This week there were seven of us and four of us had arranged to try Time of Soccer, a game about running a successful football team over the course of a season, incorporating buying and selling players, hiring managers, acquiring sponsorship and playing out matches in both a league and cup setting. Each week, a grid of opportunities (player, manager, sponsorship and other tiles) is laid out on the board and your agent navigates this grid to get to and take advantage of those opportunities before your opposing managers. At the end of the week, a league match is played using the players on your roster and dice rolls determine the result, albeit that the success of those rolls is determined by the strength of your team. At the end of the season, victory points are awarded for performance in the league and cup, the strength of your team and some non-match elements and the highest VPs wins.
This was an interesting game that had some really nice ideas and multiple ways to progress. Mark K spent the first part of the game with a very lean squad but benefitted from off-the-field progress that gave him more cash to buy the advanced players that turned up for purchase later in the game. Nige went the opposite route with a strong initial squad but came undone when his superior team on paper couldn't roll the high numbers to secure victory in the league matches. A good Cup run can help bring in extra VPs but three of us went out in the first round and Mark K, the only survivor, got eliminated in the semi-finals, leaving two neutral teams to battle out the final. The league came down to the final week and, as the schedules would have it, the top two were facing each other. However, Mark K's team was fatigued from an earlier midweek friendly - something I had completely ignored, foregoing the extra income the friendlies brought in to maintain peak physical fitness. And it paid off as my team, which started the weekend in second place, thrashed the potential champions 8-2 to take the title and once the other VPs were added up the game as a whole.
As I said, the game had some interesting ideas and it was fun to play but, for me at least, it went on way too long (4 hours), I didn't like the restrictions the one-way-system on the board grid placed on what you could do, and the luck of the dice could still undo any good team-building that had taken place - although, as Nige was the one who suffered from the bad luck, it wasn't a complete disaster. I'm glad to have played and Mark K and Guy liked it more than I did but I'm not sure I'm keen to invest that length of time into the game a second time - even if we could trim an hour off the play time.