What are the LLM/LLaMa Guidelines and Ethos?
Lower League Manager --- LLM --- LLaMa
Keith @ lowerleaguemanager forum
LLM subforum @SiGames forums (defunct)
Unfortunately i'm unable to credit the correct individuals as this is an accumulation of guidelines I started collecting when first setting out on my own LLM journey in the mid 2000's. The first of which I copied to a floppy disk in my local library as I was unable to afford the internet at home at the time. I distinctly remember printing out the guidelines and storing them in a ring-binder to refer back to. Heady times indeed. If anyone wants anything removed or credited just let me know.
Making this site has been a labour of lockdown love and has kept me busy so hopefully I haven't put any noses out of joint with the hosting of the guidelines here.
What is the LLM / LLaMa Way of Playing Football Manager?
The idea behind LLM is that players of the Football Manager (and previously Championship Manager) series of games attempt to play in the most realistic way possible within the confines of the game.
What this means is that the player starts out with a team from the lowest playable league in a given country. Countries with just one league can be considered for LLM only if the standard is not too high (e.g. the Hong Kong Premier League). The one league nations of USA, Australia and Peru are covered on this website in the league overview section and within the LLM random team Picker but are considered by most LLaMas to be to high a starting point to be suitable for LLM.
In lesser one league countries it is important that the team you choose is not one of the top teams in that league (e.g. Eastern SC or Kitchee in Hong Kong from the previous example), as they are not considered suitably challenging. If in doubt you can always ask the Grey, RED or BLUE Llamas to choose a team for you.
Furthermore, the challenge of an LLM game is not to 'win everything', but simply to undertake a career with all the ups and downs that would be expected within the real football world. In fact, many LLMers (commonly called LLaMas) hold those who fail spectacularly in higher regard than those who succeed.
If the worst happens and you get sacked, simply apply for another job with another club when one becomes available. Of course, if you do win stuff, that's all good, but it is not the 'point' of the game.
You'll find the feeling of satisfaction if you finally do win some silverware or get a hard fought promotion all the greater if you play this way.
Advice and Tips
Further to this philosophy, real managers do not swap tactics, strategic tips, or give advice to other managers on what players to buy. Therefore it is expressly forbidden for LLMs to share their tactics with anyone else, or to use someone else's tactics, or even to give advice or tips to another manager.
Most tactics advice around the internet tends to be the kind that aim to "beat the game" rather than replicate real tactics. There is nothing stopping you however reading real world tactical analysis such as "Inverting the Pyramid by Jonathan Wilson" and trying to interpret that into your own saves.
Training regimes also fall under this restriction too. Likewise, in LLaMa online forums, player naming of any kind is also forbidden (this rule extends to former players too, or even 'not real' players).
The reason for this complete ban on naming is due to the 'floodgate' scenario. If a newbie sees a player name, regardless of whether the player is current or made up, they may think that it is ok to name their own players and we get a flood of player naming. The easiest way around this is to forbid any naming.
Real life managers do not have use of a 'Player Search' button, so this feature of the FM games is not allowed in a LLM game. Instead using scouts is the method you use to discover players. It is not the only way, however - if you play a team and a player catches your eye, then scout him.
If you hear a media report about a player and like what you hear, scout him. Send your scouts on missions (using SWYCT - see below).
Regardless of how the player came to your attention, no player can be purchased without first having had the once over by your scouts (of course, you do not have to listen to their advice however).
Because most lower league teams do not have the finances to send scouts all over the world, the Scout Where You Can Tour (SWYCT) rule is generally taken as the best way to decide where you can send your scouts. At the beginning of the season you can send your players on a friendly tour.
The game restricts where you can go, depending on your level and finances. This is seen as the most realistic way of deciding where you can afford to send your scouts to.
Don't worry about the future; as your club becomes bigger or should you get a job at a bigger club, then your touring options will expand to suit. If you are managing a club in Continental Europe, South America or Asia then it is also acceptable to scout countries which border yours.
It is worth noting that recent changes in the world of Football Manager since this guideline was first written have made this less of an issue but there are some anomalies, so it's worth checking where you can tour and bearing it in mind none the less.
If in doubt another good way to check is to look at the previous clubs of your current players. This will give you an idea of the kind of places that players should be realistically signed from.
