In the videogame world there are games that are seen as system sellers. Games which have such a huge fanbase that the mere fact of them appearing on that gaming platform creates one of the reasons for owning that system. Fans will play that game religiously and very rarely touch another game in the lifetime of that gaming machine. One of the biggest system sellers is the FIFA series of games. With yearly iterations and small changes made to how the game plays, it sells copies in the millions due to the huge football fanbase in the UK and Europe.
It has always come as a surprise to me that football (or soccer if your an American who thinks a foot based sport comes with padding and helmets and ridiculous scoring), has never really appeared much as a genre with the tabletop space. I’m aware of the Blood, Guild and Dreadballs of this world, but they seem to be all riffing from the US running and tackling model. You would think that the hectic game of ninety minutes would be an easy shoe in for those looking for a board game genre to develop in. It appears that I’m probably able to name more board games that have trading spice across the known world as a theme, as opposed to taking penalties after a gruelling thirty minutes of extra time.
Race for the Title is Webstar Games follow up to their successful Counter Attack football game, which funded with over 300 backers over three years ago, which actually seems like a lifetime ago thinking back. Where Counter Attack was based on a deeper strategy involving real time playing of a match of football, Race for the Title takes a much simpler approach in the form of a deck building game with the aim to reach seventy points and win the league.
Like most deck builders, you’ll start with a weak team and small chance to earn money. Your aim being to build up your team with stronger players, bringing in tactics and earning opportunities as you play. Unlike most deckbuilding games, Race offers a four player version alongside the normal expected two player which helps to open it up to bigger groups looking to play and also plays into one of the main mechanics of the game.
Those familiar with deck building games are going to feel at home with the set up. You have a market of cards which you can purchase from three rows that are arranged in pricing tiers. Cards costing up to four coin, those from five to seven and those above eight are placed in their own row. The aim is to give you more buying options from the start, something I’ve not really seen in other deck builders and so it helps to remove the potential barrier to affordability as you build up you squad. You’ll encounter stadium cards that you can buy and place to increase your earnings on every match you play. Statistics that help your attacking and defence score and general effect cards that can be used to hinder your opponents during the match.
During your turn you’ll play five cards from your deck and then use the actions on the cards to purchase more cards, use effects or even play matches against your opponents. Matches are the life blood of Race For The Title and ultimately help you gain points to climb the league and win the trophy. Tied in with the stadium they are the key to earning extra money before you buy from the market and it’s worthwhile not being shy from the beginning but jumping in and playing against your opponents at every opportunity even if you lose the matches you are playing. As the teams climb up the league, you’ll be face with incidents that you have to resolve if you’re the first player to reach the next ten in the points as you make your way up to seventy. It’s a neat way to try to negate the potential of a runaway leader in the game and keep things close between the teams. You’ll be able to buy players who match your club for a bonus, and so sometimes it’s worth holding back on just buying any player in order to gain the advantage.
As with any potential Kickstarter game there a few facets that I would like to see potentially changed or added to the game to improve how the game plays. I would like to see more memory aids on the cards themselves, mostly the manager card. It’s easy to forget that you get a player bonus when you field players that belong to your club and it seems strange to miss that out on the Manager’s card considering all that is on that card is the club symbol. I’m so used to playing card games where the attack value is red and the defence value is green that having them mixed up for this game messes a bit with the hard wiring of my deck building brain. Don’t get me wrong, I got used to it quick enough but there’s still some part of me even now as I look at the cards while writing this that screams out it’s very very wrong. As I said they are niggles, nothing more. Call it feedback, call it the spectator shouting at the team on a Saturday afternoon questioning the parentage of the referee.
Race For The Title sits in that strange place where if I’m comparing it to other deck builders, it’s not doing much more that I would expect a good competent deck builder to do. It is definitely doing some very good things. I really like the tiered pricing of the market as it helps with a gradual improvement of your spending power so you don’t end up with unaffordable cards blocking progression. The artwork is both clear and perfectly understandable and cards with text are straight forward and easy to comprehend. It does a good job of representing the theme if that makes sense. Its not like Colin designed a deck builder and then forced the football theme on top of it. Buying in better players for your team to win makes sense. Buying better tactics to win makes sense. Having a decent stadium that will earn you money makes sense. It all ties in to the fact that you are a football manager trying to secure the league title.
Race For The Title doesn’t do anything particularly new here but it is very good at what it does do. So if you’re a deck builder fan looking for something different and ground breaking, then you might walk away feeling neither excited or disappointed. However, if your a deck building fan who is a football fan then this is potentially going to resonate with you a lot more. If you’re a board gamer looking to get your football loving friends into some board gaming, then this might even act as a nice little bridge between plastic grass and pressed and printed trees. Is it fun, it’ well presented and it does work well alongside the theme. You’ve got to be pleased with that result..
You can check out the Kickstarter when it launches on https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1709555538/race-for-the-title
This is the pre-production version, so the art, rules and mechanics may be subject to change over the next couple of months. Therefore please treat this as a first thoughts piece, based on version of the game that we were provided with. We have not been paid for the preview. We also do not provide a full play by play explanation of the game, so not all mechanics may be mentioned in the preview.