For the last 10 years, I have been a keen player of the Official FPL game (FPL), and I like to think I’m a fairly good manager with a best overall finish of 173, and four finishes inside the top 12K. I, therefore, fancied my chances quite strongly when my work colleagues decided to be set up a Fantasy Football Mini-League at the beginning of the 2019/20 season.
However, I was given quite the surprise when just 2 days before the season opener at Anfield, I was sent a link to join a league in the Telegraph Fantasy game (TFF). This was a format of the game that I had heard of but didn’t know anything about, and it made for a frantic day taking in the rules and scoring system before throwing together a team with only hours to spare. After a slow start to the season, while I was getting to grips with the differences and quirks of the game, I finally managed to get a feel for things and ended up winning the work Mini-League (much to my relief) and finished in the top 900 overall.
Despite my work league moving to FPL for this season, I decided to continue playing TFF alongside FPL after an enjoyable first experience of the game. In this article, I wanted to share my main takeaways from my time playing so far, and give a brief outline of how the game works from the perspective of a keen and experienced FPL player.
The TFF gameplay sits somewhere in between FPL and Sky, with managers only selecting a starting XI with no bench, and there is no Captaincy involved either. This leads to a different dynamic, as without having a Captain who will score double points, it lends itself to having a more balanced squad who can all chip in with points throughout the season. And speaking of chips, there are none of those either! You can also enter up to five teams, however I find managing just one is more than enough for me.
Managers are limited to making 40 transfers per season, capped at a maximum of 5 in any gameweek. This is also combined with a lack of wildcards and overhauls, so it really does encourage patient play, and bringing in players for the mid to long term. Where it gets interesting is that transfers can take place during a Gameweek, so for example after your player has played on a Saturday, you can swap them out for a player who plays on the Sunday, allowing you to scoop 2 sets of points in one position in your team. This can also be powerful when midweek fixtures and fixture congestion come into play, as you can really maximise the number of fixtures in your squad over a set period of time. The deadline for making transfers for most matches is the kick-off time itself, so you have full sight of the team sheets before committing. The only caution when it comes to transfers is that you can only make changes to your team between matches when there is at least 2 hours between kick-off times. The vast majority of matches fit into this criteria, but occasionally they are scheduled closer together, and it is something to keep in mind.
The points scoring system feels fairly familiar coming from an FPL background with points being scored for appearances, goals, assists, clean sheets and penalty saves. Negative points are awarded for cards, own goals, missed penalties and multiple goals conceded. The big difference coming from FPL is firstly a lack of bonus points. This definitely changes how I feel about some players because there is no ‘double reward’ for scoring a goal (Danny Ings in FPL always seems to grab 3 bonus points when he scores in a 1-0 win). For goalkeepers, points are not awarded for saves, with clean sheets being the only real source of points, meaning Emiliano Martinez and Nick Pope, for example, are not quite the assets that they are in FPL. Finally, negative points are more aggressively applied to defenders and goalkeepers conceding goals, with 1 point deducted for each and every goal conceded after the first – making it very easy to run up a negative score. This was rather unfortunately demonstrated by Jan Bednarek who scored a very impressive -12 points against Manchester United in the 9-0 defeat.
Those managers used to FPL will be all too familiar with price changes throughout the season, and the issues they can cause when it comes to long term planning and knee-jerking for bandwagons. In the TFF game, prices are fixed all season no matter how many managers bring in a player, or how well they are doing. This makes planning easier, as you know exactly how much money you need to leave yourself in the bank in order to make a particular transfer down the line.
Possibly the biggest difference to other games and the reason why TFF feels so unique is the fact that FA Cup fixtures are included, and your players will score points in those games as well as in the Premier League. This is actually something I completely missed to begin with because it is so far away from what I’m used to playing FPL. While this doesn’t necessarily lead to many more points early in the season due to teams rotating heavily in the cup competitions, it can play a big factor as we move to the later rounds, and stronger starting lineups tend to be used. Last season I had 4 transfers remaining going into the FA Cup final, so was able to bring in lots of Arsenal and Chelsea assets for one final substantial boost up the rankings. Another dynamic of the FA Cup fixtures is that if you are willing to use some of your limited transfers, you can have a few punts on budget-friendly squad players when a Premier League team takes on lower or non-league opposition (Carlos Vinicius scored 17 points against Marine in January).
What I’ve learned from last season strategy-wise in order to get through the season with the limited transfers would be firstly to select a solid team of nailed-on, tried and tested players in Gameweek 1. This might sound obvious, but it should limit the number of transfers required at the beginning to get the team in shape, with no wildcard to fall back on. I’d then recommend using 5-10 transfers in the first 6 or 8 weeks if needed to correct any mistakes and form a team of mostly set and forget players that will serve you well for most of the season. I would then limit my transfers to only really dealing with injuries or out-of-favour players, until reaching the final stretch of the season when you can switch your team around to really capitalise on double gameweeks and FA Cup matches.
I’d very much encourage everyone to give this game a go, and I find I can quite happily play it alongside FPL due to its less time consuming and low maintenance nature. Not to mention the £5,000 prize for the overall winner! Mini leagues are easy to set up, and the leaderboards are updated in real time as the matches progress, making it good for a full matchday experience with your rivals. With half of the current season remaining, it may be a good time to dip in and get to know how it all works before starting properly at the beginning of next season. Good luck to you all, enjoy the rest of the season, and I hope to be doing battle with you at the top of the TFF leaderboard next season.
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