The ABC of Tactics

From Hattrick

The following contents are based on the opinion of Hattrick users — which means that their veracity and accuracy have not been confirmed by any official statement, and consequently they do not necessarily reflect the game reality. Please take this into consideration!

"The ABC of Tactics" is a tactical guide created in 2002 giving new players an introduction into the formation and tactics parts of Hattrick. Right now, this is basically the old page, dumped into wiki format, but at some point I intend to update it. The old static version is no longer hosted, so this is now the original. Unfortunately, the 15 other translations are lost.

/LA-Loko (nowadays user -LLoko- in Hattrick with the team Lund Norra HK and second team Woudtjie-Suid HK)


General[edit]

The purpose of this guide, The ABC of Tactics is to provide a foundation for understanding and mastering the tactical part of Hattrick. Tactical part refers to the part of the game where you from an actual squad and a known opponent select your best formation and tactical orders before a game. This guide is not about trading players or economy, these facets of Hattrick are covered elsewhere here in the Wiki.

Some of the guide's material is covered in other Hattrick Wiki articles, but this guide is intended for start to finish reading, so this is a necessary consequence.

Formations[edit]

Standard formations[edit]

Here's a summary of the standard team formations in Hattrick with their most important variations. The discussions in this section assume that the teams have fairly balanced players, since it's really all about team ratings in the end.


4-4-2, normal

General: This is the standard tactic that's also the one that 99% of all coaches will pick for their first game. It has the advantage that no players need special instructions, thereby you get the maximum performance from all-round type players.

Strengths: Good homogeneous defence, strong attacking wings and a good central attack.

Weaknesses: Weak midfield.

Best counter-tactic: Playing three inner midfielders and defensive wing defenders takes the edge off this tactic, and then attacks are preferrably made on the wings.


4-4-2, 3 inner midfield players

General: A variation of 4-4-2 where position changes leaves you with three inner midfield players at the expense of one winger. This tactic is a very strong defensive alternative for a coach normally using 3-5-2 or 3-4-3.

Strengths: Good homogeneous defence, strong midfield, one strong attacking wing and a good central attack.

Weaknesses: Abandons one attacking wing, not as strong a midfield as the tactics with 5 midfield players.

Best counter-tactic: Since the tactic leaves one wing you can have a weak defence here and also try attacking on this wing. Of course, a skilled opponent will make it difficult for you to guess which wing...


4-3-3, normal

General: One winger moved into the attack

Strengths: Good homogeneous defence, one strong attacking wing, very strong central attack

Weaknesses: Very weak in midfield, abandons one wing

Best counter-tactic: The opponent has a very strong central attack. Use three inner midfield players to stop them from getting so far and pack your defenders into the middle. If you can foresee what wing the opponent will abandon, use that defender in a more central position.


4-3-3, 3 inner midfield players

General: Both wingers are moved into forward position and a forward is pulled back to inner midfield.

Strengths: Good homogeneous defence, very strong central attack, fair midfield

Weaknesses: Abandons both wings

Best counter-tactic: A very central tactic, defend centrally and attack on the wings. Pack the defenders into the center of the pitch.


4-5-1, normal

General: One attacker moved into inner midfield

Strengths: Using strong inner midfield players, this is one of the most solid tactics in the defence. The number of opponent attacks are reduced with a strong midfield and the few occurring attacks are met by a strong homogeneous defence.

Weaknesses: Weak attack, especially in the center

Best counter-tactic: Against this tactic it may be wise strengthening your midfield with an offensive central defender, since the opponents central attack may be weak. It's all about trying to gain control of midfield and attacking on the wings - you'll need a lot of attacks to score.


3-5-2, symmetric/asymmetric defence

General: Symmetric: a central defender moved into midfield. Asymmetric: a wing defender moved into midfield. This is Hattrick's most common formation for a good reason, with its offensive/defensive balance and strong emphasis on midfield. It also lets the manager vary the attack and defence greatly.

Strengths: Very strong midfield and strong attack

Weaknesses: 3 defenders are bound to leave a weak spot somewhere.

Best counter-tactic: Try to attack where the opponent is weak and try to balance your defence against the opposition's attack. Many 3-5-2 coaches play with a winger towards the middle, some are kind enough to always play the same wing into the middle ;). Finally: if you succeed in beating a 3-5-2 team in midfield, the game is practically won...


5-3-2, normal

General: One winger moved into central defence.

