Updated: Dec 4, 2019
Super 11 is certainly an attractively produced soccer game. Even the internal packaging is pressed into service; it forms a stadium to bling the board and add flavour to the game. Of course, the board itself represents a football pitch; in this case comprised of squares in a 12 x 8 grid. The box claims Super 11 is for 2–6 players but that is surely a misprint: this is very much a two-player game.
Both players have a team of 11 footballers, each represented by a plastic torso in the form of a football shirt (reds versus blues). Every turn, the player who has the ball has to move it at least once. As an action, a footballer can move, with or without the ball, or he can pass the ball to any other footballer who can be reached in an unblocked straight line (forwards, backwards, sideways or diagonally). To tackle an opposing footballer and take possession, the player must have one of his footballer pieces in a square adjacent to the piece with possession and with an unoccupied square the other side. In effect, tackling requires a move equivalent to taking an opposing piece in draughts or checkers.
These basic rules for passing and tackling mean that this is a game that involves much strategic moving and positioning on and off the ball, as players seek to set up or block passes that might put a piece in a position where it can attempt to score a goal.
The board includes eight squares with a Super 11 symbol on them. If a piece with the ball lands on one of these squares in their opponent’s half of the pitch, the player draws a card from an ‘attacking’ deck. These can have varying effects – all potentially helpful to the attacker – including a ‘free kick’ or a ‘yellow card’ against the nearest opposition piece. A piece that is awarded a ‘red card’ (a one in 18 chance) is ‘sent off’ (removed from the game), as is any piece given two yellow cards. The yellow cards are represented by plastic stands that clip onto the bottom of the player pieces. This offers a neat way of keeping track of which piece has been ‘cautioned’, although yellow cards usually prove to be an irrelevance because it is relatively easy for a defending player to reposition a piece so that it is at no risk of being adversely affected by a second Super 11 card. If the attacking player’s card awards a ‘free kick’ or a shot on goal, the defending player draws a ‘defending’ card which will typically indicate whether or not a goal is scored (4 of the 12 defending cards concede the goal).
Other than this, shots on goal are determined by the roll of a six-sided die. The Super 11 symbol replaces the number 6. If the attacker rolls that, they automatically score. If not, the defender rolls and their goalkeeper is deemed to have made a save if they roll the Super 11 symbol or a number higher than that rolled by the attacker.
As soccer commentators often remark, this is a game of two halves. The use of the die to determine whether or not a goal is scored is a reasonably effective mechanism that introduces the sort of tension reserved in real-life games for penalty shootouts. What lets Super 11 down is its reliance on a die also to determine the number of actions available to a player on each turn. A player rolling a 1 on the die will be able to take just one action; his opponent rolling a 5 will have five actions. This introduces far too much random luck into what is otherwise a strongly themed strategy game. Dice rolling perhaps makes the game more accessible for younger players but it is something of an own goal for publishers hoping to extend the game’s appeal to more seasoned gamers. It would have greatly strengthened this game to have incorporated, if only as an option, two equal sets of number cards that could be managed to determine movement. Anyone buying the game should consider making this simple modification for themselves.
Super 11 will obviously appeal to soccer fans. Beneath the themed veneer, there is an interesting more abstract strategy game but serious gamers will be put off by the random way in which the number of actions is determined.
Playing time can be whatever the players agree in advance. In keeping with the theme, the makers suggest a playing time of 90 minutes, but this is a game that is likely to overstay its welcome if played for a stretch of more than about 20 minutes.