Thursday, February 28, 2013

Logacta (1976)

If you happen to find yourself thumbing through some 35-year-old copies of Shoot! magazine, it’s quite possible your eye will be caught by a small advert somewhere near the back for ‘Logacta.’

Subtitled ‘Chart Soccer’, it mysteriously offered the chance to organise league, cup and international competitions with “all the suspense and excitement of the full football season.” Several years ago, my eye was caught in just such a way. What was this game? How was it played? Why was it never sold in shops along with other football games? I searched the internet for information, and ultimately eBay provided me with the answers.

In its original form, Logacta was sold as a small white box containing numerous printed grids and instructions, cards and seven dice with different coloured numbers on. What I found on an eBay auction several years ago was someone selling all the original printed materials scanned in and saved as JPEG files onto a recordable CD along with a description of how each of the die were configured. In essence, this was a do-it-yourself version of Logacta but no less intriguing to my curious mind.

Having won the auction and received the CD through the post, I examined its contents. I didn’t know where to begin. So many JPEGs, all named but some more descriptively than others. There was a set of instructions, but they seemed wordy and complex. There had to be an easy way to start playing the game, but I couldn't find one and decided to print all of the files out instead.

It didn’t really work. I stared blankly at the mountain of paperwork now covering the desk in front of me. In my head, I was trying to break out of the mental connections I was making. “Paperwork = forms = administration = accounting = book-keeping = drudgery...” Maybe if I cleared all the papers away in a folder and had another look tomorrow with fresh eyes, I’d be able to make some progress...

Five years later

I rediscovered my folder in a cardboard box, one of many that had arrived at our New Zealand home after we relocated in September 2012. I knew the time had come to try once again to learn the mysterious art of Logacta.

With a bit of application, I found that actually it was fairly easy to play, once you’d got started. It was, however, a long and arduous journey to enlightenment, so here is an overview of how to play ‘Chart Soccer’.

Super League

First of all, you’re invited to create a 16-team Super League made up of teams from anywhere in the UK. Because Logacta was made back in 1976, I tried to include teams that were among the best around back then. Of the 14 English teams I chose, all but one - my team, West Ham - were playing in the First Division, the other two being Celtic and Rangers.

Having filled their names in on the Fixtures and Results (F&R) Chart and the Super League Points Recorder, I was ready to start my new league championship competition. A glance at the F&R Chart revealed that each square in the fixture grid had a number relating to each of the 30 gameweeks. I looked for all the squares numbered ‘1’ and prepared myself to fill in some scores.

The dice

So how do you create scores in Logacta? Easy - by using two of seven coloured dice. Each one contains its own unique set of numbers which, when two are rolled, determine the score of every match. The numbers are weighted for certain types of team; for instance the blue die has slightly higher numbers than the red die, thereby making the former more suitable for the team with home advantage than the latter.

Unfortunately my ‘DIY’ Logacta set didn’t contain any dice, so I decided to make my own using the number sets specified. They look OK, but to be honest they were rather fiddly and time-consuming to make and if the thought of playing with card, scissors and a Pritt Stick doesn’t appeal, you might want to use another system instead.

For the first four weeks of the Super League, only the red and blue dice are used to keep things nice and simple. With that in mind, I raced ahead and recorded the scores and points totals for the first four gameweeks. It’s fair to say that some teams realistically mirrored their 1976 vintage while others didn't. After Week 4, Ipswich, Man United and Tottenham shared the lead with six points from a possible eight (two points for a win, remember) while at the bottom were Derby and West Bromwich Albion on two points.

For Gameweeks 5 to 8, the choice of dice used for both teams was made differently. Before every game, I had to work out the difference in points between the two competing teams by looking at the Super League Points Recorder. Once that was done, I had to cross-reference a sheet called the Dice Selector to find out which colours the dice should be. Here’s an example: If Celtic had 10 points and Wolves had 5 points at the point when they played, the Dice Selector would tell you that you should roll the blue dice for Celtic and the grey dice for Wolves. As with all dice permutations, the final result should go in favour of the team with more points, but an upset is always possible as in real football.

The League Cup

On I went, rolling dice and scribbling numbers onto my sheets of paper until Gameweek 8 was completed. With Tottenham now clear at the top of the table, I noticed my Points Recorder chart telling me it was time for League Cup Round 3.

For this and all the Cup competitions, you’re allowed a free choice of any teams to compete as long as you have the right amount of each type. For instance, in the opening round of the League Cup, you’re allowed 11 teams from Division One, 10 from Division Two, 6 from Division Three and 4 from Division Four along with the current holders. Luckily a handy sheet is provided that lists who was in which division and who had won what the previous season.

