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Subject: Some people are on the pitch, they think it's all over...... rss

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Steve Bishop
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Lytham St. Annes
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I bought this game at the recent UK Games Expo in Birmingham and I’m so glad that I did. I had seen the game on BGG and to be honest as a ‘footie’ fan I was always going to like it but I was a little put off by reports that it wasn’t a football simulation. I have always wanted to design a football game, but one that created an actual match, so the ‘abstract’ form of this game at the tournament level did not appeal at first.

I’ve now played both the 1930 and 2002 version of this several times and above all else it’s just a Fun game! My Seven year old simply loves it (he’s a football nut) but also its one of the very few games I’ve managed to get my partner and 15 year old daughter not only to play, but to come back for more. My daughter can now name the winners of every World Cup competition!


Components.
Other reviewers have mentioned the layout of the board as being indicative of a ‘Wallchart’ where one follows a competition filling in the scores as they happen and taking the teams from the group stages into the knockout phase and on to the final. I couldn’t really give a better description than this and for those of us who have followed our national teams through the agonies and ecstasies of such tournaments in this manner the board has a nostalgic feel.

The components are all of good quality. The board is mounted and there are no problems with folds or gaps. The counters (or tiles) are chunky and easy to handle (all tiles are round except for the national team flags), punching them out was a pleasure in itself as I am used to thinner die cut pieces in the many wargames I own where the corners always seem to stick. The cards are ok but I think they may suffer a bit after the play they are definitely going to receive.

There are also a bunch of plastic football markers in different colours to denote the quality of each of the teams and a couple of result sheets which can be photocopied to record the results of each tournament. Four modifying dice complete the package.

Game Mechanics.
The designer states that the game can be played with as little as three and up to 16 players depending upon which tournament you choose to play. I would suggest that the 1930 tournament (13 teams) is best suited to 3-5 players and the 2002 tournament (32 teams) to 5-7 although more players are certainly possible in both events and 2002 can be played with less. The main factor when determining possible number of players is to make sure that each player controls enough teams to give him a good spread in terms of quality but also a distribution across the different groups to make the player interaction more interesting. About four or five teams per player seems to be the ideal from my experience.
Initial allocation of teams is simply done by taking all of the team tiles placed face down for the players to randomly draw. So for example 3 players in the 1930 tournament would draw 4 teams each with one over and 6 players in 2002 would draw 5 teams with 2 remaining. The remaining teams are basically allocated to the players with the weakest ‘portfolio’ of teams to create more balance

To start the game each player is allocated 3 cards from the deck of up to 87 cards. In the 1930 tournament the deck is slightly smaller as certain cards (described below) are removed. Play consists of placing a card and carrying out its action then taking a replacement card from the draw pile. Play continues clockwise around the table until the deck has been exhausted once for 1930, or twice for 2002. The extra run through the deck in 2002 reflects the fact that there are more than twice as many teams in that tournament and therefore more ‘action’ is required.

The play of a card will normally result in a player taking a tile (or tiles in 2002) and placing these upon the wallchart next to one of the participating teams. Each team has a number of spaces upon which these tiles can be placed and the number of spaces is related to the quality of the team.
Quality is denoted by a colour which are (best to worst) Black, Red, Blue, Green. Yellow and Grey each team is rated based upon its actual performance in the relevant tournament. Black and Red have four ‘wallchart’ spaces, Blue and green three and the lowest teams have only two. Obviously the number of spaces restricts the number of tiles that can be played against a particular team which ultimately restricts their goal scoring opportunities.

Tiles played on a subsequent space for a team ‘block’ all previous spaces. So for example a ‘goal’ can be protected by any subsequent tile for that team. The last tile placed for a team is ‘vulnerable’ to subsequent plays from any player.

The cards/tiles that can be played are as follows and can be played against any team, not just teams belonging to the current player:

One Goal - A one goal tile is placed against any team in the first available space for that team.

Two Goals – A two goal tile is placed upon any Black to Green team or the player can choose to use this card to place a 1 goal tile on yellow or white

Three Goals - .A three goal tile can be played upon any Black, Red or Blue team, or a two goal tile on a Green or a one goal tile on any of the other two lesser quality teams.

