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Peter Upton's

Subbuteo Tribute Website.

Other Rival Games Part 2 (1980s-2000s)

This page is dominated by Pro Action Football, which was Subbuteo's big rival in the 1990s. 

Cup Final (1980s)

   

This was a rubbish three-a-side version of Striker produced by Peter Pan Playthings, of Test Match cricket fame. The layout of the rules, and some of the components made this look like a companion game to their cricket game. Sadly, it was nowhere near as much fun. 

I picked up a few bits from one of these sets in a second hand box of Subbuteo, and I can't say I was impressed. The pitch was made of a foamy substance that was shedding its coat alarmingly, and covered everything with bits of green. I'm afraid it went in the bin. This is a problem shared by Peter Pan's Test Match Cricket game. The goals are identical to Striker ones, but have plastic nets. 

The outfield players were plastic with a metal kicking leg, with one player having a bent leg, and one a straight leg. The straight legged player had a scooped foot for lobbing the ball, but I can't say that this works very well. To make the players different from Striker or Big League, the kicking was controlled by a button on the back of the base. 

The figures came in all red and all blue kits. The painting on the players was absolutely terrible, and probably worse than most of the Big League players I have encountered. Using red and blue plastic for the player and base would've been a better idea. The goalkeepers are identical in design to the original Striker goalkeepers, as they swivel at the waist and have a crooked arm for throwing the ball out.

The ball was not round, but more of a honeycomb with 32 sides. These were divided into two halves of different colours. In the rule book it says that the two halves are red and blue, but this was not always the case (black and white was an alternative). Basically, the team whose colour was on the top face had the right to play the ball. So the skill was to always keep the top face in your colour while dribbling. The rules also suggest that you can play with one player in each hand for quick passing. This method of play is similar to German game Tipp-Kick.

Pro Action Football (1990s)

This game remains a serious rival to Subbuteo, and was really the first soccer game for some time to offer something different. The method of play is very clever, and well thought out. Whisper this, but I've heard several Subbuteo addicts admit that their kids prefer Pro-Action football over Peter Adolph's glorious game.

This is another game that uses magnetism to good effect, but here the magnetic effect is between player and ball. Each player is mounted on a large green base that glides around on a ball bearing (daleks somehow spring to mind). The base has a magnetic ring to which the ball can affix. Thus the player can run with the ball, and intercept passes by sliding onto the ball. Passing and shooting is done by tapping on the top of the player. The top half of the base then moves down, and the rims at the top and bottom of the base cause the ball to part from the ring and be propelled away from the figure. It is sometimes difficult to get the required force for shots.

The goalkeepers have a small round magnet in their chest, so they can catch the ball impressively. Goal kicks are also great fun, as you whack the goalkeeper stick on the pitch in different ways to produce different types of kick.

Pro-Action Football production seems almost as confusing as Super Striker production, with several different sets produced with overlapping dates. They are usually badged under Parker or MB Games, but the copyright is Hasbro, and they obviously own these other brands.

The Standard Parker box sets.

This was the standard version and is currently available at a car boot sale near you! There are slight variations to the box lid and layout, and the "now with barriers" edition above shows that the fence surround was not always included (but it usually is). The teams are red shirts and black shorts; versus blue shirts with black shorts. The outfield players come in three different figures, used for defender, midfielder and attacker, although this doesn't affect how they actually play. The machine printed detail includes numbers on the backs of the shirts and is very neat and attractive.

The goals resemble a strengthened Subbuteo tournament goal, with fitted nets, and a base that has a back bar and clips that fit it to the pitch. This works quite well for holding the goal in place. These goals also appeared in Subbuteo sets for a year or so in the mid 1990s after Hasbro had acquired Waddingtons. 

The version of this set I own is copyright 1993, although the sets lasted much longer than that. In fact, the stock seemed to exist well into the Michael Owen era (see below). Various exclusive shop offers were also produced. My local toy shop chain Gamleys, had one such offer a couple of years ago, but embarrassingly, I can't remember what it was! I think a free stop watch was included in the set.. 

The Deluxe Parker Version.

 

This is a more unusual set, and featured an electronic scoreboard/Grandstand. The stands were two banks of green terracing which clipped to the front of the black scoreboard around a tunnel entrance to the pitch. The scoreboard bit of the device wasn't electronic at all. It was like the Subbuteo boards with names on card that slide in, and two rotating discs for the scores. The electronic part replicated the sound of the crowd. On the top of the device were five football shaped buttons. From the left these appear to be :-

If you had the crowd noise turned on, then buttons 2-5 blended into it rather cleverly. However, they also worked without it.

Another feature of the deluxe set were the free kick assistants. These were just pieces of plastic with a curved ramp at one end, and a place for the player base at the other. This allowed you to shoot over a defensive wall. Or it would if you could get enough force on the ball. The other advantage over the standard set is that one of the teams is a very well printed Brazil (this was also available in the team range). The other team was blue and white (as opposed to the usual blue and black).

