This game is new on Facebook and may well need a sub-forum of its own. This is an early version of an FAQ about the game. [Note to moderators: It would look nicer with headings in bold and italic, but your forum software thinks those are links and won't let me as a first-time poster post them!]
What is this game?
It's a football (soccer) management game. You organise a football team; it plays matches against other teams; you try to get your team to do well enough to get promoted to a higher league.
It's a multiplayer game; in the early stages you'll play against AI teams created to fill up the lower divisions, but if you get promoted, you'll find that almost all your matches are against teams managed by other people on Facebook.
Is it free to play?
It's a freemium game, meaning that it is free to play, but you can buy advantages using real money.
Is it a game where non-paying players genuinely have a chance to win?
Yes, but more slowly than paying players.
Is it one of those multiplayer games where you have to be logged in almost all the time to do really well?
No, thankfully. There are some gameplay advantages in watching matches when your team plays, but that happens only 3 times per day, and takes a few minutes each time. You may also want to log in regularly if you're monitoring or bidding on the transfer market or in the early stages of building up your team's skills.
How about a beginner's guide?
When you first register, you will be given a team that is already playing in League Five (i.e the lowest division). Specifically, you'll be given the team that is in fifth place in the division (you're taking over an AI team, in effect). Each football season lasts 2 weeks; your team will be promoted if it is in the top 5 at the end of the season. You are given a budget of $30 million to spend, and 30 gold bars.
You can improve your team by training individuals; by training the whole team; and by buying (and selling) players in the transfer market. And you can change your team's formation and/or tactics. Each of these five activities has its own subsection below.
You can also improve your team's finances by increasing ticket prices, at the expense of attendance, and by signing a sponsorship contract. You should do both of these immediately. In League Five, the sponsorship contract that gives you extra gold is recommended. As for ticket prices, put them at or close to the point where you get maximum income. (Click on the 'Home' icon at the bottom to change ticket prices).
Then you wait for your team to play matches. If you are logged in to watch the match live, your team gets a 5% possession bonus. It no longer allows you to make manual substitutions, though you can set up a list of substitutes beforehand. You "watch" a match by watching the commentary ... you may recognise the style from other football management simulator games.
League Five has 20 teams, so you play 38 matches in the season (about 3 per day) and then there's a day off at the end of the season, when half your players seem to want their contracts renewed. Leagues Four and Three (and presumably Two and One) have 14 teams, so you play 26 league matches in the season (2 per day). There's also a Cup competition, with each round played over two legs (home and away). Extra time and penalties do not seem to be implemented in the Cup; if the scores are level after two legs, including away goals, Star Manager simply chooses one team as the winner (I think it uses an incorrect variant of the away goals rule -- it simply chooses the team that was playing away from home in the second leg).
There's no prize for winning the league, but there is a (game) cash prize for winning the Cup. For both the League Four and League Two Cups, the prize is $9 million.
The highest you can go is to League One. The Champion's League works like another Cup competition, with groups and then a knock-out stage.
You train individuals by selecting the 'Trainings' button at the bottom of the main screen. You have a choice of Stretching; Tactical Training; Training match; or Resting (the default).
To train the entire team, click on one of the three 'training' buttons. If you decide that a player has had enough training, click on the green circle to the left of his name; it will turn white and he won't participate in any further training.
Every player has a set of statistics that describe his skills. There are 15 skills in all. You will see the average skill score displayed next to a player's name -- at the start of the game, most of the scores will be between 43 and 45. Training improves one of those 15 skills by an *average* of 10-30% (i.e. 10-30% of a single point of improvement, chosen randomly), depending which training method you use. How far above or below average the player's gain is depends almost entirely on age; the younger they are, the more they gain.
You can also hire a 'personal trainer' for a player, which means they will immediately reach their "maximum potential". This option costs close to 100 gold bars per player, and is therefore only available to those who pay to play.
Training the whole team
Go to the 'My Team' screen and select the rightmost of the five icons above the pitch. You are presented with a list of six defensive skills. Choose one (any one) right away and click the plus sign to the right. This will upgrade that skill from level 0 to level 1 for the whole team.
Now go one icon to the left (it looks like two intersecting arrows). Click this and you'll see a similar chart for attacking skills. Select one of these (you can train one attacking skill and one defensive skill simultaneously) and start training it.
It takes 5 minutes to train a skill from 0 to 1, 10 minutes from 1 to 2, and 20 minutes from 2 to 3. This means that you should be able to get every skill up to level 3 in under four hours.
The transfer market
Transfers are one of the most exciting aspects of any football manager game, and also the biggest shortcut for people looking for a quick win. It's no different in Star Manager.
There are two lists of players available. One, the 'Scout' list, is exclusively available to those with 40-60 gold bars to spend (i.e. those who pay to play); in League Five, it contains players with average skills between 50 and 60. However, even paying players would be advised to avoid this list and to spend their cash elsewhere (see under 'Strategy' below).
