In the vein of management simulation video games such as FIFA Manager and Football Manager, Premiership Coach 2011 is a truly complete Australian Rules Football simulation title which gives armchair AFL fanatics the chance to step into the coach's box and experience the grueling challenges of coaching an AFL team. Following on from its 2010 iteration, the title features a number of significant improvements, giving it an unrivaled depth and sense of realism that is sure to keep hapless footy fanatics clamouring back for more.
The game begins much like the soccer management games mentioned above albeit with an AFL twist. Before you can start playing Premiership Coach 2011 for the first time, players will have to spend a couple of minutes configuring a new game. This will consist of choosing your team, with all of the current AFL teams ripe for the picking. The only difference is you'll find that each team will carry a slightly different name from its AFL counterpart (most likely due to AFL licensing), so don't go scratching your head in confusion at the likes of the Freemantle Doctors and Collingwood Butcherbirds. On the plus side, each team carries the real names of its players, as well as statistics which match up to their real-world counterparts - giving football purists a more realistic experience to pour over.
Once you've chosen your team, it's time to choose your game plan. Are you a defensive minded coach who likes players to chip kick the ball around the ground? or do you prefer the aggressive run and carry straight through the middle of the ground? Whatever your game style, there are a number of options to tweak, giving you the ability to fine tune your team's on-field tendencies. From here you can then choose to go with your teams current player listing or perform a fantasy draft allowing you to pick and choose players as you see fit, giving you the opportunity to construct that all-star lineup that you always wanted. Once you've completed these initial settings, its then time to get into the meat of the game and guide your team to AFL premiership glory.
There is so much information to sift through that it can be very easy to become overwhelmed if you're playing Premiership Coach 2011 for the first time. As head coach you get to train the team, make team selections, hire and fire assistant coaches and support staff; recruit and delist players; work on team tactics and coach on match day. As well as being able to tinker with the management side of things, there are a number of statistics available for the truly fanatical footyphiles out there such as who the all-time leading goalkicker is and who has played the most matches of VFL/AFL football history.
One thing we noticed early in our time with the game is that Premiership Coach 2011 features slicker visuals than that of its predecessor. One added touch that we enjoyed is the use of the newspaper function which game the season a more narrative feel as you are able to easily track the status of not only your own team, but that of the prolific crop of talent on your opponent's teams - giving you a heads up on who you'll want to shut down on game day.
In order to succeed in Premiership Coach 2011, you have to be a good administrator both on and off the field. Preparation during downtime is really a key to your club's success, meaning that you'll need to concentrate on maintaining a good hold on financial, contractual and player welfare matters in order to ensure that your team has a successful outing on the field each week. Thankfully, you are provided with an inbox which allows you to keep abreast of what the board thinks of you as well as monitoring training, scouting and injury reports on your players. The inbox really acts like a combination of a news feed and in-tray, allowing you to both keep informed and know where you need to step in and take immediate action.
The important thing to remember is that as your team becomes more successful, extra cashflow will become available. Whether it's gained by building up membership numbers, progressing deep into the preseason competition or walking away with the premiership cup at the end of the season, more money means that your team is able to invest in better facilities, staff and players. To become successful in the first place, you have to win matches. This is accomplished by keeping a close eye on your team. You improve the performance of your list by hiring new players during trade week, recruiting and developing young talent and sharpening the skills and fitness of your current playing list.
Aspiring head coaches don't actually have to train their team, but utilising this option can measurably improve the performance of your squad week in, week out. Skill coaches can be used to concentrate on improving particular aspects of your team's game. Find that goal kicking is a little inept? Just get your forward coach to devote some serious time to your player's goalkicking skill and you'll see a marked improvement. One thing you have to be careful of is how you set up the training, if you make the sessions too intense you can drastically fatigue or even injure your players - finding the right balance for your team is a critical component of your success.
Building up your team, balancing the books and keeping the board happy is entertaining. Though the entire process is complex and time-consuming, Premiership Coach 2011's gameplay is fun and addictive. However, preparing your team for game day is only half the battle and game day is where the battle will conclude.
Game day is where the real crux of the game is felt. Here you will spend much time tactically planning for the match and watching it unfold right before your eyes. Observing the team on the field is critical to knowing when to substitute players and or when that 'boot it long' tactic just isn't working. As a head coach you'll also have the ability to stir your troops with a rousing team address during the breaks in order to raise their spirits and hopefully get your team over the line. Or if you want to take a meaner approach, you can pick a player that is having a pretty pathetic outing and give him a verbal spraying in the hope that he'll lift his game and lead your team on to victory. While the visual side of the game day mechanic is aesethically pleasing, it's disappointing to note that there is no sound to accompany the visuals. Ambient sounds such as crowd noise or even the siren would have given the game a more complete package in the realism stakes. But ultimately, this is a small gripe to have.
All in all Premiership Coach 2011 is a very enjoyable experience for AFL fans, especially those who enjoy the strategic side of the game. It is by no means an easy game to master as there is a steep learning curve involved in understanding how tactics and training can affect the outcome of a match. But after some spending some quality time with the game you'll soon be hoisting the premiership cup into the air.