Attack – An Attack tile is placed upon any team. This represents ½ a goal for that team (attacking pressure), an odd attack tile upon a particular team may be converted to a late goal at the end of the group stage. Two Attack tiles together are a goal for that team.

Defend – the defend card can be played in one of two ways.
1. The player may place a Defend tile on any available team space. This has the effect of ‘blocking’ that space to further goal or Attack attempts but also protects any tile played for that team in the previous space.
2. The player may use the card to ‘flip’ any attack tile (to its blank side) that is not ‘blocked’, this renders the Attack tile useless and the space it is on is now used and blocks previous spaces.

Foul/Offside - These cards are essentially used to ‘flip’ any goal tile and also make its space unusable. A single goal will simply be flipped over and no longer counts. A three goal tile is flipped and a two goal put in the next available space. A two goal is flipped and a one goal placed in the next space. If the original three or two goal tile is in a team’s last space then the tile is simply replaced with a goal tile of the next lowest value The Offside card can alternatively be used to flip an attack tile.

Penalty – The player rolls a dice to see if the penalty is scored (converted to a goal) with a 2/3 chance of success. The difference between a goal scored by penalty and a normal goal is that the penalty can never be flipped by another card. Once scored therefore it is a guaranteed goal for the selected team.

Extra Goal Cards - Finally there are a number (9) of goal cards in the 2002 tournament that have the effect of scoring a goal for more than one team. There are three each of 2+1, 1+1 And 1+1+1, the proviso for use of these cards is that all goal tiles must be placed on different teams (the two goal option cannot be played on a yellow or white ranked team.

More than half the deck are attack and defence there are 4 foul, offside and penalty cards. A player may always discard rather than having to play a card.

When all of the cards in the deck (or decks) have been expended no further tiles can be played and the ‘modifying’ dice come into play to finally resolve the group matches. There are four of these and they are thrown (all together) once for each group, i.e. all four dice for group A then again for group B, etc.
Each dice has one coloured dot on each face that will correspond to a team quality, however there is only one grey dot amongst all four dice, two yellow dots, three green, four blue, six red and eight black. The roll will therefore tend to favour the better quality teams but can produce the occasional ‘upset’.

Each dot adds a half goal to the already played goals for all teams of that colour in the particular group for which they are being thrown. So for example if two of the four dice show black dots then any black team will have a goal added to each of its games in that group. A single dot (or third dot) acts as a half goal for the corresponding colour teams and can create a goal if those teams have any odd attack tiles to which they can be matched.
Taking an example after the last card has been played the tiles (defence tiles are not shown) in group C show;

Brazil (black) 2 goals vs Turkey (red) 2 Goals
China (grey) 0 goals 1 attack vs Costa Rica (green) 1 goal
Brazil 2 goals vs China 0 goals 1 attack
Costa Rica 1 goal vs Turkey 0 goals 3 attacks
Costa Rica 0 goals vs Brazil 0 goals 1 attack
Turkey 0 goals 1 attack vs China 0 goals

If the dice turn up black, red, grey and blue then:

The blue dot is ignored as there are no blue teams in this group.
The black dot adds a goal to Brazils score against Costa Rica turning that game from a 0-0 draw into a 1-0 for Brazil.
The red dot adds a goal for Turkey against Costa Rica (note the first two attack tiles combine to form a goal and the third combines with the dice for a second goal. It also adds to the attack tile in Turkey’s game against China turning this into a 1-0 win, lucky Turkey!
Finally the grey dot combines with the Chinese attacks both against Costa Rica to give a 1-1 draw and also against Brazil but still losing 2-1.

Once these extra (extra time?) goals have been added it is then simply a matter of recording the scores in the group and calculating the group winner and runner up before proceeding to the next group. Any ties for 1st or 2nd place are resolved using the normal World cup group rules.

