The great, big Football Fortunes 2019 Playtest!

What worked, what didn’t work so well, what we’re changing and what we learned from the first ever playthrough of the new Football Fortunes game…

The game prototype of Football Fortunes 2019 with the new Coach Cards, Scout Cards and Youth Player cards.

So we got together with three mates to play through the first complete prototype version of the new Football Fortunes game and we had a ball (forgive the pun!)

The split was perfect for a really good playtest with two of us being veterans of Brian Clough’s Football Fortunes and two of us rookies to the format giving a great split of experience and new eyes.

The intent was to try out the new features we’re introducing, to make sure that people grasped what they were about and also that they added something to the game experience over and above what was great about the original game.

We played three full seasons using the old ZX Spectrum version of Cloughies (the new version will of course have a completely new app), the new player mats, the new player cards, the new Youth Player and Staff cards and, in the biggest change, transfer windows instead of having the ability to sign players in auctions.

Alan explaining that the Selection Problems, Crisis and Manager’s Luck cards won’t be physical in the new version of the game but are only printed for purposes of the prototype

What worked?

The staff management, such as hiring the Scout to sign youth players and the Coach card worked perfectly with players using this approach as an alternative, more affordable strategy to signing finished players. Youth Players can be bought and improved at sometimes much less cost than buying the finished article however each manager can only have a maximum of five Youth Players in their squad. Like a club in the real world, you’ll have to find that balance of youth and experience in your team to make it work.

In addition we quickly realised we needed more opportunities on the board to Manage the Staff and to improve Youth Players so we’ve added an extra Manage Staff square to the board and the ability to upgrade a Youth Player during the transfer window.

The player mats helped a lot, especially when managers were changing formations and this new ability worked well especially against better teams where managers used it to get a draw in games they suspected they couldn’t win.

In all almost all of the new additions led to a game with more depth than the original, and where players were more evenly matched across multiple seasons than they would have been in the past where typically one player would have run away with things and others would have floundered and lost interest. The new game is less about luck and more about strategy; which was exactly what we were aiming for. That said the luck element still remains, and all of the managers in this first playtest managed to avoid the devastating Crisis square for example. Which was a first for us, we’ve never seen a game without at least one poor soul getting Crisised!

What needs improvement?

The Transfer Windows

Even as early as the second season 1 and 2 star rating players made little improvement to any of the managers first teams or squads. We’ll likely need to have far fewer players than the 300 we anticipated in the new game!

We introduced the idea of transfer windows so that the new game would more closely resemble what happens in football in the real world, with a transfer window at the beginning of each season (eg an auction per manager so if there are four human managers four auctions, five managers five auctions etc). In using this new method for managers bettering their squad we noticed two things:

  1. We had too many low scoring players and therefore the transfer windows were less useful than they could have been as one star and two star players quickly made no improvement to most manager’s teams or squads
  2. The transfer windows did not provide enough opportunity to sign senior players and therefore we’ve replaced the loan players squares on the board with a new Free Agent square which will function exactly like the old auction square in the original game. The manager who lands on Free Agent will turn the next card in the player card pile and an auction will ensue with the player joining the club of the highest bidding manager.

However Alan’s suggestion of including the ability to upgrade a Youth Player also during the transfer window meant that even if the players that came out in the auctions weren’t great, every manager still had the opportunity to improve their team which was great.

Lastly the game took four and a half hours to play three seasons and we need to be mindful of that (although there was a LOT of alcohol involved and therefore a lot of nonsense talked!).

The new Football Fortunes game will feature the ability to choose how many teams are in the league, making either for a much longer season or a much shorter one depending on the amount of teams selected.

What didn’t work at all?

The Transfer List and Loan System

The transfer list system needs some thought, as player loans and transfers weren’t as useful as we would like them to be in the game

We introduced a Transfer List element to the game whereby managers could put up for loan or sale players they didn’t need in their squads. The general feeling was that this element needed rethought as it wasn’t very useful in its current incarnation. We might introduce maximum squad sizes for example to force clubs to loan or transfer extra players, we’d welcome your thoughts on this and more in the comments below!

More photos from the first Football Fortunes 2019 playtest in Belfast…

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