Although not as much of a gamer as I was several years ago, the genre that I just can’t stay away from is sport manager simulations. The game wanted to discuss today is Buzzerbeater, a basketball manager simulation that I have been playing consistently for a few years now. It is free to join and play.
Buzzerbeater is a game where you take the role of general manager of a basketball team, and try to build them into a winning franchise. Responsibilities include managing finances, drafting and training players, hiring staff, building an arena, setting lineups, and selecting tactics for upcoming games.
Your team will start in a bottom league of your country with 15 other teams. After a 22 game regular season, there is an eight team playoff, and the winner advances to a higher league the following season. To keep managers on their toes (and make room for promoting teams), the four poorest performing teams will be relegated to a lower level league each season. The assumed goal of the game is to build your team in a way that it can promote up to better leagues and still be competitive against stiffer competition.
One season in the game takes about three months in real life including draft, regular season and playoffs. Each season also has its own National Cup tournament, which pits all users of the same country into a giant single elimination tournament with randomly generated matchups each week and a bonus for every round your team advances.
The typical week has two regular season games, one Cup game (or Scrimmage if you’ve already been eliminated from that season’s Cup Tournament), a financial update and a training update. The events are spaced out far enough where you can just check on your team a couple times a week if you want, although there is still more than enough activities (for example, scouting your upcoming opponent, or checking the free agent list for future acquisitions) to keep managers who prefer to log in every day busy.
Variety of goals and strategies. As with any good sports manager sim, there is a required balance between building your team for the future, winning now, and managing finances and every manager will focus slightly differently in any given year. Some managers will be dedicated to promoting from their league immediately, others will put a preference on trying to win the National Cup Tournament, while others are concentrating their team’s resources on developing a future superstar. There are 10 offensive and 7 defensive tactics that can be selected for each individual game that varies in focus (outside vs inside) and pace. With this variety, managers can build their teams around specific styles of play, or try to make a more balanced team that keeps opposing managers guessing.
Training can be fun and rewarding. Training can be as much or as little a part of the game as you want, but I think one of the more fun aspects of the game is to draft a player and then help train him into a future cornerstone of your team. You get to customize the skills that they train each week, so you can try to build players that fit with your style. Managers who are willing to spend more of their team’s budget and game minutes toward training one specific promising player, may have that player selected to their country’s Junior National Team (all players under 21) or National Team. This is an example of a side goal that some managers will have that keeps the gameplay varied and interesting over the long term.
Realistic game engine. I find the game engine to be very realistic. Statistics and game results seem appropriate based on skill level, effort, and game tactics, among other factors. You can watch the (text based) play by play of games in real time, and it describes the action well.
Active community. There is a great community of active users that use the forums that are willing to help newer players, answer questions, or just socialize.
Challenging without being frustrating. Although advancing from your first league isn’t that difficult, it gets progressively tougher against strong teams with active managers in higher leagues. My team has played for 18 seasons, and is still one promotion away from the highest league in the US.
Training is illogical. Even though it is still one of my favorite parts of the game, some of the logic behind the training is questionable, and can frustrate some managers. Players require 48 minutes of playing time per week (out of 3 full games) to get the full effect of training that week, and the minutes have to come from a particular position. For example, if you want your young guard to get better at rebounding, you will have to play him at center for 48 minutes that week. These limitations lead teams to playing players out of position or without substitutions. It’s a bit of a nuisance and is unrealistic compared to actual basketball, but I’ve accepted it as a rule of the game, it’s never bothered me too much.
Free agent auctions can be time consuming. To acquire a new player, you need to place a bid on an available free agent and the highest bidder at the end of the auction signs the player. If a bid is placed in the last three minutes of an auction, then the timer will be reset for an extra three minutes. Without getting into details, typically you either need to vastly overpay to scare off any competition for that player, or you need to be at your computer near the end of the auction, which can extend for quite a while if several people are bidding at the same time.
The pace is slow. It is a sports sim and management strategy game, so I think that is too be expected for people interested in the genre, but it can still be a good or bad depending on what you’re looking for in your gaming experience. Overall, it is a slow paced game where there are only two regular season games per week and each season takes about three months of real time to complete. There are enough other actions to do in between games to keep managers involved, but there isn’t the pressure where you have to log on every day if you don’t want to.
Honestly, I haven’t found a better free online sports simulation. I’ve been playing for 18 seasons of game time and am probably more into it now than when I started. If you enjoy this genre, and don’t mind the slow pace, I would definitely recommend trying out Buzzerbeater.
Disclosure: I have no affiliation with promoting this game other than being a long-time member who would like to spread the word of this entertaining simulation and see the member base grow even further.