Instructions and Rules.
1960s-80s Rugby Rules (OO Scale).
This was the third Subbuteo game
sold throughout the golden age of the 1970s, alongside football and cricket. It is also the problem game. The one that doesn't work.
It is a joke in
the collecting community that rugby sets are always found in great condition,
because they only got played with the once.
the OO scale football and cricket sets are simply updated versions of Subbuteo's
tried and tested earlier games, the OO rugby has little in common with the 1950s
version. It arrived in the range at the end of the 1960s, much later than the
football or cricket, and it is suggested that the
invention of the "scrummer" played a big part in encouraging the
production of this
version. The game uses similar figures to the football game and the same
flick-to-kick principle, which is the game's first problem. Obviously, the uneven bounce of a
rugby ball makes kicking hazardous in the real game, and the same applies here.
However, in Subbuteo rugby you also have to flick the ball to run with it. This
can be extremely frustrating. It also brings other problems such as the
player "carrying" the ball being much slower than any defender chasing
him. This is clearly unrealistic.
countless Subbuteo devotees have produced "house" rules to try and
make the game more playable. I'll give a few ideas at the end of the rules
proper. What you can do is hit the ball in different places to control it.
In table soccer, you hit the ball in different spots to control the angle of
movement. Here you need to consider the speed of the ball as well. Hit the ball
in the middle of the long side, and it is likely to run away from you. Hit it on
the points, and it doesn't move very far.
Subbuteo rulebooks, the rugby leaflet went through a couple of different
editions, but with only minor changes. The original sets had a kicker with an adjustable base for
different types of kick, but no kicking wedge. The kicking wedge arrived by the
time of the 1971-72 rule book. The final version seems to be a 1978 booklet, which
showed the increased team range on the back. This final version is the one featured
here. This book also removed reference to the Display Edition in the seven-a-side
rules, and features new pictures. The old illustrations featured heavyweight players,
whereas the new ones featured the proper rugby figures. Although by 1978 the
rugby figures seem to be replaced by standard heavyweights anyway, so perhaps
this exercise was a little futile. At least the new illustration showed
the correct distance on the line-out.
'Rugger' enthusiasts can now experience the thrills and excitement enjoyed
by Subbuteo Table Soccer fans the world over. Here is a table-top Rugby game
that incorporates every exciting feature of the real thing-either Rugby Union or
Rugby League, and including the now popular 'Seven-a-Side'. Tries, conversions,
scrummages, drop-kicks - they are all yours to play with Subbuteo Table Rugby.
What is more, the game is based on the famous Subbuteo 'finger-tip' control
principle familiar to all Subbuteo enthusiasts, which makes it a real game of
skill based on live 'Rugger' tactics.
After months of research we completely re-designed Subbuteo Rugby and our
Development Department produced what we believe to be the only real table-top 'rugger'
game in existence. It is designed for fans of both codes - Union or League - and
these comprehensive rules cover all the essentials of both. Enthusiasts will not
require any direction from us as to how to make the minor adjustments involved,
such as playing with either thirteen or fifteen figures, in order to enjoy the
game they prefer.
Obviously, there are limits to what one can achieve in miniature on a
table-top but we believe we have given you an action-packed replica of the great
international game that will provide endless and fascinating pleasure for young
and old. As with Subbuteo Table Soccer, it is necessary to master the
'finger-tip' control principle in order to acquire skill and get full enjoyment
from the game. Therefore study the instructions carefully, practise regularly,
then you will be able to teach all your friends how to play Subbuteo Table Top
Rugby Union, Rugby League or Seven-a-Side.
