In tabletop sports simulation world, replicating the statistical output of a particular soccer team, league or season has proven to be rather easy. There are many soccer games on the market that will crank out results with a few dice rolls.
However, at its best, the game of soccer moves with hypnotic fluidity and spectacular flourishes of creativity and athletic genius. To the frustration of many tabletop-sports enthusiasts, the replication of this rhythm with dice on the tabletop has been an elusive dream. To capture the feel of a real match while maintaining statistical realism and – most importantly, I remind you – playability, seemed an impossible cipher.
David Troppens’ Net Results Soccer might have cracked the code that translates that feel to the tabletop. It’s an imperfect game, but its appeal is in that flow and in the strength of its individual player ratings.
NET RESULTS SOCCER GAME REVIEW:
WHAT IS IT?: Net Results Soccer is a card & dice soccer simulation game designed for solitaire play. It is a “full play” game. That is, every possession, shot, card, foul, etc. is accounted for through the course of gameplay. This game uses individual player ratings on individual player cards to resolve each action. From the introduction to the rulebook:
Many games are created based on team averages or team grades. Many games have ratings based on subjectivity… However, our goal was to find a way to make the players stand out – find what they bring to the table. And through those statistical tendencies, you get your team results.
WHAT DO YOU GET WHEN YOU BUY IT?: The game parts are all PDFs. The typical price for a complete season (including a card for every player who played a single minute in the league) is $13 USD. You’ll get the rulebook (6 pages) and each page of the pdf file holds 16 player cards. I’m no math wiz, but for the EPL season there were 20 teams, each employing at least 22 players throughout the season. You’ll need a lot of printer ink to print the whole thing.
The components are visually very appealing. The cards are well designed. The rulebook has some nice graphics. [Caution: I'm about to be nit-picky.] Though the layout looks great, I did find the rulebook to be kind of hard to read when I needed to reference it during the course of my first game. The font is small (10 point Times New Roman, I think?) and the type is single-spaced. That said, it is a breath of fresh air to get a game from a DIY publisher that has taken aesthetic appeal into consideration. Too many don’t.
My copy of the game also came with a scoresheet that I thought was clever and will be useful for most gamers.
HOW DO YOU PLAY?: First, choose your Starting XI (XI=eleven in Roman numerals. That’s how they write it in soccer. Don’t ask me why.) The rulebook suggests using plastic 9-slot baseball card pages to keep and reference the cards in formation.
In each turn you’ll roll a handfull of dice: 1d20, 2d10, 2d8. I didn’t have any 8-siders handy (not a Statis-Pro fan, sorry!), so I whipped up a little Excel diceroller for the game (click here to download).
In a typical roll, the 20-sider determines which team wins possession, the two ten-siders determine which players are in on the action, and the two eight-siders read together (or concatenated - for you other Excel nerds out there) determine from which player card you’ll read the result, and what the next action will be.
One minute of time is marked off for 35% of all turns, which means you’ll make probably in the neighborhood of 275 rolls. Sounds like a lot doesn’t it? Like I said, I used the Excel diceroller and the game flowed wonderfully for me. The first half of my first game took about 2 hours, but once I understood the game engine and could read the cards, the second half of the game took about 40 minutes. The designer of the game claims that a full match can be played in as little as 40 minutes, and that seems to me to be an exceptional time, but not impossible. The claim that most matches will be done in under an hour seems likely to be true though.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS GAME?:
This game will appeal to the tabletop gamer who wants a full play soccer game that produces all standard statistics, with individual players rated and carded for both offense and defense. A draft league is conceivable, too.
The gamer that will get the most out of this game is one who has the longer attention span a full play soccer game requires and who has the requisite imagination to fill in the blanks, so to speak, when a generic result is read off of the player card.
