Finger Soccer is a table-top soccer game published by Zelosport, one of a number of “Finger Sport” (cue Prince’s “Jack U Off”) games published by the company. Others are football, baseball, and golf. All of the games appear to be very similar in that they include a large vinyl mat and a little plastic puck with a ball-bearing in the middle that represents the ball. The goal is to flick the “ball” into specific circles on the mat, determined (in soccer and football, at least) by the defender’s roll on a 12-sided die, and make your way down the field to score a goal (or touchdown). Just like real futbol or football. Since it’s a World Cup year, I went for the soccer version, and it is great. If you’ve ever toyed with the idea of getting into Subbuteo but been scared off by the price of entry, this is the game for you.
The rules are super-simple, very intuitive. In fact, the best way to teach it is just to start playing. The offense tries to score a goal by flicking the ball into a black rectangle that represents the goal; if any part of the ball is in the goal, it’s “Gooooooooaaaaal!” Numbered white circles with little soccer balls in the middle are positioned around the board. The defense rolls a big 12-sided die to determine where the offense has to pass. If the ball ends up touching the circle, defense rolls again, and offense flicks again. If it ends up touching the ball in the middle of the circle, the offense gets a shot on goal.
The game comes with a 2’ x 4’ vinyl mat (the pitch), a big 12-sided die, a bunch of little plastic rings that are used to track game info—time, score, half, fouls, and the cool little puck that represents the ball. The ball is a large ball-bearing in a white plastic ring, and it can roll like crazy. All of this is in a plastic tube, and it’s all high-quality stuff. In fact, the tube is the only thing about the game that feels cheap. Since price has been a hot topic at F:AT lately, I’ll say that with the quality of the components, I am amazed that Finger Soccer retails for $29.95. Looking at the Zelosport website, I get the feeling that they’re aiming at the general population as their consumers, as opposed to people like, well, us. And that shows in the game’s price and learning curve. Furthermore, they’ll “customize” your board for free (at least for American football) with a number of college teams by printing your team’s logo on the endzone. No one wants Kansas City Wiz stuff, so for soccer, you just get “Finger Soccer.” For football, the marketing is genius because it’s cheap enough that you could buy it as a gift for all of your redneck college football-loving relatives, and it’s fun enough that you can actually get them to play it.
The game itself can be very frustrating. I read about Finger Football on Boardgamenews.com (http://www.boardgamenews.com/index.php/boardgamenews/comments/dale_yu_review_of_finger_football_by_zelosport/). Dale Yu, the reviewer, says that his kids actually got good at it. He also includes a discount code at the end of the review. I haven’t played Finger Soccer enough to get good, so every flick is an adventure, and it sometimes feels a lot like my pool game. Also like pool, there seems to be a 3-5 beer window where I’m unstoppable. Any more or less and I’m pretty hopeless. However, it is much more accessible that Subbuteo, which I’ve played a few times and doesn’t seem to lend itself well to occasional play.
My overall experience has been that Finger Soccer faithfully represents real soccer, where all it takes to score is, say, one perfect pass and one perfect shot. I’ve also been surprised by the number of times I’ve been hit with “hands of clod.” It’s almost as if someone zaps me with a taser when I’m lining up a shot and I end up whiffing it or sending the ball sailing off the table. The game is also great for trash-talking. I’ve never heard the phrase “poon foot” so many times in thirty minutes. After about ten plays, most of the games have been low-scoring (my brother hung 5 and 6 on me one night, but a week later we had a nil-nil shootout. I won. In your face, Patrick), and his big games show that one can improve. The first game I played ended in a shootout, and during the shootout people crowded around the table and literally cheered with each shot, something you won’t see with the latest Dominion expansion.
If you play with rule Nazis, it could get kind of miserable because there are a few situations that the printed rules don’t cover. We’ve also found that it’s best to ignore the yellow/red card rules, or perhaps we aren’t good enough to use them yet.
Finger Soccer is one of the best games I’ve bought and is really easy to get to the table. If you’re looking for a good dexterity/sports game, this one is more strategic than Pitchcar and much cheaper than Crokinole or Subbuteo. The “system” would also work great for American football, and if you have college football fans in your family, the football version (with their favorite teams’ logos) would make a great gift.
Andy is a member of Fortress: Ameritrash.