Q+A with Keith McLeman the Creator of Football Fortunes 2 European Super League…
In 1991 CDS Software released a sequel to Brian Clough’s Football Fortunes now mostly known as European Super League Football Fortunes 2. The game was a fan-made update of the original game, coded in his spare time by an Edinburgh-based game designer Keith Mcleman. We caught up with Keith to find out more on how the sequel came about…
Hey Keith, thanks for agreeing to answer some questions for us in our latest Q&A. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you fit into the Football Fortunes story.
Hi Marty, good to hear from you.
I grew up playing games on the Commodore 64 and learning how to program so I could make my own games. Brian Clough’s Football Fortunes was an instant hit with me and my friends when it was released. A board game with the scoring calculated and league tables maintained by computer — what a great combination! We always settled down for the long game and wanted to play it for hours at a time, but the game itself was the biggest barrier to that.
Season 1 was so easy we were just really going through the motions. It was still fun, but the computer teams offered no challenge and the human players always ended at the top of the league competing against each other for league position and entry to the cup.
Season 2, though, was the sweet spot. The computer teams increased in skill and achieved the perfect challenge level. The season was anybody’s to win, computer or human. This was why we played the game — season 1 was like the pre-season friendlies, season 2 was the real thing. It felt like our decisions meant something and it was a proper scrap to win the league and get into the cup. It made us hungry to play more.
But season 3 was a disappointment and again it was the game itself that threw more barriers in our way. The skill level of the computer teams increased far too much and invariably the human players got slaughtered and ended up filling the bottom spots of the league. The game itself sucked the fun out of playing, and it was such a shame. After season 2, continuing to play was pointless.
I remember thinking: if only the game could offer the same level of challenge throughout as it did in season 2 it would be perfect.
So you coded up the sequel to Brian Clough’s Football Fortunes variously know as European Super League or Football Fortunes 2 depending on who you ask! How did you get involved in that?
It was for purely selfish reasons — I wanted to play it for longer and for the whole game to play like season 2. The idea of trying to get it released was furthest from my mind.
I introduced a 4 division league with players starting in division 3. As players naturally improved their teams they could climb through the divisions, but they’d always be in a division that offered the right challenge for their team’s skill level. The European Super League was just an added enticement for the winner of division 1 — they would get moved into the tough but lucrative Super League for one season before being returned to division 1 at the end.
I took liberties that probably offended diehard football fans. We were Scottish, so I sprinkled some Scottish teams throughout the leagues. For the European Super League I just made lists of teams from various European countries and randomly chose the teams that would be in the Super League each season, so some of them may not have been very ‘super’. I think I also put the winners from division 3 and division 2 into the European Cup — this was purely so that the players didn’t have to play a number of seasons and then do well in division 1 before reaching the cup. This gave an immediate enticement to players to win their league. For me, it was a game first, and I put the needs of the game ahead of accuracy.
There was a bunch of other stuff I did too, but really the multi-league format was the key that kept the challenge at the right level for all players.
The board game side hardly changed at all. I removed a couple of overly harsh Manager’s Luck and Selection Problem cards, and I scaled the gains and losses on the rest based on the player’s division, but otherwise I think it remained the same as the original.
When it was done one of my friends suggested I should contact CDS. I never really expected them to be interested in it, but they were and the sequel got released, but only on Commodore 64 as far as I am aware.
It’s fair to say then that Football Fortunes 2 was really the first official remake of Brian Clough’s Football Fortunes?
I tend to think of it more as an update. In today’s age it would just be downloadable content. Football Fortunes 2018 will still be the first official remake.
We’d love your thoughts on the new remake and especially any advice you might have.
I’m excited by the remake. I have fond memories of playing Football Fortunes with friends and I’m sure that’s true for a lot of people. There was something special about it despite some flaws. The original game gives you a strong template to work with.
I think there are a few main areas to consider, many of which are the same ones I had to consider for FF2.
The challenge needs to be pitched at the right level for all players throughout the game as their teams grow in strength to keep the game interesting for all — the multi-division league was how I tried to achieve this. This also means the gate receipts and all other money related gains and losses need to be variable and balanced according to the player’s league.
Getting the scoring balanced is also important. I split the original game’s Attack and Defence into Forwards, Midfields, Defenders, and Goalkeeper so that player’s had to work on all areas of their team. Each team also had Morale and Luck. Morale changed slightly after every match and meant a team on a winning streak played better. Luck was generated for each team each match, so there was always a slim chance that even the best teams could have an off day against a minnow. Getting this right was one of the trickiest parts for me. I had to make sure the results reflected the player’s team values but didn’t feel too pre-determined or too random.
For the remake, I think your biggest challenge may be the game board itself. The board game part is roll-and move (you roll dice and then move based on the result — like Monopoly) and this will be fine for the original players that want to re-live the nostalgia of the original. But roll-and-move is an outdated concept now though and won’t appeal to modern board gamers. Introducing a new generation of gamers to Football Fortunes may require an alternative way to play.
Now that you’ve made the transition into board games what are you working on currently?
I’m currently designing a board game called Nuts And Bots. This is my first board game although I’ve previously worked on a number of computer games.
In Nuts And Bots, 2–4 players compete to control the limited resources in a factory and line them up to build robot body parts. The body parts get bolted together and the first to complete their MegaBot is the winner.
It’s a quick tactical game with a bit of strategy as players decide whether to build body parts or build more robot workers to increase their workforce. Although it’s quick to pick up and looks simple, players soon realise there’s more to think about than there appears to be at first glance.
You can find out more on my facebook page:
Fans can find emulated versions of Football Fortunes 2 European Super League for the Commodore 64 here. Keith has also kindly provided a scan of the rule book for the game for fans who’d like to try it out. You can find the rule book here