Football games can be compared to clubs. FIFA is obviously Manchester United. A commercial juggernaut off the pitch, but a bit aimless on it. PES is Arsenal. Once great, underinvestment has turned it into a postcard of managed decline. Football Manager is Borussia Dortmund. It shouldn’t have the resources to compete in the big leagues, but with a bit of clever management and interesting tactical work, it more than holds its own. What team would Football, Tactics & Glory be?

I think it’d be Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United. Not an interesting club, but surprising.

This sports sim plays like a bit of a mash-up of Football Manager and Fire Emblem. You manage a club, buying and training players, upgrading facilities and hiring staff. Instead of sitting back and watching the action unfold, however, you play a turn-based game on a grid-covered pitch.

It works thusly – each turn grants three actions including passing, shooting, or simply moving into position. Once your three turns are over, the opposition gets a trio of turns. There are special actions, too. For instance, trying a riskier move and passing through an opponent may restore an action point. Be careful, though. If you lose the ball you must spend a point winning it back.

Quite frankly, we can’t believe we haven’t seen this before, because football perfectly fits into a system usually reserved for battlefield combat. The tactical decisions are deep and feel very authentic. Do I pass to the wing and try and hold the ball, going for a break in play, or do I rush headlong towards the goal, risking giving the ball away when everyone is out of position?

It creates a nice gameplay flow, with a lovely element of risk and reward, and because the matches are short it’s easy to become engrossed, playing numerous matches back-to-back. 

As you complete matches, players level up. This allows you to teach them new skills and increase their stats, enabling them to complete passes more often or dribble more proficiently. The levelling up system is an easy process, meaning you get the satisfaction of growing as a team, but don’t get bogged down in setting training ground routines and individualised training plans. The only problem is paying your players. When their contracts expire, you’re forced to offer them an improved deal. We found that once you get past season one, we started losing some of our best players as money was in short supply. Some may say this seems accurate.

There’s no licensing here, but it’s amazing how quickly we looked past this. You can still take over your favourite club in an off-brand, slightly wrong, but still satisfying way. It’s a bit like tucking into store-brand chocolate bars.

Most of the game’s issues relate to its rock bottom production values. We’re used to our football management games resembling spreadsheets, but this is plain crude. We found the difficulty level a tad uneven, too. Passing, dribbling and scoring from a kick-off are simple processes initially, but soon you must put the effort into owning the pitch. It does, at least, give plenty of time to aquatint with the basics before stepping things up.

Dead ball situations also need a bit of work. It never felt satisfying to defend a corner or a free-kick, nor was attacking them ever particularly fun.

Ultimately though, we enjoyed Football, Tactics & Glory. We want to see this sturdy foundation being built and iterated upon like Football Manager before it. We’d recommended it to anyone who loves a bit of footie, especially to anyone who thinks FM might be a bit too overwhelming or boring. At the moment it’s a bit early Ryan Giggs – lovely skills, lots of promise, but not quite there yet.

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