Sunday, 19 January 2014

Random football

It might not be the best-known or most-played football game, but Logacta has proven to be something of a revelation here on The Football Attic. Ever since I wrote about it back in February 2013, my article has been read by a slow, steady trickle of people all claiming to have played Logacta at a far higher level than I did.

The ‘Chart Soccer’ game, advertised in Shoot! magazine for many years, has a strangely addictive quality if you’re prepared to spend many an hour playing it. In short, competitions happen by randomly drawing teams and rolling special dice to determine match results. A cleverly formulated concept and a perfect pastime to while away dull weekends or unremarkable holidays.

Despite the mechanisms employed by Logacta to make its scores more realistic, the game essentially revolved around random number generation - and that set my memory racing. It suddenly dawned on me that around the age of 11 or 12, I went through something of a ‘random football’ apprenticeship.

It started when a few friends of mine and I created a game that would entertain us for an hour or so one dreary Sunday afternoon. It was essentially an FA Cup competition where we wrote the names of 32 Football League clubs on separate small pieces of card and then did the same with the numbers zero to five. The teams would go into one bag and the numbers would go into another.

Starting with the Fourth Round, we would draw out two teams to play each other, write the fixture down, then pull out a number for the home team score. Having written that number down, the number would go back into the bag, the numbers would be shaken up and another number would be drawn for the away team’s score (which was also written down). The whole process would be repeated for all the games in the round and every round in the competition until an outright winner was known, with repeat draws made if replays, extra time or penalties were needed.

Before you say so, yes, I know: there was plenty of potential for scorelines such as ‘Manchester United 0 Wrexham 4’, but at that age we allowed our imaginations to make an excuse for them. It was a ‘giant-killing result’, an instance of ‘the magic of the Cup’ weaving its magical spell on us.

Version 2 soon followed. Here, the number cards were replaced by result cards. This speeded up the whole process of completing a full tournament. Instead of drawing, say, a 1 and a 4, now you’d draw a ‘2-0’ or a ‘3-1’. It didn't make the scores any more realistic, but it was an example of my 11-year-old self seeing something unexciting and repetitive and figuring out how to reach a natural conclusion more quickly. (Saturday night TV schedulers in the UK - take note.)

Much later, version 3 finally arrived, and by then I’d not only worked out how to create more realistic results but also how to embrace the allure of European football. Unfortunately the improvements made in speeding everything up had to be abandoned, but I guess you can’t have everything.

I’d have been around 13 or 14 by the time this final version of the game came to light, but it was probably my best. I was now a regular buyer of World Soccer and could easily tell my Honveds from my Lech Poznans. The European Cup was now my tournament of choice, and for that I employed a deceptively simple, yet surprisingly accurate scoring system.

To begin with, all the matches for each round were drawn first. Once those had been written down, I then assessed each match and filled in a grid like this:

The way I did so was as follows. First of all, I had to think of a likely result that could actually happen if Liverpool ever played Sparta Prague - let’s say 2-0 to Liverpool (note: this would have been circa 1984). That result would have been entered in column 1 and column 7 as follows:

I would do the same for another likely result, this time entered in columns 2 and 6 and again for columns 3 and 5:

Finally, I’d think of one last unlikely, but still technically possible, result for column 4:

Having done that, I would then draw two numbers from a bag (which contained two sets from 1 to 7) and that would determine the final result. For instance, if I drew a 7 for Liverpool and a 2 for Sparta Prague, the final result would be 2-1 to Liverpool.

“Dear me”, I hear you cry - “What a long, drawn out (no pun intended) way of playing a fictional football tournament.” Well, yes, it was, but here’s the rub. Due to the fanatical way I used to absorb knowledge about European football teams and their current form back in the mid-80’s, I could more often than not determine the outcome of many real matches.

So let's say Celtic were due to play Athletic Bilbao. I’d be fairly satisfied that using the above method, I could tell you whether there would be a home win, an away win or a draw based on the data I entered into a grid like those shown in Version 3 above. Don’t ask me how - it just worked (most of the time).

Setting aside the fact that it would take an hour just to do the First Round (let alone the rest of the tournament), this turned out to be my crowning glory. Here was a game I could play alone or with friends, a game where my imagination and knowledge could be given free reign to combine with randomness to create an enjoyable fantasy world of football.

All of which begs the question: did you ever play random football with a pen and sheets of paper? If so, tell us all about it! Leave us a comment and share your childhood memories with us...


  1. No, but I did devise different "patience" games with a pack of cards, which would occasionally be solved, and which in my imagnation could be translated into football competitions. Thereby I was able to set myself a task to play successive league and FA cup campaigns, tracing the history of an imaginary club from 1888 to present, introducing League Cup games from 1961, and then European games if eligible each season. I was just a kid, but from memory I ended up with a club that had won about 5 FA cups and 4 League titles, plus a couple of League Cups, which put me reasonably high on the football totem pole.

  2. This sounds like the guiltiest of secrets, but I devised a league of fictional teams, their names drawn from comics or Australian pools, with a whole league season. At first, 14 matches between 8 teams; by the end, three divisions of 12 teams (22 games each), a cup, a variety of colours and kit trends, badges, and a 50-season history. Results drawn from literally random stabs on home and away grids with numbers on them, the home getting slightly more 2's and 3's, the aways getting more 0's. Took a lot of my time - it was actually quite addicteive - and alas I threw them away when I left home.

    1. Thanks for admitting to your guilty secret, Kev! Great to hear that there were other people out there amusing themselves in a similar way during their younger days! :)

  3. I have played Logacta in many forms in excel form and in it's original form, been looking for years for anything that resembled it and having acquired the original charts a few years my competition has grown I run and English football league (just for English clubs in Excel form) and in the original form and play a full British league with the original game and have designed and created my own charts for several competitions both national and international!!

  4. I did this many times - on my own and with my neighbours. We used league ladder tabs and duplicate tabs for non-league or foreign clubs. We did full FA Cups from 1st Round to final, European tournaments etc. Dice for the scores -1.

  5. I started out the same way, but then took a different path.

    My elder brothers showed me how to create a league grid and run
    a cup draw, after which I was off an running. The earliest games
    would have been very simple with the roll of a six-sided die
    being allocated as each team's score.

    The first evolution was a baby-step. Raised in the era of
    George Graham's Arsenal and desiring greater realism, I switched
    out any sixes in place of a 'nil' score. I then went to work on
    home advantage and began lopping off a goal for any sides
    playing away.

    This sufficed for a couple of years, during which time I
    produced endless "lists" as my Mum would call them.
    Sometimes competitions would be abdandoned due to her
    throwing them in the bin! I tended to favour cups to leagues
    (they took so long to add up). A particular favourite that
    I'd only break out on occasiom was 'The British Cup',
    a huge knock-out competition that would take in regional
    sub-sections, away legs, extra time and even have me consulting
    Ceefax to crib up on Highland League teams.

    Memorably this gargantuan undertaking always seemed to be won
    by Southampton. I've always associated the Saints as being
    British champions ever since.

    Along the way came the penalty shootout. I decided simply
    rolling up a result for these lacked sufficient drama
    (my first world cup was Italia 90 after all). So, I devised
    the following system. For each penalty roll two dice.
    If the results differ, it's a goal. On a double it's stopped.
    This simple mechanic worked remarkably well, providing
    high drama and and lasted through all susequent systems.
    I think the only change was to consider odd numbered
    doubles 'Misses' and even numbered doubles 'Saves', so keepers
    could really bask in glory.

    Next up USA 94, but I'll wait to see if anyone's still
    awake / interested after reading the above before going on!