Teams then progress through the subsequent rounds (last 16, Quarter finals, semi finals and ultimately the final) the draw pile decreases accordingly with each round as there are obviously fewer matches to play. Those players with surviving teams participate in each subsequent round. The modifying dice are only used once in each subsequent stage for all teams in that stage.
At the end of each round players keep the last three cards in their hands to start the next.

Essentially those are the game rules distilled from the eight page rule booklet included in the game. The ultimate aim of the game is to win the World Cup with one of your teams.

Game Play.

For the rest of this review I will concentrate on the 2002 version as in the 1930 game only one team from each group will progress straight to the semi-final stage; the machinations are simply not as great as in the 2002 cup where you have eight groups of four teams, from which two will progress to the last sixteen and so on.

As previously mentioned, the aim of the game is to have one of the teams that you own win the World Cup; to achieve this each player will be taking into account a number of factors that may lead to this long term objective.

a) Initially at the group stage the aim is to get one or more of your teams into the next stage by finishing first or second in their group.
b) It is better (usually) to get your higher quality teams through as these will always have a better chance of further progress.
c) It is (again usually) better to top a group than finish second as you will then play a ‘weaker’ second placed team from another group.
d) With c) in mind therefore you may want to ‘help’ out the weaker opponents in the group that is going to produce your opponent in the last sixteen.
e) As an extension to this you may also just want to see if you can help in knocking out the strongest teams (Black and Red) as you are going to otherwise meet these teams at some point later in the competition.

Playing the tiles therefore is not just simply a matter of banging all of the goals onto your own teams in an effort to get them through. Everyone knows the route that each of their teams may take through the competition as this is fixed and may influence where those tiles go.

So for instance Japan (blue) are the top ranked team in group H and have two yellow teams in their group (Russia and Tunisia). Japan have a pretty good chance therefore of progressing in first or second place in this group; although this is never guaranteed!
The yellow teams have only two spaces in which tiles can be placed therefore it is relatively easy to use defence tiles to block these spaces to prevent them scoring. It also means there are going to be tiles available to play in other groups
Assuming Japan finish first they will play the second placed team in group C which contains Brazil (black), Turkey (red), Costa Rica (green) and China (grey). If the player with Japan feels his position is relatively safe in his own group he may then look to group C in an effort to promote one of the lesser teams into second place to make his progress a bit easier in the last sixteen. With Brazil in this group it’s also a fair bet that other players may be chipping in tiles in an effort to knock them out early if possible.

England are in group F and know that by progressing as winners of that group they will play the second place team in group A. Group A consists of Senegal (Blue) and France, Uruguay and Denmark (all green), not quite as interesting as group C above but again England would rather play a green team than Senegal so they may actually help Senegal win the group if they cannot demote them to third. This may backfire however if Sweden or Argentina make a good showing and England finish up as runners up and have then to face the very team they tried to avoid.

This can be taken further and the route to the quarter finals plotted. England for example would face an opponent from group H or C should they progress this far so they also may be looking to gain an early exit of Brazil, Turkey or Japan.

Of course the beauty of all this is that everyone is trying to do the same thing and the interaction of the different objectives is what makes it a fascinating game. Every tile comes with multiple decisions to be made.

“Do I play a goal to make sure I beat that low ranked team or place it on China to help beat Brazil?”

“What should I do with this defence tile; I know flip my opponents attack tile to prevent a possible goal, no wait I’ll play it on my own team and protect that two goal lead, just a minute though I could block my opponent from scoring another?”

“A multiple goal card (1+1+1 for instance), I have to put it on separate teams so the one on England is a no-brainer, mmm Sweden look like they might win the group and Argentina are up in two matches, better help Nigeria. Now that last one?”

“offside; if I’m to take the USA past the last sixteen I’d prefer to knock Italy down, ok that goal against Ecuador was offside.”

And so it goes on. Some players may have more than one team in a single group and are therefore making further decisions about who they should favour and whether it is advisable to try and get both through or ease the path of the best quality team. For this reason I think it best if players have between 4 and 6 teams each to make it less likely someone will have the majority of teams in a group.

At the end of each round players will be left with three cards to carry over to the next. The retention of certain cards near the end of the round can therefore be a crucial play. For example holding on to a three goal card as the owners of Brazil will probably see them safely through the next round.

