Despite what most Americans believe, soccer/football is the most popular sport in the world. Being the most popular sport in the world it is not that surprising that there have been a decent amount of board games created about the sport. One thing sports board games have to always deal with is trying to find a way to simulate the action of the sport despite not being able to have the action. Despite not being a fan of soccer I was still interested in trying out a soccer board game in order to see how well the game could simulate the action of the sport. In some ways Soccer Tactics World does a good job creating an accessible soccer board game but it still has its’ faults.
How to Play Soccer Tactics World
Each player chooses their color. Both players roll the die to see who gets the ball to start the game. The player who rolled higher gets the ball to start the first half while the other player gets the ball to start the second half. Each player sets up their players as follows:
- Each player places their goal keeper (#1) on one of the two spaces in front of their goal.
- In the fourth row from their end of the field each player will place one defender on the second, fourth, fifth, and seventh space from the left side of the field.
- Players place one midfielder on the first, third, sixth and eighth space from the left side of the field in the sixth row from the end of the field.
- Players will place two strikers in the row next to the center field on their side of the field. The player who is starting with the ball will have to place one player inside the circle in the middle of the field. The other team cannot place any pieces inside the circle. Otherwise there are no rules on which spaces the pieces have to be placed on.
Place the yellow and red cards along with the timer and trophy on the side of the gameboard. Set the timer for 45 minutes and start the game when the timer is started.
Playing the Game
Each half begins with the first player rolling the dice to determine how many spaces to move the ball. When moving the ball the player has to follow the rules regarding ball movement. After the initial kickoff the player on offense will roll the die once for player movement and then roll the die for ball movement. The offensive player will continue this process until they either lose possession of the ball or they score a goal.
Players begin each offensive play by rolling the die to move one of their players. The pawn has to move spaces equal to the entire roll. While moving a pawn they can move straight or diagonal in any direction but the player can only change directions one time. Other rules that a player has to follow while moving include:
- A pawn cannot move through the same space twice on the same turn.
- A pawn cannot move through a space occupied by one of the other player’s pawns.
- Each team can only have one of their pawns on each space.
- Defenders (pawns without numbers) cannot go past the line in the middle of the field or a penalty is called.
- A player can only have four pawns located next to one another in a horizontal row across the field. The player can only have three pawns next to one another in a vertical column.
- In the penalty area each team can only have four players.
- Players can only take 60 seconds to make their move.
Moving the Ball
When a player rolls to move the ball, the ball has to move the entire roll. The ball can move straight or diagonally but can only change direction one time. The ball cannot move back to a row or column that it already passed while moving. The ball can move through squares that are occupied by players. The decision of where to move the ball has to be made within 60 seconds.
When moving the ball four different things can happen:
- The ball is moved to an unoccupied space.
- The ball is passed to a space occupied by a teammate.
- The pawn that controls the ball dribbles it forward.
- The ball ends up on a space with two pawns on it.
Capturing the Ball
If the offensive team moves the ball to a space that is unoccupied, both teams will try to move one of their players to the space that the ball is on. The offensive team will get to roll the die first and move one of their pawns. The defensive player then rolls the die and gets to move one of their pieces. Four different outcomes can occur based on which players land on the space that the ball is on.
- If only the offensive player reaches the ball, the offensive team maintains possession of the ball.
- If only the defensive player reaches the ball, the team that was on defense is now on offense.
- If neither team reach the ball, both players roll again and try to move a piece to the space.
- If both teams reach the ball, the two players will battle for the ball (see below).
If a player moves the ball to a space where a teammate is located (that doesn’t have a player from the other team) the player has completed a direct pass. When a team completes their first direct pass, the defensive team doesn’t get to roll the die to move one of their players. If the player completes two or more direct passes in a row though, the defensive player then gets to roll the die and move one of their pieces the corresponding number of spaces after each direct pass.
