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Wizards of the Coast
Weight: 700 grams (estimated)
The combination of football and collectible cards ought to be a surefire success in Europe. WotC have launched this version based on the English Premiership and have others for Italy and France. It is a card game and collectible, but do not disappear just yet! The starter set for 7.50 contains everything you need to play the basic, advanced and professional versions of the game.
You get a football pitch that is made of thick paper and large enough to display each player's side. The pitch has three vertical areas -- left, centre and right -- and three horizontal areas -- defence, midfield and attack. Each of these combination areas is large enough to contain two cards (players) from each side. In addition, there is a space for a goalkeeper at each end. The cards are well finished, as you might expect from Wizards, and feature players from the Premiership. Some of the cards are foil finished, which makes the collectible fans excited. (But not me. Much. Although I have got a foil finish of Marcus Stewart.)
Football, the game, is about passing and moving. In Champions Football, this is simulated the other way round and uses mechanisms common to many sports games where a one on one struggle is resolved. Each card for an outfield player shows five numbers in the range 1-10, with 10 being high. The first two numbers represent a player's pace and tackle abilities and these are used to resolve possession of the ball between opposing players.
The game starts with the player in possession deciding where to pass the ball. This is generally in a forward direction one space, either diagonally or orthogonally. So if the ball is in the left midfield, the ball would be passed to the left forward or centre forward position. The ball is placed on the player who hopes to get the ball. Dice are rolled and added to the ability that the defender chooses -- either pace or tackle. This is going to be the one where the defender has the greater value usually and the winner of the challenge gets the ball. If it's an attacker, he has a chance to score by comparing the shot rating with the goalkeeper's save rating. A goal is scored if the attacker wins. On a change of possession the defender becomes the attacker and the situation reverses.
The moving aspect of the game precedes the pass. First the attacker, then the defender have a chance to move players on the outcome of a die roll. This can be to create a better chance for a successful pass (creating a two-on-one situation benefits the team with more players), or maybe the managers move players to anticipate the outcome of a challenge. Either way, it feels right. Although the game is fixed in its options, the real pleasure comes from using a player whom you recognise and who is from your team. I'm not sure how the player stats were devised, but the myriad of stats from Opta (a company that specialises in football statistics) ought to have been used if they wanted to simulate real life and the players. Having presumably paid for a licence to use real players, it would have been good to link the stats with a real stats company. par
Action cards in the advanced game supplement the basic game (described above). These cards provide more options for each pass, shot or move. At one level, there is a game benefit such as "+1 to pace" for that challenge. Alternatively, a card can be used to move a player when the dice roll was unsuccessful, "increase the quality of the pass by +2". These choices are guided by the arrow display on the card. The arrow display shows one or more arrows radiating in one of the eight cardinal directions. So a player in the centre of midfield wanting to pass to a player in the centre attack zone would get a +2 benefit by playing a card with the arrow pointing to the north. All action cards are one-off uses, and when 25 have been played from your deck, the half (or game if you want to play more quickly) ends.
There are rules for heading the ball, although not specific rules for offside, but the game does accommodate the ability to play different formations well such as 3-5-2, 4-2-4, 4-3-3 and so scores another plus from my viewpoint. All of these things add flavour to a game that needs to feel like you're playing and to a large extent it achieves this.
The marketing people obviously will have a field day (pun not intended) as they have introduced a total point valuation for each player, allowing for fantasy teams to be developed, tournaments, changes of form for players across several season. You get the picture.
Overall the game is pretty enjoyable, doesn't last too long and feels like football, so I guess an 8/10 for reflecting the game. There's no need to collect the game, so I should warn you the starter packs are identical, so don't buy more than one of these for everything you need to play the game.