Sunday 23 September 2012

Penny Football

The great thing about football is that it can be played in so many different forms. Purists will always enjoy the traditional approach of physically kicking a ball around while the more technologically-minded among us might prefer moving computerised competitors around on a TV screen. For a truly pared-down version of the game, however, nothing appeals quite like Penny Football.

I’d be lying if I said it was the most portable version of football around as, strictly speaking, you need a decent sized table to play it on. Apart from that, though, all you need are three coins (preferably of a single denomination) and two players. It’s also easy to play – you simply shuffle one coin between the other two with your finger, moving from one end of the table to the other until you score a goal.

Think of it like Subbuteo without the players. Or the floodlights. Or anything else, for that matter. Penny Football is simply a game of skill where the ability to control the slide of a coin is virtually everything. I played it a lot when I was 13-years-old or so, usually during wet break-times at school when I was holed up in a soulless classroom looking for a way to kill time. It’s fiendishly addictive and anyone can play it, so long as they have two fully functioning hands.

Like any simple game, you’ll find variations here and there offering different interpretations of the spartan rules. When I played it at school, my friends and I developed a set way to shoot at goal. This involved laying your hands flat on the table with both thumbs and index fingers touching. The ‘ball’ coin was then placed on its edge between the thumbs, at which point an upward push would propel it goalwards.

And then there’s the goalmouth itself. The Wikipedia page on Penny Football suggests the opposing goalmouth be made by splaying the index finger and little finger on the table surface. We had a different approach. We’d make the shape of a goal frame by pointing our index fingers downwards (touching the table) with our thumbs touching, and much better we thought it was too.

I will admit we were playing our own specific version of the game, but therein you have the versatility of the thing. If you’re not happy playing the rudimentary form, you can embellish it here and there with your own personal adjustments. Some people, for example, make use of a fourth coin to act as a goalkeeper when the attacking player tries to shuffle their shot in. The range of ‘improvements’ you can make are endless.

And as if to prove that there’s nothing new under the sun, a computer game version duly arrived in time for Euro 2008 thanks to JVC. As one of the corporate sponsors, they chose Euroball as their way of getting fans to play football online with a beautifully designed and executed take on the old Penny Football game.

JVC's EuroBall game: Great gameplay, nice graphics

So there it is: three coins, a table and a whole lot of fun. Penny Football – simple, but super to play.


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