The other list shows numerous players who have been put up for auction, either by the AI or by other human players. Each player has a name, nationality, age, position, and numeric rating. The name and nationality have no effect on the game. The age affects how quickly they improve their skills through training, and therefore affects their value; younger players cost more.
The most important statistics are their skill rating and their position. Each player in the team will have one or two positions in which they play best. If you play them out of position, a small warning icon will appear, and I presume that the match engine downrates their skills somewhat. So what you really want to do is to buy a player with a high skill rating who can play in the position(s) where you want to play him in your formation.
If you want to buy a player in the transfer market, place a bid. Doing so costs you 1 gold bar. If the auction ends with you as the only bidder, you have won. If at least one other person bids, the auction will go to a second round which lasts for 1 minute after the first round ends. If zero or one person bid in the second round, the highest bidder to date wins; if two or more bid, a third bidding round ensues, lasting 30 seconds. Each new bid costs you 1 more gold bar. This process repeats as long as two or more people are crazy enough to keep spending gold bars; the longest auction I have seen reached round 9.
There is almost no point in placing more than one bid in a single round of bidding; one bid is enough to qualify you for the next round. The only time it's worth doing is if you are unable to be online during the second and subsequent rounds of bidding, and you want to enter what you hope will be a winning bid in advance. [Good luck with that - you should expect to lose the auction 9 times out of 10 in the lower leagues!]
There's a bit more about the transfer market under 'Strategy' below.
What is the best team formation? Right now, I don't know. I'm playing 3 teams at present, all using different formations, and with some of them occasionally forced into really quite unusual formations due to injury (I played 6-4-0 once, and still won).
I can't say that any one formation is definitely better than another; but if you watch the commentary carefully, you'll notice that your players in the centre of the pitch get more mentions than the other players. So packing the centre of the pitch might be advantageous.
[N.B. I get to play three teams because I have three Facebook accounts. There is no way for one team to help another in this game so I'm not cheating!]
[N.B.N.B. Strictly speaking, there are two ways for one team to help another, but they are both very minor. One is to try to lose a game played between the two teams by putting out your worst players; the other is, if the two teams are in different leagues and the higher team wants to sell a player who no-one else wants to buy, the lower team could choose to buy that player. Neither of these apply to any of my teams.]
Again, I don't know what the best team tactics are, except to make obvious statements such as "if your team is getting lots of yellow and red cards, ease off on the tackling"! Also, some of the tactics dovetail with certain skills that can be trained in team training.
You'll notice quickly that it's really hard to buy a decent striker in the transfer market. The reason seems to be simple; everyone wants them in their team. It's compounded by the fact that any unsold (AI) players are simply recycled back into the market, so once the first wave of strikers have been sold, strikers become few and far between in the transfer listings, which means even more intense competition for the few that are still available.
This means that a sensible strategy is to pick a formation that has only one striker!
N.B. It's also pretty difficult to pick up central midfielders, centre backs and goalkeepers, again because practically every team wants them.
* Squad and Injuries:
You are allowed 21 players in your squad -- 11 in the team, 7 substitutes and 3 reserves. This means that you will struggle to have more than one squad player as back-up for each position on the pitch.
In most football manager games, players economise on goalkeepers because they are much less likely to get sent off, or injured, than other players. DO NOT do this in Star Manager ... I actually find my goalkeepers commit MORE fouls than the other players. And since the main source of injuries is training rather than matches (I find that if I train my squad through about 70% stamina, I'll usually lose one player to injury), they're just as likely to get injured as other players.
You can speed players back from injury, but you can only do this a limited number of times without spending real money, so I save it for major emergencies (like not having a fit goalkeeper for my next match).
* When to Bid in the Transfer Market:
Do you bid for a player 20 minutes in advance? Or wait until the last second?
If I'm short of gold bars, I will often wait until almost the last second to bid. That way, if a large number of other bidders come in for him, I simply don't bid and don't waste my gold.
If, however, the target footballer has already been bid on and you have enough gold for a bidding battle, it's better to bid well in advance. This is because the player who is leading the bidding at the end of Round 1 will often choose not to bid in Round 2, hoping that their bid will prevail because all those people who bid long ago have lost interest or are offline. If yours is the only bid in Round 2, you will win; and if you make your bid during the last couple of seconds of the round, other players have no time to respond.
If you are the highest bidder at the end of Round 1, you should make an extra bid during Round 2 to avoid being caught in the above situation.
* What can you get if you spend real money?
You can buy game cash; gold bars; medical treatments; morale boosters; or stamina revivers. These will allow you to buy better players in the transfer market, or to improve the condition of your existing players.
In practice, you don't need any extra resources while you're in League Five. As long as you manage your gold bars carefully, the $30 million that you start the game with is plenty to buy you a decent squad (i.e. where most players have skills between 45 and 49).
