Tension rises in the arena. Viewers are sitting nervously in front of their personal screens. Only a few older fans like me turned off the display to watch the game with their own eyes. Because it is a fast game, it is not easy to follow the floating ball. When camera does this for you, it’s much easier. But why should we then go to watch these games in person?
I heard shouting from a lot of people. I fixed my gaze on the corner, where players should be entering the arena and indeed, there they were. Away team is already on the field, while home team Giants is walking in right now and noise level in the hall immmediately increases significantly. Digital horn simulating human support cry is attached to each seat. I used my own vocal chords instead and I noticed, that my neighbor looks at me with astonishment. Everything is ready for an initial face-off, players are hovering around the middle. The ball falls from above and match starts..
This is, how you will feel as a futuristic sports fan, if you visited Forceball match personally. Matches of future are hard contact and word goal is still the magical spell. But much has changed, as we will be explained by a card game, that arrived to us from days of the future, to prepare us for this new sport. Game was published by Gigantoskop and its date of manufacture refers to the year 2011, although it really comes from the future. It officially came out of the concept of Jesper Moberg with illustrations of forceballist from the pen of Lukas Thelin.
Box is small, and it clearly indicates the fact, that it is a card game. Illustration of players on the packaging is a bit like Japanese anime style and the more we are eager to see, what we find inside. There is no surprise, but also no place to waste – in addition to a thirty-page thick manual (in the size of classic cards), there is only package with 55 cards waiting for us, that will control the entire game.
Not only a picture of the maneuver can be found on the card, but especially its description and requirements. In the upper left corner are two colored drops with numbers indicating strength of attack or defense. Next is a gray bubble corresponding to the number of cards you need to perform the maneuver. Most important, however, is the lower part, which begins with the title and describes the result of a successfully played a card.
Each of the opponents gets seven cards from a shuffled deck, which then is placed in the middle of the table face up, so you can always see the next card and you can plan your gaming tactics accordingly.
At the beginning of the game, players choose to uncover and discard one card from their hand. Its value decides, which of them will become first attacker. These are also in Forceballu called face-off. When you want to come first, you need to give up a strong card from hand and reduce chances of success in the upcoming attack. Winning forceballist takes the ball card and for actual attack will be colored blue, while defender is red.
Each attack is a series of cards, in which players alternate. Before each card play, you always draw one card from the deck. And because these are picture up, both adversaries know its value well. Then you can adjust speed of your players, with which they are moving around the pitch. To perform specific maneuvers, you need to have enough speed.
All consecutive cards must be played with increasing strength always at least one higher compared to the previous card. Thus creating increasing chain of cards, while with each reaction, players once again draws a card. In addition, strength on the card is not final and can be increased by a card from hand or speed pile.
Instead of using the card for higher speed, players can also use their momentum to manipulate the cards in their hands. Its also possible to slow down, which means taking a card from the speed pile back into hand. Among the options is also rearranging cards in the speed pile, because when players put down a card there, they can need it a moment later. However, its also possible to replace the whole hand or use speed and commence with a maneuver.
At the end of each attack, type of winning card determines, what happened. Shot ends up with a goal and player scores a point for it. Other results usually only decide, who stays in possession of the ball. During the game, players collect points in this way and may even increase their value as stakes.
We have already mentioned, that Forceball is played in three thirds. Only after playing all three, number of goals decides winner of the match. Each part of the match ends, when drawing deck runs out of cards and player should draw a new one. Once you hear the horn announcing end of the third period, match is over and winner is clear.
Forceball is very interesting tactical card game, that simulates sport of the future. Probably no one would expect at first glance, that it may be treated in a simple way and still stay true to the original (although non-existent) sport feel.
The biggest influence on the atmosphere and experience of the game lies for us definitely in an element of speed. This deck is built again after every kick-off, but sometimes high tempo remains throughout several attacks, because game is not interrupted. And it provides a reality feel unlike any other seen in sports game.
Forceball is with speed and hardness similar to hockey. Its just adding some of those sci-fi elements, antigravity shoes and floating ball, but we appreciate it coming from Sweden, one of the best hockey nations in the world. Many of the skills and abilities of the players is also linked to the future (for example Shellshock), but a lot of them are different types of shots and defensive maneuvers, that utilize mass of players, like in the classic era of contact hockey (today).
Each card has its own skill, that is activated, when its declared a winning card of the attack. This adds a great importance to decision about order of played cards and combining their abilities. You may want to take opponents ball or just remain in the offensive zone to attack with even greater force next round. Everything is possible, if you plan it well and know, how to work with, what you have in your hand.
There are other elements, that affect gameplay and we have mentioned then only in passing or not at all. For example, raising the stakes means, that one player decides to increase value of the goals. The adversary has the option to refuse, but it will cost him. After the increase, next raise can be done only by the other player.
Icons in the lower left corner of the card add more variability. You can see stress, goalie, a lucky shot or referee in here. Every one adds a new layer in the game and these icons are activated at different times. For example, stress is valid, when you draw this card from the deck, which means, that your attack is over. Goalkeeper can also do successful defense hit and get the ball for your team.
Although you are drawing cards from a common deck, all elements in ForceBallu remain strictly tactical. You know exactly, which card are you drawing, because its value is revealed at the top of draw pile. And if you can get a new card in your hand, you might even not take it for tactical reasons. Even cards played in speed pile are not yet lost for you and you can get them back into hand later.
Rules are taught gradually, but there is no section, that would repeat all the rules for the big league. As a result, when returning to the game or looking for some answers, you need to get through the whole book again, which is a shame. With learning is related also another complaint – you will not find description of cards anywhere in the rules, so initially you fumble, which number in the corner means what.
Forceball offers for dimensions of its box a surprisingly deep and enjoyable game, that is meticulous in every detail. When you play it, you feel, that you really are on the field and try to beat your opponent. And what other should a game do well, that transmit an impression on the players? If it does this job, then we can highly recommend it.
Forceball offers insight into the sports industry, which still does not exist today, but it certainly might be real one day. Everything is beautifully thought out and based on simple rules of hockey. Yet you feel, like you are playing really game from the future, thanks to interesting and extravagant illustrations. Each attack is a special phase, in which players manipulate speed of their players, and using inertia are forced to play more and more powerful cards. Maneuver, that is played as winning (rival is not capable to answer), is then executed. Game offers several levels of complexity, but they are not very well described in the manual. What is missing is a comprehensive overview of full rules and you must look for different informations in different levels. Forceball managed a rare thing for such a small card game – it represents a real sport entertainment, which feels like a real league!