Saturday, 14 April 2012

Super Top Trumps: European Club Football

Good ideas never die, it seems - they just wait for nostalgia to catch up with them. That would appear to be the case with Top Trumps, the vintage card game that was once a staple for children in school playgrounds everywhere during the late-1970’s. By the time the 1990’s had arrived, Top Trumps was largely a forgotten phenomenon, but Waddingtons relaunched it with a new range of ‘Super Top Trumps’ aimed at distracting kids from their Nintendo Gameboys and Sega Game Gears.

It was 1992 and Waddingtons, the Leeds-based manufacturer of board games such as Monopoly, Cluedo and Sorry! released a second set of card decks to appeal to an even wider range of children. Presuming ‘Racing Trucks’ and ‘Dinosaurs’ weren’t to your liking, ‘European Club Football’ probably stood a fair chance of being an imminent purchase, but unlike previous decks of football Top Trumps, this one featured teams as their subject rather than players.

And what could possibly be wrong with that, you might ask? At first glance, nothing – in fact there were now eight categories on each card to choose from rather than the five previously as seen back in the late-70's. As we discussed previously, the old 'player' sets had categories such as 'League Appearances' and 'International Goals' as the criteria by which you'd win a hand in each game. Here, the categories were mostly club competitions. These included 'League Champions', 'Domestic Cups (FA)', European Champions' and so on, but here's where it became a victim of its own ingenuity.

Some categories, such as 'League Champions' had a wide range of values from Rangers' 42 down to Chelsea's 1. This made winning a hand nice and clear cut, but had you plumped for 'European Super Cup' or 'UEFA Cup', the team on your card would have a number no higher than 2 or 3. This would have meant a lot of tied rounds which certainly allowed the kitty to build up nicely, but only until the inevitable switch back to 'League Champions' again or the novelty category of 'Year of Formation'.

Anyway, perhaps this was only a side issue for the real joy of this Top Trumps set was seeing which teams were included as part of the game. Naturally enough, English teams were the best represented in the 30-card pack - 11 to be precise - and of those, some were rather dubious selections. Newcastle United were still in the second tier back in 1992 and had only won a single European trophy (the 1969 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup), but there they were, proudly represented by the still slim image of Micky Quinn.

Panathinaikos and Marseille seem to have been included purely on account of their domestic success having not won any European trophies between them while Borussia Mönchengladbach were relying solely on their two UEFA Cup wins, the last of which had happened in 1979.

Still, for every Panathinaikos there was a Real Madrid or a Juventus, and it was great to see their pictures on each of the cards. Mind you, some of the pictures were a little... well... odd. Some were the wrong shape and didn't fill the space provided (Bayern Munich, Feyenoord, AC Milan, etc) while one or two had quirky compositions (Man City's photo taken 50 feet away from the action, Tottenham's featuring three players of which two had their backs turned to camera).

All very nice, but two question remain unanswered: why 'Super' Top Trumps and why the index numbers in the top-left corner of each card? Simple: there was a second way to play the game. In essence, all the cards were dealt out to all players and everyone had to complete all their sets (i.e. they had to collect 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D and 1E, and so on). Each player would ask another player "Have you got 3C?" and if they did, they'd collect the card and get another turn. If not, they didn't. The first one to complete all their sets was the winner.

So there it is - Waddington's attempt to breathe new life into an old classic. It wasn't perfect, but it had plenty of interest for football-loving kids everywhere... until they wanted to play on their Gameboy again, at least.


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