Who’s the best, really?
By Colin Webster
The first ever football manager game I played was called Football Manager, but it’s not the one this game is dedicated to. It was the 1980s and I was using my ZX Spectrum to play a game that I adored. That machine only had a palette of 9 colours and it had a rudimentary sound system, but the game allowed me to get lost in a make-believe football universe. Is there anywhere better?
From that point on, I played pretty much every football game that a computer could throw at me. I used to scour the pages of computer magazines to find out about the latest releases. Some were pure crap, but Tracksuit Manager was a gem back in the day. It allowed you to track where the ball was on the pitch – a first, I believe.
The next big one was Player Manager. It was the tactics creator that really stood out: you could set your players up depending on where the ball was on the pitch, and you could differentiate between whether you had the ball or your opponent did (WIBBLE/WOBBLE to CM fans). On top of all that, you got to watch the full games! You could simulate them, but please defriend me if that’s your kinda thing.
Since then, the only games in town have been the original Championship Manager series and the [new] Football Manager. I’ve won my fair share of cups and leagues on those games (I’m currently tearing up Ligue 1 with Marseille in FM12, thanks very much. Never made it beyond that version).
But…the problem with these games – all of them – is that they are unsociable ventures. Sure, you’ve got mates who will, to some extent, tolerate your story of how your 3rd division team rose up to conquer the Champions League, but if you’re being honest, they think their team is better than yours. There hasn’t been a good way to settle the question of which of your mates is the king of football tactics. Until now.
Last year I got to work producing a football strategy game you can play at the kitchen table. You don’t need a screen, you just need a head for tactics, a mate or three, a slice of luck and a few beers in the fridge.
In this game, you draft a squad of players, each of whom has their own set of attributes. You then decide how to deploy them – maybe put the speedy dribbler on the wing, the guy who can tackle at the back…you get the drift. Then line up your players and try to outwit your mate. Pass, dribble, tackle, shoot, header… pretty much everything you can do on a football pitch is in this game.
The pitch is large, meaning you will have space to execute your favoured tactical strategies. Will you push your defence up and try to win the ball high up the park, or do you drop deep and hit your opponent on the counter attack? This might be a good time to tell you that the game is actually called Counter Attack. Your players are counters, you see…
Through endless rounds of playtesting with very patient friends, I slowly killed off the rules that were accurate but dull, and kept in all the elements that made the game exciting. All sorts of conundrums reveal themselves, like can a player who jumped for a header move a split second later? Where can you shoot from and when? How do you crack down on timewasting bastards? I resolved questions like these and I’m satisfied that Counter Attack does well on the old fun/realism scale.
I finally got to the stage where I thought that people I didn’t know might want to play the thing. So I set up Facebook and Twitter accounts and invited folks to have a look. I figured that if there was enough interest in the project that I’d take it to a crowdfunding site like Kickstarter to test the appetite for it.
Well, guess what? That’s the stage I’m at now! Counter Attack launched on Kickstarter on 16 April, 2019. A nervy wait for positive opinion awaits. I finally know how Michael Owen felt when his agent circulated that brochure about him in 2009.
Check out Counter Attack on Kickstarter at
And you can listen to an interview about the game on The Football Media Podcast.
Featured image from Unsplash.