Strengths: Very strong central defence, fair central attack.

Weaknesses: Very weak midfield, abandons one attacking wing.

Best counter-tactic: Try to gain possession using three central midfield players. Try attacking on the wings, in the center it's bound to be crowded.


5-3-2, 3 inner midfield players

General: Both wingers moved into central defence, one defender moved up into midfield.

Strengths: Very strong central defence, fair central attack, fair midfield.

Weaknesses: Abandons both wings.

Best counter-tactic: Another very central tactic, defend centrally and attack on the wings. Pack the defenders into the center of the pitch.


3-4-3, normal

General: One defender moved into forward position, the most attacking standard formation.

Strengths: Very strong attack.

Weaknesses: Weak midfield and (similarly to 3-5-2) one weak spot in defence.

Best counter-tactic: Win possession or lose the game, it's as simple as that! Your opponent is very dangerous so try to move play into his half of the pitch. Then adapt your attack according to the advice in the 3-5-2 section.


3-4-3, 3 inner midfield players

General: One defender is moved into midfield position and one winger into the attack. A very strong attacking formation. If you are superior to your opponent, this formation will guarantee a large number of goals and goalscoring opportunities (but you do lose attacking strength on one wing). You might even consider using an offensive wing defender too, to strengthen a wing attack.

Strengths: Very strong central attack and one very strong attacking wing. Strong midfield.

Weaknesses: One weak spot in defence and abandons one wing.

Best counter-tactic: Concentrate your defence on the centre and the attacking wing (if predictable). Try to attack in the weak spot. If you can't control midfield, 4 defenders would be a good idea.


5-4-1, normal

General: One attacker moved into defence.

Strengths: Rock-solid central defence

Weaknesses: Weak midfield and attack, especially the central attack.

Best counter-tactic: Like 4-5-1 it may be a good idea to use an offensive defender. Defend your wings carefully if your opponent doesn't use his wingers towards the middle. Try to win possession and attack on the wings.


5-4-1, 3 inner midfield players

General: One attacker moved into midfield and one winger into central defence. One of the strongest defensive formations in Hattrick.

Strengths: Rock solid defence, strong midfield.

Weaknesses: Weak attack, especially the central attack and the abandoned wing.

Best counter-tactic: The opponent is rather weak in his attacks. Use this to gain control over midfield, an offensive central defender has never been more appropriate. Attack on the wings and prepare for 0-0...

Training safe custom formations[edit]

Unsafe custom formations[edit]

Choosing a Formation[edit]

Studying the summary above might be a good guide to selecting team formations, but there are many factors to consider. This "checklist" may be of some help:

  • Experience is in reality the most governing factor when selecting a formation, resulting in many players selecting one formation and sticking to it for a number of seasons. The most imaginative managers may train up experience on two formations and alter between them and 4-4-2 variations. The experience gives an inertia that makes every formation selection a long term decision. The dependency on experience may be reduced with routine - an experienced team captain can give you the opportunity to change formations far quicker without having team confusion.
  • The coach's preference. It's your choice whether you choose to use your coach's offensive/defensive preference to balance your tactic - i.e. using attacking tactics with a defensive coach and vice versa - or to enforce your tactics - i.e. using an offensive formation with an offensively minded coach and vice versa. Balancing may be used to keep wages low in defence or attack. Enforcement may be used to get a high class attack or defence at a reasonable wage cost.
  • Your players are a classic parameter: "play the cards you're dealt" is a rule many IRL managers live by. This is not the way I would recommend you to act in Hattrick! Pick a formation and buy players that are suited for each position is a far better solution. Having specialized players fitting your formation requirements is definitely the most cost (wage) efficient. Part of the efficiency is reduced since you also need specialized (and hence a few more) reserve players, but that's a small price compared to having a number of all-round players in your squad.
  • Team attitude. When playing MOTS you will hopefully play most of the game on your opponents side of the pitch, a good reason to put more effort into offense. The opposite goes for Play It Cool.
  • The opponent's formation and tactics. Cf. the advice in part 1a.
  • The opponent's squad. The opponent's formation is important, but what you really need to consider are the area grades (the midfield, right side defence etc.), where you clearly can see the weaknesses and threats of your opponent. This also includes player skills. E.g. in my latest league game I played a team with a strong midfield but with a tendency to always use the same formation (there are a lot of those in lower leagues in Sweden). They play 3-5-2 asymmetric and always attack on the same wing and abandons the same side of defence, readily available information from area grades. So I attacked on their weak side and defended their strong wing. In spite of losing possession by 57/54% (away) and having equally strong teams we won 2-0. At home it ended 5-0.
  • Home/away is similar to team attitude. Away you need to strengthen your defence and vice versa.
  • Training type is an important parameter for many managers, one reason for defence training being popular is that the 5-3-2 and 5-4-1 formations allow you to efficiently train 10 defenders at once. The has become even more compelling when the defenders got their wages reduced season 16, but an increased supply will probably also lead to lower prices. I don't select my formation considering training types, bur many managers far wiser than I do.

