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Pubs, pints and penalty kicks

Last night I trialled Counter Attack with a group of four friends in a pub in Leith. None of them had played the game before, but they are all football fans and three of them are regular board game players. Over the course of the evening, we played the game a couple of times, scored a few goals, rode a number of shoddy tackles and debated the ins and outs of some of the rules, all while enjoying a beer or two.

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A beer.

I realised a few things during the process:

  1. a noisy and dark pub isn’t the ideal venue for introducing a board game to a bunch of people, particularly when this game has a steep learning curve;
  2. the tables we played on weren’t big enough bit the somewhat bitty element of the fledgling version of the game;
  3. the heading rule is overpowered in favour of the attacker;
  4. the corner kick setup takes too long; and,
  5. a simplified set of rules could be created to ease in new players.

So, I have a few tweaks to make before the next grand unveiling…in two days’ time!

PS I won my match!

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A big week for the prototype

Scotland’s national football teams have just had a big week. The women’s team qualified for the World Cup, while Alex McLeish’s side were horsed by Belgium (who, admittedly, are very good). McLeish’s side have a chance to redeem themselves on Monday night, but the question haunting us all remains: will Scotland’s football teams have as successful a week as Counter Attack?

This week, you see, my prototype is in the hands of three people: a fella in Glasgow who’s gonna play his mate, a family of board gamers (and football fans) in London, and me in a pub in Leith, with 4 mates in tow. The first two on the list are of the greatest interest to me because the game has never been played without me being present, so this is a big moment in its development. Will it sink or swim? Are the rules easy to follow or baffling to the ordinary punter? I’ll know soon, I guess…

As for the event in Leith, I’ve managed to procure two tables in a watering hole for me and my plus four. We’re all football fans and board gamers to various degrees, so I anticipate a wee bit of a challenge to some of the concepts in the game. We’re at the prototyping stage, so a challenge is definitely what I’m after. What I’m finding now, though, is that only minor tweaks are being made to the game mechanics after each new player is introduced. Surely a good sign. Let’s hope for equally good signs in the Scotland – Albania match!

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Forget astroturf, this is the real thing

The new Counter Attack prototype pitch has finally arrived!

The pitch has shrunk from A1 to A2, but, crucially, the number of hexes stay the same. The design of the pitch has changed, too: from white outlined hexes and horizontal grass lines, to a pattern reminiscent of a typical football.

The verdict? It’s easier to spot the hexes and the pitch fits on all tables. It’s a big win!

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Tactical advice…please help!

I’ve been writing up some tactical advice to go into the rules booklet for Counter Attack and now I’m seeking some help! The advice I’ve written is below. Whilst I realise you haven’t played the board game, imagine the game mirrors real football: what would you change about these instructions?


Counter Attack is a simulation of a real football match. The game has been designed based on a few too many hours of watching, studying and playing the sport. As such, tactical principles that apply in a real game of football equally apply in Counter Attack. What follows is some advice that might prove useful from time-to-time, but bear in mind there is no formula for success, as many a football manager has discovered…

Deciding where to position your players

Study your squad’s skills carefully to help you decide which players to leave on the bench and where to position the starting 11. Players with a low score for tackling are probably best kept away from your defence. Likewise, you don’t want a player with a poor shooting ability up front.

Where will you position your fastest players? A quick striker could be useful for running behind the opposition defence, while a fast fullback can effectively contribute to both defence and attack. Slower defenders will need teammates nearby or else they could be easily bypassed with some clever passing or dribbling. Midfielders tend to have average abilities at everything. However, be sure to have some decent tacklers in the midfield if you plan to win the ball back high upfield.

Team shape

The typical modern football formation favours defence over attack. The 442, 433 and 532 starts with a solid base of defenders. Even when attacking, teams will try to ensure they leave more players near their own goal than there are attackers. As a game of Counter Attack unfolds, your players will be dragged out of position, which is something the opposition can exploit. However, you as the manager have the ability to cover any gaps your maurading players leave behind. Try not to leave opposition wingers isolated in space – a quick long ball can unleash a dangerous counter attack.

Consider also the gaps between your midfield and defence, and between your midfield and attack. Large gaps can become problematic, giving your opponent space to play in, or making it difficult for you to sustain an attack.

Attacking advice

Attack with as many players as you can without sacrificing your defensive duties. The more options you have in the final third of the pitch, the more thinly spread will be your opponent’s defence.

When attacking, try to make the pitch as wide as possible by keeping players close to the touchline. This gives the defending team two choices: (1) either leave these players unmarked, meaning you can pass the ball to them comfortably, or (2) mark those players and leave gaps in the middle of the pitch.

If you have an attacker with a high heading ability you should look to cross the ball into the box for that player. Crosses can be made from anywhere, but remember that a high pass can only travel 11 hexes. Typically, crosses will come in from the wing, as there tends to be space on the wing for such a pass to be made.

Fast attacking players can ‘play on the shoulder’ of the last defender. Reach these players with a well-positioned standard pass into space, then let your speedy striker run onto the ball.

Screen Shot 2018-08-31 at 20.12.31.pngThe first-time pass is a classic way to unlock a stubborn defence as it gives you a quick new angle to make a killer pass. In the example to the left, it’s impossible for Red 3 to pass to Red 9 or Red 10, but a pass to Red 7, followed by a first-time pass into space can create a shooting opportunity for Red 10.

 

 

 
Defending advice

Try to ensure you have more defending players than there are attackers, or you could be in trouble. One way to ensure this is to keep your eye on your defence while you are attacking – use some of your player movement to reposition your defence even when you are in possession of the ball.

If your defenders are faster than the attackers, consider pushing your defence high up the pitch as your opponent will find it difficult to reach any passes played behind your defensive line. Use the offside rule to your advantage. However, a slower defence should drop deeper so they can’t be caught out by pacey opponents.

You don’t have to commit to tackles – use your defenders to block your opponent’s path to goal and to try to block any passes or shots at goal.

You don’t need to commit lots of players to attack, especially if you are winning the match. It’s perfectly legitimate to ‘park the bus’!

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New pitch means new counters

I’ve decided the A1 pitch is just too large. I’m concerned that it’s a fair bit larger than most board games and, indeed, than many tables. With a bit of a play around in Illustrator, I’ve managed to redesign the pitch into A2 format. Crucially I haven’t lost any hexes – the distances have been working out perfectly. However, the hexes are now slightly smaller, which has repercussions for the size of the players…

I’ve just placed a large order for players with 10mm bases. I’m gonna have to get the paints out to finish these ones off.

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Another day, another defeat…

This might be my first blog post, but it isn’t the first time I’ve been defeated playing my own game…

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In the latest humiliation, I somehow managed to squander a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2. My opponent, Graeme (on the left), scored his first goal from inside my area following a swift counter attack, he then equalised with an unmarked header from a corner kick, before scoring a late screamer to seal the win.

I like to think everyone beats me because I explain the rules so well, but maybe it’s just because I’m rubbish…