Dale Yu: Review of Superclub (and Arsenal Manager Kit)

Superclub – The Football Manager Board Game

  • Designer – not stated
  • Publisher: Superclub
  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 12+
  • Time: 90-120 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by publisher
  • Link – https://eu.superclubgame.com/

Per the publisher: “Superclub is a premium football manager boardgame where you compete face-to-face with the ones you love…to beat.  You’re the newly appointed manager of a top flight football club. A decent club, not a great one. Certainly not a Superclub, although becoming one is the objective. The question is: Can you manage?

The game is divided in off-season and season. In off-season you go through finance, develop talents, scout for the next stars, invest in bigger facilities and key staff. And off course buy squad improvements on deadline day.  When the season starts you choose a strategy against you opponents, you play matches with your manager folders and dices (sic). You will challenge injuries and draw both positive and negative game changer cards.  There are two ways to crown the winning manager. The first one to reach 100 points. Or a manager wins three season in a row and beats his/her contender in the Supercup.

So, this is a great time of year for me.  My local team, FC Cincinnati, is just getting started with their new season.  The Garys (aka the Knifey Lions) are off to a good start, with 2 wins and a tie so far out of the first three games.   The rest of the normal world is midway through their season, and my adopted European team (since 2021-2022, so it’s not really full jump-on-the-bandwagon here) Arsenal sits atop the table in the English Premier League.  For the time being, my weekends are definitely filled with soccer/football on TV/the telly; and even some midweek matches are of interest.  

Out of the blue, Superclub contacted me to try out their new game, and needless to say, I was pretty interested in giving it a go.   I would certainly be happy to add a soccer theme to a weekly game night or two as well!  From reading a bit about the game – clearly they are targeting soccer fans with the game, but they also tried to make a game that is accessible enough for anyone to play.  That is, no previous soccer experience or knowledge would be necessary to play or succeed at the game.  With that in mind, I have played the game with gamers, soccer friends and folks who don’t give a hoot for sportsball things.

Each player gets their own folder where they store their player cards as well as a matching colored mat to hold cards that represent training, scouting and stadium improvements.  Each team starts with an equal amount of money to start the game (120M is the normal game, 150M in the beginner/shorter game).  Each player also gets an all-important pair of dice.  Each team stocks their folder with an initial set of 16 players through a draft.  Sixteen players are placed on the draft board, and all are picked in order; start player is rotated so that each player gets to be first in a draft round – and at the end of things, all players/teams have 16 player cards.  Each player card has between 1 and 6 stars on it; the number of stars shows the quality of the player.  Note that some players have empty stars; this shows potential for improvement – when drafting players, you often have to weigh the benefits of taking a developed player now (with a known star value) or taking a gamble on a player with a low rating now, but one that could possibly be improved in the future.  The overall quality of your team is determined by the sum of the stars of your player cards.

Once the draft is over, flip over the draft board to show the World of Football – decks representing players from different areas are placed here.  The rest of the action happens on the large main board – dominated by the scoring track in the center.  Each player has two markers, a flat squad token that shows the current sum of stars of your player cards and a taller point marker that shows how well your team has done this season.

The game will be played in a number of rounds, and each round is split into two phases – the Off-Season and then the Season.   There are five separate phases in the Off-season:

1] Finance –  In the first round, players get an equal starting amount.  In later rounds, you get money based on your finishing position in the previous season as well as the improvements made to your stadium.  You then have to pay your player salaries, returning 1M for each star in your team total.

2] Training – depending on the level of training ground you have, you can try to add 1 to 4 stars to a single player (one that has empty stars showing potential to be trained).  Roll a die and you can upgrade that player to that matching number of star level – of course, well to the limit that your training ground allows you to add.  If you successfully upgrade, pull the card matching the new level out of the player deck.

3] Scouting – Draw a card from the area of your choice on the World of Football board.  Your Scouting level determines how many cards you can look at.  If you like, pay the cost in the bottom right to buy the rights to a player.

4] Investments – You can do two different actions here to improve your training facilities, scouting ability, stadium or hire key staff members.

5] Deadline Day – There are N+1 open auctions for player cards flipped over from the World of Football board.  (The current Champion/starting player gets both the first and last chance to start an auction as it goes around the table).   At any point, any player can sell a card back to the bank for the scouting price in the bottom right corner.  You can only hold 23 player cards; your folder makes this easy to see/remember as there are only 23 slots for cards!

