Hello and welcome. If you are reading this, chances are you are either considering taking the plunge or have already purchased Football Manager 13 (and hopefully, have also perused our review of said game.)
A few final questions before you start: Are you willing to sacrifice a good chunk of your day playing the game—even when you know you shouldn’t, and just can’t help yourself—and are you willing to sacrifice the other parts of that day, when you're not playing the game, thinking about it? Football Manager is, by all accounts, addictive, and there have been stories—hell, an entire book's worth of them—about the game's crack-like hold on you.
So the answers to those question is yes you say? Excellent. Let’s get busy.
For those who may not be too familiar with the sport of soccer/football/futbol/thing-where-you-kick-a-ball-on-the-grass may want to also have a look at our guide to soccer and soccer games to get familiar with some of the game's concepts. The sections on transfers and loans, as well as league structures, in particular, can help speed up your learning curve big time.
Football Manager is probably the most black and white game out there. You either love it or you don’t care for it. Fortunately, there are probably many more of the former, and over the years the game has amassed a dedicated legion of fans. The series wasn’t always called Football Manager. Developed by Sports Interactive and originally published by Eidos, the franchise started off as Championship Manager. About a decade ago, the two parties parted ways—Eidos kept the name, while Sports Interactive kept the game code. SI became partners with Sega, and started churning out titles under the Football Manager banner.
So why is the game so adored by its fans? It's largely because it actually picks a side in the eternal realistic vs. fun debate (hint: it’s not the latter.) Sure, one person’s deep is another’s mundane, but it makes no qualms about being hardcore to the extreme in simulating almost every aspect in a football manager’s career. If you want realism, you've got it here. The fact that it’s an open ended game also gives you an incredible bang for the buck. New superstars arrive on the scene, dynasties fall, and throughout your career you may just experience every highs and lows there are.
Football Manager or Football Manager Classic?
It is, of course, entirely up to you to decide whether you want to embark on your managerial career with the streamlined, stripped-down Football Manager Classic, or experience FM 2013 in all its full glory. The difference between the two is quite dramatic: FM Classic takes away a lot of the “realistic” (though the more casual player may see them as merely time consuming) features, and essentially you just buy and sell players, set your formations, and play through the games. On the other hand, FM 2013's regular "career" mode requires you to spend time on things such as assigning your scouts, interacting with the media, and setting up your training schemes.
There’s no right answer to this question, and it’s totally dependent on your preferences—how much do you appreciate the extra depth the features provide, or are you perfectly content in just acquiring players and building your team? You can always give FM Classic a test run and eventually graduate to the full FM Manager mode—sort of a condensed version of FM’s history, from the good old days of Championship Manager, to which FM Classic is starkly reminiscent of, to today’s full fledged FM 2013.
Three things you need to decide on when you get started (that's assuming you’re using your real identity so you don’t need to make a fourth and fifth choice: which punny name are you going to use? And are you going to be a senior citizen who will live until 150 if you decide to play that long into the game world? Because no, you won’t die in FM or be forced to retire.)
As with most things in Football Manager, there’s no right or wrong choice when it comes to picking your starting team. Some players prefer to start off with a big team and take on the challenge of sustaining a dynasty, while others like to be realistic and either manage a lower league team or start off unemployed altogether, until a desperate bottom feeder comes calling.
This is where you choose your starting experience and reputation. Again, you can go the realistic route and choose “Sunday league”, which basically means as low as can be, or all the way up to a prestigious, former international player. This is probably the closest FM gets to having a difficulty setting, as the greater your reputation, the more likely your team talks will have positive effects on your players, and the slower the fans and the board will turn on you. So if you want to balance out the implausibility of you managing Real Madrid (go ahead, create that story in your head about meeting Fiorentino Perez on the plane and impressing him with your tactical knowledge-- we've all been there) by giving your manager starting with low experience, watch out: your high priced stars may tune you, Mr. Nobody who replaced Jose Mourinho, out quicker than the speed at which Marca spreads the club's company line as "news".