THE SECRET OF SUCCESS-FINGER TIP CONTROL
Skill and fun go together and depend entirely on YOUR mastery of the exclusive
Subbuteo 'finger-tip' method of propulsion of the Rugby figures. Study and
practice the basic method as shown in Photos 'A' and 'B'. The figure is
controlled and directed by a movement of the finger that puts the figure in
contact with the ball and also to run the figures into tactical positions and
Subbuteo Table Rugby is based on the unique design of the plastic bases
carrying the figures. This principle enables the skilful player with practised
touch to propel the figures in such a manner that they can 'weave' and 'swerve'
and carry the ball along at their feet. When you have mastered the principle and
are able to propel the ball in any direction by a movement of the finger, then
practise 'spinning' the figures and 'weaving'. This cannot be learned in a few
minutes, but patient practice will reward your efforts.
HOW TO "SPIN" THE FIGURE
The base of the figure should be propelled lightly with the hand held upright or
on its side, according to position. To spin to the left you 'propel' the RIGHT
side of the base. To spin to the right you 'propel' the LEFT side of the base.
The Diagrams 1 and 2 show methods of application. The Black figure is yours. The
White figure is your opponent. The dotted line shows your line of approach to
the ball by the 'spin' method.
SETTING OUT THE GAME
The Subbuteo Table Rugby green baize marked-out Playing Pitch is a scale
replica of the official Rugby pitch, specially woven to give the ideal playing
surface. The game should be played on a table larger than the overall size of
the cloth so that there is reasonable free space outside the playing lines. Best
results will be obtained if the cloth is laid smoothly on top of a heavy table
cloth or blanket to prevent slipping and wrinkling. The goals should be firmly
inserted into the green goal bases and set up with the extended support flanges
pointing backwards, off the pitch away from the 'in goal line. The teams should
be set up in the conventional 15 (R.Union) or 13 (R.League) formation. The
Live-Action Fullbacks should be placed between and just behind the goalposts.
And you are ready to play. Scoring is as with live Rugby. (Please note that
rugby scoring in both codes has changed since the 1970s)
|RUGBY UNION -
||RUGBY LEAGUE -
- TRY, 4 points.
- CONVERSION, 2 points.
- DROP GOAL, 3 points.
- PENALTY GOAL, 3 points.
- TRY, 3 points.
- CONVERSION, 2 points.
- DROP GOAL, 2 points.
- PENALTY GOAL, 2 points.
POSITION OF THE GOALS
In order that the goal bases do not interfere with current play (scoring of
tries, etc.) it is suggested that the goals be placed on the dead ball line,
until they are required for conversion and penalty kicks. Then the goals should
be temporarily brought forward to the normal Rugby position on the goal line.
SUBBUTEO TABLE RUGBY RULES
In conjunction with the Rules of Rugby (either code)
- KICK OFF: The game is started by using the 'Live Action'
Fullback Kicker to propel the ball from the centre spot into the opponents'
half. The kicking off team then uses any of its player-figures to try and
gain possession, provided the ball has crossed the 10 yard line (dotted
line). If the ball fails to cross the 10 yard line, the opposing side have
the option of the kick being re-taken, or a scrummage on the centre spot.
- POSSESSION: Possession is obtained by flicking a player to touch
and come to rest within two inches of the ball. Failure to contact allows
the other side to attempt possession in the same way. Distance can be
measured with the marked side of the KICKING WEDGE which is 2 inches long.
- PASSING: The side in possession makes a pass as follows. Nearest
figure to the ball is lifted and placed to the ball, without moving it, in
the required position in relation to intended direction of the pass. The
figure is flicked smartly against the ball as shown in Photos 'A' and 'B'.
The ball must not finish nearer to the opposite goal line than its original
position, otherwise this would be a forward pass and be penalised by a
scrum. The player must warn 'Passing' before doing so to indicate his
intention. After the ball is passed correctly, a figure lying farther back
from the opposite goal line than the figure making the pass is flicked up to
the ball to take possession, and so on. The figure must contact the ball and
stay within two inches of it. If the ball is missed, the opposing side gains
possession. If it touches the ball and it comes to rest more than two inches
away this constitutes a 'knock-on' and a scrummage is awarded. The opposing
team may decide not to accept a scrummage if it is not to their advantage,
and choose to play on with possession of the ball.
