Price: £5 per team
Private Leagues: Yes
* It has private leagues
* A nice and innovative player loan system
* A free-to-play prediction game is thrown in
* It forces managers to monitor form in both the English and Scottish leagues.
* The Captain can only be changed 5 times a season.
* It’s £3 per team
* The scoring system is still too cluttered
* Average prize fund
Register your team and pick an 11 and a manager with a budget of £100 million, with a choice of 4 formations on offer.
The new “simple” Times game has certainly simplified it’s scoring system from the old days. Players score 3 points for a starting role and a single point for sub appearances. Goals get you 6 points while assists earn a paltry 2 points. Clean sheets for defenders and Keeper also earn 6 points and this is cut to 3 points if the player doesn’t complete 90 minutes. Two points are lost by your defenders and keeper for each goal conceded while yellow cards, red cards, own goals and penalty misses also contribute minus points.
The Times have also adopted the Captain scoring system made popular by the Fantasy Premier League game. Like this game, your Captain earns double points for the particular gameweek. Bizarrely however, the designers have chosen to limit the number of times you can change your captain over the season.
To complicate things even more, points are not only scored for Premiership matches but also the Champions League the UEFA Cup and, wait for it, the Scottish Premier League.
The Times game has become something of a chameleon in recent years changing shape and form in order to provide something new to players in order to separate it from the growing pack of Fantasy Games. Sadly, the changes over the past few seasons have smacked of half-backed gimmicks that have only succeeded in making this game less accessible. Last season they turned to a revolutionary new concept to change their fortunes. The new “Play The Game” version was certainly brave but it’s complexity proved a major obstacle for many. This season the Times have persevered with the new “Advanced” Play the Game version but have gone back to basics and added this Fantasy Football experience to their repertoire. Sadly, while they’ve certainly simplified in some areas, they’ve once again gambled on some bizarre decisions that limit the appeal of the game.
A few years back The Times then made the ill-advised move to include players from the Rangers and Celtic in amongst the Premiership players. Those managers slow to embrace the fact that Rangers and Celtic were walking over teams on a regular basis and identify those players who benefited from these one-sided affairs, were soon left behind. True enough, this move set the Times apart from other games but the need to keep an eye on results, progress and fixtures in two different leagues just created an unnecessary barrier – another variable which could put off the casual player and kill off a private-league.
This season they’ve adopted this idea once again and gone even further by allowing managers to pick players from other Scottish Premier League clubs including Aberdeen, Motherwell and Dundee United. This of course means that managers will have to follow progress in two leagues, in addition to the Champions League and UEFA Cups – in my opinion that’s just overkill.
Another bugbear I have with this game is the ruling that only allows you to change your captain on 5 occasions over the season. The Fantasy Premier League operates a similar Captain system but allows you to change this each gameweek. While last season Ronaldo was a permanent fixture in this role for most fantasy managers, in normal seasons, selecting a captain is actually another strategic dimension and a very important factor. Restricting the ability to change this each week therefore only reduces the amount of strategy involved in the implementation of the system. A very odd decision by the Times game designers.
The game does have some merits – the player loan system is a lovely touch for example. This works in addition to the 20 transfers that you’re allowed over the season. It means you can bring in a player for a period of 4 weeks – after that period he is swapped back out for the player you removed. You get 5 opportunities to do this over the season and it’s a new and innovative way of allowing fantasy managers to repair temporary holes caused by injury or suspension. A nice touch and I wouldn’t be surprised if other games take note of this.
Registration in this game also grants you access to “Premier Play” – a mini prediction game that hands you 4 fixtures each week and challenges you to predict the score. There are weekly prizes for this and it’s a worthy distraction but hardly a reason to elect to play this fantasy game over the others that are available.
Overall then this in an uninspired effort from the Times, marred by it’s inclusion of the Scottish league and restricted by its ruling that only allows the Captain of your side to be changed 5 times over the season. There are mini leagues, there is £100,000 in prize money and yes, the scoring system is improved over previous efforts. At £3 a team it’s not the most expensive option by any means but, aside from the new loan system, there’s little here that makes this game stand out from the crowd or give it greater appeal over the free options available.