Net Results Soccer: Game Review

Posted by Paul on October 9, 2012 | Short Link

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.

SUMMARY:
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.

TL;DR:
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.

11 Comments

  • Paul says:

    I’m a huge fan of Major League Soccer and I follow the EPL a bit, too, but I don’t follow the other major European leagues with particular attention. I intend to purchase the most recent Serie A set for Net Results Soccer to get more familiar with that league and some of its lesser stars.

    For me, this opportunity to enjoy and familiarize myself with some of the leagues that I don’t know too much about, and to do so with minimal investment of time and money, is the most exciting aspect of Net Results Soccer.

  • Robert says:

    Great Review, thanks for posting it.
    Bob

  • Tim says:

    Thanks for the review, Paul. Played my first game of Net Results this week. I enjoyed it far more than APBA or Beautiful Game. Surprisingly, I didn’t have much trouble reading the cards, but distinguishing between the d10 and the d8 was hard. I’m thinking of using d10s that match the kit colors and linking each one to the corresponding team (rather than always using red for offense and white for defense).

    Thanks for the Excel calculator. Is there a function key for “recalculate”? The only way I can get the numbers to update is to enter/change a number in a cell off of the side.

    Having spent over $100 combined on APBA Soccer and Beautiful Game (games+cards+shipping) only to feel disappointed, I’d encourage anyone still looking for a soccer game to try this one out for $13.

  • Paul says:

    Hey Tim – Thank you for the comment. In Excel, the F9 button on your keyboard is the recalculate button.

    I’d be interested to hear your take on The Beautiful Game. I’ve almost pulled the trigger on that game a few different times, because it has such loyal fans and seems like it would be a decent quickplay game. The only thing that’s kept me from it is the price. It’s pretty darned expensive. On the plus side, there are a lot of free fan-created seasons available.

    What was it about APBA Soccer specifically that you felt the game was lacking, for you?

  • Tim says:

    Thanks, Paul.

    For The Beautiful Game, I could never quite “feel the excitement.” It pretty much seemed to be the following: 1. calculate the number of chances for each team; 2. for each chance, draw a card and make a roll which might cause you to draw another card that gives you a range for a goal to occur. 3. roll the dice. 4. if a goal occurred, roll on a table to see who scored it. Having read your blog for a year, I’m thinking that you could probably design a spreadsheet in one hour that would accomplish the same thing. The flavor text on the card was nice, but I never really “felt it” since it had nothing to do with who would eventually get credit for the goal. It is quick, and it’s the only game (that I own) that a full league season seems feasible. I started MLS 2011, but got bored after about 20 games. I do appreciate the designer’s decision to share the formula for creating new leagues/teams, and his customer service was top-notch. (Insert a “to each his own” caveat here. I wish I *did* like it as much as some others do. I’m jealous that they found something that “scratched their soccer itch.”)

    There were some things about APBA that I liked (especially after they made the corrections to the cards). I posted a generally positive review at BGG (http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/678104/a-collection-of-thoughts-too-disorganized-to-be-a). My younger son and I even started an MLS 2011 replay (http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/814279/mls-2011). I think it did a fine job of capturing the “feel” of midfield back-and-forth followed by the gradual buildup to an attempt. I also love the clutch point mechanic. I didn’t like the constant referring to multiple tables. (After 50+ games, I only had about 15% of the results memorized, and I don\’t think it ever would have gone above 20%.) The lack of individual defense ratings was also weird.

    Net Results takes care of the two issues that bothered me the most about APBA: the results are on the player cards, and each player has individualized defense. I’m not sure yet that it captures the gradual buildup towards a chance, but the P* and P+ results (where one team gets to maintain possession until the defense makes a positive play) are a step in that direction. I’m also not sure that the split results are worth the extra “effort” of one more die check. (I like the optional rule that essentially says that split results just go in the home team’s favor.) So far, I like it a lot (especially for the price!). But, I guess it remains to be seen how I feel after a few more games.

    Sorry for clogging up your blog with an overly long post :) If you’d like to exchange emails, I’d be happy to mail you my copy of The Beautiful Game as a small thank you for the work you put into your blog. Take care!

