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Peter Upton's

Subbuteo Tribute Website.

Old Figures - New Games.

Part One: Football Games.

One of the most valuable possessions of any plastic kit manufacturer are the original moulds. As Airfix production over the last thirty years has shown, these moulds can have a long life if they are looked after properly. Of course this life span gives the moulds a high value, and there are many examples of them being sold between companies, allowing old forgotten kits to live again.

The same thing seems to have happened to Subbuteo's 1970s moulds, as the classic figures from this era have since reappeared in other games. 

Zugo Table Football.

   

Zugo is an Italian Subbuteo table football clone that was first introduced in 1997. It was designed by Edilio Parodi, and is produced by the company that bears his name. Parodi was the Italian distributor of Subbuteo products, and when Hasbro stopped providing equipment for his Italian market, he produced this game to fill the gap. Parodi has a great reputation among the Italian table soccer fraternity, and his name is featured prominently on the boxes.

The standard box set has pitch, goals, two sizes of ball, and two teams in red and blue. So far, so Subbuteo! Later sets have different teams, with a final version using Aston Villa and Wolves who were also the final two sides in the team range. The pitch is a quality cloth one, unlike the recent Subbuteo nylon efforts, and the goals are a more robust version of the classic C130 World Cup goal. The player figures are based on the Subbuteo heavyweight figure of the 1970s but are clearly a second generation casting, being fatter and slightly less detailed than the Subbuteo equivalent. They are hand-painted in China, usually with a thick paint that looks bold and bright in play. The goalkeeper is on a blue rod, which is a couple of centimetres longer than the Subbuteo version.

The game is obviously Subbuteo table soccer under a different name, and you are left to wonder whether the Subbuteo patents have expired.

Unsurprisingly, Zugo has a range of teams to keep players and collectors happy. This is obviously dominated by Italian club sides, but also has a few other top European sides, and some famous national teams. The original range consisted of 52 teams, and this was later expanded to 56. The original range can be viewed on the Zugo Team Appendix page. The players were also available to buy unpainted, and the Woodentop shop in the UK did sell its own range of sides for a few years, covering most of the English and Scottish leagues, and other sides as requested.

The game does have an accessory range, but in general this is just spares for items in the box set; a pitch, goals, balls and goalkeepers. Subbuteo accessories have never been thin on the ground, and Parodi probably felt that teams would be the main attraction. However, there is one glorious exception to this rule. Zugo has one accessory that Subbuteo doesn't have, although you may need a bigger house to enjoy it. This accessory is the running track. As the picture shows, this is a six lane track that fits around the Subbuteo pitch for the authentic European stadium look. Seeing as the Subbuteo pitch is already too big for some dining room tables, you may have to push two tables together to get the running track to fit. Add a full stadium around the outside of your running track, and you have a Stadium fit for the Champions League.... Except that the only way to reach the pitch to actually play the game would be to float down from above in a Tom Cruise/Mission Impossible type way.

In 2002 Edilio Parodi snc were granted a licence to produce genuine Subbuteo products by Hasbro. Parodi's Chinese workforce turned to painting Subbuteo teams, and the Zugo range halted. When that licence expired, Zugo was resurrected with a new range.

2004-05 Range.

With the end of Parodi's Subbuteo licence, the Zugo range pretty much carried on where it left off. Rather than reproduce the original fifty six teams, the new version took forty four popular teams from the existing Parodi Subbuteo range, and painted them onto the Zugo figure. The teams were housed in the existing square box, as shown at the top of this page. The set too, remained in the existing square box.

The one key difference was that the modern style flat bases designed for Parodi's Subbuteo range were now the standard outer bases for the Zugo range. I believe that the old style bases were still available (possibly on request), but all the teams/sets I've seen had the new bases. The accessory range remained unchanged - pitch, balls, goals, goalkeepers and athletics track.

2006-14 Developments.

    

2006 saw the range amended slightly. Firstly, the teams were re-housed in an attractive blue box, which was more compact than the original design, but allowed room for a spare outfield player. Although the above illustration suggests a similar sized box to the Hasbro/Soccer 3D window boxes, these are actually quite a bit larger, and allow the players to be comfortably displayed and protected (as you can see with the Juventus player shown).  A couple of new kits were added including the Juventus away kit from their ill-fated 2005-06 campaign. The biggest change however was in the bases. With the Enrico Techiatti designed "Subbuteo" base moving to Soccer 3D production (see below), Zeugo switched to Profibases.

