Dale Yu: Review of Soccer City



Soccer City

  • Designers: Lisandro Nembrini and Gonzalo Rodrigo
  • Publisher: Elege Iberica
  • Players: 2
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: 45-90 minutes

soccer city box

I am a huge fan of soccer – I’ve been playing it all my life, and I’ve spent many a day watching my kids play the beautiful game as well.  This summer is turning into a fan’s paradise with the Copa America and the European Championships going on at the same time, and with the Olympics coming up later this summer…  As an avid fan, I’ve always been on the lookout for the “perfect” soccer game that captures the beauty and grace of the sport.  There seem to be two main types of games: dexterity and tactical.  Soccer City falls into the tactical class.


The pitch (or field) is represented by a hex grid on a board.   Each player places 6 field players and a goalkeeper on his side of the pitch to start.  There are different types of field players (defender, defensive midfielders, attacking midfielders and strikers), and each coach can choose the initial shape (aka player formation) of their side.

soccer city board

There are six different decks of cards used in the game: Attack, Defense, Shots on Goal, Goalkeeper Saves, Ball actions, and External Factors.  Each coach gets a starting hand of 3 Attack cards, 3 Defense cards and 2 Shot on Goal cards.  Each coach also gets 4 Ball cards to form a separate Ball card hand.  The Ball Card deck also serves as the timer in the game.  There are 45 cards in the deck, each representing a minute in the game, with a few extras being available to simulate extra time at the end of the second half.


The flow of the game is simple – in each game turn, the attacking player (that is, the one with possession of the ball) takes an attacking move and then the other player gets to make a defensive move.

soccer city cards

In the attacking phase – the player with the ball can choose to take any or all of the four phases – but they must be done in this order:

1) Pass or advance

2) Play an attacking action card (dribbling or using the text on a card)

3) Take a shot

4) Repositioning


The Defense then has two sequential options:

1) Play a defensive Action card

2) Repositioning


When the offense wants to pass/advance the ball, the coach must play a ball card.  This can be either a short (<4 hex), medium (5-8 hex), or long (9-12 hex) card.  There is a reference in the corner of the board to remind you of these distances.

soccer city ball cards

Short level passes are on the ground, and therefore other players in the line of the pass serve as obstacles.  Medium and long passes are considered to be high (airborne) and can travel over players in its path.  Normal passes go in a straight line along the six hex directions.  You can also make a square pass – that is parallel to the goal lines with the ball cards.  Finally, if you have a player in the same hex as the ball, you can use the ball cards to move both the player and the ball.


If the ball is passed/advanced onto a marked man – that is an offensive player who also has a defensive player in an adjacent hex – then there is a challenge to determine who comes up with the ball.  Each player rolls a d6, and the higher number wins the challenge.  Ties go to the defender.  Goalkeepers also get a +2 bonus when they are in their penalty area.


You might instead choose to use the text on an attacking card – for instance the Scissors Move allows you to move the defender aside by 1 hex and move the attacker 2 hexes around it and the Carousel allows you to move the attacker 3 hexes around the defender and then move that defender 1 hex in any direction.


Next, you can see if you can/want to take a shot.  In order to shoot, you generally must be within 3 hexes of the goal line, unmarked, and without a defender in the line between you and the goal.  If so, you can play one of your Shot on Goal cards.  The numerical value on this card, added to the offensive strength of the player give the offensive score.  The defender draws the top Goal Save card from the deck – some cards save a particular shot card automatically.  Otherwise, the goalie has to have more points than the offense to stop the shot.  The result of a tie is determined  by the text in the bottom right of the goal card.

soccer city gk

Finally, the offense can reposition his players – each player is allowed to move up to one hex in any direction.  Note that any players that had already moved earlier in this turn due to passing or card play may not be repositioned.


