Subbuteo Tribute Website.
Card Games and Collectables.
Any visitors who are old time Subbuteo addicts (like me!) were probably dismayed in the mid 1990s when new Subbuteo owners Hasbro used the brand and its Premiership license, to produce a collectable card game. "What has that got to do with Subbuteo?" we grumbled as Hasbro jumped on the collectable card band wagon. Not much. It did bring the Subbuteo name back into prominence for a couple of years, but that was about it.
I remember thinking at the time, that if Hasbro had wanted to produce a "pocket money" priced collectable, why didn't they sell packs of random Subbuteo players. That would allow collectors to build up teams - at first you'd be saving for a five-a-side team, and eventually you might get a full eleven a side. And you could swap with your mates, and they could give them away in breakfast cereal packets. Also, you could have eleven different player kits in blue bases, vs eleven in red - and that would work fine. Is anyone else thinking "Corinthians" at this point?? Corinthians with the added bonus of being a tried and tested playable game.... not a thing to collect dust on shelves.
But alas no, a collectable card game was the result. Now I've not bothered with this before, but as this site now covers just about every other Subbuteo product ever produced, it seems stupid to leave it out. Besides which, it wasn't exactly setting a precedent - Peter Adolph also produced a Subbuteo card game called Soccer Market back in the 1940s.. In addition, he also produced two series of collectable cards which were given away free with 1950s accessories. All these items are covered on this page.
A football card game for the odd moment.
This game was mentioned on the earliest Subbuteo paperwork I've ever seen, and continued to appear in the companion sports games catalogues of the 1950s. It's price remained at 5s 3d for the whole of the 1950s. As I've not played the game myself, I'll let Peter Adolph' s advertising blurb sell the product to you...
"Here is a playing card game
that is different! Each set of Subbuteo Soccer Market consists of four famous
football teams, designed in their respective club colours, and in the form of
individual 'action' coloured drawings of the footballers on playing
cards, with the Transfer System of real Association Football as a
Here is your chance to become the manager of your favourite team, and lead your club to considerable financial success during each round of play. When you play this exciting new game the pounds will fall into your bank" That doesn't seem very likely... in fact, for whoever bought this game when it was on ebay (as illustrated above), the pounds fell out of his bank !!!
The advert doesn't stop there is its glowing praise. It also adds the following:
Many thanks to Norman Walker who provided the catalogue I've been quoting. If anyone has played this game, and would like to review it for the site, then please e-mail me :-)
The four teams within this set have been known to vary. At the moment I only have details of two versions, but if anyone has different teams, then let me know.
Rules (and they are rather basic).
Discards from every player's hand should be carefully watched as every move made will help reveal the positions that are required to complete a team. By planning moves in advance it is possible to hold up deliberately an opponent player's complete team.
Famous Footballers Series 1 and 2 (1954?).
Similar to the cigarette cards of their day (or PG Tips cards for us youngsters), these cards were given away with Subbuteo sets and accessories. I'm not really sure of the length of time during which they were offered, or how it worked. The Subbuteo catalogues of the time never mention them, which rather defeats the object of a promotional item. They are certainly 1950s in date, and the two old cigarette/trade card catalogues I own (the London Cigarette Card Co and Murray cards) both date the sets to 1954. I assume that they were included with any teams you bought - or it would be difficult to buy enough accessories to get a whole set. (and I've seen whole sets on ebay, so someone must've collected them). They were successful enough to warrant Peter Adolph producing a second series - each series containing 24 cards. The players featured are as follows:-
I don't propose illustrating all these cards, because this might suggest that all the Squads cards should also be detailed - and there is no way that I'm doing that !
What is nice about the cards is the wide range of clubs covered. There has been a little mocking in Subbuteo circles about the use of the words "famous footballers" to describe the range. However, if you thumb through a pile of Subbuteo Squads from the 1990s (see below) you will find players you probably don't remember, and there are a lot of proper international stars in here. It's also a reflection of a period when the top flight wasn't the sole focus. As a Liverpool fan, I'm just pleased to see that Billy Liddell made the cut.
The 50 card set (early 1950s).
Although the Famous Footballer cards of the 1950s are usually seen in two sets of twenty four, there is a much rarer version which was produced as one set of 50 cards. Whilst the two normal sets are not that rare in card collecting circles, the fifty card set almost never turns up, which has made information about it extremely hard to come by. In fact, both trade card catalogues mentioned above (pre-Subbuteo collecting mania) used to offer the full sets of 24, but only (expensive) single cards for the series of 50.
I am grateful to Alan Jenkins, who was the first to send me pictures of cards from this bigger set, and who explained the difficulties in getting details of the cards involved.
September 2021: A big thank you to Alan Sissins, who has finally solved the mystery of card 49, and sent in this great picture of the backs of 49 and 50 to prove it!
In the full set, card No. 49 is J. Sewell of Sheffield Wednesday.
