Dale Yu: Review of KickShot
It’s that time again, when for a brief moment every four years, the American public looks up and realizes that there is another “football” being played here. Despite the fact that youth participation in soccer is steadily increasing, there is still not a lot of attention paid to professional and international soccer. I’m sure that some of this is due to the fact that the United States has really not been able to generate any long lasting success in the international game. In any event, with the World Cup slated to start later this month (Thursday June 12, 4pm Eastern) – anyone who is even remotely interested in soccer should be giving the sport whatever attention they can! The United States has a difficult road ahead of itself as their qualifying group includes two of the top three rated teams in the world (Germany and Portugal).
In our household, we have three members that are actively playing soccer (myself and my two boys), and as a result, we’re all pretty excited about the upcoming World Cup. We were also pretty excited to learn about a new soccer game, KickShot. Meant to appeal to all ages, the game has also had a increase in its exposure/marketing as the World Cup draws near. From its website: “Experience the thrill of an actual soccer game with KickShot®! Designed for up to 6 players, 5 year old kids through adults, play KickShot Soccer Board Game with two dice, offense, defense and referee cards to advance the ball across the board, intercept, and score goals. One KickShot game includes three levels of play, depending on age and desired challenge, but you may wish to develop your own creative variations as well. KickShot is the only soccer board game that teaches young players the mental side of soccer and helps lift their soccer game beyond just kicking and running straight for the goal”
- Designer: Aziz Makhani
- Publisher: self-published
- Ages: 5+
- Players: >2
- Time: 20 minutes
- Times Played: 6 (Kickshot Junior game), 2 (League Game), 1/2 (League Game)
There are three different levels of complexity included in the box: 1) Kickshot Junior (recommended for kids 7 and under), 2) the Warm up game (which adds some complexity), and 3) the League Game. In each version, the goal is the same – to be the first to score 10 goals. The difference between the versions is the complexity of the rules.
The board itself is a simple affair. A soccer field is depicted on the board, with 11 stripes of grass on each half of the field. As you play the game, the ball moves back and forth on the board. If you are able to get to the end line of your opponent’s side of the field, then you score a goal!
In the Junior game, movement is fairly simple. You roll 2d6 and then consult a chart to see what happens. While at first, the chart seems daunting, it actually is quick to pick up and easy for even children to remember. Essentially, the two dice are used slightly differently based on the situation. Rolls alternate between offensive and defensive players.
For instance, on offense, you roll 2d6. If you roll doubles, then the ball is turned over (possession goes to the other team). Otherwise, you move the ball a number of stripes equal to the higher of the two dice. Then, the defense gets to roll. If they roll doubles, they intercept the ball (possession goes to them). Otherwise, the offense gets to go again. Once you get close enough to the end line, and you roll a number that would move the ball to the last grass stripe – this is a shot on goal. The defense gets one final chance to stop it, and if they roll doubles, they make a save. Otherwise, a goal is scored. The game continues in this back and forth fashion until someone scores 10 goals.
The Warmup game uses this same overall framework, but it also adds in some action cards. Now, on your turn, you have the option of rolling the dice to advance the ball or shoot on goal. If you are unable to do so, you can play a card if you like. Only the more basic cards are used in the warm up game. Some examples are the Pass Card – which allows to roll both dice and move the ball up to 7 spaces – you get to move for the high die roll plus one extra space if you roll doubles.
Another example is the Goal Shot card – this allows you to shoot from as far away as 13 spaces out – if your 2d6 roll is high enough to make it to the end line (including an extra 1 if you roll doubles), then you might score. Of course, this can be blocked with another warm-up card, the Goal Blocked card! The game still goes to 10 goals, but it is a bit more complex due to the cards. The most complicated version, the League game, is simply more complex due to the fact that all the cards in the game are used. There is a chart on the back side of the rules that explains all of the cards and how they are used and what effects happen…
The game now has slightly different ending conditions. Instead of playing to a simple score of 10, each half is now determined by the card deck. The half ends when one team has gone through their card deck. Whichever team has more goals at the end of the second half wins.
My thoughts on the game
KickShot has been played a number of times here at the house – admittedly, the boys and I are drawn to the game because we all love playing soccer. The basic rules are easy to follow and easy to remember. After about 10 turns, we pretty much had the simple rules memorized. It is a quick and easy game, though admittedly not very complex.
The Warmup and League games are more complicated, and truth be told, I’m not sure that the overall experience is better. The cards do add some strategic elements to the game – you have a lot more flexibility with what you can do with the ball (on both offense and defense), and there is the possibility of unexpected attacks which does make the game more exciting.
However, the cards are not as complete as I’d like them to be. The graphics are nicely done and large, appealing to the kids – but there isn’t much information on the cards. For some of the cards, they are simple and straightforward, and all the information you need is right there on the card. However, for others, you need (a lot of) help from the rules.
For example – the Header card actually has printed on the card: “Roll dice to advance the ball up to 8 zones”. Pretty straightforward, right? Well, not exactly… When you look at the chart in the rules – here are the full rules to the card – when you play the Header card, you roll 2d6 and the move the ball the high die roll PLUS ONE. The Ball turns over to the Defense with a 1 or 2 on either die. The Offense retains possession with a 3,4,5,6 on both dice.
Another example is the Slide Tackle card which says “Roll dice to perform successful intercept. Advance the ball up to 4 zones”. But what it means is: play the card and roll the dice. On a 1 or 2, move the ball 1 zone; on a 3 or 4, move the ball 2 zones; on a 5 or 6, move the ball 3 zones. The ball turns over on a 3,4,5,or 6. The offense retains possession with a 1 or 2.
While these two cards are perhaps the most extreme examples, the discrepancy between what is on the card and what is meant in the rules kept us referring to the chart to figure out what the cards could do. The game stopped being spontaneous and fun as each player constantly was referring to their chart (I had to make Xerox copies for each player so that everyone could refer to the chart more easily) to figure out what their cards did and when they could play them. The game was certainly more strategic, and in the right setting, I think that this is a positive change – but it really took the fun out of the game for the boys. They still prefer the more spontaneous fun of the basic game.
The graphics and presentation are well done. The board is a simple affair, though realistically you really just need the 22 grass stripes. The artwork on the board and cards is also appealing, especially since the game also targets young children. The animal characters are cute as well. I have already outlined some of my concerns with the layout of the cards. The rules are laid out fairly well, on a single 11×17 sheet. After 5 games with the cards, I found myself still needing to refer to the chart to remember how some of the cards worked.
Overall, it is an interesting game that tries to translate the excitement of a soccer game to the tabletop. Does it succeed? Somewhat. As I mentioned, the basic game has been the version most enjoyed here, but it is admittedly quite simple. The more complex versions add more strategy to the game but we found it to be fiddly and less spontaneous. I am hoping that the cards become easier to remember with repeated plays.
If you are interested in trying the game – you can find them on Amazon.com or at Kickshot.org. It should be noted that the designer will give 20% to charity for all games purchased before the end of the World Cup. Additionally, there is a mobile version available for Android devices on the Google Play store: KickShot Mobile App
- Kickshot Junior: Neutral
- Warmup game: Not for me.