Once you have gone through the five phases of the off-season, it’s time for your team to play the matches in the season!  There are 5 matches in each season, and nominally, each represents two games (in most soccer leagues, you play a team twice, once at home and once away.  Yes, I know this isn’t true in the American MLS league – but let’s ignore their stupid schedule for now).  Each match follows a simple pattern, and you opponent is determined by a handy chart printed right on the big board.  In some matches, you’ll face off against another player, and other times, you’ll just have a simulated match where a single die roll determines the outcome.

For each match against another player – each player arranges their starting 11 players in their folder, choosing from five different legal formations (3-3-4, 3-4-3, 3-5-2, 4-3-3, 4-4-2).  Additionally, in season 2 and onwards, you can place your Captain’s boost marker with one of your players – this gives a bonus to that particular line in your folder.  You will have three lines of players, ATTacking, MIDfielders, and DEFense – each with a star total made up of the sum of the cards in that row.  You can play players out of position, though there are penalties for this.  Additionally, you can get teamwork bonuses if you are able to make a complete star pattern between two neighboring players on the same line.

The match is simulated in a simple yet elegant manner.  The game always starts with midfield lines going up against each other.  Players announce their current player card strength, and then they each roll their own set of 2d6, adding the roll to the total.  (If you roll doubles, you may end up with an injury to a player on the current line or you might get a game-breaker card).  The team with the highest sum wins that battle and mentally scores a point.  Then, that winning team goes on the attack, and their ATTacking line goes up against the other team’s DEFending line, following the same pattern as above.  (If there was a tie in the midfield, each team scores 0.5 points and then the home team goes on the attack as an arbitrary tiebreaker; or we have a roll-off for it).  If a team gets to two points, they have won a majority of the battles and automatically win; the game ends immediately.  If needed, play the third battle using the opposite ATTacking and DEFending lines.  At the end of the third battle, the team with the most points wins.  If there is a tie at this point, the match is a draw.  Move your points marker on the scoreboard based on the result; 6 points for a win, 2 points for a draw, 0 points for a loss.

If you are playing a Simulated match; it is much simpler.  Look at your current squad token position, showing the total star count of your player cards.  There is a small chart under that section of the board showing how a single 2d6 roll will score for your team.  Obviously, as you get more stars, there is a higher chance that your team will win – the weakest category wins only on a 10+, while the strongest category wins on a 7+.

Play five matches based on the schedule printed on the board, and then see where the point markers lie.  Whichever team has the highest current point total is designated the current champion.  They draw a Supercup card – but they DO NOT look at it.  Check to see if the game ends. If a team has more than 100 points, the team with the most points wins.  If not, see if a the current champion has 3 or more Supercup cards; if so, they can try to win by randomly drawing one of their supercup cards and beating the team on the reverse side.  If they win that final match, they are the winners; if they lose, they discard all their Supercup cards and the game continues.

If the game continues, distribute the captain’s bonus tokens in current rank order.  The champion will get the most money for the next round, but they will also get the smallest match bonus for the next season.  Move to another Off-Season phase, and continue playing.

My thoughts on the game

Supercup is a surprisingly engaging game, and one that can definitely be played by all comers; you do not need to be a gamer to enjoy this nor do you need to be a football fanatic.  When I read the rules to the game, I was honestly worried a bit about the number of die rolls that happen each round – surely the game would just be a luckfest?  I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that luck plays some role in the game; but honestly, it’s not overwhelming.

I mention it at the top because I’m sure that serious gamers will share the same trepidation about so many die rolls; I don’t think that this is anything that a casual gamer would care about.  Of course, I doubt that a casual gamer would be reading this blog; so I’m not addressing my review to them.  

Sure, there is plenty of variance in 2d6 rolls, but honestly, I feel like this high variability gives the matches a true-to-life feel.  Just as in real life, soccer teams often have varying levels of player talent on them, yet – perhaps more so than any other sport – surprising results can happen.  Just this week, Liverpool (10th place out of 20) just beat Manchester United (4th place) by an astounding score of 7-0!  The very next match, Liverpool lost to Bournemouth (the very last team in the standings).  Neither is a result that would have been expected; but yet, that’s why they play the games.

For sure, luck will affect your game here, both positively and negatively.  Just accept this going into the game, and enjoy the ride.  If you can’t do that conceptually, save yourself the time and don’t play this.  For everyone else, cheer when you get good rolls, grin ruefully when you get bad rolls, and laugh along with everyone else at the unpredictable outcomes.

