Friday, September 7, 2012

Rich J's 5 Worst Subbuteo Items

At the recent Socrates meet up, an interesting discussion arose, inspired by our original five top Subbuteo articles (here and here). What were the worst five?

There was an almost unanimous verdict that the worst of the lot was number one on this list, but what would the other four be? Subbuteo produced a raft of accessories so it should be pretty easy to find five terrible ones surely? Well, not as easy as you'd think.

Using the wealth of info on the Peter Upton site, I trawled through them all and if I'm honest, I was hard pushed to complete a top five! While a lot of accessories were superfluous (the police set or 'players warming up' for example), at least they added to the atmosphere and they were only ever intended as diorama figures, so here I'm concentrating on things which seemed to either serve no purpose whatsoever or were just bad at what they were designed to do. are my five worst Subbuteo items.

1. Throw in takers (C132)

Ping... OUCH!
Anyone that ever used these will know just how crap they were. On the surface, they look quite good... nicely sprung base, outstretched hands; should work like a dream! Oh no, for unless you had at least three hands or perhaps some kind of Wallace & Grommit system of pullies and levers, you were screwed.

The fundamental problem was the entire design. Let's just run through how one had to use it and then detail why it was so bad.

Hold ball in front of throw in taker, press the springy bit back and release. Simple, yes? No. Holding the ball was the easy part, but getting it to spring was where you needed the extra limb. The base wasn't heavy enough to either hold the thing steady or to cope with Newton's 3rd Law of Motion. With one hand you had to hold the base to make sure he didn't ping into your eye while the ball hovered awkwardly in space like the shy kid at the school dance... in space. You then had to bend the thrower part back and release it, ideally as smoothly as possible. The issue here was the part you had to grip wasn't very big so obtaining any sort of purchase usually involved fingernails and I dread to think how many expletives were uttered when said fingernail was bent backwards (lots in my case).

Of course, all this may be purely down to my own inabilities, but even then, once you mastered it, the ball's direction was still subject to a great deal of chance, what with the ball being grossly out of scale to the hands doing the throwing.

Surely a few minor tweaks could have improved this? A larger flicking area and maybe a cup shape to hold the ball in place so one hand could hold him down while the other flicked to throw? But, no...that would have looked stupid and detracted from the realism... a bit like having a giant suddenly appear on the pitch to take a corner... oh wait.

2. Throwing / Kicking Goalkeepers (C202/3) & Pack of Assorted Goalkeepers (61211) 

I never owned these and the simple reason for this is they are absolutely bloody pointless! I concede you could use them for taking goal kicks, rather than using an outfield player... and maybe the throwing figure for throwing the ball out, but there was already an accessory to do both of these jobs in the form of the corner kick taker! There had also previously been available 'spare' goalkeepers, which were just normal players painted to look like keepers for the aforementioned tasks. Added to this was the slight problem of the figures not actually being properly balanced so your goal kicks were being taken by the equivalent of Bruce Grobelaar in permanent 'wobbly leg' mode.
Hatred on a stick

Still, at least these were on proper player bases and not the usual goalie sticks... no, hang on - they existed as well. Someone please explain to me what the point of a goalie holding the ball is when he's trying to save it? Mind you, at least he's doing something unlike the dude with his arms down! What's he? 'Pre-kick off goalie'? Why not just go the whole hog and have 'Driving home after the match goalie on a stick' or 'Sit down protest Neville Southall goalie on a stick'? I loved you Subbuteo, but you really did test me at times!

3. Spring Goalies (61123)

While on the subject of goalie accessories, these fell squarely into the category of 'looks like a genuine improvement - utterly useless in reality'.

What should have delivered extra excitement as your keeper 'sprang' into action, making dramatic diving saves left, right and... well, not centre... in actuality delivered a keeper whose sole source of strength (his stiff rod... settle down at the back there!) was swapped for something rather floppy and useless (Right, detention you two!)

To actually get him to utilise the extra spring in his step, you'd have to almost slam him towards the post, which made for less than precise saving action. On the flipside, any decent shot would see him bend over backwards to let the ball in the net. If only there was some way of not having to see such dismal displays... ah, let's use the...

4. Floodlights (C101)

Ah, the thrill of owning the floodlights! Our younger readers (do we have any?) may need to Google 'floodlights', robbed these days of the chance of seeing the four-shadowed figures ghost across the park in the winter gloom.

Us older people will remember them and the excitement of owning a set to host your own evening kick-offs in Subbuteo world. These were one of the most expensive accessories you could get and as there were only two in the box, most of us held our first match with just half of the pitch illuminated.

The tension builds as one removes them from the box, inserts the 4 D-size batteries and finally switches them on. How glorious they look! Now for that true touch of authenticity, one switches off the living room light... Hello? Where did everyone go?  Why is there something with less power than a candle creating a tiny pool of orange in the near distance?

'Floodlights' was an over optimistic description. 'Damp squib' would be more appropriate. You were then faced with two options. Play the match in darkness a mole would struggle with or flick the light back on and accept that Subbuteo hated you and your whole family.

5. Subbuteo World Cup (C157)

No, not the Jules Rimet Trophy or the C182 World Cup Trophy, but the "Subbuteo World Cup".

I own this and the only reason I can give you for why is that it's pretty rare. That's about it. It's ugly and utterly meaningless. I had assumed it was a replica of the trophy presented to the winners of the Subbuteo World Cup tournaments, but apparently not.

The best reason for its existence, as detailed on the Peter Upton site seems to be that:

"Charles Stadden had produced Subbuteo's version of the Jules Rimet, but I have been told that he did not like the design of the new trophy, and refused to copy it. Perhaps this was the result. Whatever the reasons, this trophy was replaced by an official copy of the new FIFA World Cup (C182) in 1981"

So they're mine... what are your worst five?