chance of scoring - the other possible results are a corner kick or goal kick (each of which has their own special rules). The other way of getting a scoring attempt is if you capture the ball in the Penalty Area by successfully moving a pawn to the ball when it is on a free space, and if the defending team isn't able to successfully battle the ball from you immediately afterwards.
Red #10 scores with a long-range effort
There are a few other small rules about dribbling, use of the goal keeper, goal kicks, corner kicks, penalty kicks, free kicks, and off side, but most of these are fairly intuitive, and reflect the flavour of the same rules in real soccer, so they're not hard to learn.
When the timer goes off, the first half is completed and the second half commences with the second team taking the kick-off; at the end of the second half the team with the most goals is the winner. It's possible to agree to playing extra time in the event of a draw, and a penalty shoot out in the event that the game is still undecided.
Beginning a second half
A few minor optional rule variations are included in the rulebook as well.
The good news is that there are some excellent visual tutorials to help you learn the game. There's a quickstart tutorial series of 13 photos showing set-up, kick-off, and examples of gameplay in a PDF file that can be downloaded here.
Example of an offensive play (direct pass) from the Quick Start tutorial
Additionally, there's an excellent How-To-Play tutorial video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eO8T5iYO_q4
It's professionally produced and I highly recommend checking it out if you're learning the game or want to get a sense of how it flows.
Both tutorials are highly recommended as an excellent way to help learn the game easily and painlessly.
If you really find yourself loving the game, you can even purchase Soccer Tactics World: Xtra Teams from the publisher's website. One expansion pack offers black and orange teams, while the other offers green and yellow teams.
Both come with custom dice in each team's colour, as well as with an extra soccer ball. Being able to play with the colours of your favourite league team or international team only helps make Soccer Tactics more exciting!
Contents of the Green and Yellow Xtra Team pack
What do I think?
● It's very well themed. The mechanics are married very nicely with the theme, and this makes the rules very intuitive to learn. Basically the rules are the same as in soccer, with adjustments made in order to limit ball and player movement with the help of dice. In that regard, the end result certainly has the feel and flow of a regular game of soccer, and it's the closest that a game could come to a real game of soccer without being a dexterity game like the finger flicking Subbuteo!
● It's easy to learn. With the help of the visual tutorial and the tutorial video that has been created for the game, you can learn the rules in no time. This makes it very accessible for children, and also for those who don't have much experience with games. The fact that the core rules mirror the core rules of soccer also helps with the learning curve.
● It's competitive, addictive, and fun. My boys are avid soccer fans, and for the next week after we got this game, I found them playing it over and over first thing when they got up every morning! And often when a game was finished, they couldn't but help themselves in extending the clock, in order to prolong the game and the excitement. That to me says that this game is a real success.
● It's great for soccer fans. This game isn't going to win over people who don't like soccer to begin with. But if you're first and foremost a soccer fan, and enjoy watching or playing a good game of soccer, this game is going to suck you in for the same reasons that the real game does! If you're a gamer first and foremost, you might want to look elsewhere. But if you love the game of soccer, you're going to find a lot to enjoy in this box, regardless of whether you're a gamer or a non-gamer!
● It's great for non-gamers. You don't have to be a gamer to enjoy Soccer Tactics. If it's soccer that you love, then you'll like the game, and that makes it ideal for non-gamers as well, particularly because the core rules are quite easy to learn and grasp. In that respect it probably offers more of a level playing field for new players than StreetSoccer, where good players often have an 80% win record.
● It's got a flexible game length. You decide how long you want to play. If you only have 20 minutes, play 10 minute halves - if you want a long game, play 45 minute halves.
● It's dice-driven yet decision-driven. Yes there is a lot of dice rolling, so there's a heavy dose of luck. And it can be quite hard to get yourself into a scoring position. But yet you don't have the feeling that the game is simply a luck fest decided by randomness - because you're the one deciding which player to move and to where, and where to move the ball. The positional aspects of the game are key, and over time you'll learn ways to arrange your team on the field in order to set yourself up for creating chances and putting yourself into a scoring position - just like in real life!
● It's ripe for house rules. The beauty of the game lies in its simplicity and how the rules mirror the ones in real soccer, but there are some nice possibilities to work with in adding extra chrome. So there's lots of scope for introducing house rules that change the game in new and interesting ways, and you'll find lots of them in the files on BGG, e.g. rules for a super-star player, and alternate rules for shooting at goal that introduce more decision making and reduce the luck. Some of these house rules are outstanding, and will be very welcome for people looking to add even more theme to the game, and reduce the luck further. I particularly like the idea of a goal chart instead of the spinner or shooting die for scoring attempts, which puts the decision making in the hands of the players, and gives the defensive team the chance of making a save by outguessing the striker. Perhaps a future edition will see some of these rules introduced as optional variants for players looking for even more thematic chrome and control.
● It feels like soccer and looks like soccer. The components are also good. Although I'd liked to have seen the defenders have more character than generic pawns, overall the wooden pawns used to represent the players on the field are good quality and look great, particularly the offensive pawns, and together with a well designed game board they help create a visual effect that looks just like soccer.
