An English children's game that is the Soccer equivalent of Electric Football minus the electricity and the guys running around aimlessly in circles. Today adults play the game in tournaments to see who is the best in the world--at a Children's game.
The game started in 1947 in England and spread to the rest of the soccer loving world. By the 60's the pieces became pretty realistic and the subbuteo brand became as much about collecting different teams and accessories as it was about playing the game.
Children playing a heated game in 1960. Not pictured: Girls.
Adults playing a heated game in 2000 or so. Not Pictured: Girls.
The irony is that as children the game was something you did because you couldn't get any girls to come around. As adults, the game is played mainly to get away from the girls in your life. There's no truth to the rumor that the game was once going to be called "Girl Repellent" but that name was copywrited by another product and had to be named "Subbuteo" (which is the name of a Falcon known commonly as the "Hobby Falcon" and thus the game being a Hobby and all... oh hell, just screw it, it has a funny name now deal with that).
Whereas soccer is a game that requires tons of running, the use of your head (literally), and just about every muscle group in your body (including your hands smartass, after all there are goalies and throw-ins), subbuteo replaces all that with one finger. That's right you play by using one finger (and it's not even the cool finger).
Giant Penis Attacks World Cup, Film at Eleven.
The tiny figures stand on half-circle bases and are flicked across the board to knock a ball into a net. The game is played on a felt-like soccer pitch that is too big for coffee tables yet too small for dinner tables. As a result you have to build a table just for the game. This is just the start of the ridiculous efforts it takes to earn the title "King of the Dorks" by being the best local player. Perhaps more frustrating is that you have to actually recruit players, as the game is kind of unknown in America. You are left deciding between making your friends join (especially disheartening if your friends don't even like soccer) and talking to strange expats who happen to come from a soccer-loving country where subbuteo is a popular children's game. So yeah, non-soccer lovers will think you're a dork for liking soccer whereas soccer-lovers will think you're a dork for playing a kiddie game.
The game itself is played sort of like soccer with the exception that you have to be past a line called "the shooting line" to, well, you know, shoot. You have to be able to flick your little soccer guy into the ball without having either the ball or the player hit an opposing player. While on defense you basically flick your players into positions so that the opponent will hit them and thus lose the ball.
There are lots of little rules to the game, but much like soccer if you just get drunk and watch it you'll catch the drift of it.
The full line of Subbuteo pieces in the 1970's and 1980's was about as large as an average 12 year old's Pokemon collection.
Behold the crap players spent money on (which was not actually necessary to play the game).
Stadium Pieces (you need about 24 to circle the field).
A toy trophy... 'cuz, you know, everything is cooler with a trophy, right fantasy football geeks?
Colored balls. Like that will help differentiate between the half inch ball and the quarter inch players.
A Camera crew.. What? A camera crew? That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard of... until....
Ball Boys! Ball Boys, they have freakin' Ball Boys to place around the field in case the ball goes out you can pretend they retrieve it instead of your giant hand.
30 years later and some genius self-produces (and mass sells) the only accessory so useless but cool that it counter balances the ball boys... we present:
A Streaker! Now you can pretend the little guys in the crowd are all chanting: "It's not THAT cold, It's not THAT cold."
For many the game is just an excuse to get out of the house, hang with some friends, and drink lots of beer. Kind of what baseball was before the price of tickets were raised to be about the same amount you paid for your first car.
For these beer-loving players a distinct sub-culture sprung up called "The Lesser Players Association." This American group realizes the funny element of the fact that players were trying to dominate each other in a children's game version of a sport that isn't even that popular in American anyway.
"Beer Makes Everything Tolerable" (Soon to be the official slogan of Major League Baseball)
Spawning out of the St. Louis Subbuteo league was the invention of a side game called "Landycakes." Landycakes takes its name from the nickname given to American forward Landon Donovan because for years Donovan spurned the bigger leagues of the world to stay in the small pond that is Major League Soccer which has led many to question his heart (and by heart, we mean balls).
Landycakes uses the Subbuteo players in a game sort of like shuffleboard minus the old people with pants halfway to their nose or curling minus the ice and brooms and Canadians saying "nice curl, eh!" It is both a Subbuteo skill competition and a great way to win a bunch of Twinkies (and by twinkies we don't mean young gay men, unless you're playing a version we're not familiar with).