The defense now gets a chance to go.  First, the defense can play a defensive action card.  If you’re close enough, you can use the number on the card to make a Tackle action to try to steal the ball.  You must have a defender adjacent to the hex with the ball.  Each player chooses a card from their hand.  If the defender has more points, he takes possession of the ball, makes the move on the bottom of the card and then takes over as the offense.  If the offense wins, they make the move on the bottom of their card and immediately begin the next offensive turn.


If there is a tie, this generally means that there is a foul committed by the team who started the challenge.  That coach can decide to roll the referee die which might cause the foul to be called on the other team or allow the initiating team to win the challenge. However, there is some risk involved because the die could cause a yellow card to be given to the challenging player.


Alternatively, the defending player can simply use the tactical action on the card instead of initiating a challenge.


Afterwards, the defending team is allowed to reposition all their players by 1 hex (as long as they have not already moved this turn).


There are a lot of other detailed rules about specific game situations: throw ins, goal kicks, corner kicks, penalties, free kicks after penalties, etc.  For brevity’s sake, just know that those rules exist and are explained in the rules.  If you are familiar with soccer, those rules are fairly intuitive and make sense.  If you aren’t a huge soccer fan, that level of detail would numb you to sleep in this review.

soccer city pads

My thoughts on the game


The game works pretty well AS LONG AS you are very familiar with the rules and tactics of soccer.  The rules are fairly comprehensive – 36 pages long – and cover just about any situation that comes up in the course of a regular game.  The action cards offer a nice variety of moves and tactics that you would also see.  Passing rules have about 20 illustrations in the rulebook to try to show all possible cases, but again, it is all actually pretty common sense stuff, especially if you are familiar with the game.


Like any board game about a sport (except maybe baseball – because that is the one sport where the athletes pretty much stand still all game), it’s hard to really capture the full action in a game – movements of all the players, etc. without becoming bogged down in the minutiae of controlling all the players.  The game tries to simplify the process by limiting the number of players (only 7 per team in this game versus 11 per team in real soccer) as well as giving you the chance to move each player by one hex in the repositioning phase.   It’s a decent approximation of the flow of a team, but will not allow for things such as an outside back making a deep run up into the opponent’s box or having an attacking midfielder track all the way back on a defensive run.  If that were to happen in this game, it would take you ten turns to reposition him to that place and then another ten to get back to his usual spot.


We have done fine with the game and the rules because everyone in my family is an avid fan and participant in the sport.  Trying to get the local kids (who only know football, and not futbol) was more of a challenge.  The special actions / strategies were far too complicated for them to grasp, and in the end, they really weren’t able to play the game.  They just ended up throwing cards out of their hand and then seeing what they did once they were played.


As with any card based game, you will do better if you are lucky enough to draw the right cards at the right time.  Soccer City is no different, and there are times when the offense simply has a great combination of cards in their hand to make a concerted move down the field on a few successive turns to get a nice shot off.  This is honestly no different than real soccer – the game will ebb and flow.  Part of the game is figuring out how to manage your hand to get a nice collection of cards that you can then use in successive turns to generate a chance.


The artwork in the game has a nice old-timey feel to it.  The graphics are nicely done and the card layout is generally easy to follow. There are a few cards that have a lot of small text on them, but that’s because they’re trying to explain fairly complex soccer moves in about an half an inch space on a card!

soccer city art

Soccer City has a LOT of tactical options, and it does a good job replicating the varied options that players have on and off the ball.  However, it might be a little too much.  It takes a fairly long time trying to figure out what my options are at each move, and there are 45 of them per half!   It is a challenging game, and one that brings the action of the pitch onto your living room table.   I’m very comfortable with the sport, and the game provides a decent simulation, but for a non-soccer-fan, Soccer City is probably too much to take in…  It will get played in my family as we are all familiar with the sport, but I think I would not likely even try this with anyone who isn’t a soccer nut.  In that situation, I’d probably veer to a simpler game like StreetSoccer (Cwali).


If you’re interested: http://soccercitythegame.com/en/#get-it


Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y (with soccer fans)
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me… Dale Y (with non-soccer fans)

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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