Having chosen my teams, I then had to make the draw for Round Three. The original Logacta kit had 32 numbered cards which could be used in the absence of the Football League’s velvet bag of wooden balls. I, however, couldn’t be bothered to print and cut out the cards on my CD, so I used to generate my random numbers electronically.

For all League Cup games, the Dice Selector works on the basis of which divisions the two competing teams are in. So for instance if Nottingham Forest (1) were playing Southend United (3), you’d know that Forest would use the brown dice and Southend would use the yellow one.

So off I went again on my dice rolling exploits, but this being a Cup competition, I had to follow the right procedure for drawn games. A replay was sometimes required and even Extra Time. For that, I had to roll the yellow dice to determine any extra decisive goals. Exciting stuff. Well, kind of.

The Form die

With League Cup Round 3 done and dusted, it was back to the Super League but now I had to roll a ‘Form’ die during every gameweek. The principle was thus; for every four-week block of matches, the team(s) that scores the most points is entitled to potentially score extra goals in the next four-week block by rolling the extra yellow ‘Form’ die. In other words, the better your form, the better your form will probably be in successive weeks.

Tottenham and QPR had scored the most points in Gameweeks 5 to 8 of my league, so they got to roll for more goals with the yellow die in weeks 9 to 12. For one of them, it was to prove decisive.

The FA Cup, The League Cup Final and Europe

Weeks went by and the Form die was already helping to sort the league’s high-flyers from its whipping boys. Just past the mid-way point, Liverpool and QPR led the table with 24 points from 32 while Derby were at the other end with just five.

Around the same time, the FA Cup Fourth Round appeared on the calendar and once again I had to pick and draw the competing teams. Fun though it is at first to re-enact every draw that arises, the novelty does start to wear off as you just want to get on with playing the matches. For all that, however, I did have the undeniable pleasure of seeing West Ham beat Colchester 3-2, therein justifying my decision to include The Hammers in every competition possible.

This was borne out when West Ham reached the semi-finals of my League Cup competition but inexplicably they were beaten 6-5 on aggregate by Wigan Athletic, then of Division Four. Outraged but willing to accept the result as it stood, Wigan then went on to beat Newcastle 2-1 in a replay of the League Cup Final after the first match was drawn 3-3.

As if that wasn't enough to satiate your interest, the three European competitions then arrived hot on their heels. In drawing up the starting lists for The European Cup, The European Cup-Winners’ Cup and the UEFA Cup, one had to observe the ranking system for all possible competing teams - 1 for the strongest countries down to 5 for the weakest. These grades would have an effect on which dice were used, but with Scottish teams ranked the same as those from Russia in the European Cup and Spanish teams in the Cup-Winners’ Cup, one could never be quite sure if all was as it should be.

Anyway, the 24 European games were drawn and played and through completely random misfortune, all my English clubs were eliminated at the first hurdle. And the late-70’s was supposed to be a high point for English teams in Europe...

The final push

And so it went on. Blocks of four Super League games regularly interrupted by successive rounds of either the FA Cup or the Euro competitions. My brain slowly started to melt under the strain of processing so many numbers with each passing game. The suggested tip of filling in the charts with a pencil so that mistakes could be rubbed out also proved of great value as my faltering mind started to make occasional errors in my calculations.

As the season grew to a close, I wanted more and more for the whole thing to be over. In my Super League, QPR had hit top position in Week 20 and stayed there right through to the bitter end, winning the title with three weeks to spare. At the other end of the table, however, Manchester City had ‘wooden spoon’ written all over them from even earlier in the season and were easily the worst team on form as well as points.

The FA Cup was won by Southampton, 2-1 winners over Nottingham Forest. Not a bad foresight of the two teams that were to appear in the real 1979 League Cup Final. As for Europe, PSV won the European Cup Final 5-4 over Cologne after extra time, Anderlecht beat Barcelona 3-1 in the Cup-Winners’ Cup and Stuttgart beat Torpedo Moscow 4-3 in the UEFA Cup Final.

The end at last...?

So that was it - except it wasn’t, according to the game’s manufacturer. Logacta implores you to play season after season, applying promotion and relegation to the Super Leagues and giving byes to previous Cup champions as you go. There were also charts that enable you to play out your own version of the European Championships or even the World Cup. I, however, had had enough.

I’d enjoyed the process of understanding the complex logic of Logacta, not to mention the way one observes the unfolding development of various League and Cup competitions.

The trouble is, it takes too long to complete one season, there’s too much scribbling to do on too much paper and if you’re playing it on your own, you've not even got anyone to share your experiences with during the long journey.

But hey, I can now say I've played Logacta with all the weary pride of someone completing the London Marathon. Will I be doing it all over again any time soon, though? Not unless someone can write me a computer program to automate everything, and even then I'm not so sure...