In addition, a new edition of the game was produced in a large flat box. Like the team boxes, this set was essentially copying the Parodi Subbuteo design. Unlike the old square set, this new version had no interior inserts, and the two teams were simply supplied in the standard team boxes (the teams were generic red/white and blue/white kits).

The accessory range saw the addition of a Zugo fence which, like the earlier bases, originally came from the Parodi Subbuteo range.

October 2006: Surprisingly perhaps, the new Zugo box set featured in the catalogue (and website) of my local toy shop - Gamleys. In addition, the Freemans Christmas gifts catalogue of that year featured not only the set, but a range of Premiership kits to go with it. These teams are in the numbered Zugo range, mostly between 50 and 75.
April 2009:
The team range continues to grow. Astrobase have the range standing at 122, although it does look as if teams drop from the range as they sell out. Unlike the old Zugo team range, newer versions of the same clubs do not always get the same number in the range. The Subbuteoworld website has numerous Zugo teams, with the suggestion that the numbers reach over 200. However, these numbers do not match the Astrobase ones.
May 2010: A new team chart has been produced matching the Astrobase numbering. This reaches 161 teams, but only 114 teams are still available (as numbers are dropped as kits get replaced). In addition, 162-180 will cover all the qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup who were not already being produced.

    

2012: The Zeugo teams are now housed in a minimalist green and white box, perhaps attempting to highlight its popularity with 1970s Subbuteo player/collectors who appreciate the shape of player and the hand-painted look. Pleasingly, the large box size remains, as does the spare player. Teams are available with either the modern Profi-base, or a more traditional 1970s style base. Teams with this older style of base have a sticker on the box stating "HW base", to make it easier to tell them apart.

The new teams illustrated are ref 250 Rochdale and 258 Inverness, which suggests that the Zeugo range is still expanding rapidly, as Italian table soccer team collections seem destined to do.

Soccer 3-D by Astrobase.

         

Astrobase are the leading Italian supplier of table soccer items, and are run by Enrico Techiatti. Techiatti's astrobases are regarded as the best quality pro bases, and come in a bewildering choice of sizes. Techiatti also designed Parodi's Subbuteo base and also his Subbuteo accessories such as the goals and fence.

With the ending of the Parodi/Hasbro agreement, Astrobase launched their own range of teams using the base and playing figure designed for Parodi, but obviously without the Subbuteo logos. This range was originally produced in conjunction with Subbuteoworld in the UK, but this agreement seems to have ended, with Subbuteoworld concentrating on heavyweight style Zeugo teams, and other UK sellers having 3D stock.

The packing is lower quality than the black box Subbuteo. The card box is thinner, and without the hanging tag. The white plastic interior is thin, and suffers the same problem as many late Subbuteo boxes - the indents are really too small for the assembled figures and their heads stick out. Some of the bases don't have as crisp a fit as the Subbuteo ones, but it is not a major problem. The painting style is glossy, and quite distinctive. It is not to everyone's taste, but they do look effective in play, and I'm pleased with the ones I own. All the teams are well illustrated on the Astrobase website (front and back) allowing customers to pick the teams they like with ease. However, don't visit if you do not have Broadband - too much video.

The team range has grown continually, and the number of different teams available is staggering. A look at the Astrobase website shows the 2005-08 range stretched over twenty-nine pages. With twenty-five sides on most pages, you are talking about 700+ teams. The 2009 range adds a further 170+ teams.... At this rate, there will soon be more Soccer 3D outfits, than were produced in the original fifty years of Subbuteo production. With table soccer a minority interest (even in Italy), it does make sense to sell many teams to the same customers, but the sheer quantities here seem overwhelming. It might be possible to collect a theme within the whole range, such as a particular league, or away kits of your chosen team, or World Cup groups.... I wonder how many of each kit is actually sold, and whether it is more of a "paint by request" service, within chosen parameters.