In real life, soccer is a game that is played for 90 minutes, and it is not uncommon to only have a few chances to score in that time.  Thus, a fluky bounce, an unlikely mistake or a superb play can lead to a goal and have a huge effect on the overall result.  In a game like basketball, each team might have 50 or more chances to score a basket; so a single event won’t have as much of an effect.   In soccer, when you only maybe get 5 chances a match, that one moment can more likely be the difference.  That same variance is applied here through the dice rolling; you might have a huge advantage in talent, but a 1/36 chance of rolling a 2 might still cost you a match, and generate a much different rank in the standings.

Here, in Superclub, teams have a star value determined by the stars on their player cards.  Yet, there will always be some uncertainty going into a match.  The lesser team should have some conceivable chance, no matter how small, of winning.  In addition, the managers can experiment a bit with the formations trying to maximize their chances or to take a gamble that they can steal a certain line in the match.  For me, the randomness of the dice makes the matches an very exciting and engaging part of the game.  The simulated matches are a bit of a letdown in comparison, but again the variance in the dice helps keeps things from being predictable.  The one time that we played with 5 players turned out to be the sweet spot for me as each round you get 1 match against each other player and then a single simulated match. 

There does appear to be an expansion called Powerhouses that gives you opponents to play against instead of the simluated matches; given how much I like the planning and rolling of the matches now, this would be something that I’d want to try in the future…  There are also Wild Card player cards that supposedly allow more flexibility in your lineups.  You can see both here.

In some ways, there is a little rich-get-richer as the team that does the best in the first season will get the most money in the next off-season.  Also, as the point totals do not reset after each season, they also have an advantage towards being the leader at the end of the next season.  This is balanced out a bit by the Captain’s advantage – as the lower performing clubs from the previous year get a much larger bonus to be added to the line of their choice in the matches of the following season.

One thing to note though is that overall success is not necessarily driven by winning matches.  Your chances of success are based more on the overall strength of your squad; especially for the simulated matches.  Be sure not to focus on just your 11 starting players, because those stars on your bench can be super important too.

The graphics are pretty spartan, but honestly everything works and all the bits are easy to read.  I will definitely take something with usable bits over overdone graphics.  Everything works well for me, and the line art is just fine.  I will say that I’m not a big fan of paper money, not just in Superclub, but in any game, and we used our usual poker chips as a replacement for the money.

Of note, there are many expansions already available as well as licensed forms of the game.  Many top teams have signed up with Superclub, and you can get officially licensed team sets for clubs such as Arsenal, Liverpool, PSG, Barca, Bayern, AC Milan, Man City, Chelsea, Porto and Benfica.  https://eu.superclubgame.com/collections/official-licensed-club-products  If you or a friend is a big supporter of one of these clubs, getting a game that uses the actual roster from this season is a huge find!

The publisher kindly sent me an Arsenal set as I’m a supporter, and it’s quite fun to add in actual players from the current squad into my Superclub games.  (It also gave me a fifth folder to use for five player games!)  If you really wanted a more realistic version of Superclub, you could get enough club sets to have nothing but real life players in your game!

  I love the idea of this, but I should mention that each IRL club manager set is nearly 30 EUR, so it won’t be cheap to do!  I mean, I’d happily pay that for a deck of Gunners; but there’s no way I’m giving any money to City for their light blue deck.

The game does maybe feel a bit long at 90+ minutes; if you find this to be the case, you can either decrease the number of points needed to trigger the end of the game or decide upon a fixed number of seasons to play.  We have yet to have anyone win with the Superclub sudden-death rule; each time it has been tried, the card drawn was pretty darn difficult to beat.  That player still ended up winning the game, but by the usual pass 100 point method.

Soccer games have apparently been the thing this year; I have also recently played and reviewed Eleven from Portal Games, and that gives a totally different feel than Supercup.   Which do I like better?  Honestly, I love both.  Supercup though has less rules overhead, and it seems to be concentrated more on the fun and excitement and less on the strategic planning. It is definitely the game I’d choose to show to non-serious gamers – I honestly don’t think that a non-gamer would be able to enjoy Eleven much; Eleven is a game that is a bit more involved, and the match resolution isn’t as elegant as Supercup.  Now I have two options for soccer themed games, that I can choose between depending on the audience…

Here, in Superclub, draft some cards, roll some dice; and even if you don’t make great decisions with your in-game drafting or decisions, the dice will still give you a chance to win matches and to enjoy yourself.  For a super fun soccer game experience, I think you should give Superclub a try!

If you want to learn more about it – https://eu.superclubgame.com/

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

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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