As it is fairly well known, I have an affinity for table top sports games whether it be Table Hockey, Subbuteo, or Electric Football. Last year Rick Benej of www.tablehockey.com was kind enough to give me some time for an interview which was very well received not only on PSB but in the Table Hockey Community as well. Which brings me to this new two part article on Electric Football which is also known as Miniature Football or Vibrating Football.
If you were like me most of your memories of EF were of players moving aimlessly in circles and no real understanding of how the game was to work. It is a stigma that still haunts the EF world to this day. In my research I have found that not only are those stigmas completely inaccurate, but the game of EF can actually do a great job of representing real football! This time I have been even more fortunate to hook up with two long time members of the EF community. Lynn Schmidt who is in charge of the Miniature Football Coaches Association (www.miniaturefootball.org) and Reginald Rutledge who has been involved with EF for over 40 years and runs his very own specialty shop for EF which has some products and figures which are just stunning in their quality. (www.footballfigure.net)
Before I get into the interview I need to thank a few people for their assistance in making this article and some of the photo’s included possible. First obviously Lynn Schmidt who has taken many hours out of his busy schedule to answer every question I threw at him. Then of course Reginald Rutledge who has shared some real insight especially into the history and evolution of the game. And finally Rob Smith up at Liquidation World up here in Calgary (3880 29 St NE) who very generously helped me out by providing a couple of games for my research. I will let you know right off the hop that LW here is selling an introductory version of the game for $20!! which has everything you need to get playing. Check your local store for stock levels. Thanks again to all of you! Now lets get at it.
What is Electric Football and how did you get involved in the hobby?
Lynn:“Electric football” is actually a trademarked name by the Tudor/Miggle Company. I could rewrite the history, but there is an excellent article here: http://www.miggle.com/products/tudor/ In short electric football is a tabletop game that simulates the full scale version of football using a metal, fiberboard, or more recently, plastic football field that is vibrated with an attached counterbalanced motor. Men are created in plastic in full 28-30 mm detail on platforms that are slid onto plastic bases which have “prongs” underneath. The prongs, when squeezed with a flat mouthed pliers or heated with a quick pass from a lighter (aka Tweaking a base), can create specific direction, speed or strength. The knowledge of “tweaking” a base is what allows a “coach” to create realistic football plays as each player on the field has specific speeds and or directions that they will run.
I was introduced to the game when I was around 10 years old. My father ,who was a avid auction go-er, came home with one of the earliest model #500 boards made by Tudor. The men were not 3d like they are today, but were flat metal cutouts in silver and blue on metal bases. It was thrown in with a box of mixed nails and screws at the end of the auction, just to get rid of it. My nephew and I played the heck out of it for about 5 years. Life went on…girls, cars, marriage, divorce, kids, jobs etc and then when I was in my 30’s I rediscovered the game at a Toys R Us and the rest is history.
How long have you been involved in Electric Football, and how did you get involved to start with?
Reginald: I’ve been involved with miniature football for 40 years. I initially got involved in a neighborhood league. Like so many other stories I have heard, I was the youngest kid so the older boys would not let me play with the players. I was just fascinated on how they could run around on a field. They looked so real to me at the time. Right then and there, I fell in love with the game.
The game they played on was a 600 series back then. It had the team logos on the side of the game board and it was from Tudor. I then started taking note of football. I saw the Tudor commercials on TV where the dad and son were playing, going through kicking and passing routines. I thought that was the greatest thing. I was a kid who had just found his best friend, really his only friend, and from that day forward, I knew I would be involved in the game, in some capacity.
What is the MFCA and how have the game evolved over the past few years?
Lynn: The Miniature Football Coaches Association is an association made up of electric football hobbyists, gamers and enthusiasts created in March 2007, to promote and educate the public about the hobby and game of miniature electric football, its history and its innovations. The MFCA provides a website and a quarterly, 40 page, full color magazine to hundreds of miniature football coaches allowing them to share ideas, tips and their most recent projects. We have members from all over the US, France, Germany, Australia and Canada. Our mission statement is: Assisting the miniature football hobbyist by promoting miniature football, educating the public and providing an association which recognizes and supports the diverse coaches and leagues.
The game has evolved from small 28”x16” plain football fields with flat one dimensional cutouts that ran randomly around or in circles to now, 2×4 feet fields with precision motors and custom field covers depicting real fields in exact detail right down to the blades of grass and the mud stains on the field markings. Scale versions of stadiums can often be seen around these fields. Men are 3 dimensional and come in varied detail and when painted and decaled, exactly depict their real life counterparts with face masks, gloves and cleats.
