29 Apr 2016

Football Manager
1982 - ZX Spectrum

Straightforward strategy, football themed: change your team to maximise Attack, Defence, Midfield, and Energy stats. Then, see which team wins — slowly.

Sixteen positions per team, eleven playing per match, and you’ll want to keep a slot free for the chance to buy the footballer auctioned off at the end of a match. So, your decisions per match boil down to four substitutions and a new addition. Energy decreases for participating footballers, so some rotation is essential, a small strategic subtly favoring players who only use their best footballers when they need to. With these few options, and a random element, victory largely falls to chance.

The results, revealed as “highlights” cutscenes, gripped me the first time: I watched with hope and apprehension to find if my strategy paid off, or luck was on my side. But they drag on so that I soon found myself turning away for a few minutes whilst they played, only watching during an important match, otherwise tuning in just for the final score. The game is slow, so slow I was only looking half the time the program was running.

There is, at least, always opportunity, addictive opportunity. Despite the game speed, despite your losses, you’ll want to push on, because it’s rarely hopeless. You don’t know where your points will ultimately place you on the league table. And could the next player put up for auction change your chances? Will your next match be an easy win (either a lucky matchup or a planned offensive) that could improve your morale and springboard you to victory? These questions will spur you to one more match, another chance to progress towards your goal of promotions through the football leagues.

I got fed up with this game after a few seasons, but should take it for what it is: an early, pure strategy videogame.

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