Whilst card No. 50 is R. Wylie (Notts County)
Eagle-eyed visitors will have noticed that card No 49 J Sewell is the same player as No 48 in the second 24 card series. Alan Sissins has investigated further and discovered that card number 21 of the 50 was S. Normanton of Barnsley (known apparently as Skinner!- but his real first name was Sidney). This player was dropped from the series, and all the other players were shifted up a number to compensate. Alan says that "Mr Normanton apparently suffered a serious injury in 1952 (knee ligaments) and played very rarely after that". That suggests that the 50 card set is the earlier one (and might explain why the 24 card sets ended up as unused sets in trade card catalogues - an over-produced second printing perhaps? ).
Whilst S Normanton's career seems to have fizzled out, Alan tells me that player No. 50 R Wylie of Notts County suffered no such fate and had a long career. So we are assuming that he was just unlucky to be on card 50, which was probably dropped simply to even up the later sets.
Subbuteo Squads (1996).
Finally, we come to Hasbro's Squads game - produced in 1996. I'm not a big card game fan, and my football sticker collecting days finished with Panini Football '83 or thereabouts - so I didn't buy this game during its time in the shops, and I'm not sure I've illustrated all the variations here.
As with other card games, you started playing by buying a 45 card Squad deck for each player. The packs contained 40 players and 5 incidents, (plus rules spread across both sides of another ten cards). You could then buy extra foil packs containing eight cards to improve your squad, along with details of training sessions and special skills. The Premiership Pro Edition shown above was a deluxe set, which could be used as a stand alone game, or as an expansion pack. It included a useful game board, plus 110 new player cards, and 15 new incident cards. In addition it had 20 manager cards, and 20 ground cards, complete with rules to add these to your game. The set does have one link to normal Subbuteo. In the standard rules, it suggests you use a coin as the ball. In this set, they've included two halves of a Subbuteo Premiership ball, which you use instead. The ball in my set has black logos, and is therefore different to the three Premiership balls shown with set 61234 (which have red, green and blue logos respectively).
The above illustration shows some card variations, on both sides of the cards. The West Ham player, Danny Williamson, is from a foil pack. This card has a lack of player details, and a simple design on the reverse. Matt Le Tissier comes from a standard 45 card squad deck, and Steve Harkness comes from the Premier League Edition. These two cards have colour differences (especially on the back), but the layout of the player details are the same.
These pictures show the collectable part of the game, being the shop boxes and the foil packs for the eight card expansions. The light blue box and foils shown on the right were being sold online in the original plain card Waddingtons outer box, clearly marked as "Series 2". It might be dangerous to assume that the darker blue box that I own (shown left) is therefore series one. As the pictures show, the foils do have different designs. There are four variations in my box.
All my cards are from the English Premiership, but I'm sure the game was also sold in other European countries - tied to the appropriate leagues.
Subbuteo Trading Card Game (Wizards of the Coast) 2002-03 season.
Wizards of the Coast were the company that changed the whole course of trading card game history when they released Magic: The Gathering back in 1993. The resulting craze almost destroyed the roleplaying game industry in the US. It had a smaller effect in the UK, so we can't blame it for the mid-1990s Subbuteo slump! Wizards of the Coast made a shed load of money, which helped them rescue Dungeons and Dragons from bankruptcy 1997. As is the way, they were then swallowed up by an even bigger fish, as Hasbro bought them out in 1999.
Hasbro have probably spent the time since acquiring Wizards of the Coast wondering how exactly you start a craze... Nobody really knows of course. What you could do is try to merge some of your acquisitions together and see what happens. So here we have a short-lived Wizards branded Subbuteo card game. These trade boxes occasionally appear on ebay unopened, which isn't exactly a good sign.
The back of the packets reads "this CDU contains 36 Booster packs for the Subbuteo Trading Card Game to help players collect all the FA Premier League Stars they need to play and win... There are a total of 190 to collect in this series (105 player and 85 action cards). Odds of Premium Card approx 1 in 3 packs. (rarities - sigh). Each pack contains 7 random cards. Above are illustrated a player card (and reverse) and an action card (and reverse).
Booster packs don't include rules. You get rules and playmat in the Subbuteo Trading Card Game Starter Set. Subbuteo TCG can also be played with cards from the 2001/02 Season of the Premier League Football champions Trading Card Game."
I've no idea how it works, beyond the box helpfully saying "includes NEW trumps game play". Trumps isn't exactly new... or exciting. The details on the back of each card give six stats - Passing; Shooting/Saves (not even split); dribbling; tackling; appearances; and Assists/Mins per Goal. Goalkeepers get N/A for passing, dribbling and tackling. The cards were at least pretty, with minimal text on the picture side.
However, we're not exactly short of football trading card games in this country with Match Attax et al, and this one failed to make a dent. Never mind. Perhaps re-launching real Subbuteo will be more successful...
That's all I'm going to do with the card games. If you are a Squads fan, I'm afraid you'll have to look elsewhere on the internet for more details.
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