Subbuteo is really just like any other table-top miniatures game in many respects. It has a playing surface of pre-determined dimensions, a set of rules that must be followed for its gameplay, and literally hundreds of tiny player pieces ready to be collected and used in full-on miniature battles against opponents. The distinguishing factor that sets Subbuteo apart from games like Dungeons and Dragons, however, is the fact you’re kicking around a tiny football by flicking slightly larger (but still very tiny) players around a miniature football pitch. Below is a quick review of the (relatively) new Subbuteo Starter Set, which is the best place for beginners to start when looking to step onto the miniature pitch for the first time.
Contents of the Box Set
Before judging the game by its entertainment outcomes, a list of the pieces contained in the box set is probably the most useful item for beginners.
In this Starter Set, you get two fully-licensed Subbuteo teams. If you look at the Starter Set at Subbuteo World, you’ll see that you can choose from any two of the following: Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Celtic, Tottenham, or Rangers. This is an ample selection for beginners of course, featuring teams that are no stranger to the business end of the Barclays Premier League table. Players that wish to customise their experience even further can do so by purchasing additional teams to their heart’s content.
In addition to the above teams, you also get a full ruleset, a pack of 2 footballs, 4 corner flags, 2 goals, and of course, the classic cotton-material football pitch where all of the action will unfold.
Quality of the Pieces
Now, Subbuteo player pieces have never been of the utmost quality, having been constructed primarily of plastic, though often painted by hand in the 70s and 80s to give them a charm that Newfooty, Subbuteo’s main rival, didn’t quite have in the same sort of quantities. Don’t expect the pieces in this Starter Set to be made from dense materials, however: it’s plastic all around, though the players’ half-dome bases give them enough weight to maintain their balance when being flicked around.
Veteran Subbuteo players will notice that the material which comprises the players is a little different from the one used old-school Subbuteo sets. Of particular note here is the increased flexibility of the players, allowing them to take a little more punishment without parts falling off due to the material being brittle.
The gameplay of this Subbuteo set – as dictated by the rules that come with it – will excite new and old Subbuteo fans alike. You’ve got the classic 11-a-side setup, with all of the hallmarks of the original Subbuteo, which in turn played like a regular football match: throw-ins, corners, goal kicks, penalties, attacking, and defending are all in play here.
The improved construction and design of the players is what gives this new starter set a different feel from old-school Subbuteo games. Notice how it’s easier to control the movements of the players as you flick them, a benefit owed to the improved balance and weight of the players and their bases.
Paul Lamond Games - the creator of this new-and-improved Subbuteo Starter pack – isn’t entirely without fault when it comes to certain features of this set. Most annoying is the fact that there are no barriers afforded to the perimeter of the pitch, resulting in frequent scrambling for the ball as it goes a long way out of bounds. You might find yourself searching on the floor for the ball a lot as a result of this drawback.
The second sticking point for many fans of Subbuteo will be the price of this starter pack. You can expect to be paying around £50 for this new version, and though it contains two teams, the inference is that you’ll be spending more money on purchasing teams of your choice that have more of a relevance to your own personal preferences. There is nothing wrong with paying £50 for a starter pack mind you, it’s just that this is somewhat of a significant outlay for beginners that have no idea if they will even enjoy the fun of Subbuteo in the long term.
Generally, the Subbuteo Starter Set is worth the money being charged for it. This is taking into consideration the fact that it will be used extensively and repeatedly by its owners and also has the potential to act as a great foundation for an aspiring collector of the dozens of extra teams that are available online. The rules haven’t undergone a reformation for this version, but they play as well as they ever did. The most notable improvement is the physical design and construction of the players, allowing them to be manoeuvred more accurately and with higher precision than previous versions of Subbuteo, making this set worth the money for most beginner players.