Since formation experience is so governing you are forced to alter between the formations you have experience of and 4-4-2, but this is enough for beating most evenly matched opponents, good luck!

The Basics of Player Selection[edit]

Player selection must be made knowing what demands each position imposes on the player. The table below simply compiles what is stated in the rules, along with my view on player skill priorities.


Position Most important Second in importance Third in importance
Goalkeeper Keeper
Wingback Defending Winger
Central defender Defending
Offensive central defender Playmaking/stamina Defending
Defensive winger Winger Defending Playmaking/stamina
Normal winger Winger Playmaking/stamina Passing/defending
Offensive winger Winger Playmaking/stamina Passing
Winger towards middle Playmaking/stamina Winger Passing
Inner midfield (off or def) Playmaking/stamina Passing or Defending Defending or Passing
Inner midfield towards wing Playmaking/stamina Winger Passing/defending
Forward Scoring Passing
Defensive forward Playmaking/stamina Scoring Passing
Forward toward wing Winger and Scoring Passing


One comment regarding offensive central defenders and wingers towards the middle: when selecting these individual tactics I mean that you abandon the wing and central defence in order to get a necessary reinforcement of the midfield - therefore I rank playmaking/stamina more important than the main skills of the players for those positions.

I've seen a few comments on the Swedish conference stating things like: "passable stamina is enough for an inner midfield player, it's better to train something else" which I consider plain stupidity. Why only use 70-80% of a player's capacity? Playmaking and stamina work together, a fact that most managers are aware of.

If you have all-round players that may play anywhere; man the positions that you consider the most important first, so that they are provided the best players. In the long run I think you should specialize your squad...

Form is an incredibly important parameter when selecting players. A player in excellent form performs 25-35% more than a player in inadequate form, a player in disastrous form performs 40-50% less than one in inadequate form. More on this in part 2b. Another player characteristic that's becoming more important with Hattrick 6 is experience. If two players seem equally suited for a position to you - pick the player with the most experience.

Player Selection Using Formulas[edit]

OK, so you've seen these rather inexact advice before, but it's quite boring to guess each time and to be unsure whether you really picked the right player. And what where the characteristics of that player that worked so well?

Time to introduce key values: you can once and for all decide how important you consider different skills to be, and then compare players in a straightforward manner. All you need is som basic maths.

The foundation on which key values rely is the enumeration of player skill values (and this is where you realise that solid isn't that much more than passable ;-) ). For the ambitious manager, high/low skill values also need to be considered.

Table here


The next step is to define your key values, and this is where your experience as a Hattrick manager enters. I can only tell you how I do it, and I will exemplify it showing how I assess a forward. Please note that my formulae are tested with players with inadequate-solid skills, and in this interval they work fine. I hope to be able to test on better players in the near future ;)

1. Skills, how important are they? I sum the skills of the forward below. In the formula I usually assume C1=0.25 and C2=0.75 - but you probably know better than I do. C1+C2 should be 1 for convenience.

  • BasicSkillValueForForward = C1*Passing + C2*Scoring

2. How does stamina affect? Here I multiply the skills with a stamina factor, since stamina nowadays affect all skills. (Tip: for inner midfield players the stamina should affect the various skills differently, for playmaking C1 should be lower and C2 higher). I usually set C1=0.95 and C2=0.01 for all skills but for playmaking.

  • SkillValueForForward = BasicSkillValueForForward*(C1 + C2*Stamina)

3. Consider form, it's extremely important. My proposal for a formula is on the same form as stamina consideration. Form is much more important though, so I set C1=0.5 and C2=0.1! But I may be wrong, experiment!