So are there any draw-backs? Sometimes there are various possibilities for movement with a particular die roll, and it's just a matter of trying to figure out the right one. Fortunately the rules suggest a time limit of 60 seconds a move to avoid analysis paralysis to freeze the game. And once you get the hang of the game, you'll find yourself moving quickly, and the game will flow smoothly and speedily.
Offensive players from the Orange Xtra Team
What do others think?
Of those who have given Soccer Tactics low ratings, the biggest criticism has to do with the luck factor resulting from the dice rolling and the use of the spinner, and some even prefer the game-play of StreetSoccer for this reason alone. For some comparisons between these two games, see this thread. It's true that Soccer Tactics certainly has a lot of dice rolling, but when it comes to deciding which pawns to move, where to move them, and where to move the ball - that's decided by the players, and the positional aspect of the game gives room for strategy and decision making that are just as important as the randomness. While Soccer Tactics might be more roll-and-move than Street Soccer, it can arguably also be considered more thematic than the latter, and it's certainly a far cry from Candyland! While both games have their merits, Street Soccer might be a better choice for hard-core gamers who are more enamored with abstract gameplay than theme, while Soccer Tactics will likely be a better choice for soccer fans and families who are just looking for the feel and fun of soccer. The first edition also seems to have been on the receiving end of some negativity as a result of some concerns expressed about component quality and ambiguity in the rules, but these are very subjective, and all seem to be resolved with the current editions of the game. Soccer Tactics also copped some initial low ratings on BGG due to an early controversy about what content could be posted for the game, but this policy is in the past and is no longer an issue. In my estimation these low ratings can be safely ignored when trying to come to an objective assessment of the gameplay, particularly since the game has proven consistently popular in wider circles, especially in the soccer community. So if you are going to dislike the game, it's either going to be because you want more control than the game offers, or because you just dislike soccer.
There's also more than enough people who really enjoy the game, as is evident from comments like these:
"A very fun and fast paced 2 player game that captures the feel of a real soccer game." - Greg Frank
"SCORE!!!!! Finally a great soccer game! " - Matt Spence
"It is hard to make a great sports sim, and this is a good effort." - Jenni
"Awesome. Simple mechanics yet significant strategy." - Chris Jachimowicz
"Actually manages to create the feel of a real soccer match. Too shallow to be called a real simulation but good enough to be one of the best soccer games." - Richard Rutten
"This is actually a really fun soccer game!" - Mike Holyoak
"This is a fast, fun, and exciting game. Sure, there's a good amount of luck involved, but there are also plenty of tactical decisions to be made. Components are top notch, and everything (including the flow of the game) does indeed remind me of soccer." - Franco
"This is fundamentally a really great game (far superior to Street Soccer)." - Gregory Smith
"I enjoy the tension present in the game. A fun soccer simulation." - Brian Walker
"It is a very fun, fast paced simulation of soccer." - Chris Carleton
"It's a great game, similar to Streetsoccer but better." - Arz Man
"A completely fun and accurate simulation of a soccer match. Being a high school soccer coach, it represents a good number of possibilities (something to take on overnight road trips, to break out at team parties, etc.) My assistant coach and I truly enjoyed it!" - Sam Healey
"This is definately a fun soccer game and remains a favorite of my son." - Brian Sinclair
"Nice flow to this game, chance to try-out real football tactics and ripe for adding house-rules." - Mike Mitchell
"Nice representation of an 11 aside football game without it getting bogged down. Game flows really well." - Mark Lockett
So is Soccer Tactics World a game for you? I'd suggest that if you're a fan of soccer, then it's going to be hard not to like this! As long as you don't mind some dice rolling, and are looking for a game that is fun and thematic, Soccer Tactics does a great job of filling a niche in gaming that most sports fans can't get enough of! The only thing closer to the feel of soccer would be a dexterity game, or the beautiful game itself - on a real field. Without the real thing, this is the next best option, and it's still a beautiful game. Highly recommended for soccer fans!
And who do you think will win the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup anyway - USA or Japan?
The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
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- Last edited Fri Jul 15, 2011 3:14 pm (Total Number of Edits: 10)
- Posted Thu Jul 14, 2011 2:03 pm
You really seem to like this game. It's almost as if you were promoting it.
You really seem to like this game. It's almost as if you were promoting it.
Yep, I like it a lot. And as I've said many times in the past, given the amount of time and effort it takes to put together a pictorial review like this, as a general rule I only post reviews for games that I am genuinely enthusiastic about and can confidently recommend to others. This was no exception.
Brilliant review as always!
Have to say I am supporting Japan in the final.
- Last edited Thu Jul 14, 2011 4:00 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Thu Jul 14, 2011 3:59 pm
Damn. This was developed by someone here in town, and I know he went on Dragon's Den and they told him no. I saw it in VV in pristine shape yesterday, but passed on it because it was 9 bucks. I had heard a bit of bad press and figured it was too much and let it go. This actually looks like something I would enjoy. Maybe I should go back today and see if it's still there...
- Last edited Thu Jul 14, 2011 4:07 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Thu Jul 14, 2011 4:00 pm
That's a great review.
Real nice review! Thanks!
For yet another tremendous review!
Fantastic review of a wonderful game. My son and I have spent countless hours pkaying this one.
I bought this game today (for my kids for Xmas) based on your review; thanks for the assist!