Sports Simulation Board Games

Neil Maitland's "How-To" Tips for SOCCER BLAST Team Creation

Neil Maitland is one of our go-to guys for soccer, and he put together this thoughtful post on Delphi recently to help a community member with card-rating. Our "How-To" guides are designed to provide you with the nuts and bolts of making your own players and teams, but the nuances are something that you get with experience. Neil has a great amount of experience in this department, and I thought it was worth sharing his thoughts here, as sort of a primer on the finer points of rating soccer teams...

It's pretty easy to do the basic stuff of rating players for SOCCER BLAST as long as you know the relative strength of the teams—preferably in a league scenario. It helps (from an enjoyment perspective) if you know (or research) the players so you can allocate the right attributes (STRONG, PACE, TOUCH etc.) to them, though it doesn't matter from a 'stats' perspective.

Having made a few different sets my main advice would be as follows...

[ 1 ] Most importantly, to consider very carefully the START ratings and how you plan to use them in your replays. That has by far the biggest impact on strength of the teams. For example, in the most recent EPL set, a couple of teams (lets call them 'Team A') used only 12 outfield starters for the majority of their season whereas at least one other ('Team B') used 18. You have to decide if you are going to increase the number of symbols that Team B should have so that they have an equal chance of getting the correct (based on the table in the How-To Guide) number of symbols on the field at the same time or are you happy that Team A get an advantage purely from having a smaller squad. Generally better teams used less players so if you don't make this correction then the better teams often get a 'double' advantage, which is why it's common to see a bigger gap between top and bottom of leagues in SOCCER BLAST than real life.

I do two things (for my own sets). I calculate the 'average' number of symbols (of each type) that each player provides based on their actual start % multiplied by the number of symbols they have. I try to get the team total to come close to the total calculated from the "How-To" guide amount. So for example Team B would get quite a few more symbols allocated to them than the Guide suggests because their individual likelihood of playing is less. I then set a maximum number of each type of symbol (the figure from the "How-To" guide) and don't allow any team to have more than that on the field at ANY time. So this avoids Team B cheating the system and, for example, bringing on three subs all with triangles when they should only ever have a total of two on the field in total! (Editor's note: this is why we generally avoid giving a team more symbols than warranted! Not that we don't trust you to "do the right thing," but...)

This also helps to reduce issues with in-season injuries that otherwise could mean a poor team could have no triangles (or squares or circles) at some point.

To support this I do my START rolls for each game based on the actual percentage of starts the player had and not the START check, START blank-type approach of the game. However I calculate the above totals for both this start method and also the start Check method and try to come up with a reasonable compromise.

All of the above applies whether you will do 'Actual Line Up' or 'Start Roll' in your replay.

Regardless of how you do it you should definitely think about how you will deal with it in your replay before you start as it's hard to change it during the replay and it can sometimes spoil your fun when you realize an already weak team will be a lot weaker than you thought it was half way through the season because of START ratings.

[ 2 ] In a similar way to the previous section, you need to decide how you are handling in-season transfers (in and out). Are you going to rate the player based on their full season contribution (and give them an appropriate full season START rating) or only on the games they were at the club (and therefore only make them available for those games). What you decide will affect how you decide their START ratings and their contribution to the team's overall strength. Again, depending on the league keep an eye out for loans which I often find hard to track (i.e. a player goes out on loan but there's not much detail about when he returns to the club and is available for selection before he goes out on another loan).

[ 3 ] Positions: again, think carefully about who you give an M-F or a D-M too (and how you handle those in your replay). It's obviously an advantage for a player to be able to play multiple positions BUT it's less important if you force the manager to decide before the game kicks off which position each player on the bench can play. Either way, take a broad look across all the teams to see if you are being fair in the number of these advantageous positions you give out (so if fullbacks for Teams A and B are rated D-M then so should full backs from Team C) similarly for Wingers etc. as M-F. There may be the odd exceptional player who played D-F or D-M-F - that can also add a bit of fun to a set!

[ 4 ] How do you want to handle suspensions? Are you going with the "he got a red card so he gets a card check" ONLY or will you also give a player with a large number of yellow cards a card check (as he was potentially very lucky to avoid a second yellow). For example Arsenal's Sokratis had 12 yellow cards in 25 starts last season but Ainsley Maitland-Niles had 1 red and 1 yellow in 11 starts—do you just give a Card Check to the latter? Be careful with this too though as generally the better teams get less cards so by doing this you may further bias against the weaker teams.

[ 5 ] Qualities. As the "How-To" guide suggests, you might also want to bias a team's attributes to a specific style of play—for the stronger teams this doesn't really matter as they tend to have most attributes BUT for the weaker teams you can give them some character by making them mostly STRONG/HARD or TOUCH/PACE or whatever - this gives them some chance to win some Build Ups against stronger teams and also helps with the narrative of the match you are playing. you could also think about the underlined Quality (which counts double). This adds some individuality to a set and the particular player!

[ 6 ] For the bottom part of each roster have a think about how you can make those players different from each other so that when you are doing the replay you actually think about how/when you might use them. For example don't automatically make everyone double scissors for assists and goals. Maybe also consider giving a player a HEAD check or a CARD check, or giving the weakest player a dual position so he is more useful.

[ 7 ] As mentioned earlier in [2], for me personally I've learned that I need to go back and go through all the teams again when I've finished my first pass just to make sure that I'm being 'fair' to all teams. If you are doing twenty or more teams that can take a month to do (if you are doing it in the evenings) so your ideas can change a lot during the month. So have a look back to see things like...

[ 8 ] Don't underestimate how long it takes to do all of the above—but don't rush it, either, as the time is worth spending and it makes the enjoyment of using the set all the greater!

We ran this in an earlier newsletter, but it's worth posting again here: Neil's home-brewed "Match Day" feature adds the same kind of twists, turns and drama that are generated by HISTORY MAKER BASEBALL's "Game Day" RED WHITE & BLUE RACIN's "Race Week," and so on. Highly recommended!