The MB Games version (1996)

    

Another odd version. I picked this up at a car boot sale, because I though the figures looked different. In fact, this version has 10 different mouldings for the outfield players, which is advertised as a feature on the box. The teams are painted with white shorts rather than black, and have a variety of skin/hair colours. The figures are slightly smaller than the usual Parker ones, and the goals have simple plastic nets. However, these do have bases that clip into the fence surround, as opposed to the parker version where they clip onto the pitch. This is an improvement.

The simple goals and small players lead me to believe that this was an earlier version of Pro Action Football, but in fact the box is dated 1996, so it appears in the middle of the Parker era. The picture on the back of the box also shows the usual Parker version with the black shorted players (but with the simple goals).

The Barcelona Edition (also MB Games)

This version is apparently only sold in the Barcelona club shop, and features a team in Barcelona strip and a team in all white ready for painting. As luck would have it, all white can also represent arch-rivals Real Madrid of course. Oh what a coincidence! This is another version sold under the MB games logo, which here appears on its more familiar white box end. I've had a report that a few alternative boxed Spanish sides turned up in a catalogue surplus shop in Scotland. 

Michael Owen's Pro Action Football.

This was yet another re-launch of the game, cashing in on Michael Owen's popularity, but it was the same as the Parker version with red/black, blue/black figures. These sets seem to be arriving on the boot sale scene in good numbers, which suggests that they sold well enough... 

December 2004: The sets for Christmas 2004 were a five-a-side version in a fold up case, and a full edition with the addition of another electronic device. I believe this one gave out nuggets of commentary.

Official England Total Action Football.

         

October 2006: The 2006 toy shop catalogues revealed both full size and five-a-side versions available as official "England" products. The pitch on the full version had the three lions logo in the centre circle. This set was manufactured under licence by Vivid Imaginations Ltd, and it benefited from bring sold in a much smaller box than usual. The teams were the smaller version from the MB games version above (as were the simple plastic goals). The teams were described as England vs Opposition, and were in basic colours. England simply had white shirts and navy shorts, whilst the opposition were almost Brazil, with yellow shirts, blue shorts and white socks (but no green trim). The pitch in my set is a bit weird, as the lines and England flag seem to be printed on the wrong side. (imagine playing on the smooth side of the modern Subbuteo pitches).

Extra Teams.

    

A few extra teams were produced for the Parker version of Pro-Action football, and were sold in attractive display boxes. These included the playing figures, but not the bases. A sheet in the box set advertised the teams available, which were as follows.

In addition, there was a second set of English teams produced, which sadly do not appear to be properly catalogued anywhere. These include the Liverpool team shown at the top of this section, which features the "Adidas" slashes of the mid 1990s. Teams seen so far include...

    

December 2012: I can now illustrate a few more of the Pro Action Teams. Added to the Holland at the top of the section, we have Spain, England, Italy, Brazil and France. In addition to the Liverpool, we have Arsenal and Spurs.

MY Soccer World Football Games.

    

A cheap "made in China" version of Striker, with a card pitch, and a ball that isn't round. Despite the cheapness, the figures were actually nicely detailed, and had printed details.

The Penalty shoot out version (originally priced at a bargain £1.99) featured one player from each side, a goalkeeper, a scoreboard and a tiny trophy, but I've also seen a full eleven-a-side version (otherwise I wouldn't have bothered to include it). Obviously, the problem with a card pitch is that a standard round ball would just roll off. So the solution here is that the ball isn't round!

This is not to be confused with the other Soccer World game, which had static players on springs, involved bouncing a ball-bearing around a wobbly plastic pitch, and was immensely stupid. 

Zoom Sport Football Game.
Plan your tactics, flick, spin and move your players then... shoot to score!

    

I've reproduced the blurb from the front of the box because it shows such a big Subbuteo influence. The game is a five-a-side junior affair, with players who look like giant lego figures. The outfield bases have a rolling action, so the play is nearer Subbuteo than Super Striker. Thanks to Matt Johnstone for the pictures, and to his kids for modelling the set :-)

Nestlé Euro 2004 players.

Various football figures have found their way into cereal packets down the years, and several ropey action versions have appeared with some form of kicking leg action. However, these guys are a cut above the norm. There were three different outfielders in eight different colour schemes. As usual nowadays, these went the "unofficial" route but kits similar to Portugal, Spain and England were all produced. In addition there was also a goalkeeper figure in a yellow or green jersey, making twenty-four variations to look for. That's a lot of Shreddies I can tell you.

Okay, so this is not a full game or anything, but I thought I'd give these guys a mention as they really do play quite a useful game using Striker equipment. I also have a wants list :-)


I'm sure there must be more decent football games out there. I probably own a few more than this! So watch this space for more games. .


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