Now that the frenzy of the World Cup and NBA Free agency have died down, now is a good time for me to explain the insanity, the thrill, and the joy of FIFA's Fantasy World Cup game.
For simplicity, I will just refer to this as "Fantasy World Cup." I ended up signing up for this game at fifa.com at the last moment, just a day before the first games began. I did not have time to read the rules, which were like 20 pages long, so I just started picking a team. I quickly learned that I could only have 2 players per team, and that I had to pick 23 players, just like a real World Cup roster.
Salary Cap Game
The difficulty in the game is that it also was a salary cap game and the players were valued such that if you chose a bunch of popular forwards (i.e. David Villa, Rooney, Messi) this would blow your budget apart such that your bench would end up relying on a bunch of players who don't even normally play. Clearly, some balance had to be maintained. I instictively tried to save some cap space such that I had a more well-rounded team.
Substitutions create problems
I then had to select my starters for "Round 1." What I did not realize (which I should have read), is that the Fantasy World Cup worked like a real World Cup game… if I subbed anyone out they could not be brought back in. This has a strange affect in this type of game though, as some players have already played, and others have yet to play. Had I read the instructions first, I would have realized that the optimum strategy was to start all of your players who were playing that day in "Round 1" and then sub-in players as the first set of players fail to produce (i.e. Group G played days after Group B, so there was no rational reason to start any Group G players from the start).
Because I didn't realize this, my lineup was messed up from the start. The more interesting part of this game was that in between "Round 1" and "Round 2" (the second group game for each team), you were allowed to make a certain amount of "transfers." Thus, as I realized that 30% of my team wasn't even playing in the World Cup, I had to try to transfer and sell my current players to acquire players who actually were amassing points. Unfortunately, the players producing were increasing in terms of cost, and the players I had purchased were decreasing in value since thousands of players were selling the players and dumping them out. Yes, my team was screwed!
Banking on certain teams to advance
What made the game even more challenging, which required a great deal of strategic thinking, was that you were only allowed 2 players per nation in the first 3 games, then 4 players in the round of 16 and quarters, then 6 players in the semifinals, then up to 8 players per nation in the finals. Thus, the teams that spent all of their resources getting Brazilian players got a raw deal when Brazil suddenly was eliminated. I actually banked on Uruguay (given their "easier" quadrant), which helped. It still did not offset all of the mistakes I made in the first two rounds.
Double down on the Captain
In the end, Fantasy World Cup was a fantasy game unlike any I'd ever played because it combined a salary cap game with bizarre substitution rules… and then there was one super-wildcard. You were able to designate one captain for your team. Your captain was able to score DOUBLE his points! So the real key to succeeding was apparently picking whomever had an easy opponent (and playing offensive players against North Korea).