What this does illustrate is a problem of a modern day Subbuteo. The global game has thousands of teams, and fans tend to demand unique kits. With home, away, and third kits, all updated regularly, it is impossible to keep up. The Soccer 3D range gives good coverage of the Italian leagues, and English Premiership of course. There are World Cup teams featuring most of Europe and Africa (there are more than 50 nations in each of these qualifying sections alone!). There are some smaller English sides, and a reasonable spread of top European sides. There are world cup minnows, non-fifa Islands and regions (Cocos, Kosovo, Alaska, even Isle of Wight). The whole of the European Championship finals in 2006 (home and away) is covered, and many of the teams from the 2003 Subbuteo range (260+ teams in itself) have transferred across. There are a few South American and Mexican sides as well. The decision to sell named teams rather than numbered does leave far too many similar teams in the range. There are countless red/white/red kits that could have been covered with one team. Some teams also sneak back in as a later dated kit, or as a different side (the old Subbuteo Fulham is Salamanca in the 2009 range). Nevertheless, the range is still an immense undertaking, and something to be marvelled at!

There is also a Soccer 3D "heavyweight" range, which seems to be consist of the original Zeugo figure and base. This has yet another selection of teams, that this time includes most of the original (and now hard to find) Zeugo colours, in addition to an mix of old British sides, and some strange bits and pieces. It does look like an attempt to cover the teams produced by every other table soccer manufacturer on h/w style figures (i.e. Zeugo, Santiago, World Table Soccer), which gives this second range a rather cynical feel. 

Soccer 3-D also have a range of accessories which nearly match the teams for sheer choice of finish. You can have fences, referees and balls in just about any colour you fancy. In addition, the new Soccer 3D version of the Astropitch has been very well received by the table soccer community.

Super Footy - by World Table Soccer.

      

Another old friend of this site, World Table Soccer have also launched their own version of the beautiful game called SuperFooty. This is a beautifully presented set, and will soon be backed up with a range of teams. World Table Soccer currently sell three different versions of their game. The budget version (29.99) is the U-Paint Set. The customer can pick his/her own base colours, and the figures are unpainted. For 34.99 you receive the standard "Classic" edition, with painted teams. The "Pro" edition features GT Turbo bases, and costs 44.99.

  

As you can probably see, the figure is similar to the old heavyweight, but with the modern round base fitting. The figure is quite chunky, which makes it easy to paint, and robust for younger players. They also sell a reasonably priced "pro" base, the GT Turbo, which I believe is based on (or in fact is) the old reliable Sureshot base. Unlike other modern games, Superfooty has a "retro" style cotton pitch. The new versions of the game include a rules/playing guide DVD.


Total Soccer.

           

A new product for 2009, these teams and sets are made in China by Spanish company Netcam, essentially for the Spanish market. The original range was solidly La Liga based, but other famous national club sides and sets are now appearing. Netcam have licences with individual clubs for other figures/collectables such as FT Champs. This means that they can sell officially licensed products, which certainly helps the look of the range.

There are presently two different styles of box set, and a team range. The larger "Big Match" box sets feature two famous rivals in an appropriately illustrated box. The version shown here is the original "el clasica" version featuring Real Madrid and Barcelona. Alternatives include the Madrid derby, and the Milan derby. A cheaper "play set" comes in a more generic box, and a Liverpool version is shown here. The second side in these sets is an unnamed team. The boxed team range is slowly expanding, and they come in an attractive display box.

The individual teams are housed in boxes unique to the individual team. The boxes are in the familiar modern style, but are bigger and stronger than the later Subbuteo boxes with lots of room for the players. The most distinct thing about the players is that they are made of a much more rubbery plastic than other table soccer sides. Hopefully this means less broken ankles. The player design is unique, (the closest likeness is Stefan Corda's 2K4). These have individual touches both in the moulds (e.g. players with big hair) and in the painting (e.g. orange boots, captain's armband). The kits have great detail including badges, and numbers. The original teams had a sheet of tiny numbers/name stickers for the backs of the shirts, but later teams have numbers printed on. The bases look very much like Stefan Corda's Raptor design, and these have the team name and club badge printed on top. On the downside, the round pin of the player does not sit flush within the base, and some of the players look a little wonky due to their rubbery nature. In addition, some early teams had a problem with the dreaded "base rattle" - i.e. the weights had not been glued in properly. This seems to have been sorted with later teams, but I've not checked enough sides to be certain.



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