However, when you get to League Four, the game changes. In real football, a team that gets promoted keeps the majority of its squad, and just buys two or three new high-class players. But in Star Manager, the transfer market for League Four players offers players whose skill rating is between 50 and 60! That means that the your very best player from last season is worse than the worst player for sale in the transfer market -- unless you bought through a scout last season, and even that player will be no more than average this season.
So what you really want to do is to change your entire squad. But the average price of a player is now about $12 million, and you start the season with just under $30 million extra in your coffers. plus a squad and/or cash worth $30-$50 million (depending how good your starting squad was). Which is where having an Abramovich-load of game cash -- and some extra gold bars, because you don't get any new gold bars at the start of the second season -- would come in handy.
This big jump in skill levels between Leagues is the biggest incentive for people to pay to play. But the benefits gained by pay-to-play players are restricted by the sheer cost. Buying 20 new players at an average cost of $12 million costs $240 million in game cash; deduct around $40 million for selling your existing squad and that leaves $200 million, which will cost you 20 British pounds to buy (plus an extra few pounds for gold). And that's for League FOUR; in League Three you start the season with $40 million (and, hopefully, a valuable squad) but the average player price is $24 million.
The average transfer market price doubles for each league, which a complete squad change for every league would cost almost 200 pounds sterling. That's a heck of an expensive computer game.
Of course, if you don't pay to play, it is going to take you a long time to save up $200 million in game cash, if you're getting $30 million per season. You'll get to the same point as a pay-to-play player eventually, but much more slowly. (Or you may get promoted first, and need to double your budget...).
What happens is practise is that teams economise by not buying a full squad, and by buying older players. But when you reach the highest level of the transfer market (available only to players who have qualified for the Champions League), the very lowest price players are just under $40 million each.
Is the game bug-free?
Er, no. I am actually running three teams at present, and I play one exclusively in Google Chrome; one in Opera; and one in Internet Explorer (version 11). I have found the following bugs so far. I should point out that all these bugs were found during the first 2 seasons (4 weeks) of play. Season 2 finished a day earlier than Season 1, possibly for a serious software upgrade. I'll add comments about which bugs still persist.
Team Training bug: does not update properly, and offers you the chance to re-do training you have just done. This one is particularly common in IE. A simple page refresh fixes it. [Still exists, but I think it's an IE problem]
Team Training Database bug: on one occasion early in the game, two of my teams had all their defensive team training achievements wiped to zero. I waited a day or two before re-training to see if it was a database bug that would be fixed centrally, but no. Oddly, it was the teams I registered first and third that lost the data; the second-registered team kept it. [Only seen once]
Auction bug: One player I bought was recorded as having been bought six times and I was charged for him four times, leaving my team with an impressive overdraft. I reported this one by clicking 'Feedback' at the very bottom of the screen, and the game cash was refunded swiftly. [Only seen once]
Auction bug: I bid on one player with 2 seconds left -- I was the only bidder -- but the system told me my bid had been recorded but had been outbid (and there was no second round). However, when I came back an hour later, the player was in my squad and the money had been deducted from my bank balance. [Seen twice]
Auction bug: I found that I could not sell one player-- the system would not let me put him on the transfer market! It was because his surname was Dell'Anno and the apostrophe was confusing the transfer market program. I paid 2 gold bars to change his name to Dellanno, and he went up for sale quite happily. [PLayers with apostrophe names seem to have vanished]
Auction bug/feature: If you buy a player at auction when you already have 21 players in your squad, one of two things may happen (in my experience); you will simply fail to get the player (the gold bars for bidding will be deducted, but your game cash won't -- Opera); or the player will appear in your squad but will be greyed out and you will be unable to do anything with him until you get rid of someone else from your squad (IE).
Match engine bug: I have had a goal scored against me by a player who had previously received a red card. [Bug has been seen in Season 3]. In general, red cards seem to have remarkably little effect in the game ... in one game that I couldn't log in to watch (or make substitutions), my goalkeeper was sent off in the 20th minute, and my team still won 7-0. [Still exists]
Also, I have had a player score a goal for me after I have substituted him off the field. [Manual substitutions during a match are no longer possible in Season 3].
Match engine bug/feature: Sometimes goals will be scored with no accompanying commentary at all -- this often seems to happen just after commentary on something else e.g. a yellow card. [Still exists]
Conversely, on rare occasions a goal will be announced by the commentary but not registered by the scoreboard. I've only seen this happen twice, and the second time, it was compensated for by a commentary-less goal (from the same player) on 90 minutes.
Match commentary: The spelling betrays that the author is not a native English speaker, notably "you can here the crowd whistling," and "a frow-in for the home team." I also rather like the item on the Finance screen for "Stuff wages". [Still exists]