Counter Attack is a new football strategy game designed by a couple from Scotland, Colin and Rachel. We caught Colin to talk about how and why the game was developed.
Where did the original idea for the game come from?
I’m a big fan of football simulations like Championship Manager, Football Manager, and everything that proceeded those games! It’s the strategic side I particularly enjoy – trying to find a way to overcome your opponent. Even in PES and FIFA, it’s the squad building and formation-setting that I spend a lot of time on. On top of that, I enjoy strategy games like Civilization and many strategic board games – Risk, Catan, Stone Age, Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, even classic card games like 7s have a lot of strategy to them… Rachel and I play a lot of board games. I thought it was odd that no-one had done a decent football board game, so I decided I’d give it a go.
Can you remember what your early ideas were for the game?
From the outset, I wanted this game to capture the essence of a game of football. I wanted ‘managers’ (the people playing the game) to make strategic decisions that would have the potential to turn the game on its head. To achieve that, I felt two things were required – firstly, a large pitch so there was room for movement and an air of realism. I didn’t want the player on the ball to be constantly under threat of a tackle until they got to more dangerous areas. Secondly, the players on the pitch would have to be unique. This forces the managers to strategise – who would you use to tackle, which player would you want in the penalty box, who goes up for a corner kick, etc…
There have been other football simulations in board game form, but neither of them had these features. For that reason they didn’t appeal to me – they felt too simplistic, like an arcade version of football.
So these 2 early ideas became the basis of Counter Attack.
How long did it take you to get the game to the state it’s in?
I’ve been working on this for 5 years. Almost inevitably, the first version was terrible. I had put in a lot of thought but not enough play-testing. More than anything else, the early game had authenticity but very little fun! I kinda lost heart in the idea for a few years but then rekindled my interest after a conversation with a workmate. That was last summer – I’ve been working hard on this ever since. The rules have been through many iterations; every time I played the game I found that a particular rule or player skill was overpowered, so I tweaked and tweaked until I felt I had the balance right. For example, one game I tried playing with a big striker – I wanted to see if a long ball game would pay off. It did – big style! I decided that I didn’t want everyone going route 1 in this game, so I added a new player attribute which meant that high passes would have an element of inaccuracy to them. So, if you have a big striker you can still play high balls, but they won’t always be effective.
What’s the most recent rue change you’ve made?
A few weeks ago during a play test, we decided that when the goalkeeper made a catch, you should be able to launch a quick counter attack…as if the keeper was making a Schmeichel-style throw out. We found that this added to the excitement of the game and opened up new opportunities to score on the break. There might be another tweak or two because we recently shared the rule book online and some ideas have come in…
What was the hardest thing to get right?
Player movements. Football is a dynamic game in which 22 players are constantly moving about the park. How to do you replicate that on a board in an effective way, and in a way which means that everyone is playing by the game rules and keeping track of developments? In the end, I think we cracked it with the ‘movement phase’. The movement phase rules went through a few iterations before we settled on what we have now. Players on the pitch can move according to their pace attribute, and there is a sequence of movement that managers must follow. You don’t end up with a cluster of players lurking in the distant penalty area. Play testers have described this system as authentic, and that’s very satisfying!
Has it been difficult to put this all in a rule book?
Yes, very challenging! It’s one thing to have all of this in my mind, but it’s an entirely different process to write it down in a manner that others can comprehend! I enjoy writing but I think I have a tendency to overwrite. Rachel has been really good at cracking down on unnecessary language and making the instructions more understandable and concise.
A key question…which of you is the best Counter Attack player?
That’s me all the way! However, Rachel’s favourite team in real life (Dundee Utd) is above mine (Inverness CT) in the league, so maybe we should call it a draw…
Counter Attack is available to buy on Kickstarter until May 18th.