APBA Blog reader Mike Burger has just gotten his APBA Pro Soccer Board Game. I coaxed him to do a review of the game for this site after he had played a few soccer games and gotten a good feel for the game.
Thanks to Mike for giving us his detailed insights and experience on the game!
Soccer is a very polarizing game when it comes to the average sports fan. They’ll think it’s either the greatest game ever, or a complete waste of time. However, as the tide is turning more towards the greatest game ever crowd, soccer is really getting the growth spurt that has been predicted since the 1970′s. There is a stable domestic league that appears regularly on television. International matches also regularly appear on the screen. So, it only seemed natural that APBA join the fray and make a soccer game. The game comes with the 4 UEFA semi-finalists from the 2009-10 season, with the option of buying an EPL set (20 teams), a World Cup set (32 teams), the teams from the round of 16 2009-10 UEFA season or an MLS set (16 teams).
Setting up the Game
However, one of the big problems immediately becomes that although soccer is a beautiful game, it is also a tedious game since much of the action involves turnovers. So trying to recreate every touch (the average game has 7 touches a minute) is just not possible unless you want a 6 hour game. Here, the hockey approach is tried and the game moves along in half-minute increments, which puts the game at a tolerable 60-90 minute range depending on your speed of play.
The game obviously starts by picking the starting 11 and placing them in either a 4-4-2, 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 formation. Defense is a little weird here, every forward is a 1, every midfielder is a 2 and every defender is a 3. There is no requirement of what to have at each position (other than the one goalie). You then total up the numbers, compare it with a team number and use that as the defensive rating. Why they didn’t just give defensive ratings to the players and letting that take care of the team defense rating is a little odd, and gives somewhat a disincentive to replace forwards with defensive players once you have the lead. It would also give you a chance to make draft teams, having team ratings makes that difficult or actually make some defenders more valuable than just space in the lower slots.
Your players are then ranked by offensive rating, the highest in slot 1 down to the lowest in slot 10. The offensive rating is really a “how many touches will this player need” rating, since the #1 player will get many more touches than #10. Many of the plays also refer to a pass to a field position and offensive number like “D4″ (ball moves to zone D and is controlled by the 4th highest offensive ranked player). Simply placing the lineup from 1-10 on your playing surface is the way to go for game play. There are four other elements that require rankings: foul suffered, foul committed, assists and injury. The first two are used with some frequency, so it’s a good idea to note the ranks on your scoresheet. The other two are rarely used and can just be referred to as needed.
Mechanics of the Game
At this point, the game pretty much works like the hockey game. The ball will go to players via pass or turnover, with some plays designated as 50-50 balls (which depending on ratings can be weighted more towards one team) which will go to one team or another depending on an extra dice roll. The difference from hockey is that there are seven zones on the field, and the accuracy of the shot is greatly enhanced as the player gets into the zones closer to the net. About 75% of the plays will be either a pass, turnover or 50-50 ball, another 15% will be fouls and the other 10% will be shots. Play is also dictated by both teams’ formation, the more aggressive 4-3-3 leads to more close opportunities but more turnovers, while the 4-5-1 will keep the ball more often but also significantly reduces shots. The defensive formation will also augment or diminish the effects of the offensive one, giving you a total of 63 possible outcomes for any particular number, depending on offensive formation (3), defensive formation (3) and ball location (7).
Those numbers are of course the familiar ones that make it look like a true APBA product. The play results go from 1-50, with 48-50 always being static plays (48=foul suffered, 49=foul committed and 50=special play) and 1-20 always being passes or shots. The numbers from 21-47 can be passes, 50-50 balls or turnovers depending on the formations and location. It will also look a little weird to a veteran APBA player that if a player has a 1, it may not always be on 66, it appears a lot on 11 with a 2 or 3 on 66. Otherwise the numbers generally follow the normal paths from great to not-so-great.
The mechanics of the shot also work like hockey, there’s an initial roll to see if the shot has a chance of scoring from the player’s perspective, and then the chance for a save from the goalie’s perspective. The initial roll is adjusted by the zone of the shooter, so there’s a premium to getting the ball to zone A, so having good passers in the game is a key. There is also a separate range for both shooters and goalkeepers if it is a penalty kick.
However, the biggest drawback to the game is the lack of boards. Like the newer baseball and hockey products, the boards have been replaced by charts in the back of the rule book. This isn’t an issue in baseball when there’s a page devoted to each base situation. However, in soccer there are eight pages of charts that you are constantly flipping between. What I ended up doing was copying the charts and placing them on two boards. The game moves much faster once you do this. I realize the reason APBA does this is because of the cost savings of using smaller packaging, but it would have been preferable to have three or four box size boards rather than trying to constantly flip pages.
Accuracy wise a couple things hop out besides the lack of individual defensive ratings. One is extra time, there always doesn’t seem to be enough. Tacking on for goals (30 seconds) and cards (30 for yellow, 60 for red) would probably take care of it. The other is the lack of a fatigue factor, the only incentive to substitute is to possibly get into a different defensive range or add one scorer late depending on the game situation. Maybe on the injury chart if there was also a spot for fatigue that would force a difficult decision on whether to substitute or not.
Some Final Concerns
Finally, there is one major disappointment. The game seems somewhat rushed to market. There are inconsistency/typos in some of the charts and a ton of corrections have already been issued for the EPL set. There are also some plays where the eventuality is not covered in the rules, such as trying to resolve a foul in Zone A when that zone doesn’t appear on the resolution chart. And at least for the World Cup set, it’s like the old days of perforating XBs, except that they don’t tear as well and you’re doing it for all 684 players. I don’t know if that is the same for the EPL or MLS sets. The four UEFA teams also did not come with envelopes.
If you’re an APBA fan and a soccer fan, it’s worth the money. If you are not a soccer fan, it’s not worth your money.
Thanks again to Mike Burger for his comprehensive review. If anyone else has gotten the game and has opinions, feel free to leave a comment.