  • CurrentSkillValueForForward = SkillValueForForward*(C1 + C2*Form)

4. Consider experience. I like to use an experienced team to avoid silly defensive mistakes, but since it doesn't affect player skills directly it's certainly not compulsory to consider it a factor when selecting players. Once again the formula is on the same form as earlier formulae, and once more the importance is not that high, so I use C1=0.95 and C2=0.01.

  • KeyValueForForward = CurrentSkillValueForForward*(C1 + C2*Experience)

I still don't consider set pieces since I'm a bit unsure how important long shots are. Special events aren't considered either, perhaps someone has a proposal how to enter those into the equation? OK, it's time for an example from my own squad:


Table here


Most of you can already decide who is better fitted for the job of forward in the next game, but here is how you decide using the equations above.


Table here


So Patrick should play, not Li. If you like, you can translate the values back to the skill values, meaning that Patrick corresponds to a highly solid scorer/passer in inadequate form, inadequate stamina and with inadequate experience. Li on the other hand corresponds to an inadequate (close to passable) scorer/passer in inadequate form, inadequate stamina and with inadequate experience.


Formula Examples[edit]

These are the formulas that I've used since I started playing Hattrick, they've been with me through rule changes, from the players I had to start with to the divine players I have today. They have been tweaked along the way depending on how I wanted to play and should be tweaked by you too. An important thing to know is: I don't have a clue how Hattrick calculates player contributions to the team performance, these are educated guesses combined with my own priorities, nothing else.

When I began, I tried to tweak the formulas to be able to pick the players that would give me the most amount of *-s but since then I've changed them to give me the team rating profile I wanted.

I've used the formulas in an Access application and made sorted results with the best players on top. If you prefer, you can use e.g. Excel to do the maths and then sort the results to help you pick your team. Or, maybe you could persuade your management application developer to include these formulas? Here goes, enjoy!


All Players

The overall - the most important value - is calculated in the same way for all types of players:

  • {overall} = {skills} * (0.625+{form} * 0.075) * (0.95 + {experience} * 0.01)

The difference lies in how the {skills} part of the value is calculated.


Goalkeeper

This is a pretty simple one...

  • {skills} = {goalkeeping}


Central Defender, normal

The defending skill is depending on stamina to a small extent

  • {skills} = {defending} * (0.975 + 0.005 * {stamina})


Central Defender, offensive

When I began using offensive CDs I used the formulas below, lately I've just been using the inner mid formulas since I chose to ignore defense ratings...

Here, you can see how I let stamina affect the different other player properties in different amounts. Playmaking is much more affected by stamina than defending is.

  • {skills} = 0.5 * (0.35 + {stamina} * 0.13) * {playmaking} + 0.5 * {defending} * (0.975 + 0.005 * {stamina})


Inner midfield

Here I started with the formula below...

  • {skills} = 0.70 * (0.35 + {stamina} * 0.13) * {playmaking} + (0.15 * {passing} + 0.15 * {defending}) * (0.975 + 0.005 * {stamina})

... but when I gave up defending I changed to this:

  • {skills} = 0.85 * (0.35 + {stamina} * 0.13) * {playmaking} + 0.15 * {passing} * (0.975 + 0.005 * {stamina})

A defensive minded coach may want to twist the formula the other way around. If you're in a game where midfield rating will be absolutely decisive, feel free to focus only on playmaking, like this:

  • {skills} = 1.00 * (0.35 + {stamina} * 0.13) * {playmaking}


Winger

OK, I admit, I haven't had a real winger for a very long time, this formula is ancient and optimized for the "normal" winger setting to give as many stars as possible with players on 'inadequate' level...

  • {skills} = 0.2 * ((0.35 + {stamina} * 0.13) * playmaking) + (0.2 * {passing} + 0.5 * {winger} + 0.1 * {defending}) * (0.975 + 0.005 * {stamina})


Attacker

After the inner mid and winger formulas, this one is pretty straightforward. All skills are equally affected by stamina and I choose to rate scoring and passing with an 80/20 ratio.

  • {skills} = (0.2 * {passing} + 0.8 * {scoring}) * (0.975 + 0.005 * {stamina})


Bottom line

Note that all literals are my constants, I've thought these formulas through a lot and I thing they are adequate, but the constants are really a matter of preference, try to adjust them.

The observant reader would notice that skills are weighed together with constants that add up to 1.00. The extremely observant reader may even notice that all effects of stamina, experience and form turn into 1.00 if these values are 'inadequate'. That's just how I calibrated the formulas when I began, and it's proven to work pretty well.

