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RETRO: Unknown to Some and a Passion To Others: Subbuteo is Going Strong After 72 Years

3 Minute Read
Oct 09

Subbuteo is the definitive football tabletop experience. Tournaments and champions make this a game unlike any other (except some wargames, I guess).

If there’s one thing the world can’t agree on, it’s the name of this sport. Most call it football, but some have their own football which is not at all similar and so call it soccer. If you’re like me, you enjoy football more than football. I’ll leave that ambiguous for my own enjoyment.

As we’ve seen time and time again here at the BoLS Board Game Retro, everything even remotely popular has a tabletop game, so football should be no exception since it’s, let’s say, pretty popular.

idk how accurate this is. I found it on /r/soccer

A (not so) Little Bit of History

Subbuteo. It’s a weird title. What’s it mean? According to Wikipedia:

The “Subbuteo” name derives from the neo-Latin scientific name Falco subbuteo (a bird of prey commonly known as the Eurasian hobby), after a trademark was not granted to its creator Peter Adolph (1916–1994) to call the game “Hobby”.

That doesn’t really answer much. However, it does get us to the original creator of the game: Peter Adolph.

I guess he also really loved braces?

He was demobbed (when a military force stands down from the war ending) from the Royal Air Force after WWII and was probably super bored. He decided to reinvent a game from one called Newfooty, a tabletop football game from 1929. He made a bunch of improvements to that and filed for a patent in August 1946, which was finalized that May.


The original box from 1948

In the years that followed, there was pretty fierce rivalry between Subbuteo and Newfooty, which is my new favorite rivalry ever. Ultimately, even after a big ad push by Newfooty, it was beaten down in 1961 by the new and fancy molded miniatures brought on by Subbuteo.

This is the ideal male miniature. You may not like it, but this is what peak molding looks like.

Today, Subbuteo enters its EIGHTH decade of production. It’s currently under the Hasbro umbrella, and still has a massive following. Fans make their own stadiums which rival some actual stadiums I’ve seen.

This video was posted to Facebook on the Subbuteo Official Site page, which is very much active. Not only from fans, but from other Subbuteo leagues around the world.

But that’s enough about the game, how does it play?!



It’s just football, but you take turns flicking your players into the ball.

Final Thoughts

Okay, fine. There’s more to it than that, but honestly, kinda not really. Subbuteo does a serious job of trying to maintain the essence of football as it is truly played.

Normally in these Retros we dive into gameplay, but this time around I found the history and culture surrounding the game to be way more interesting. Because let’s face it, soccer is bor…..

Thanks for reading!

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