The amount of leagues you choose to load, or make active, decides how large the playable game world is. The positive of loading many leagues, of course, is that there are more teams and players available to play with and against, making the game world that much more dynamic. The drawback, though, is that the game keeps track of every team and player, meaning that more leagues equal more loading time. So unless you have a high-end machine, try to keep your game world at a reasonable size. Use the game speed guideline at the bottom of that screen as a guide—load enough leagues for the rating to drop to less than two stars, and you may find yourself with enough time to make a latte while your computer tries to process one game day.
While we’re on the subject of computer specs, keep in mind that a good graphics card doesn’t mean as much for FM as it does for other games. The game does its lion’s share of work in the background, and the amount of RAM and your processor speed is much more crucial to helping the game sail along smoothly.
So you’ve set everything up and gotten yourself a job. Now what? Take your time to click around and get familiar with your players and your league, to see who’s in your squad and out in the world (spending some time with the getting started wizard also helps). Regarding player attributes, there are plenty of guides out there that explains what each of them represent (this is a particularly good one). While the numerical attributes are a good overall indicator of a player’s ability, there are some other things that a newcomer to Football Manager may miss:
This shows which positions a player is capable of playing. Just because a player have the attributes needed to play as a striker doesn’t mean he’s used to playing as one. You can either train him—which takes time—to be familiarized with the role, or you can play him there right away, though his performances are likely to suffer.
Being able to play in multiple positions is especially useful for smaller teams, as you may not have the budget to acquire enough players to provide depth for every position. Having a utility-man can come in handy when the injury crisis hits.
This is probably one of the more underrated attributes when evaluating a player in FM. There comes a time in every FM manager's career when they have to decide whether they want to sign a great player who can only play with his right foot, or a good player who can play with both feet. As always, there’s no clear answer as every scenario is unique. However, as a general rule, it’s more important for players who play in the central areas of the pitch (striker, center midfielders, center backs, for example) to have at least some ability with his weaker foot.
Personality (and how to change the bad ones):
It's not all about the skills-- character matters. Those who are prone to sulking, no matter how good they are, are less likely to perform to their potential, and there is every chance a less talented player with a better personality will contribute more to your team's cause. But how can you tell who's who?
You can get a clue of a player’s mental makeup in a few areas. In the player info screen is a one-word description of his personality. Most of them will sound positive, and that’s fine and dandy, but look out for those that aren’t—“casual”, “unambitious”, “slacker”, to name a few—as even if the player is tantalizingly talented, his mental makeup may indicate that he may be more trouble than he is worth.
In his profile you can also see his media handling style, which gives you another clue to his personality. Again, there will be plenty that sound just fine, it’s the negative ones you have to be on the lookout for. If a player has descriptions like Short-tempered, volatile, or confrontational, be prepared to deal with a combustible personality.
A player’s personality determines a range of things: how likely he will react well to a team talk, how likely will he throw a fit, and just how possible he can grow to his potential when he’s young and retain his skills when he’s in his thirties. One way to change a suspect personality is to ask a senior member of your team to tutor the younger player. There are no guarantees of success, and there is a chance the youngster may call off the tutoring prematurely because the two don't get along, thereby increasing animosity within the squad. But succeed, and you may change the course of a youngster’s career, sometimes dramatically, for the better. When deciding on which players to tutor whom, keep in mind their personalities (make sure you don’t ask a slacker to tutor a determined youngster), as well as the tutor’s “determination”, “work rate’, and “teamwork” attributes, as the tutor can also influence the youngster in those attributes as well.
If you’re looking to make additions to your squad, you will most likely need the input of your scouts. You can ask for a scouting report on any active player, unless you're managing a smaller club and your board has decided to restrict your scouting areas because of financial reasons. In each report you can see things such as the player’s current ability, his potential ability, and if he’s interested in joining your club. It goes without saying that a scout with higher ratings in the “judging player ability” and “judging player potential” attributes will give you more accurate reports.