If a player rolls a one for ball movement the player can choose to dribble the ball moving both the ball and the piece that is currently controlling it one space together. The defensive player gets to roll the die and move one of their pieces. If they can move a piece to the space with the ball, that piece will battle for control of the ball.
Battling for the Ball
If a pawn from both teams end up on the space with the ball, the players will battle for the ball. To battle both players roll a die. The player who rolls a higher number get control of the ball. If a defender (pawns without a number) is involved in a battle they get to add one to their roll. If the goal keeper is involved in a battle they get to add two to their roll. If both players have the same total, both players roll again to break the tie.
There are two different ways that a player can attempt a shot in the game. A player can attempt a shot if either:
- The player captures the ball or completes a direct pass into the penalty area.
- The player takes a long distance shot.
To shoot from the penalty area the offensive player will have to control the ball to be able to take a shot. If the player dribbled the ball into the penalty area or they kicked it into the area without it being a direct pass, both players has an opportunity to reach the ball and if both reach the ball they will battle for it. If the offensive player maintains control they can then shoot the ball. If the player completes a direct pass to one of their players in the penalty area, the defensive player doesn’t get an opportunity to challenge for the ball.
The other opportunity to shoot the ball is to attempt a long distance shot. A long distance shot is taken from one of the two spots outside the penalty area that feature a star. A player can only shoot from the long distance spots if the player makes a direct pass to the spot.
When defending their goal a player can move their goalkeeper one space in any direction instead of rolling the dice. If the goalie is moved to a space with the player who controls the ball they will battle for the ball and the goalie gets to add two to their roll.
When a player takes a shot they will either spin the spinner (has to go around at least twice to count) or roll the special die to see if they scored a goal. Three outcomes can come from a shot:
- Soccer Ball: If a player spins/rolls a soccer ball they have scored.
- Red Flag: If a player spins/rolls a red flag, the shooting team will get a corner kick.
- One: If a player spins/rolls a one, the defensive team will get a goal kick.
If the defensive player is given a goal kick, all of the pawns from the team that kicked the ball that are in the penalty area have to be moved to the closest available spot outside the penalty area. The ball is moved to the space that the goalkeeper is on. The player who is now on offense gets to roll both dice and move the ball using the same rules as normal ball movement.
When a player gets an opportunity for a goal kick the ball is placed in the corner on the side of the field corresponding to where the shot was taken from. If the goalkeeper is not on one of the two spaces in front of the goal it is moved to one of these two positions. Each player then alternates moving one of their pawns to any space on the gameboard without having to roll the die. Each player can move three of their pieces. A couple rules must be followed when placing these pieces:
- No defensive player can be placed within one space of the corner that the ball is in.
- Only four pawns from each team can be inside the penalty area.
- Each team can only have one pawn in the goal area.
The team taking the corner kick then rolls the die and moves the ball following normal rules. The corner space that the ball starts on does not count as a space. The pawn that kicked the ball is unable to touch the ball again until another pawn has touched it.
If at any point an offensive player is closer to their opponent’s goal than any of the opponents pawns other than the goalie, that pawn is offside. If that player receives a direct pass or captures the ball they will be called for offside. The opposing team will get a free kick from the space where the player touched the ball. If a player is in an offside position and the team has an opportunity to shoot the ball they will automatically be called offside even if the player doesn’t touch the ball.
Another way to commit a penalty is when battling for the ball. If when rolling the dice one team rolls a six and the other rolls a one, a penalty has occurred. The team that rolled the one commits the penalty. The pawn from that team that was in the battle for the ball will receive a yellow card. The other team will get a free kick from the spot of the foul unless the foul occurs in the opponent’s penalty area which will result in a penalty kick.
For a free kick the team that was fouled takes control of the ball. All pawns from the opponent’s team must be moved at least one space away from the ball. The player on offense continues the game like normal but the pawn taking the free kick can’t touch the ball again until another pawn has touched it.