- THE SCRUMMAGE: Where an infringement occurs the 'SCRUMMER'
should be placed on the pitch at that point. Three players from each side
should be placed close to the 'Scrummer' and the remaining forwards to be
formed up to the rear. The side awarded the scrum drops the ball through the
top hole from a height of not less than one inch. Whichever side to which
the ball emerges gains possession. If the ball comes out of either end, the
scrum must be retaken. Failure to gain possession after three attempts
results in the other side 'putting the ball in'.
|The heavyweight illustration.
||The later illustration.
- TACKLING: On receiving a pass successfully a figure may
"run with the ball" (i.e. flick the figure at the ball to
'dribble' it forward as in Soccer). The number of propelling flicks made
during this operation are unlimited and will be directed towards the
opposing goal line to touch down for a try. To counter this, the defenders
may propel their figures, alternating flicks with the attackers, to block
progress and put a figure between the attacker and the goal line. If the
ball touches the defending figure when it is at a stand-still, a successful
tackle has been made and the defence gains possession. During the 'running
with the bail', the runner must at all times keep the ball in front of him
and nearer to the opposite goal-line. When the runner finds he cannot
progress further, and although not successfully tackled is blocked by the
defence, he can declare 'Passing' as previously described and the game
continues. A defending figure may not deliberately interfere with either
ball or running figure. Should it do so the running player and the ball
should be returned to their positions prior to the infringement and the run
continued from there. Should this infringement occur twice during a run by
the same player, a penalty kick is awarded. A player 'running with the ball'
may not touch a stationary figure of the defence; if he does so it is deemed
a successful tackle by the defence. An exception to this is under the rule
of 'handing off' whereby a figure barred to the ball by a defending figure
may claim 'handing off' and by spinning the figure as depicted swerve round
the opponent and successfully contact the ball. Should he touch the opponent
under these conditions it is not a successful tackle by the defence.
- SCORING A TRY: A try is scored by a player flicking a figure to
propel the ball to remain in his opponent's 'in goal' area. Any attacking
players' figure which is on side must then be flicked to touch and come to
rest within 2 inches of the ball in that area. A try is then awarded. But
should the ball or the player figure finish outside the 'in goal' area a try
is NOT allowed. Should a side succeed in getting the ball into the 'in goal'
area but fail to flick the figure to it successfully, the opposing side may
flick a figure at the ball to play it over the dead-ball line, clear it back
to the field of play, or 'touch down' by flicking the player to touch and
come to rest within 2 inches of the ball. Should they fall, the attack may
again attempt to score and so on. If the ball is played over the dead-ball
line by the attacking side or touched down by the defending side after being
kicked into the 'in goal' area by the attacking side, a 25yard drop-out is
taken. Lf the defending side plays the ball over the dead-ball line, or
having kicked it into the dead-ball area, touches it down, a 5 yard scrum is
awarded to the attacking side.
- Kicking to Gain Ground: To relieve pressure or gain ground
the ball can be flicked forward with any figure, after which the other
side attempts to gain possession. The exception to this is when the
attacking side claims "KICKING" before the kick is taken, in
which case this is done with the Kicking Wedge. A figure attempting to
gain possession of a ball kicked forward by its own side, who was
positioned In front of the ball at the time of the kick is 'offside' and
a penalty is awarded.
- Use of the Kicking Wedge: The kicking wedge is used for
attempts to drop goals, 25 yd drop cuts, and for kicks to gain ground
within the players' own 25 yd area. The long sides are 2 in long, marked
in quarter inches, and are used for measuring distances demanded by the
rules. The wedge is used by positioning it on the pitch where this can
be done without moving or touching any players. Except in the case of a
'mark' or 25 yd drop out, no alteration may be made to the position of
the ball or any player, including the one taking the kick. For a 'mark'
or 25 yd drop out position of ball and all players can be re-arranged.
Kick is taken by flicking the figure to propel the ball up the slope of
- DROP GOAL: The side in possession may claim "DROP
KICK" in order to attempt to score with a drop kick for goal. This
is taken with the Kicking Wedge in accordance with paragraph (b). There
is no limit to number of drop kicks taken during the game.