For all formulas, all values entered are from the following scale: disastrous = 1, weak = 2, poor = 3 etc. up to divine = 20.


Planning for Special Events[edit]

Individual Orders[edit]

In the table below I sum up facts (basically directly out of the rules) and my own comments on different individual tactics. Please note that all individual tactics are made so that the player performs some percentage below his maximum if they are used, so with one exception (commented below), normal should be your default setting and all deviations from this should be motivated tactically or by the individual player's skills.

Another thing to consider is that all modifications on player skills are relative to their base values. A solid winger is more beneficial to play offensively than a weak winger. Accordingly, it's less serious to weaken an already weak skill than a passable skill. So an excellent winger with disastrous defending has everything to gain from an offensive setting.

Table here

Tactics Settings[edit]

The tactical settings have been around for some time now, and have added quite a lot to the depth of the tactical game. There are opportunities to beat an opponent with superior midfield, something that was quite difficult before the new settings...

Counter Attacks[edit]

The counter attacks setting is probably the most exciting new tactic, but also the most overestimated! It's not the ultimate solution to be used in any game where you don't believe in your own team.

What happens is that you give away some midfield strength (always a bad idea in HT) to get the chance of getting a counter attack each time the opponent attacks and your defence over-powers them.

Use counter attacks only when:

  • you're certain to lose midfield, when you win midfield you will get no counter-attacks (note that midfield strength may vary during a game due to stamina, red cards, injuries and substitutions)
  • your defence is significantly stronger than your opposition's offence, or you will only concede goals
  • your offence is strong enough to take advantage of any counter-attacks created

If you fail to meet any of these requirements, counter attacking is not for you!

People who successfully play counter attacks play previously forgotten tactics like 5-3-2, 5-4-1 (too poor offence in my opinion), 4-4-2, 4-3-3 and even extreme ones like 5-2-3. For extreme counter attack teams midfield is completely omitted so the confusion that comes from 5-2-3 is no problem. But, like I said at first: this is the most over-rated new tactic setting, used without causion you will invite your opponents to easy victories!

Pressing[edit]

This setting is basically for keeping the numbers down in a game. It's not a tactic that will ever get you a victory (OK, occasionally you will get lucky) but a tactic that might get you a draw now and then, and keeps your defeats down. Your players will chase down opponents all over the field and keep the number of scoring opportunities down, effectively eliminating chances that your opponent, or you yourself(!), would have.

Use it when:

  • you are pretty certain to lose otherwise
  • you lose midfield, or you'll be eliminating your own attacks (if your attacks are really poor it may still be a good idea though)
  • your midfield has good stamina, otherwise you will lose possession in second half, granting your opponent more attacks than they would have if you played normal

These are the base requirements, but in order to be really successful you should:

  • have a lot of defensively strong players on the field, line-ups with 4 or 5 defenders are a good idea
  • keep in mind that supporters prefer a team that loses 2-5 to a team that loses 0-1...
  • have high stamina on all players (they all contribute to the pressure)
  • for extra efficiency you may use powerful players, that contribute a lot more to the destruction of play

Attack Directions[edit]

There are two settings here, attacking in the middle (AIM) or on the wings (AOW). They are two sides to the same coin. Attacking in the middle only means that you get slightly more attacks in the center of the pitch and slightly less on the wings. Attacking on the wings works the other way around. The settings do have another drawback though: you lose some defensive strength accordingly! E.g. if you attack in the middle, you will lose some wing defence strength.

The base rule when to use attacking directions is to use it when you have more to gain from the redirection of attacks that you lose due to defence weakening. If you make 1 more goal from the wing that won't do you much good if you concede 2 extra in the weakened mid defence...

Use the attack directions settings when:

  • you have better chances at scoring in the middle (AIM) or on the wings (AOW)
  • you have some possession (if you don't create any chances, there's not much to distribute and you will lose some sorely needed defensive strength), generally you should dominate possession or the defence weakening will cost you too many conceded goals
  • you can afford losing the defensive strength, e.g. if you have an extremely solid defence compared to your opponent's offence, or if you have a high possession

The settings should be decided on a match to match basis, but there's some general cases when they are extra interesting:

  • for teams playing with 3 attackers AIM is often an interesting alternative, unless the opponents have the mid defence to match
  • for teams training wingers and playing them offensively, games with midfield dominance will be candidates for AOW