The Football League has begun, the Premiership is just moments from kick off and you might think that it’s just a case of sitting back and waiting for Saturday to come. You’re wrong. As a football fan, your job is far greater than watching the small sliver of time that is 90 minutes at 3 o’clock or catching Gary and his chums sifting through tackles of an evening. No, there are people in the online games industry relying on you to invest your hard earned hours and pittance of cash on their creations, but lest you waste your time on the more unsatisfactory managerial simulators, here are what Pocket-lint considers to be the very best fantasy football games for the coming season.
Fantasy Premier League 2010/11
The most official game of them all is the one run by the Premier League itself, known this time around as the Fantasy Premier League 2010/11. It’s probably the most played for the simple reason that it's free to enter. The downside of that is that there’s not much in the way of prizes. The overall winner gets a VIP trip for two to a Premier League game of the team they support, and the monthly winners get a digital camera, MP3 player and a replica kit. You can also create your own mini leagues for the office so you can get that sense of achievement that’s hard to glean when you’re battling in the nationwide standings for 6426th place.
Although there’s no dedicated app, there is a Fantasy Premier League mobile website, good for any mobile phone, where you can make your changes wherever you are.
The Sun Dream Team 2010/11
Dream Team is probably the most popular of the pay to enter Fantasy Football games, and one of the reasons might be that you can win £500,000. There’s also £5000 up for grabs for the weekly winner and £100,000 for the top mini-league in the country. Realistically, it costs £10 to enter or £25 to manage 5 teams at once, but there is also an option called Pick ‘n Stick where you pay a fiver at the beginning of the season, choose one XI and then never bother with any transfers throughout the rest of the 30 weeks. Now, obviously, you’re not going to pick up the top prize by doing that, but there is a separate £50,000 jackpot of those who take this option.
The Sun has got it together to create an iPhone app so that you can manage your Dream Team, but no finger out in the way of Android or BlackBerry.
Telegraph Fantasy Football 2010/11
The Telegraph Fantasy Football game is less than the Sun’s to enter at £6 per team or 3 for a tenner, but the downside is that there’s not quite as much up for grabs. The top prize is £50,000 should you manage to best the entire nation, and there’s both weekly and monthly awards of £200 and £1000 respectively. What’s most interesting about this game though, is that you can also enter Super Leagues as well as the general public or mini ones. These include ones for the team you support, fans of the Telegraph Fantasy games on Facebook and, best of all, the Telegraph football writers who include Henry Winter and Alan Hansen.
Again, there is an app this year to make sure you don’t miss your transfers before each weekly deadline, but it’s only for the iPhone and it also costs 99p as well.
This version of the fantasy football game requires a lot less commitment in the longer term and offers a very real chance of winning. At the same time, it can cost you a lot more over time and it’s actually much closer to gambling than the others.
The idea behind 11Kicks is that the games are weekly and each time you’re only up against 10 other players rather than the whole country. You choose a starting XI with no need to worry about budget and the only rule is that you can’t have more than two players for the same team in your side. Once the kick offs come, you can actually watch the points come in real-time on the 11Kicks interface as well as enjoy the IM panel where you can trash talk the opposition. There’s also apps for both iPhone and Android so that you can enjoy it on the move.
You can either play the game for free with no prizes or you can pay £5, £10 or £25 with a chance of winning £40, £80 or £200 respectively, if you happen to take first place out of 10. Certainly one of the most entertaining on the list and quite a good one if you fancy yourself a better manager than the average Joe, but perhaps not quite up to the nation’s elite.
Picklive is described by its designers as fantasy football on steroids and they might not be far wrong. Closer to 11Kicks than all the others, it’s not about management at the season or even weekly level but each live game actually lasts just 7.5 minutes of real time.
The way it works is that you pick any three players in a single match; each time they do something good you get awarded points and each time they do something bad you lose them. Naturally, the scoring is more in depth than just goals and assists otherwise there wouldn’t be much action in each 7.5-minute game. Instead it goes down to the level of shots on and off target, passes completed, interceptions, tackles and goalkeeper action as well. If you’re not happy with the players you’ve chosen, you can make up to three substitutions.
Each time you play, you’re in a game room up against 9 other people and you win money according to how much you wish to bet in the first place. At the same time, of course, you don’t have to play for money at all. There are also plenty of free games where you’re just playing for the glory. Whether you’re trying for cash or not it’s an excellent way of livening up a match you might be watching on TV and will even add spice to a no score draw.
But which are your fantasy football games of choice? Where do you get the most success and which, for your money, offers the most comprehensive and balanced scoring system? Come to think of it, who are your top tips for fantasy players to have in your side this season? Let us know in the comments.