APBA Soccer – mini season numero uno

I’m glad I didn’t read the reviews when APBA Soccer was released last March, because they weren’t kind.  The game engine was criticized as a knockoff of Anthony Apostolico’s Classic Soccer, and worse, the debut card sets were full of errors and seemingly un-playtested.

That’s water under the soccer bridge as far as I’m concerned, though.  I ordered the game with birthday money (thanks mom-in-law!), and I’ve had it now a little over a month.  In that time, APBA soccer has had about 90% of my tabletop gaming attention.

You’d need a broad brush to paint this game as a kind of Classic Soccer Lite, but I get the comparison.  That the box calls APBA Soccer “The Classic Soccer Board Game” is brazen, I thought, since the two games are similar enough in basic design to elicit comparisons on their own.  Ballsy move by APBA owner (and, reportedly, the designer of the soccer game) John Herson to call it out like that.

I’ll review the game itself later, in the meantime, here is a brief description of the tabletop updates you’ll be getting in the coming weeks:

My first APBA soccer project is a mini-season with two divisions: Division One will be comprised of the top 8 finishers in 2010 Major League Soccer competing in a 7 game short season where the top 6 teams make the playoffs (setup like the NFL: wild-card round, semi-finals, championship).  The bottom 8 2010 MLS finishers will compete in a double-elimination tournament for right to be promoted to division one for the next MLS mini-season I undertake.  The two finalists in that tournament will be promoted.  Total games to finish the entire project will be 48.  Since I play 4-5 games a week on average, it should take two to two-and-a-half months to finish.  That seems to be about the length my attention span for most things, so I have a reasonable expectation that I’ll finish this.  I’m 14 games into the season so far (roughly 30% complete).

I’ll try to post game-by-game results and update stats and standings with every week of play.  I’ll let you know when I’m using homebrew rules and I’ll give you my opinion as to where the game succeeds and where it could use work.  That’s the plan, anyway.

Now that I’ve said all that, I want to make a full disclosure:  I’ve only played the game a month, but I love it.  It’s not perfect, but it’s terrifically fun, and it’s my new favorite soccer sim.  I hope the joy I’m experiencing with the game comes across in my posts, because I hope to convert the doubtful; I want the game to succeed.  I have no dog in the fight between the old guard APBA guys and the new ownership, as I’ve never owned an APBA product before and I don’t have any opinion on the Lancaster to Alpharetta move or any of that.  All I know is that this soccer game is great, and with the innovations from the community, it’s getting better every day.

I hope you enjoy the writeups of my first APBA soccer project!  I’m having a blast playing it.

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  1. Look forward to your results…I played a one off tornament with RSL beating the Crew (kept the east and west seperate)…..4-5 to games a week is a great pace, me try to play once a week

    • That doesn’t surprise me that RSL won your tournament, Bob. They are a solid team in this set and will be solid in the 2011 set, too, I imagine. It’s been easier to play more now that I’ve got the time of game down to about 90 minutes. I haven’t been able to play a game in 60 minutes yet, but I think that’s mainly because I write down the result of every action. One of these days I’ll just play a game without keeping track of everything, but even when I try I find myself doing it. Keeping score is almost a compulsion for me in these games. But it’s also a great part of the fun for me, too.

  2. Good morning,

    Thank you for reviewing APBA’s soccer game. I am not the developer of the game. I asked the developers about the statement that the game is a knockoff of another soccer game. They told me they had never heard of that other game. Since these are honorable men, I take their word for it.

    The tag line the Classic Soccer board game is the same tag line that APBA has used for its other board games beginning with APBA’s baseball game first introduced in 1951. The tag line is a continuation of the packaging for APBA’s other four sports games. There is no hidden meaning or message in the choice of the tag line.

    I appreciate you trying out APBA’s soccer game. I wish the introduction had gone better. It should have been done much better. We think we have a handle on the card situation.

    Any comments pro , con or neutral, I would appreciate hearing. We need fans feedback to make the soccer game the best it can be.



  3. Thank you for taking the time to reply, John. I really appreciate your comments. To me it says volumes about your commitment to the soccer game and to APBA generally that you are willing to address your customers directly.

    As for the comparison between APBA and Classic Soccer – personally, I think there are similarities in the game design (the way the pitch is divided into zones, most glaringly), but there is no way I would ever call the game a knockoff. I was just pointing out some of the criticisms I’ve seen.

    I prefer APBA Soccer to Classic Soccer. I’ve been playing Classic Soccer for about a year and a half, but it is a different game and, though enjoyable, I never had the fun with it that I’m having with APBA. APBA Soccer is the game I was looking for, the game I hoped CS would be when I first bought it. Like I said, I think one would need a broad brush to try to paint APBA as a Classic Soccer lite. If there are others who’ve played Classic Soccer and who think the game gets bogged down with too many rules, too many charts, too many calculations, like I did – APBA Soccer might be the game for them, the way it is for me.

    I’m bummed that the introduction of the game didn’t go better for APBA, too, because I really love this game and want it to succeed, if only for my own selfish reasons – I want to keep playing updated league sets each year. One of the reasons I started this blog was that I thought the game needed someone out there talking about how great it is. APBA Soccer is a great game. If I’m your biggest fan right now, that’s cool with me, but I hope I can eliminate some of the early misconceptions about the game and, consequently, convince others who are on the fence to go out and pick up a copy.

    I’m going to shout it from the rooftops. I love APBA Soccer! Thanks again, John, for this game.

    – Paul

  4. Paul — Great writeups on your replay. I just wanted to comment that I tried Classic Soccer back some years ago, and found it virtually unplayable — it was an extremely intricate simulation, a real labor of love by its creator, but I thought it needed outside development to simplify the charts and improve the flow. As a result of reading this replay and comments I’ve decided to order the APBA game with the 2011 MLS. I hope they come out with some great sides of the past. I love soccer and have been waiting for something like this to come along. Your enthusiasm convinced me to give it a try.

  5. I love that, Dan! Thank you for reading and I’m really excited that you’re going to pick up the game. I hope you love it as much as I and a few others out there do! I’d recommend checking out the “Talkin’ Soccer” folder in the APBA – BTL Forum (there’s a link to it in the blog roll) to connect with some others who are playing the game. A few of us are going to be starting up a play-by-mail draft league using next year’s EPL set. You are more than welcome to join us. Take care,

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  7. Okay, you’ve convinced one more person to give APBA soccer a try. I’ve been looking for a soccer sim for awhile, reading online reviews and forum comments, and it quickly boiled down to just a few choices (the usual suspects, and I’m sure you know what games I mean). Initially I was a little put off by the many criticisms that APBA soccer received, but then I began to notice that the majority of those criticisms came in the first two or three months after the release, and that comments and/or reviews posted more recently were more positive. Your comments here though were the last little nudge I needed to order the game. That, plus APBA was one of the few that offered the Women’s World Cup set (USA!) as well as MLS… and since Swansea avoided relegation in their first season in the Premiership, I’ll be ordering that set as well. Thanks for helping me make up my mind!

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