Thursday, 10 January 2013

Kick-Off (1981)

It's our absolute delight to welcome back Al Gordon from God, Charlton and Punk Rock who provides us with another excellent guest post - this time on the simple pleasure of playing a classic football board game...

I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two types of people on a Sunday morning. Those who like their bed, and those who would rather endure the wind and the rain to rummage through boxes of other people’s cast-offs at a boot sale.

I’m firmly planted in the former category whilst my wife will gladly come home clutching an armful of early bird ‘bargains’ which miraculously we have previously survived without.

In the run up to Christmas, however, some of these purchases may be for me, and possibly then football related. I wasn’t to be disappointed. Amongst some wonderful Subbuteo articles, she found me a football card game from MB Games called Kick-Off.

This game has had several incarnations, originally called ‘Penalty’ and then much later known as ‘Gazza!’, but the version I unwrapped Christmas morning was not only identical to the one I owned back in 1981, but in equally good condition too!

The board is a football pitch with a grid covering it, although obviously set up for Olympic football as the flags bordering the playing surface include the Union Jack. The small football counter moves from square to square depending on which card you play. And herein lies the skill.

Each player is dealt eight cards and once you play one, you pick another up from the pack to replace it. When the pack runs out, its half time so you give them a shuffle and start again for the second period.

The cards themselves are delightful. The artist has painted two teams, the Blues and the Yellows. The Yellows even have three green Adidas stripes running down their sleeves. These aren’t faceless footballers though. The likes of Keegan, Shilton, Dalglish, Coppell and Archibald are all here and I’m left in very little doubt as to how King Kenny would have looked had he ever pulled on a Norwich shirt!

As wonderful as the detail is, we are looking at a football game here, so the main topic of discussion has to be scoring more goals than your adversary.

It isn’t just enough to play a card that will see the ball move into the opposition goal, for they may be holding either a Goalkeeper or Corner card. This is where the symbols in the cards' top corners come into play.

If your opponent scores and you are fortunate enough to hold a ‘keeper card, simply play the ball back out according to the cards instructions, not forgetting to gloat as the smile rapidly disappears from your foe's 'boat race'. Failing that and you have a corner card, the ball is placed by the corresponding colour flag. The attacking player must then cut the blind pack; if the colour matches, he’s scored. If it doesn’t... you get the idea.

It’s the same scenario with the Penalty card. There’s just the one of these but that does pretty much guarantee a spot kick in each half. All that’s required is to get the ball into the opposing penalty area and then play your 'joker’. After the initial sinking feeling has passed, the defending player must cut the cards; a hand symbol in the top corner and it’s saved. If there isn’t... yes you’re ahead of me here.

It may not have been the most animated of childhood football games but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Once the Subbuteo was packed away for the day, this was an easy chance to challenge one of the family as I looked to distract their attentions from bedtime.

Unfortunately Grandad wasn’t able to experience its pleasures first hand and just had to make do watching from afar. MB Games, for reasons known only to themselves, had a policy setting the age recommendation from 7-70 years. I can only surmise they believed their game was that exciting it could be fatal to those with a dodgy ticker.

My wife went to the boot sale and believed she had found me a cheap and humourous stocking filler. Not for one second did she realise she’d struck gold.

Either that or Santa knew I’d been a very very good lad.

Our thanks once again go to Al Gordon, and if you want to read some more of his fine writing on the Attic, check out 'Al Gordon's Top 5 Patrick Kits' and 'Al Gordon's Five Subbuteo Items They Never Made.'

Failing that, Chris O recently gave us his take on 'Kick-Off' in his second Videoblog - catch it here.


  1. I had that game - wow thanks for the memory. I recall the box cover more than the cards itself sadly!

  2. Please, can you post photos of the rules for this game?
    I have lost them and would like to print them.
    Maybe even email the photos to me?
    I just received it from my mum and want to play the game with my son.

    1. We'll be in touch, Michael... :)

    2. Hi Michael... I've finally managed to locate my Kick-Off game and have now scanned in the rules for you. If you can email me at, I'll email the details back to you. :)

    3. My dad still has the 1981 version and it was my favourite board game my dad teached me on how to play it last year

  3. It was also called 'Penalty'. Pretty much the same game.

  4. Shame about Gazza and the alcohol