The play in these subsequent rounds follows the same pattern as previously but there are obviously less options as the number of team’s progress. Right up to the semi-finals however you may still play tiles upon any team so the same strategies and difficult decisions will apply in leading your team to the trophy.

The designer has provided an optional rule whereby the modifying dice are not used however I would strongly recommend that they are as one of the charms of the game is waiting for the dice after all cards have been played.
The dice throws are reminiscent of a results service, waiting for the results to be featured on the BBC videprinter! In addition to this it also means that most matches are still in the balance up to the last moment.

One other thing to mention is that drawn games after the group stages are decided with a ‘penalty shootout’. This follows the same format as the actual thing starting with five penalties each and going on to sudden death if necessary. Penalty attempts are made with a die each and can be excruciatingly tense, just like the real thing. Needless to say England are useless at this and I haven’t seen the Germans lose one yet!

Conclusion.

I started this review by saying what a fun game this was and that is perhaps the main image to convey. It helps if you are interested in football and/or the World Cup but it isn’t really necessary once you have grasped the mechanics of how the group format works. It is fascinating to see the tournament evolve and I think the group stages are actually more interesting than the later rounds; but obviously winning has its own fascination.
Because players will generally have several teams no one is usually eliminated until after the quarter final stage and from then on the game will only last about another 10 or 15 minutes so down time is minimal
Some may find with only the 1930 and 2002 competitions that replay ability may be lacking but I haven’t had a game with the same result yet and the designer is working on further tournaments; it’s actually quite easy to design your own as witnessed by the resources for this game on BGG.
Finding six or so players may also be a problem as more is usually better but four players with 8 teams each is just about playable. Such is the popularity of this game with my 7 year old however that I had to come up with a ‘solo’ system for us to use, it keeps us occupied for hours on end seeing who will win the next World Cup!





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Shaun Derrick
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Re: Some people are on the pitch, they think it's all over..
Steve, this is an excellent and detailed review. You have succeeded in covering all aspects of the game. Many thanks.
 
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Steve Bishop
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Lytham St. Annes
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Thanks Shaun least I could do after your generous Expo discount.

Just had a thought tho' your method of offering discounts to people answering World Cup questions correctly may need to be amended for your US sales drive!
 
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Shaun Derrick
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I don't expect many US players to be that well informed about World Cup History unless they are keen Soccer fans. The 'answer correctly for discount' idea was purely for UK Expo. It added a bit of interest, rather than just pulling chits out of a bag!
 
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Simon Wilcock
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I watched you guys playing this at the Expo in June and agree that it generates a lot of fun - even for those peering over your shoulder to see what all the shouting is about.

I finally got to play it this weekend at ManorCon in Leicester - and it's a great game. I agree wholeheartedly with the review.

My only niggle is the three card limit makes things quite random as you go towards the final. I tried holding onto cards to assure vistory in later stages (a tactic which meant that I almost did not make it to the later stages !) Then I was beaten by a fluky draw of the "3 goal" card by an opponent who had not even bothered saving his good ones.

I'd like to see a little bit more emphasis on good hand management.

But perhaps I am taking it too seriously because, at the end of the day, it's all over so quickly and you're ready to play again that it really does not matter !

[I lost with England in 1966. How rubbish am I ?]
 
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Teik Chooi Oh
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Great review! I passed by this game at Games Expo and foolishly dimissed it as a gimmick as "how could you recreate a World Cup tournament?" with cards and dice? After missing chance to try it at ManorCon, I was gladly proven wrong last weekend at Cast R Dice. Easy to learn rules and amazingly fun and strangely addictive with a "realistic" feel to it. Meant to come back to buy a copy off you Shaun but sadly you were gone later. Next con then if I can wait that long or else will have to order it at the shop nice job
 
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Chris May
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Re: Some people are on the pitch, they think it's all over..
I just bought this bought this game today and can't wait for it to get here. I am not as big of a "football" fan as you guys probably (love American football), but I love the world cup! This game looks great. Can't wait to play it.


 
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