The nationalities of your backroom staff's (not just the scouts, but the coaches and physios, as well) can impact your searches as well. Where a staff member is from determines which countries he is knowledgeable in, so that if you hire him, your club’s knowledge of those countries would also be increased. Practically, this means you'd be able to find more players when you're searching for them. For example, if you have little knowledge in Nigeria, searching for transfer-listed players in Nigeria may turn up nothing at all. Hire somebody who has knowledge in the region, and voila, suddenly you have thirty results.
You can also assign a scout with no prior knowledge to scout a new region. At first he probably won't turn up much, but with time, he will eventually build up his knowledge and find more players. However, this can take a while, and if you remove him from the region long enough, his knowledge will eventually decline again. This doesn’t happen with a scout who is native to that region.
When you take control of a team, especially in the middle of the season, resist the urge to dramatically change the way they play. It takes the players a while to learn formations and playing styles that are foreign to them. While you may have the benefit of pre-season to intensively drill your strategy into your players, if you start your job during the offseason, you’re taking a huge gamble if you’re implementing a dramatic tactical 180 from the previous regime midway through a season.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t experiment and keep a tactic in your back pocket, ready to be deployed during a title decider. Play around with the tactics creator to see what you can come up with. Take the time to read the player role descriptions to imagine their potential behavior on the pitch. Our tactics guide is a good starting point, Football Manager has a very active forum dedicated to tactics and the theories behind them, and here is probably one of the most comprehensive explanation of what each tactical slider does.
Whatever you do, the main advice is this: make sure your tactics suit the players. Unless you use the quote-unquote exploit tactics (and there have been a few in the past FMs, though none seemed to have surfaced just yet this year), the best strategies are useless unless you have the players to execute them properly. For example, if you have a big, tall, and not very mobile striker, play him as a target man as opposed to a poacher.
That said, the good thing about FM is that there are no hard and fast rules. I’ve won with some bizarre (though, in my defense, necessary due to injuries) tactics, and even conventional wisdom (like pairing short passing with a slow tempo game) can be bucked to produce successful results. So experiment to your heart’s content, just make sure you do it in games that don’t really matter.
You may have noticed that I didn’t really go into detail explaining things like the different types of player personalities and how they affect your team talks, or how to respond during press conferences. I avoided those for two reasons. One, it’s kind of boring. And more importantly two, it takes away a lot of the fun in the game.
Now that’s not to say you can't, or even shouldn’t, do it. Everybody is different. And if you really want to find out, it’s easy. A quick trip to Google will net you everything you need in less than a minute. But my personal opinion is this: Football Manager is best enjoyed when you don’t treat it as a formula. So yes, while you can find these guides and give an extra boost to your team’s chances of success, you take a lot of fun out of the experience by looking under the hood to figure out how everything works, and then try to circumvent them. It's a lot more rewarding if you imagine every player as a human being and take the lumps that go with having the inevitable disagreement with each of them, as opposed to thinking of them as a bunch of ratings and values. Even if you think you've got a handle on somebody, or even most of the personality types, there will be the odd instance where you get it totally wrong. And the sense that you're never totally certain is what's fun, and more importantly, realistic when it comes to dealing with people. So why not keep that in the game? Or in the case of team talks, it's more realistic if you just react to a situation organically, weighing a wide range of factors, like how much you really want to scream and shout, but also the need to keep morale up, and ultimately making the decision yourself as to what to say and how to say it. Isn't that better than following a guide?
There, I’ll step off my sanctimonious “spirit of the game” soapbox now.
Good luck with your foray into Football Manager 2013. Be prepared for failure (we all get fired some time), and embrace the uncertainty. All this just makes winning all the sweeter. The beauty of the game is that even if you do everything right, you can still lose a match, and maybe because of that, a season. The same applies to the other side of the coin: You can do everything wrong—give a bad team talk, buy a team full of Ballotelli-like characters—but somehow everything may still go your way and your team lucks out and win. It’s bizarre, it’s uncertain, and it’s soccer. And it's emulated realistically in Football Manager 2013. That’s why many love this game—the last gasp winners and the heartbreaks, and everything in between—and there’s every chance that you will too.
What are your tips, OSers (and FMers), for newcomers to Football Manager 2013? And also, stay Tuned for our Football Manager for Experienced Managers, coming soon!