Subbuteo: Foosball meets Shove Ha' Penny meets FIFA

For those of you from Europe you will probably already be familiar with this game. However, while Subbuteo may have an 80 year history there, the game never made it to the other side of the Atlantic. At least not in any major way, and in fact I have never met anyone else over here who has heard of this game.

JADE is of course based in Toronto, Canada, but I have also travelled around the continent quite bit, and frequented many game stores. In the dozens I have visited, I have never seen this game for sale. I had to get my copy from the UK based Online Store: Subbuteo World. Luckily they are affordable and just awesome.

They have a great selection of Subbuteo stuff, new and old, for low prices. But for us North American's I still haven't answered the question: What the hell is Subbuteo?

Essentially, Subbuteo is a dexterity based soccer (Football for the rest of the world) game where each player takes control of a team, and plays out a match of soccer by flicking their player pieces around to move and manipulate the ball.

It is sort of like a combination of Crokinole or Shove Ha' Penny, and Foosball. If that sounds strange and difficult to play, then you are on the right track. But of course the pros make it look easy:

Despite it's long history, Subbuteo isn't the first Tabletop Flick-Football game. Before Subbuteo's Release in 1947, there was a game called Newfooty that worked in much the same way. Well for whatever reason, after Subbuteo's release, and Newfooty's desperate attempts to market themselves as the "Original Game", Newfooty disappeared in 1952; leaving Subbuteo to Reign supreme.

Playing Subbuteo is very simple and straight forward. Whoever's player touched the ball last is consider the attacker, and has the right to flick their pieces at the ball until they fail to make contact with it.

After the attacker has flicked their player and the ball is in motion, the defending player may make a defensive flick to try and intercept the ball, or move into a defensive position.

If no one makes contact with the ball, the players alternate flicks until one player becomes the attacker. And thus play goes back and forth as the two players fight for control over the ball.

For some standardization in game play, there is a specific way you have to flick the pieces. Now may sound pretty anal (and it is), but it does mean that at least everyone is playing the same way.

A "Flick" has to be made from your fingernail, and your finger can not be braced in any fashion to increase its power. Mine demonstration above was a pretty weak flick, but you get the idea.

Your keeper works a little differently from the rest of your players. Rather than flicking him, you move him around on a stick that slips under the back of the net. And sadly you have to avoid the temptation to whip it back and forth from side to side until the ball is in motion.

I also recommend that you get a set of Flicking Goalkeepers. There are rules for you to pull your goalie and replace him with a player you can flick. Trust me this comes up all the time for new players. Invest the $10.

Aside from the Players and Goalkeeper the only other piece is the ball. A standard regulation ball is 22m (white). However there are also 18mm balls (Orange) which are called "High-Scoring Balls" and boy are they ever! I find when using a 22mm Ball, games of Subbuteo have fairly average scores comparable to an actual soccer game. The first time I used the 18mm ball, our final score was a whopping 8:5.

So if you want games with more goals, go 18mm. If you want something more difficult/regulation go 22mm.

You can also get a ton of different patterns from standard white, to old-school brown leather and anything in between.

Perhaps more importantly you can also get just about any team in any European League, from any era. Here is the Premier League Liverpool Team I got from my friend Matt (who shockingly is from Liverpool). Being sanctioned merchandise,  the boxed teams are often a lot nicer then the starter sets. They just seem to glide with more ease across the pitch.

Aside from a couple of differences in mechanics, the rules pretty much flow like soccer. Now most of the rules I have seen in these starting boxes are quite rudimentary and to really understand the game I had to look up a more complete set. As a result, I currently use the Federation of International Sports Table Football Rules version 5.0. It gave me the complete break down of everything I need to know.

Be warned, F.I.S.T.F.'s rule set is 60 pages long. But it is a fast read with a lot of pictures.

That is Subbuteo in a nut shell. It has a rich history, with lots of support and hobbyists. If you are in to soccer, dexterity games, or just want to try something new then Subbuteo is worth a look.

Written by: Andrew Gregory
Subbuteo: Foosball meets Shove Ha' Penny meets FIFA Subbuteo: Foosball meets Shove Ha' Penny meets FIFA Reviewed by JADE Gaming on 2/25/2016 02:30:00 pm Rating: 5

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