Bases are now sought out for their ability to be tweaked for speed or strength and can be manipulated aka “tweaked” to perform exactly as they are needed to for any given play. Strategies and rules can be as complex as the real game of football or played with the basic rules that were originally invented for the game. Modern technology such as talking timers and video replay or often used for league play and championship games.
What is www.footballfigure.net, and what are some of your personal highlights about the site?
Reginald: Footballfigure.net is a full-scale miniature football company that caters more so to the advanced players or the players who believe in customization and not see the game as just a toy. To us, we put so much passion in our product, as you will see through videos, our stadiums, game boards, figures, and accessories. We are the leading authority and experts on the realism of the game.
Why can players now control the way their players move more than the memories a lot of us have of playing just going blindly in circles?
Lynn: Tweaking! Tweaking is the skill/art of taking a base straight from the bag and through manipulation of the prongs with heat and or pressure, achieving a base that will react to the vibration of the field in a consistent way. Once you add the man to the base and record how it performs on your home field, you can design plays around that specific man/bases skill. An example would be a fast base tweaked to arch to the left over a 15 yard up-field run can be used as a wide receiver set on the left side of the formation running a route across the middle. Other examples would be tweaking a base for slower speed and maximum strength to work as a lineman or with a combo of good speed and strength, as a linebacker.
What is the best way for someone who is interested in trying Electric football for the first time to get started? And what are the basic costs involved?
Lynn: The best way to get into the hobby, is to get with a coach or league in your area. Rules and equipment allowed are different in every league and eventually you are going to want to compete against others, all though solitaire rules do exist also. This way you will be geared toward your local leagues style of play and from there can venture out to national or other regions competitions. Styles are often similar, but with slight differences so once you get started it is not to difficult to transition to another style.
There is so much to learn and there are many pitfalls that can turn off a new coach as well as the occasional unscrupulous dealer. This is why we always try to find out where a new coach is from so that we can get them with a MFCA member in their area to help them quickly get up to speed with whatever level they intend to play at. For those in an area that does not have a league, the MFCA forum and website can offer great advice to the new coach and we are constantly working on making the site easier to navigate and to learn from.
The costs of starting in this hobby depend on what level you intend to play at. The basic game itself can still be purchased as a complete set for around $100 with shipping (Rose Bowl set) through Miggle and will come with a QB/Kicker, felt footballs, 22 painted men and rookie and TTC bases (Total Team Control) and markers and goal posts. However, without tweaking the bases, the game will find its way to the closet very quickly as stock out of the bag bases tend to run slowly and or poorly with many of them doing the loop de loops that we remember from childhood. With tweaking the game is a great entry level game and will capture the imagination of the “coaches”, but will quickly lead to the need for better and more detailed men, bases and fields
For competitive play in a league or tournament, coaches will invest as much as $500 – $1000 with custom fields, detailed men and in some cases “professionally” tweaked bases.
Reginald: I would tell them do your research. Everybody is trying to sell things but look for the quality, the passion, and the energy of companies and vendors. I have been constantly involved from a business perspective for 17 years, and reputation is everything.
I know most are going to be coming into the game full bore, but they must understand, the hobby is an endurance race. Some guys come into the game for a year, get disenchanted, and you never hear from them again.
There are so many styles of play out there. Educate yourself on the play-styles. Make your own determination as to what fit your interest, as far as leagues, and equipment. Be careful to be prudent and cautious with your money. We live in tough times right now and some people are just trying to make a quick buck. When it hits you, you become disinterested in the game and leave. I for one, do not want that. I try to be very honest, upfront, and show you that I will be there for the long haul (as I have always been).
That is it for part 1. Part 2 will be up next week with more photos and I will also dive more into the community of Electric Football. I really encourage everyone to check out the MFCA and Footballfigure.net. It will give you an even greater understanding of the game and let you see more of the absolutely stunning work these talented individuals! I also encourage you to take the time to try and play a game or see the game played. I have recently tried it and am already thinking up new ways to run my offense and defense! This game is fun! As a bonus Lynn will be joining myself and Dan Rakusan tonight (Friday Oct 22nd at 8pm EST) on PSB Radio! Perhaps we could convince him to take a question or two from our readers!
Have a good one!
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About the Author
Written by Shane Hoopfer
Die hard Flames fan since 1980, and a closet baseball junkie. Also a big Dolphins, and Stampeders fan!