- Designers: Erik Atzen and Martin Rasmussen
- Publisher: Game Absorber
- Players: 2 or 4
- Ages: 8+
- Time: 10 minutes
- Times played: 3, with review copy provided by publisher
I have stated in the past that I am apt to try just about any sort of soccer game in my quest to find that perfect translation of sport into boardgame format. There are many different types of soccer games – ranging from in-game simulations where all 22 players movements are plotted out to dexterity games where the ball is flicked along to franchise/dynasty games where you take control of a team over the long haul working on improving it bit by bit until you’re at the top of the heap.
To be honest, I’m not even sure if there is one type which I prefer over the other – but I’m always on the lookout for a tabletop soccer game to hold my interest as well as the gamers I normally play with (who are generally not soccer players). Thus, when I got an demo of Wannabe Football at the press event at SPIEL 2018, and then an offer to try it out, I eagerly said yes.
The bulk of the game is in the 60 card deck – 41 green player cards and 19 red multi cards. Each player starts with a hand of four green player cards. The field is broken up into 6 regions – there is a map on each player card that shows where a move starts and where it ends. In general, in order to play a card, you must play one that starts in the region where the previous players last move ended. Cards are played in the center of the table – one on top of the other – so the positions on the field must match up as each player plays cards face up in their direction. After you play and resolve a card, you draw a card from the deck.
Some of the cards have a star on them – this gives you the chance of playing a second card. When you play the star card, you then flip up the top of the Multi deck. If that card has a star in the bottom left corner, your star gets to go again. If you do not see a star there, your turn is over. In general, the Multi cards have all sorts of symbols on them, and anytime the game needs to make a decision, a Multi card is flipped over and you look to see if the matching symbol is seen.
Likewise, if you play a card with a whistle on it, and your opponent notices the whistle – the next Multi card can be flipped over. If a whistle is seen on it, a foul was committed, and your opponent turns over the ball. Any fouls or free kicks simply let the opponent play any card (they do not have to respect the position of the last play). Additionally, at every dead ball – whether after a foul, goal or free kick, players can replenish their hands to the full quantity of four cards.
If the ball is in your offensive half, you can possibly shoot. A shooting card is one that has a soccer ball in a location as opposed to an arrow directing it. When you shoot, you flip over the next Multi card to see if you score, if it is saved or if it is a corner kick, etc.
Your opponent might play a dribbling ball – this is shown with a curlicue arrow. When this is played, your opponent draws one card at random out of your hand and you will now be one short until you are allowed to refill.
If you do not have a valid card to play on your turn – that is one which starts or shoots from the current location of the ball, you are forced to pass and your opponent gets to play the next card. If there are two passes in a row, the ball is considered to be out of bounds and your opponent can play any card they like to restart the game.
The game ends when the players have played through the whole deck. The player with the most goals wins.
My thoughts on the game
I really love the concept of the game – the idea of playing cards that match location makes a lot of sense thematically. The artwork on the cards is blocky and fun, and adds a whimsical sense to the game. Due to the presentation, I was looking forward to this as a game that might be accessible to both soccer fans and not.
However, our games have been more of a slog than unbridled fun. More often than not, we end up in situations where players simply can’t play matching cards – and the game turns into throw in after throw in. Sure, this is actually a lot like real soccer, but a game that looks this fun should match that appearance in actual play. You might think to yourself – well there are only six possible field locations, and you have a hand of max 5 cards – surely you would have matching location cards – but it just doesn’t happen as often as you’d like. When you add in the fact that played dribbling cards continually draws cards out of hands thus reducing the hand size, this makes it even more likely that you won’t be able to play a card that matches.
I really do like the use of the Multi cards. It is a clever system to have the game make decisions, and the prevalence of each icon can shape the odds of something happening. IF you are able to count cards, you might be able to get a better feel for the likelihood of something happening – but in the end, it really doesn’t matter… because, even if the chance of scoring is higher or lower, you’re still going to shoot if you get the chance to play a shooting card.
The artwork is pretty awesome, and this was definitely what drew me to the game. The images on the cards are well done and they are definitely eye-catching. The rules are not as good. They are in a cramped small rulebook, and the organization isn’t great. For instance, the endgame condition (playing through the deck) is only found once, in the introductory text on the inside cover which is split up into five languages. There is no statement of this near the end of the game play description where you would expect it. Additionally, unless I have missed it, there is actually no statement anywhere in the rulebook that the player who has the most goals at the end of the game is the winner of the game. Sure, we play by those rules, but ideally, you’d like the rules to actually include a statement on the winning condition. While five languages are included in the ruleset, I would have liked more space devoted to a single language to allow for more explanation and description of the rules.
I think that this game has a lot of potential, but in the end, this falls short of being the perfect soccer game that I’m looking for. In some of our games, it fell short of even being a workable game as the card distribution didn’t really allow us to feel like we were playing soccer as most of our shots just came in a happenstance fashion after a throw-in due to a double pass. I keep this game for the art and graphic design, but I’m probably going to pass on it for the gameplay.
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor