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Peter Upton's

(Super) Striker Tribute Page.

Page 1: Parker Sets.

With interest in Subbuteo growing once again, and with the older sets becoming collectable, I thought this would be a good time to revisit the rival Striker/Super Striker game, which was made by Parker and Palitoy in the 1970s, and early 1980s.

Striker was a simple table-top football game when compared with Subbuteo. It was probably aimed at a younger audience, and certainly requires less skill. It recreates five-a-side football on a pitch with a rebound wall. There are three distinct versions of the game, and some of the essential details differ with each one, but on the "All Star" Super Striker of my youth, the pitch was about as long as the cumbersome standard Subbuteo pitch is wide, and the game was played with 65mm high players. In all versions, the players have one moveable leg controlled by a rod and spring inside the figure which attached to the player's head. Place the ball in the slot in the base, and then press the head down to propel the ball. The pitch was divided into sections, with one player in each section. If the ball finished in a section controlled by one of your players, you can move that player to the ball, and then pass or shoot. If it finishes in the penalty area, the goalkeeper throws it back into play. It's that simple. The goal is slightly bigger than a standard Subbuteo goal, and the ball is much smaller - it is actually in scale with the players.

There are three distinct phases of Striker games. Parker sets of the 1970s, the All-Star Palitoy sets of the early 1980s, and then a 1990s revival with bigger players.

Parker Games Trade Catalogues 1973 and 1974.

April 2024:- Further details of the early Parker years of Striker have now been sourced from these two Parker Games trade catalogues of the early 1970s, scans of which were available online. I've included a close-up from the 1974 edition partly to show that the Super Striker version of the game existed at this point, but also because frankly we don't get any glamorous ladies in Subbuteo advertising. Mind you, I'm aware the lady in question could be some site visitor's grandmother.

Striker Comic Adverts 1972 and 1973.

It looks like Striker was probably introduced in 1972. These two black and white illustrations from the comics of the period, are from 1972 (on the left) and 1973. For the second version, it does look as if Parker actually employed one of the comic book artists of the day.

The Early 1970's Striker Game (Parker Version).

Standard Edition.

This set seems to be the original version, and it was first produced in the early 1970s. I'm not sure of the date as it isn't mentioned on the box or the instructions, but it does feature in the 1973 Parker Trade catalogue, and is probably a little prior to that. It was produced by Parker Games, who were the games division of Palitoy, the famous manufacturer of Action Man. They were based in Coalville, Leicester.

As you can see from the above illustration, the set was sold in a large flat box. The pitch folds in half, and is made of strong card. The underneath is the same as a standard board game or chess set - a dark green textured surface. The playing side has a lovely felt finish. The pitch is pretty large, and this explains the unwieldy size of the box (although the box seems reasonable when compared to the later Palitoy "All Star" versions!)

The rebound wall was simply a long loop of green material tape, with six metal clips to hold it to the board. The goal bases were olive green, and clipped to the board. They had a short pole at each corner, which the tape was wrapped around. The goalkeepers were on a simple flat stick, which slotted into the goal base. This allowed the rod to go under the surround. The surround isn't that difficult to fit, and is quite effective. On my old set, the ribbon is very short, and you have to cut out a fair bit of the corners for the surround to make it fit - but it might have just shrunk with age/damp. Likewise, the board has become very warped. 

The goalie himself was in a crouching stance, with his legs apart. The handle ended in a crescent to support his feet. It was possible to prevent a goal by trapping the ball in the spot between the 'keeper's feet. The top half of the goalkeeper rotated stiffly (using a rubber band). One arm was positioned to hold the ball, and the rotation was used to throw the ball into play. Hopefully, the illustration below shows the difference between the original Striker goalkeeper (on the left), and the diving version (on the right - slotted into a Super Striker base). Also illustrated below is the player figure from the original set. These are shorter than the later versions, and don't have as much fire power. The rules of play came on a single sheet, with assembly instructions on the reverse. 

   

There do seem to be variations to the set. The players can have brown hair or black hair, and my feeling is that the brown haired players are older. The brown haired sets also sometimes have all red and all blue teams. The Standard Striker set was also sold abroad under different names. See the International Editions page for further details.

World Cup Edition.

 

Produced for the 1974 World Cup, this large Striker set had the red and blue teams, and pitch of the standard edition, but added diving goalkeepers, floodlights and a strange looking scoreboard. See the accessory range for details. A really cracking set this one, and it makes much better use of the space under the game board than the basic set, which has a lot of empty card (Thanks to Paul Woozley for the details on this set). The final picture here is a World Cup Striker advert from a Scorcher magazine of 1974.

Accessories.

Whilst the accessory range never reached the heights that Subbuteo attained, Parker did produce a few extra items to complement the main box set. The two trade catalogues give reference numbers for each item in the range, and I've been able to add these to the site. Perhaps the most interesting thing is that there is a reference for "Striker Teams - Assorted" (31203) in both catalogues, and also a "Striker Spares Pack" in 1974 (31214). I was not aware of these items, and have seen neither. Whether the references are for trade boxes, so that the assorted pack was simply a sales item for smaller retailers I'm not sure. Spare balls were included with the teams, and the goalkeepers sold separately, so what was in the Spares pack is a mystery. A player for each team? The easily breakable goals?

The lists also show that the individual boxed floodlight and scoreboard sets arrived at a  later date, although both are shown in the "Set-up" picture in the 1974 catalogue. I assume this is advertising the World Cup version of the game.

31196: Diving Goalkeepers.

      

As shown in the comparison picture above, these were a complicated alternative goalkeeper. For this set, the keeper's handle became a hollow tube with a metal rod passing through it. The handle itself passed through a rubber ring which touched the goal base, and provided the friction to make the goalkeeper rod rotate as the goalkeeper moved to the side. As the handle rotated, so the goalkeeper is made to dive, and the metal rod also operated a mechanism to raise the goalie's arms around and over his head. When in a standing position, these arms were curved so the goalkeeper could still hold the ball, and he could also throw it back into play by being moved sharply to one side.

New goals were not provided in the set, but new bases were. The bases now needed a raised area for the rubber ring to rub against. In addition, the new large grip of the goalkeepers handle would no longer pass under the fence surround. So the tape was cleverly folded down under the base. It's a very neat solution.

This was a beautifully designed figure, and looks fabulous in motion. Unfortunately, I'm not convinced that is is more effective than a normal keeper. The closed leg stance covers less of the goal than the original, and shots can be so fast, that the ball is in the net before the dive has even started. In addition, throwing the ball out can be very frustrating, whereas the original goalie was specially designed to do this. On the plus side, the goalkeeper does seem faster, and there is something impressive about flinging him across the goal to save shots.

Floodlights.

This was a wonderful looking set of four floodlights, to add a little style to the corners of the pitch. They look shorter than their Subbuteo equivalent, but have large heads that seem capable of throwing out more light than the rival Subbuteo versions have ever managed.

Scoreboard.

   

Another distinctive little item found in the World Cup box set that was also available separately. That's all I've found accessory wise, although I'm hoping that more will come to light. I wouldn't be surprised if replacement goals (or ordinary goalies) were also available to cover breakages. 

Official Teams.

 

This was a box containing replacements for the four outfield players on a Striker team, plus two spare balls. These sets contained the early Striker figures with painted hair and basic kits without extra shirt details. The box showed eight kits as being available as shown below...

The 1973 catalogues lists the following sides:

The 1974 trade catalogue adds the two teams from the box set as

Note that the red/white and blue/white teams from the box set are also in the team range. The colours were all pretty basic, and no team names are mentioned - just pick a colour to fit. However this was the only team series that had a yellow/black kit to match Wolves (or Watford). The teams were often fairly crudely painted it must be said. It is also interesting to see the comments on the box stating "also available in other colours". With these original teams, the body, shorts and standing leg of the player were all one casting in flesh coloured plastic. So all the club colours were painted onto the figure. Add to this the fact that the boxes were generic with no team names mentioned, and the likelihood of other teams existing is quite high. This speculation leads nicely to the unofficial teams....

Unofficial Teams.

    

Illustrated above are some unofficial teams as acquired by Striker fan Paul Woozley. These teams usually lack the painted faces of the proper sides (although you can see that there are exceptions). See the Palitoy range for more "market stall" Striker figures.
January 2010:- I saw a batch of these figures at a toy collectors fair. There were six teams, five of which matched the five in Paul's picture. The sixth was a team with blue shirt and shorts, with white socks, and has now been added above.

Ebay watcher Ashley Hemmings, has sent pictures of four of these "unofficial" teams actually housed within Striker boxes (the first four on my illustration - from left). It is obvious that the players have not been repainted, and Ashley points out that the box does say "team sets available in other colours". However, the fact that boxes of this era are generic, means boxes can be swapped, and that this could just be a way to add value or legitimacy to these extra teams, which don't usually have the faces painted, as opposed to regular stock. It is more likely that "team sets available in other colours" simply refers to the other colours illustrated, being opposed to the team that has just been purchased. I remain to be convinced that these unofficial sides are anything but.

The 1970s Super Striker Game (Parker Editions).
31204: Super Striker Edition (1974)

 

These were transition box sets from Parker. The Diving Goalkeepers were obviously impressive enough to warrant inclusion in a box set, but I guess the increase in price meant that the original sets needed to be kept in production. These new sets were called Super Striker, but at this point the players were still the original type, and so was the pitch. Note that the Floodlit Super Striker had the same extra contents as the World Cup version mentioned above.

The Wembley Fast Pitch Editions.

   

With diving goalkeepers becoming the norm, the next big improvement to Striker sets was to the pitch. The Wembley Fast Pitch had both the pitch surface and the barrier moulded from a single sheet of thin green plastic. As this new pitch obviously could not bend in the middle, it had to be reduced in size from the original Striker. Even then the box was absolutely huge. The goalkeeper bases were redesigned to slot into the walls of the new pitch, and this worked very well. You can see the change in the goalkeeper picture further up the page.

The set was produced in all three versions of the game that were being produced at this time. That means both Striker, and Super Striker versions with, as always, the diving goalkeepers the difference between the two. The deluxe floodlit version of Super Striker also made the transition to the Wembley Fast Pitch version.

These were the first Palitoy Parker badged set, with the red and blue Palitoy logo taking over from the swirls of the Parker version.

    

As the goalkeepers in Wembley sets needed a completely different base to fit into the fence surround, so the Diving Goalkeeper set was redesigned so it could be used with this new set.

Striker League Champions. 

   

The League Champions game arrived in 1974, and was also badged with both the Parker and Palitoy logos. This was an attempt to mix the Striker action elements with a more traditional board game. The idea was to manage a team and win the league. The game was for 2-6 players, and seems to work best with as many players as possible - two players isn't much of a league now is it? 

Included in the set was a game board (with the same dark green backing as the Striker pitch), a small league table scoreboard, plus the Striker components, which consisted of a diving goalie, a goal, and a striker. The goal and goalie slotted into one end of a flat piece of green plastic. At the other end were five depressions onto which a ball was placed, and this item was then used like a penalty shoot out. There were sheets of numbers and names for the scoreboard, and I'm not sure if I have all of these in my set. Most of the name sheets are blank, so you can draw up your own league, but the six teams that I have printed versions of appear to have been selected at random - Aberdeen, Blackpool, Derby, Leeds, Leicester, and Liverpool (hurrah!). 

There were six football figures (which look like cake decorations), to use as pieces to move around the board. These are in one colour outfits - blue, white, red, orange, green, and a yellow goalkeeper. Obviously, most of these do not match the team names provided. Leeds and Liverpool are okay, Leicester can be blue, and Blackpool the orange. That leaves Aberdeen and Derby to fight over the green player and the yellow goalie. The other components were the standard board game stuff - star player cards, team fortune cards, Parker Games money, markers to chart the strength of each team, and the all important dice.

The game runs in a typical board game fashion. The players start with 1 million and a couple of randomly selected player cards. These have a skill level of 1 to 4 stars, and you add these stars to give your team a rating. If your rating is 1-4 you get one kick at goal in each match you play. 5-8 gives you two kicks, 9-12 three kicks, and 13-16 four kicks at goal. 

Then you roll the dice and move your cake decoration around the board. If he lands on a player square, you can buy a player of that value, if any are still available. If you land on team fortune, you draw a card from the pack. These can be good-  "extra training pays off - take one extra kick next match""club to build new stand - move up 2 rating points", or bad "heavy pitch - lose one kick next match". There are also dreaded "transfer a player" squares, where your directors sell a player at half his value. The fourth and final type of square are the league game squares. When you land on these, you have to choose an opponent and play a game - the team picking is the home team, and gets to kick first. This brings the Striker components into play. Both players look at their rating, and have that many kicks at goal. Tally the goals to get your result, and add the points from your game to the league table. You can only play each opponent twice. (I think this should be one "home" pick from each player, but the rules don't state this).

A couple of 1970s kids having fun in the 1974 trade catalogue.

This all makes for an interesting tactical game. In the early stages, you often get a couple of teams who keep landing on the "league game" squares, and others who somehow avoid those squares, landing instead on the "buy a player" squares. The teams landing on the "league game" squares will generally avoid the stronger teams, so they end up playing each other, while those landing on "buy a player" keep getting stronger - without getting to play any matches. This will give the league an early leader or two, who may later get pegged back as they are forced to play the better sides to complete their programme of matches. However, by then the better sides may have started to slide, and if they take points off each other, the pressure is on them to catch up. 

The money side was less involving to me as there seemed quite a bit sloshing around. Also, I expected some tough decisions over whether to buy one star players, or save my money in the hope of landing on a four star player. But the one star players cost 50000, while a four star one is 300000. So it is cheaper to have four one star players, than one four star, and frankly, you just end up buying every player you can. No tactics required! So it's a fun game, but not a lot of management skill is involved. (Thanks to Eddie Lang who supplied the set I "road tested" for the section!)

Okay, that's enough striker for this page. Follow the link for a look at the later versions of the game.


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