Most Americans (as well as Canadians and Australians) call the sport soccer while the rest of the world calls it football. I’m not going to debate who’s right and wrong (I think we all know the answer) but the sport has many loyal fans in the U.S. and that fan base continues to grow. Whatever the reason, the sport is here to stay in the U.S. Fans such as my kids would rather play it than American football, they definitely prefer to watch European football on Saturday mornings than to join me in arm-chair quarterbacking the gridiron version on Sundays.
This brings us to today’s review of FUBA from U&P Games. FUBA is labeled a football game (i.e., it’s about soccer) and so I will reference the sport as football for the rest of this review. FUBA is a 2-player tactical football game that takes about 90-120 minutes depending on player experience, in which both players constantly moving their teams in hopes of scoring the most goals before the match ends.
There’s a lot to cover with FUBA so I’m going to give a high-level overview of the basic rules but the actual rulebook is here if readers want to do a deep dive: FUBA
Each turn includes 3 stages:
- Target area and ball value modification: The Ball Die is moved by the controlling team to a target area on the game board. The Ball Die number will change depending on the distance and the number of controlling and defending players are in that area. The Ball Die starts with a 2 (its range is 1-6).
- Game situation progress: The controlling team rolls both of its team dice. This one roll will determine all the following: move the referee time marker (move the time marker forward per the rules), see if the controlling team keeps control of the Ball Die, see if the Ball Die value changes, and set which team will act first in the Action stage.
- Action: First the starting team (based on the previous stage), then the opponent can choose from one of the following actions: goal attempt (by controlling team only), player movement, positioning, and pressing (by defending team only). Please note: the rules also allow either team to take what the rules call free and second actions depending on how many opposing players in adjacent space.
If a goal attempt is successful the controlling team scores a point and the rest of the turn is skipped. The scoring team now becomes the defending team and both team set-up like the start of the game and play begins with Stage 1 with the new controlling team.
If the goal attempt results in a rebound or corner kick then those rules are followed. If the result is a miss then the controlling team becomes the defending team and the action stage ends. The new controlling team’s goalie will start with the Ball Die and begin a new turn.
The game is played over two halves. The team with the most goals at the end wins.
I have to say that I didn’t know much about FUBA, but once I opened the game I was happy at the quality and care that went into it. The game board is more like a game mat that is durable and highly detailed as well as quality printed cards, gameplay reference sheet, meeples, dice, and rulebook. The team t-shirt meeples are all one color but the goalies are distinct so they stand out. The Ball Dice is a sphere that is weighted to hold its value, and thus not really designed to be rolled. The overall production values are excellent, plus the game is packaged more like a folder with an insert making it very portable and easy to store on your game shelf.
The FUBA description is a tactical football game but this game is truly more of a football simulator. Yes, it does have a tactical feel to it but it’s much faster and fluid like an actual football match. Whether you’re the controlling or defending team, you feel like a manager trying to execute your plays and are constantly making adjustments as possession changes or as your opponent reacts. FUBA does an excellent job of immersing players into the game and gives you great options and actions to streak down the field to make a stop or score a goal. The randomness of the time adjustment gives nice tension and makes players take chances as the time gets closer to the stoppage time squares.
I want to highlight the overall rulebook for how well it’s written (not fluff, just great examples of gameplay) and how well it’s organized, with many examples provided help learn how to play. It’s a great reference once you’re read through it a few times, and you will be referring to it as you play.
Now even with a well-organized rulebook I must note that there’s a lot to absorb and try to recall. This is especially true when applying the action steps or assessing the special situations and advanced rules to the gameplay. You’re not going to know all the modifiers and when they apply when you first play. Plus, there are some rules that players will need to police like offsides and call it out when you or your opponent trigger them. I love the game reference insert but I wish there was a player aid that listed all the modifiers for the action stage, especially the goal attempts. This would reduced how frequently players need to consult the rulebook. This complexity will make your few games slower and longer, but hopefully will not frustrate players. The advanced rules add great narrative details and rules for adding skills to your team and positions and special events, but these add another layer of complexity and more rules to apply.
I wish FUBA had an option to play famous football teams. Yes, there are advanced rules to add skills to player positions or the overall team, but no pre-set versions of famous football teams you could play, like Manchester City or Arsenal FC to name a few. I’d love to see even on-line updates of fictional teams like AFC Richmond or currently popular ones like Wrexham AFC. I love sports games and my recent favorites like Breakaway Football allow you to play famous American football teams, and it’s a blast. I’d like to see the same for FUBA and football has plenty of great teams from around the world to draw from.
I must admit I’m not as big of a football fan as my kids, but I have fun with FUBA. The excellent production values and well-organized rulebook makes you want to get this to the table. Plus, once you get through your first few matches, you feel like you’re playing a football simulator.
I’d love to score FUBA higher but the learning curve is significant especially when you add the advanced rules, which makes the first few games rather long and slow. I did see that 4th Edition rules are aimed to release in May 2023 and labeled as the fast version so maybe this will shorten the learning curve. Nevertheless, I really do wish I was able to play some pre-made famous teams and try them out against other greats which would be fun to try out.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – A fun football simulator that immerses players into the game but has a learning curve that can slow and elongate your first few play throughs.
• Significant learning curve
• No famous football teams