Although football is one of the most popular sports in the world, there aren’t many board games that have emulated it successfully. So, there is always room for a competent one in that department. As I’ve followed football practically all my life, the theme had a special interest.
So how does one go about adapting football as a small, two-player board game? The answer is to simplify it a lot. Gone are the penalty kicks, substitutions and offsides. The players choose tactic cards, which sees them being either on the offense or defence. In these phases the players count the power stats of their footballers, presented by little balls on top of the cards. If the chosen attacking footballers have enough power, the attack goes on, and one of the participating players can try to score a goal. If not, a counterattack commences with the same structure.
These phases are interesting as both players also have a die to roll. In situations where the powers of the attackers and defenders are even, the dice can determine whether a goal is scored or not. It can get quite tense when trying to score a late winner or managing to prevent an almost certain goal in extra time!
After each of these phases, the participating footballers are rotated 90 degrees on their side. This changes their power stats for better or for worse. This simplistic mechanic nicely portrays the footballers’ changing fitness throughout the match and includes a nifty amount of tactical thinking. Should one use a player now so that later in the game that player will have a much higher stat power? These kinds of intriguing decisions make the game interesting and are worth pondering.
In addition to the changing stat powers, these rotations can also result in an injury, a yellow card or an expulsion depending on the player in question. This latter part is determined by a special die roll with the corresponding symbols. It brings a nice element of luck to the game which contributes to the replay value considerably. Sometimes it can be quite grating: I can tell you that it’s not easy to win a game when two of your players are sent off in the first half alone.
The theme is present in the greenish colour scheme, while the pictures on the footballer cards are cartoonish caricatures. In a welcome addition, the flipside of these cards also includes female counterparts. You can therefore even play a mixed match if you wish. One can complain that the player cards are always the same and the starting positions of them are fixed, but with more cards the game would be cluttered and longer.
Trying to adapt football as a miniscule board game isn’t easy, but this German-based game does a great job replicating the hectic nature of the game, where both teams have chances back and forth. While the game isn’t the best of publisher Kosmos’ line of small two-player games (that honour is probably forever bestowed upon Lost Cities), it’s a simplistic yet entertaining portrayal of the beautiful game. At the moment the game has only been translated to Finnish (as Maaali!), which is a shame, cause I could see football enthusiasts welcoming the game with open arms. The playtime is also short enough that with a bigger group of people one can organize a homebrewed World Cup of their own!
Designer Oliver Abendroth
Release year 2005
Age range 8+
Playing Time 30 min
Photos: taken by the author
Marathon runner & pop culture connoisseur, tries and sometimes succeeds in finding time for gaming. Plays anything but veers towards RPGs, adventures, and indies. If a game has jumping monkeys, he'll love it. Will also humiliate himself in any board game, including chess.
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