  • David Troppens says:

    Tim,
    Thanks for the kind post. With recent sets, the tendency has been to shift away from the split readings. We have more readings of (5) which means they can be made into strict home/road readings. I’d argue any split from 4 to 6 would probably work well for a home/road reading. If a player was to play every minute on the pitch, the difference between a (4) or a (5) would be about one reading during the season. So I find myself converting the splits for more non-consequential readings like offside plays or corners to (5) whenever possible. Actually, with corners that’s pretty easy since you have a whole team to manipulate to get what should be a 3.86 range to a 3.86 range. You can play around with a 11-13(5) or 11-14 with the players until you basically nail it. About the only issue I have with it (and it’s going to have to remain) is with own goals, cards, penalty kicks and shots. They’ll probably always remain on those readings. One word of warning – I wouldn’t use the home/road split on any number from 1 to 3 or 7 to 9. If you do, players with own goal readings or PK ranges that involve those numbers will really skew. A player that has an 81(2) probably committed one own goal for about 3,200 minutes of play. If you play that as a 50-50 reading (essentially a (5)), he’ll be projected to get more than double the own goals he got during the season.

    The dice color idea is a pretty awesome idea. I’ve actually adjusted how I play vs. how I wrote the rules with the 10Ds. I have a dark blue die and a light blue die (have others but these are the two I usually play with). I have gotten in the habit to always use the dark blue one for the first action, and the light blue one if needed. For instance, if it is a 7 and the die roll is a 35, I use the 7 on the offensive team. If it is an 86, then I’ll just use it for the defensive team. If I have to do something like a foul check, then I’ll use the light blue die. I just find it flows better. I know to always check the dark blue die and my mind has it “figured out well.”

  • David Troppens says:

    One more thing – we recently revealed our first-ever “Historic” set. The 1998-99 English Premier League set is out and includes all the nifty statistical dandies you’d expect from a Net Results Soccer set. And there will be more in the future.

    I’m excited about this addition because 95% of play sports game playing in my life has been “old” seasons – not one that was just completed. And I’m finally finding the data to make such sets. I’m constantly getting information mailed/sent to me. Ironic in the day of the internet, it’s through traditional old-school means that it’s easiest to find this data for sets beyond a few years old – not the internet.

  • Paul says:

    Hi David,

    The news of the 98-99 set is terrifically exciting. I do plan to pick it up when I finish up a couple of the projects I’m currently working on. Personally, however, as an Arsenal fanatic, I would have preferred 97-98 :)

    I, too, prefer to play historic seasons with just about all of the games I play. I look forward to more of these releases from Net Results!

  • David Troppens says:

    NET RESULTS SOCCER SET
    2012-13 English Premier League

    Hello everyone.
    It was a season of domination during Sir Alex’s final year for Manchester United. Defending champions Manchester City really didn’t present much of a challenge, as Manchester United won the league race by 11 points with a +43 goal differential. Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur had a spirited battle for the third and fourth spots, with the first two of those teams mentioned the ones earning those third and fourth spots, respectively
    Robin VanPersie captured the goal scoring honors with 26 goals, while Luis Suarez managed 23 goals and player of the year Gareth Bale scored 21.
    It was a year of goals, with teams scoring 1,063. Yet, no one scored more than Manchester United’s 86 tallies, meaning that scoring was relatively balanced throughout the league. The 2012-13 season could be considered a successful season for squads like West Bromwich Albion, Swansea City and Norwich City.
    Relive the 2012-13 EPL season with Net Results Soccer’s newest set.
    Each player who competed at least one minute on the pitch during the season are graded with their own cards. They are graded for their offensive, defensive and disciplinary output that season. Great offensive players will score goals, great defensive players will stop shots and earn tackles and great keepers will make a lot of saves. And, of course, that hothead that had enough cards to fill a scrapbook, they’ll get them here as well. Net Results Soccer grades players for many individualistic abilities and allows those tendencies to dictate game action. And you can enjoy a game in about 60-75 minutes of playing time.

    For more information for this set or our many other sets:

    Troppens5 (at) aol.com
    or check out our start page at:
    http://www.forums.delphiforums.com/dtropps/start

    Recent additions!!!

    Net Results Soccer – 2012-13 English Premier League (PDF distributed) – $13 through PayPal. It includes all 20 teams and every player that played a single minute during the season.

    Net Results Soccer – 1998-99 English Premier League (PDF distributed) – $13 through PayPal. It includes all 20 teams and every player that played a single minute during the season.

    Net Results Soccer – 2012 Major League Soccer (PDF distributed) – $13 through PayPal. It includes all 19 teams and every player that played a single minute during the season.

    TO PURCHASE: Send an email to Troppens5 (at) aol (dot) com. I will sent you a paypal money request, and as soon as I receive and realize I have the payment (usually within 12 hours), I’ll send the game through email.

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