Jul 23

Using philosophy in the new tactics system


First of all, apologies for a lack of an update last week. I could make excuses about family pets dying, office deadlines or working hard on other projects, but then I would be a liar. I’ve given myself a slap on the wrists and will endeavour to be more organised in the future.

Right. The new Tactical Interface. I promised last time that I would start to explain how the thing actually worked. Then I realised that most of this would probably be:

a) Irrelevant, since most people just want to use it and get playing
b) Boring, since most people don’t give a damn about sliders and check boxes
c) Difficult, since everything in the system affects something else
d) Long, and therefore a combination of the previous three points.

So, I thought I’d concentrate a couple of focussed articles on parts of the tactical interface which have raised the most questions, and then move on in a couple of weeks to reading the match engine, statistics, etc, and how to get the most out of the system. This week, I thought I’d explain Philosophy, since this is perhaps the most difficult to explain but the one that has quite a lot of impact on the way the team plays.


As we know, this has 5 settings ranging from Very Rigid through to Very Fluid. But what do these mean, and most importantly how does this work in the game?

First of all, philosophy only controls the mentality slider. Contrary to some chats I’ve overheard, it has nothing to do with creative freedom. It controls the mentality so as to either allow players to move in and out of each other and be freer to ignore their prescribed positions on the tactics board, or keeps them more rigidly defined in their stratum (i.e., defence, midfield, attack). That is, it gives freedom over position, whereas creative freedom gives freedom over passing, dribbling and other such “creative” aspects.
Once this philosophy is set, the individual mentalities of the players will move higher or lower depending on the strategy (attack, defend, counter, etc.).

So what are the differences? Well, the very fluid system employ something akin to “global” mentality settings: that is, most of the players are on the same mentality. This is great for teams who like to attack and defend as a unit, with full backs and wingers changing at will and giving the players freedom to do what they think is best. The gap between the lowest mentality of the team and the highest is small, and this is useful for free-flowing sides with excellent technical skill and intelligence. For the very rigid system, the players are spaced out (in terms of mentality) according to their role and position, creating a sort of “staggered” effect. A central defender will be set to most defensive, then the full back a little higher, a central midfielder a little higher than that, then a winger and so on. The gap between the back and the front is much higher, but this staggered effect means the players know exactly what their positional role is in relation to the others and helps keep a much more focussed team shape. This can be useful for defensive sides or sides with little intelligence or creativity.

Of course, there is no guarantee that a top side will play best with a very fluid system or a bad side with a very rigid one. These are just the concepts which are employed. If you think defensive shape is a major issue, it might be worth becoming more rigid. If you think the team aren’t being free-flowing enough, it might be time to give them a little more freedom in this regard.

Centre Back “Issues”

One of the side effects of this is that many have complained that defenders’ mentalities are “too high”. This is a question of personal preference, but there is a reason why you might not necessarily want your defenders on the lowest possible mentality and the attackers on the highest.

First, it is crucial to any shape that there are not huge gaps between the lines of defenders, midfielders and attackers. It is useless when attacking because it reducing simple passing options and opportunities for movement to receive and distribute balls. People get isolated. In defence, it allows the opposition to play in the gaps between the lines and allows them to retain possession and set about creating openings.

Much as you don’t want your full backs glued to the touchlines and the central defenders spaced equally in between, you don’t want you centre back glued to the goal line and your striker on the shoulder of the last defender and the midfield spaced in between.

However, there is another reason. Players with mentality closer together communicate better. This is because a defender may think the team are playing defensive, and therefore is more likely to boot the ball away, be over cautious and drop very deep. His defensive colleague at right back, however, may be told to attack – so he is playing balls with a view to retain possession, split the opposition’s defence and is bombing forward when able. To retain possession and keep team cohesion, it is much better to keep the gaps of mentality low. And if you’re attacking hard with your attackers, it necessitates a reasonably high mentality for the defenders too. As Richard Claydon said in the podcast (and I paraphrase), “it’s like taking the team into one room and telling them to attack, and then taking the defenders into another room and telling them to park the bus”.

That’s not to say putting defenders on very low mentality is “wrong”. There is no “wrong” way to play the game, and if it’s getting you results then stick with it. I am merely explaining why Philosophy works in the way it does.

Hope that helps clarify a few things.

Written By Gareth Millward
"Millie" is a long-standing member of the FM community and a co-founder of Gameworld One.Com. As part of FM-Britain, he was a contributor to TT&F and involved with the new tactical interface in FM2010.
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  • Jason Smith

    My counter example to this and an area where I think the TT&F as applied to FML needs improvement is goalkeeper mentality. It seems that the engine will push up the attacking mentality slider on him as well.

    I played for a few hours or so like this and let in 3 goals where the keeper got out of his area and then got tackled or bodged a pass and then got chipped/had a shot blasted from an angle past him. This seemed to keep on happening (and had never done so before with that keeper), so I used the advanced instructions to peg him back and it stopped happening.

    I am not sure the keeper participating in build up should be key to a successful attacking tactic.

  • I don't tend to change my philosophy. But if you want to change things up and aren't too sure where the issues lie, I would consider it. In general the more bite I needed in attack the more fluid I'd go, and vice-versa, but it's obviously a lot more complicated than that.

  • Not a single mention of Plato ? :(

    Seriously though, one big question i have with this area. Is this something you would consider changing mid-match ?

    Example if i want to hold onto to 1-0 lead with 20mins to go should i consider a more rigid philosophy to be part of my defensive changes ?

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