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Hartmut Witt's new soccer game is a revision of his Elf Mann Ho, an undervalued excursion in a surprisingly barren market. Whist preparing this review, I scanned my shelves for similar 'place and move' football games, and found only Penalty (later Gazza! The Game), Munialto (by Italian Team) and Car-Soc (of pre-War vintage). I know that statistical games abound (courtesy Lambourne Games), and Subbuteo remains a seasonal favourite, but chess and draught style games are as common as grapes in Albanian wine.
Schaumermal furnishes a linen pitch with printed gridded overlay and two teams whose players are provided with varying movement possibilities. Uniquely, the ball travels 'over' the grid, being measured by a knitting needle-type device. Additionally, Hartmut has included patterns for team shirts for your favourite international sides.
With the players lined up (your choice of formation, with the usual sensible restrictions), the attacking player follows the strict directive of pass (flat or airborne, maximum two) and move (three players). The defender may then also move three players, hoping to gain posession by tackling. If the ball is retained, the sequence continues.
The key elements in this edict are the variable movement factors, which allow a basic move of 5, either orthogonally or diagonally. Dribblers (nos 4, 8, 10) can change direction, whilst Sprinters (6, 7, 11) may move an additional five spaces. Number 9 (tradition, folks!) is the Striker and he fails with a shot only when it is intercepted by another player (ie, it 'hits' a member of the opposition en route). Passes, of course, may suffer the same consequence.
Both shots and passes are gauged by the Measuring Gadget, which indicates the maximum range. If you have plotted carefully, there is every chance of success. In fact, only a sucker could fail with a Flat Pass. The variable luck element of an Airborne or 'High' pass and also Shots at Goal are decided by the roll of a 20-sided die and accompanying chart. Here, the ball may veer 'off course' and land in the opposition lap.
Tackles (when the ball is on an intersection between opposing players) also allow a change of control. The higher die roll wins, the home side having the benefit of an 8- rather than 6-sided die. Ties are resolved by a Chart, with fouls or throw-ins the likely outcome.
The diagrams within the pages of the seminal rule book will rapidly unveil the Pass/Tackle procedures.
Attempts on goal may be taken anywhere within the Shooting Zone as marked on the pitch. It can be assumed that the chart is consulted first to accurately deduce the flight of the ball when goal bound. This, and minor confusion about the Kick Off, were the only question marks arising from Stuart Dagger's admirable translation.
A further (optional) embellishment to the game is the inclusion of a pack of Action Cards, which embrace the usual soccer incidents. The graphics indicate levity, but the implications are the normal healthy and not-so-healthy soccer dictums. Five are dealt to each player, for use when appropriate.
The only artificial element in Schaurmermal is the timing. It is suggested proceedings end after 15 minutes per half (real time) or when one team has scored two goals. Aficionados will soon settle on the ideal alternative, and also whether to further expand the game by using the tournament rules, and the individual make-up of teams via rating points.
Emanating from Hartmut's Witt's own 'game factory', the presentation is excellent. The players are wooden, and the pitch particularly life-like. A minor piece of DIY is required to stick (self-adhesive!) the descriptions on the pre-cut quality cards.
I bang on consistently about Hartmut's work, and not just because he's a good egg. The only discord in this review occurred when discussing the game's moniker with the author. Apparently, "Schaumermal" is Bavarian slang for "Let's Just See", adopted by the brilliant German international Franz Beckenbauer when opting out of a straight answer. I suggested "5-1" as an alternative title, at which point the line went dead.
Schaumermal can be ordered direct from Hartmut ([email protected]) or suppliers such as Adam Spielt and costs about 25 euros.
SWD: The Kick-Off routine baffled me a bit as well, but I put that down to my lack of knowledge about what real players actually do in these situations. I have only ever played football under compulsion when at school and even then I made sure that I kept out of the way of the ball. Hartmut's rule is clear enough; my problem was that I wasn't sure how to use it to get the ball sensibly in to play. However, I think that light has dawned. The rules permit the kick-off team to position a second player in the centre circle and this player is allowed to be just over the line and thus in the opposition half. The player taking the kick off makes a very short pass to this colleague, thus meeting the standard football requirement that the ball must cross the centre line on this play. This second player then passes back to a midfielder who is sufficiently far from the opposition to rule out a challenge for the ball. That completes your two initial passes. You then advance three of your forwards, the opposition adjusts in response and the game proper is under way.
With shots at goal the routine is that the attacker nominates his target point and the die is rolled. This determines where the ball is actually headed and the needle is then used to check that the path is clear.
And in case any of you are puzzled about the game's original name of Elf Man Ho!, that is "Elf" as in "Eleven", not "Elf" as in "Blond and Mincing". Not every game published in 2001 had a LotR connection.