If at any point in the game a pawn receives two yellow cards (all of the defenders share yellow cards) that player is removed from the game. If the defenders receive a second yellow card the defender pawn that committed the second penalty is removed from the game.
If the defensive team commits a foul in their own penalty area, the other team gets a penalty kick. For the penalty kick all pawns other than the goalkeeper and the pawn making the shot have to leave the penalty area. The offensive player then spins/rolls like they would for a normal shot.
End of Game
The game ends after two 45 minute periods have been completed. When the timer goes off in the second period, if there is still a team on offense and in the penalty area they get an opportunity to complete their offensive series. After that series is over the game ends. If one team has scored more goals, they have won the game.
If the score is tied, players will play overtime. Players will first play two overtime periods. The game recommends 15 minutes but you can choose as much time as you want. If the game is still tied, players will have a shootout. Each team will get to spin/roll five times and whichever team scores the most goals wins the game. If there is still a tie, players alternate taking shots until one player makes a goal and the other doesn’t. That player has won the game.
My Thoughts on Soccer Tactics World
So as I have already pointed out, I wouldn’t consider myself to be a soccer fan. I have always found the sport to be a little on the boring side as not enough happens in most games. I personally am a much bigger fan of American Football. I don’t bring this up to criticize soccer but I think it is relevant to the review to let people know that I am not a big fan of the sport that the board game is based on.
Despite not being a big fan of soccer, I can appreciate what Soccer Tactics World is trying to do. Basically the game is trying to create a board game that simulates the sport of soccer. Soccer Tactics World is kind of a mix between a speed game and tactical game. While the game is timed and you have a limit on how much time you can take for any given decision, the gameplay itself is more tactical. You basically roll the die and then get to decide how the ball and your players move around the field. Unlike a real time soccer game you get to think over what you do before moving your pieces. This seems to be how most soccer board games operate even though I would be interested in finding a good real time soccer game.
As far as complexity I would place Soccer Tactics World somewhere in the middle. The game is far from a highly strategic game but it also isn’t a game that you can jump into immediately. For the most part the gameplay is straightforward as you roll the die to move players and the ball around the field. There are some rules that have to be followed regarding movement but for the most part they are easy to follow. The reason that I wouldn’t say the game is light though is the fact that the game actually tries to implement all of the rules from soccer into the game. Not being a fan of soccer this meant that the game had a bit of learning curve for someone that wasn’t that familiar with the sport.
In some ways I think Soccer Tactics World should have made a decision on whether it wanted to be strategic or light. The game feels like it falls somewhere in between. For the most part it sounds like most soccer board games fall into the strategic category as players have to micromanage every facet of the game. I can see the appeal of this type of game since it gives players a lot of control over the game. Instead of the strategic route a soccer game could go lighter focusing on the key areas of soccer while eliminating some of the rules/mechanics that aren’t that important to the game. By streamlining soccer the game could have appealed to children and people that aren’t big fans of soccer. Soccer Tactics World doesn’t really fit either type of game as it contains most of the rules of soccer and yet doesn’t have all of the strategic options of a heavier game. This means that it might alienate people that wanted a really strategic or really light game.
On the strategy/luck spectrum I would say that Soccer Tactics World falls somewhere in the middle. For a lighter soccer game Soccer Tactics World has a decent amount of strategy. In order to improve your odds of scoring or stopping the other team you need to strategically place and move your players. When on offense you probably want to spread out your players in order to give you a lot of different options for passing. On defense you probably want to keep your players spread out so you don’t leave an area of the field open. While I don’t know if you can solely win a game with smart player movement, it does give you an advantage and I can see bad player management leading to a player losing the game.
While on the topic of player movement, I am actually a little surprised that dribbling doesn’t play a larger role in the game. Since you can only dribble when you roll a one, most of the time you are forced to either pass the ball to a teammate or kick the ball to an empty space on the field. I actually think more dribbling would have been good for the game because it would have given players more options on a given turn. If players were able to dribble more often, player movement would have been more important as you would have to weave around the opponent’s players.