Regarding soccer sims, I’m often asked if a particular game will appeal to the gamer who enjoys or has a passing interest in the sport of soccer but follows the current world leagues only casually, or not at all. Net Results Soccer has become the game that I would recommend to these gamers. There are three main reasons:
- the ratings and stats printed right on the individual cards for each player make it easy to determine who the stars are for each team
- the game is fairly simple and doesn’t require intimate knowledge of soccer rules or sophisticated coaching strategies
- the risk is minimal, since the cost of entry for the complete game is very reasonable at only $13
WHAT IS THIS GAME MISSING?:
While players are rated for defense and offense individually, the two activated players in any given turn are determined by random rolls of the d10, which can lead to an odd matchup of a #10 versus a #10, for instance. Of course, you may see that very matchup on any given play in a real soccer match, but it’s not typical. Soccer aficionados may find this off-putting, as I did.
Additionally, there is almost nothing to do in terms of management of your squad once they starting XI is on the pitch. You can maneuver your “formation” however you like, but besides putting players with the highest defensive ratings in the lower positions in the lineup, I couldn’t find any other strategic options available to me. There is essentially no difference between playing a man at #8 or #10. He is equally likely to earn the ball in either position. If you are looking for a game that will bring out your inner Alex Ferguson, this isn’t the game for you.
To continue that thought, if you’re looking for a head-to-head game or a game where you might take a lower table squad and out-manage your better equipped opponent, this game isn’t it. Besides personnel decisions, this game offers almost no tactical options for a manager.
Tabletop-sports gamers love stats, and this game will produce the standards, with one odd exception: Assists. The rulebook is strangely quiet on assists. In an email, the game designer had this to say:
I’ve never been too happy with the assist format.
I’ve actually been going with this my last 5-6 games.
1) If a goal is scored off a P+, then give the player that earned the P+ an assist.
2) If a goal is scored off a P* reading, the last player to have the ball before the shooter gets the assist.
3) Whenever someone rolls a P+, I’ve kept it charted who rolled it with a penny on their card. If I get a goal that doesn’t involve the top two readings, I’ll then give that player the assist unless he’s the goal scorer. If he’s the scorer, then there’s no assist.
This seems to be working well because players with the largest P+ ranges are the ones that usually have that penny on their card.
And finally, this game will simulate the flow and pace of a soccer match nicely, and it seems to produce reasonably accurate stats, but what it doesn’t offer are the little flashes of chrome that stimulate the imagination for any given result. For instance, you might have a back and forth series of possessions and finally one side will score a goal. OK, great. There is no hint, however, of how the goal was scored. Was it a header in the corner off a beautiful cross, or a screaming line drive from 28 yards out? No clue. Personally, I like a little of this type of chrome, but not too much. This game offers none at all.
HOW STEEP IS THE LEARNING CURVE?:
It helps to know the basic rules of the real-life game of soccer, I think, but in general the learning curve is rather a gentle slope. There are a lot of different ratings, and it will take some time to learn how to resolve each type of action, but the rules are written well. By the time I’d completed my first game I felt reasonably secure in my understanding of the rules.
IS THERE AN ONLINE COMMUNITY OF ENTHUSIASTS?:
This is a young game, and as such, it hasn’t taken a strong foothold in the hobby yet. The “official” game website is a Delphi Forum, and there are a number of season replays being posted there currently. It doesn’t take much searching to come up with a few dedicated gamers singing the praise of Net Results Soccer. The community is currently very small, but I trust that it will grow.
Net Results Soccer captures the feel and flow of a soccer match in a way that no other tabletop sports sim has been thus far able to accomplish. Additionally, the game components are well-designed and the individual player cards with individual player ratings for various offensive and defensive skills offer an appeal that sets this game apart from most of its competitors. The game does not offer even basic tactical options or a viable head-to-head mode, however, and gameplay may be too passive for the sophisticated soccer fanatic. It’s an easy game to learn, and may especially appeal to casual fans of the sport who are looking to learn more about some of the world’s leagues.
Net Results Soccer is a fast-moving fullplay soccer sim with individual cards that casual fans will especially enjoy. It gives you the full game experience including all the stats you’ll want, but it won’t give you the chance to prove that you’re the next Arsene Wenger or Pep Guardiola.