- USE OF 'LIVE ACTION' FULLBACK KICKER: This is used for
kicking off, penalty kicks, and converting only, as shown in Diagrams
'A' and 'B'. The 'Kicker' is positioned on either the centre spot, the
point where an infringement occurred, or in the case of a conversion by
withdrawing the ball from where it was touched down into a position
parallel with the touchline. A goal is scored by kicking the ball over
the crossbar within the uprights. There is no limit to the height at
which the ball passes over the crossbar.
- Making a Mark: (Rugby Union only) - after the ball has been
kicked by the opposing side, using either Wedge or 'Kicker', a player
may make a mark if the ball touches that player and remains within two
inches from him. The player making the mark then uses the Kicking Wedge.
- Kicking into Touch:
(Rugby Union) -With the exception of penalty kicks when a lineout
is taken at the point where the ball enters touch, the following rules
- A kick from within a player's own 25 yd area directly or
indirectly going into touch results in a lineout taken by the
opposing side at the point where ball enters touch.
- A kick taken from outside a player's own 25 yd area, bouncing
in the field of play before entering touch, results in a lineout by
the opposing side where the ball entered touch. If the ball touches
an opposing figure before entering touch, then the side taking the
kick takes the lineout.
- A kick taken from outside a player's own 25 yd area which goes
directly into touch results in a lineout taken by the opposing side
on the touch line level with the point from which the ball was
kicked. NB. (1) Kicks from a 25yd DROP OUT going straight into touch
results in the opposition having a choice of either the kick being
taken again, or a scrummage at the centre of the 25 yd line. N B.
(2) When a kick is taken as the result of a 25 yd DROP OUT or MARK,
the ball must cross the 25 yd line or the point where the mark was
given. Failure to do so results in the opposition having the choice
of either the kick being taken again (drop out only) or a scrummage
where the kick was taken or mark given.
- With the exception of a penalty kick, when the game is
re-started by placing the ball ten yards infield opposite the point
of entry into touch and regaining possession by use of a player
figure, a kick going directly into touch results in a scrummage
where the kick was taken.
- A ball kick which bounces within field of play before going
into touch results in a scrummage, 10 yds infield opposite the point
of entry into touch.
- THROW-IN: (Rugby Union only) When the ball goes into
touch in normal course of play, a throw-in is awarded to the opposing side.
This is made by placing the ball on the base of the figure and tossing the
ball into the lineout (see Photo 'D'). The figures must be lined up with a
minimum of two inches between the opposing teams. The ball should bounce
midway between the opposing forwards and must touch at least one player (of
either side) before it is in play. The side whose player last touched the
ball may then use any figure to attempt to gain possession. Should a player
fail to get the ball into play after two attempts, opponents take over the
- OFFSIDE: A player who has run with the ball and then
makes a pass is not immediately in an offside position until a colleague
accepts the ball correctly; he is then in an offside position and must be
flicked onside before any progress is made by the player accepting the pass.
A player figure is brought onside by being moved and placed two inches
nearer its own goal line than its colleague-parallel to the touchline.
|The 1971-72 illustration.
||The 1978 illustration.
SEVEN-A-SIDE RULES - The game is played in accordance with the
official Rugby Laws as adapted for and covered by Subbuteo Table Rugby Rules.
The normal duration of Seven-a-Side Rugby is seven minutes each way, with
a one minute half-time break. The playing formation is normally three forwards,
one half-back, two three-quarters, and one full-back. The diagrams in the
standard rules should be modified accordingly.
The playing pitch can be improvised with a thick smooth cloth or blanket
spread over a table, on which the Rugby playing area can be chalked. The ideal
playing surface is, of course, the special green baize marked out and printed,
pitch supplied by Subbuteo Sports Games Ltd - under Reference RM.