The thing with Soccer Tactics World is that with a reliance on dice rolling the game was going to naturally rely on quite a bit of luck. Luck ended up playing a larger role than I was expecting. The biggest reliance on luck involves rolling the right number at the right times. To be successful in moving the ball you need to get lucky and roll the right numbers for moving the players and ball. While being smart with how your players are positioned can help mitigate some of the luck, if you don’t roll the right numbers you are going to have a hard time maintaining control of the ball. Die rolling is also important when you are battling for the ball since if one player is better at rolling during challenges they are going to have a pretty big advantage in the game.
Once you get into a position to shoot the ball your fate relies entirely on luck. Whether you are using the spinner or die you basically have no impact on whether you are going to make the goal as the outcome relies entirely on luck. Since you need to score goals to win the game you need to get lucky and roll/spin the right symbol to have a chance of winning the game. You could actually have a better strategy than the other player and still lose the game because you got unlucky when it came to shooting the ball.
So this next complaint I admit might be because I am not a fan of soccer. Maybe it is just me but I think making Soccer Tactics World 90 minutes is too long. At the 90 minute point the game starts to drag since the ball mostly just moves back a forth with the occasional goal. I know this decision was made to match a normal game of soccer but I think it is too long for the board game. Now you can easily just make the game shorter by changing the amount of time on the timer. I would recommend playing the game for only 45-60 minutes at a time as that seems to be the right amount of time where it doesn’t feel too short but also doesn’t seem to drag on for too long.
I would say that one of the best parts of Soccer Tactics World are the components. The player pawns are all made out of wood and they actually look really nice. Most of the pawns have a human-like shape and they have eyes and a number painted on them which makes it feel like more than just moving pawns around a gameboard. For some reason though the game decided to use generic pawns for the defenders. I am guessing this was done to make the defenders easier to spot but I don’t know why the game couldn’t have used pawns that looked different but still had the quality of the other pieces. Other than the pawns the components are pretty solid. The timer is fine even though the batteries are much harder to remove than they should be. The gameboard has decent artwork but I don’t think it was a smart decision to put the spinner in the middle of the board. The gameboard also tends to curl/warp. I also don’t really understand the point of the trophy outside of giving it to the player who wins the game.
As I mentioned earlier I would consider myself to be much bigger fan of American football. I bring this up because while playing Soccer Tactics World it actually reminded me quite a bit of Battleball. For those of you who have never played Battleball it actually shares quite a bit in common with Soccer Tactics World. A lot of the gameplay is quite similar except for the mechanics that were created to simulate American football. Maybe it is just because I am a much bigger fan of football, but I just felt that Battleball was a better game. Battleball feels like it has more strategy and is just more engaging than Soccer Tactics World.
Should You Buy Soccer Tactics World?
Overall Soccer Tactics World is a very solid game as I had fun playing the game. The game is pretty easy to play even though it does get a little too specific with some of the rules. Players who aren’t big fans of soccer might need a little refresher course on the rules of soccer before playing the game. As far as strategy there is a decent amount of it in Soccer Tactics World as wise use of your players can help you quite a bit in the game. The game relies quite a bit on luck though since no matter how good your strategy is, if you don’t roll/spin well you aren’t going to win the game. At 90 minutes the game also tends to run a little long as it starts to get a little boring towards the end.
As far as recommendations I have to say that it kind of comes down to how much you like soccer. While Soccer Tactics World is a very solid game, I don’t know if it is worth picking up if you aren’t a big fan of soccer. If you don’t really care for soccer but are intrigued by the gameplay, I think Battleball is a better sports simulation game which features American football instead of soccer. If you like soccer I think you will enjoy the game. If you want a strategic soccer game though there might be better options out there. If you are looking for a light to moderate soccer game though I think you should consider picking up Soccer Tactics World.