Foosball is an exciting, soccer-based table game that can be played and enjoyed by people of all ages. The object is to use your 13 figures ("men") to score goals by rotating and sliding the rods to which they are affixed in order to maneuver the ball around the playing field. The most successful foosball players utilize a combination of skill, strategy, and lightning-fast reflexes to help them win games, rather than relying solely on the brute force of high-velocity shots. If you want to give this game a try, follow the basic rules listed below.
- Choose a game format. There are several different variations of foosball, so be sure that you and your opponent(s) are in agreement about which version of the game you will be playing. Singles and doubles matches are the most common, but you might also want to try four-on-four matches that involve four players per team, with each player controlling a single rod; goalie wars in which only the goalie and defender rods are used; forward shootouts, in which players take turns shooting the ball with their striker rods; or two-ball rollerball games in which two balls are simultaneously put into play.
- Determine which player gets the first serve. In official tournaments the first serve is decided by a coin flip. A coin flip is generally accepted as an objective way to start foosball games taking place in any venue under any circumstances, and should always be used when you are playing against opponents that you don't know very well. This will help lessen the chances of disagreements arising later on. The winner of the coin flip can either opt to serve first or can choose the side of the table he prefers to play on, with the remaining option falling to his opponent.
- Put the ball into play. The serve is made by pushing the ball through the serving hole, located at the center of the side wall. You may try to manually spin the ball on the serve to get it to move in a particular direction, but may not put either of your hands inside the playing area to do so. Neither player may hit the ball until it touches down on the playfield.
- Score some goals. You get one point whenever the ball goes into your opponent's goal, regardless of which player actually struck the ball last. In addition, if a ball goes into the goal and subsequently bounces back out, it still gets counted as a point. After a goal is scored, the player scored upon gets to serve the ball back into play. The first player to score five goals wins the game, and it's not necessary to win by two points (e.g. a final score of 5-4 is acceptable).
- Keep the game moving along. Although you're allowed to try to get your men into position by taking a bit of time to set them up, you cannot hold the ball indefinitely in order to do so. The time limit for keeping the ball on a two- or three-man rod is 15 seconds, while the limit on the five-man rod is 10 seconds. If you violate this rule, you must give up possession of the ball to your opponent.
- Be a good sport. In addition to the rules that cover general gameplay, foosball has several rules governing player conduct. For example, you are not allowed to spin your rods (i.e. rotate them more than 360 degrees) in order to get extra velocity on a shot or pass, nor are you allowed to distract your opponent by spinning or banging rods that are not involved in the current play. In addition, you may not move or jar the table in any manner during the game. Violating any of these rules can result in various penalties.