Subbuteo games in general have a history of rule changes and amendments (just
ask any of the various table soccer associations). But rugby is the only one
that really struggles to produce a playable simulation within the official
rules. So the point of this section is to throw around a few ideas to try with
that mint set sitting in the loft!
What rugby does do better than football or cricket is allow tactical solo
play (football has the problem of goalkeeping, whilst cricket is seriously
tricky to play solo). So here are a few ideas that I've tried on my own in a
slow thoughtful game. I'm not guaranteeing that they are brilliant, and feel
free to e-mail alternatives to me. If you are lucky enough to have friends who don't
think your Subbuteo obsession is nuts, then please feel free to send in rules
for faster two player action..
Problem No.1. A player makes a clever dash up the field, but is
finally blocked. He needs to pass, but all his team mates are standing unmoving
way back down the field.
Solution ideas. Attacking Support Flicks.
- As the player without the ball gets defending flicks (as with football),
so the attacker gets an attacking support flick, where he can flick a player
into position after each flick at the ball. This can allow some great
flowing moves, and overlaps.
- If you find this rule gives too big an advantage to the attacker, you
could allow the defending player a second defensive flick only if the
attacking support flick is used. So the attacker has an option of support,
but can decide not to play it if he thinks this will help the defence to
- If all this slows down the game too much try this other suggestion. No
attacking support flicks until a player declares "passing". He
then gets two support flicks, which can be defended. This is similar to set
pieces in football.
Problem No.2. Defending players can run faster than the attacker,
because he has to flick the ball. A forward bursting through the line in real
rugby can score a breakaway try. In Subbuteo he vainly struggles to control the
ball while a defending player can flick all the way across or down the pitch to
make the tackle.
- The obvious solution is to not have the player in possession flicking the
ball. The ball is removed, and the player runs without it (similar to the
1950s rugby game). Personally, I don't like this, as it makes the game less
like Subbuteo, and removes some of the skill. It also speeds things up too
much, and the attacker can now run the length of the field in one flick.
Also, it suggests that tackling needs to be a contact thing, which isn't
recommended (the figures aren't built to be flicked into each other at
- The "running without the ball" game is discussed at the bottom
of the page...
- If you like the flicking the ball method, you need to think of ways to slow down the defence or make it harder to
- One solution is presented under the next problem....
- Another is to limit how far the defender can be flicked.
Problem No 3. Offside. Again, our clever attacker bursts through the
opposing line. He gets tackled, but the defender has nobody to pass to because
everybody is offside. A few possession changes
later, and the players are all nicely mixed up.
- The official rule about moving everybody back does work. But it is a bit
slow, and the whole defence is back in position straight after a change in
- Luckily, the field is sorted out each time play is stopped for an
infringement (scrums, line-outs etc.)
- When using the attacking support flicks, a workable solution is that the
attacking and defending flicks must be used first on any players in a
potentially offside position, i.e. nearer the opposition goal than the ball. This gives attackers a little more time to control the
ball, it also helps with the "fast defender" problem. If an
attacker has broken through and is bumbling to the touchline, the defender
can usually flick back a defender and then use a second flick to halt the
forward. With this rule, if he flicks a player ahead of the attacker, he
can't use it again whilst he has other offside players to deal with. So the
first flick has to be accurate, and the attacker has time to skirt the now
static defender. Once the attacker has gone past this defender, he can be
- The down side to this rule is that full backs are less use than they
- It also works better with 7-a-side than with the full size game.
Rule Clarification. Possession. It isn't completely clear when the
"two inch" rule applies.You need to touch the ball and
land within two inches to gain possession, but once you have possession I assume you no
longer need to keep within this distance (otherwise you'd never get anywhere).
The "two inch" rule applies again when you are trying to score a try,
and it is recommended that it also applies before you declare a pass. Otherwise
you can flick the ball wildly downfield, and then declare a pass, which means
you can pick up the player and place him near the ball.
Problem No 4. Knock-on or kicking to gain ground. If a player is
flicked at the ball, hits it forward and doesn't finish within two inches it is
a knock on. However, you are allowed to do this under the "kicking to gain
ground" rule. If you accept that the two inch rule doesn't apply when you
are running with the ball, then how does this differ to kicking ahead
- Ouch, my head is beginning to hurt....
- Kicking to gain ground must be declared even when not using the wedge.
- Or just don't bother with knock-ons. Possession rightly switches after a
Problem No 5. Conversions and penalties are a doddle. I can score
- Accept that the penalty kicker is a different scale, and make him take
conversions from further back. Maybe from his own half?
- Accept that the kicker is Jonny Wilkinson.
Problem No 6. Scrums are fifty-fifty.
- How often do sides with the put-in lose a scrum these days? However, scrum
invincibility is a tad dull. I suggest letting the put-in side also have
control of the two side holes in the scrummer giving a 4 to 2 advantage. Simulating collapsed scrums
is all well and good, but not really productive.
- It has been pointed out to me that clever use of the ball in the put-in
can almost guarantee the ball falling out of your side of the scrummer. If
you are happy doing this, then that's fine.
Problem No 7. There are way too many players clogging up the field.
- Too right! Start with seven-a-side on the full size pitch, and work
Problem No 8. I want rucks, I want mauls....
- Dream on sunshine. Or play rugby league instead.
Notes on playing Rugby League.
I enjoy watching this on the TV with my Uncle Fred. The modern game is
built around the six tackle rule, and these tackles are used to gain ground.
- The player can deliberately run the ball into an opposing player. If the
attacker and ball stay within two inches, then this is a tackle, and the
defence have to move back 10 metres (a couple of inches?) If the ball rolls
away more than two inches, then the attacker has lost control of the ball in
the tackle, and the opposition are on their first tackle.
- There are no rucks or mauls to worry about, and the teams can be
positioned after each tackle, so offside is less of a problem. In fact, this
started me thinking about how to do an American Football sim.....
Notes on the alternate "running without the ball" game.
This may work better with two players. When the player has flicked at the
ball, and remained within two inches of it, he has caught the ball and is ready
to run. At this point, the ball is removed from the pitch, and the appropriate
player is marked to show that he is carrying the ball. A possible alternative to
marking is to swap the player with a special ball carrier, say a player in the
same kit but on a different colour base.
Here's where the problems start. The wonderful curling ability of Subbuteo
figures means that the runner usually has two or three openings in the defence
through which the try line can be reached. It is all too easy to reach this in
one flick. So he needs to be slowed down. Here are some options....
- Player can only run in his current quarter or into the next one. So you
can only start a try scoring run from the final quarter.
- Obviously the player has to stop in the "in goal" area, not bomb
- If the player touches a defender, he is tackled. I'd also suggest that he
also loses possession of the ball. This is to discourage long risky runs.
This might still not be enough with some of the accurate flicking I've seen
table soccer players produce.
Tackling - With no ball in play, the tackles are going to have to hit
the ball carrier. Simple blocking isn't enough to stop a runner. When the runner
is not in motion, it is very simple to hit him, as the players are normally very
close together. So if moves are consecutive, the runner would get tackled at the
end of each run. At that point I'd suggest that the runner has to pass, and the
ball is put back into play next to the figure. This is a point where two
attacking and two defending flicks might work tactically. So the pass is made,
and the recipient needs to be flicked onto the ball and land within two inches
to catch the pass. At this point, the defence could get another defensive flick
to cover the catch, but certainly the recipient has to be allowed a run before a
tackle is permitted. Otherwise the attacker ends up going backwards under
Then we get to tacking "in motion", which is how the 1950s game
worked. The defender needs to flick a player to hit the attacker whilst he is
actually running. The attacker can't be traveling too fast, because of the need
to stop in the next zone. This might be the only way in which this version
works, but is it really recommended with fragile playing pieces?
Problem No 9. I suddenly feel the need to put this rubbish game back
in the loft, and play Subbuteo football....
- Not a bad idea frankly....
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