Staff should always be signed through adverts in the job centre. In years gone by this method produced mixed results but in more recent releases the feature has improved greatly and will provide a great number of candidates.
It is clearly more realistic to sign a member of staff that has applied for the role than looking through a large list that a manager would not normally have access to.
This may of course mean that you'll have to sack or release a member of staff before you can put an advert in the job centre but these are the difficult and realistic decisions that a manager has to make.
The Spawn of Satan
Finally, in order to maintain fairness in our games, any use of editors, alterations to the database or third party updates are strictly forbidden. The game must be played as is out of the box, plus any official patches or updates only.
I trust this rule needs no explanation as it is fairly obvious that use of such would/could seriously unbalance the game. Graphics or real competition name fixes are acceptable as long as they don't change any data in the game itself.
Credit - Keith @ lowerleaguemanager forum
Further LLM Guidelines
The guidelines in this section are added by myself due to observations in the more recent versions of the game. Please note the following has not been peer reviewed by the LLM community and is purely my own interpretation.
Team Comparison Screen
A relatively new feature that allows you to see how your teams attributes look compared to sides in the same division.
I see this as being wholly unrealistic to be told definitively that your team is the best/worst at any given attribute and be able to tell at a glance what the average is across the league. If you are at a professional team then you can hire an analyst and then this feature would be realistic. At semi-pro and amateur level avoid like the plague.
Want to know how you compare to the other teams in your division? Send a scout to watch them.
In the most recent versions of FM this can be found in the analysis tab.
Use of Custom Skins
The sheer number of high quality custom skins is mind boggling and are a great addition to the community. Unfortunately from an LLM perspective some of these modded skins can give you more information than you would realistically have.
I recently downloaded a skin I liked the look of and was horrified to find that it had added a panel to the player profile page that told you all of the players hidden attributes and even their overall current ability rating. If in doubt, stick to the original skin however I have listed LLaMa friendly ones in the graphics section.
As you can see from the screenshot my recommendation is the always excellent Rensie Skin. Clean and simple, adds panels for small stadiums and essential items only. I've been using it for years.
Unfortunately Rensie stopped making his skin after FM22 so my current reccomendation would be the TATO skin
It's perfectly acceptable to trial players during the off season, after all its what a lot of real life lower league clubs do, but try to avoid gaming the system by trialling massive amounts of players. It's highly unrealistic to bring in 50+ players on trial at a time so try to avoid doing so.
Short of a right back and a striker? By all means trial for positions you are short in, but as mentioned, avoid the temptation to trial en-mass and look to mainly offer trials players that you've scouted previously or at least give them the once over with your scouts before you do.
When managing at semi pro/Amatuer level the One Hour Rule would also apply.
One Hour Rule
This is something I abide by and I know a fair few other LLaMas do too. Primarily used when starting at part time/amateur sides, this involves only signing players within an hours drive of your club (possibly half an hour for amateur).
The method for determining this would be to look at the birthplace of the player and also how local to yours their current/previous clubs are.
Your own players history is also a great way to gauge what transfer moves are viable. For example I have often started with Stalybridge Celtic in the English sixth tier who are based in the Greater Manchester area.
A quick look at my own players history shows that they have quite often played for other clubs in the locality (Ashton, FC United etc) and often have been released from larger clubs like Man Utd, Oldham etc.
It is worth remembering however that if your club has regularly signed players from much greater distances in the past then you know it's realistic to cast your net further afield.
The 'one hour' aspect is fairly arbitrary but it's a good yardstick of how far a player would travel to earn a few hundred pounds.
The following tool does the hard work for you. Simply enter the name of your club/town and set the time to an hour and choose car as mode of transport.
Use Of Additional/Expansion Leagues in LLM
You'll notice the addition of extra leagues is not mentioned in the guidelines above. One reason is the fact that the guidelines were written a long time ago and the other is that to do so involves use of the editor which falls under the “Spawn Of Satan” guideline.
The use of these leagues poses an interesting question as the lower league management style definitely lends itself to adding more lower leagues however there are problems with this as I will now outline.
Be aware though that this is the opinion of the9llamas and we don't speak for the LLaMa community as a whole.
There's no getting around it, the use of additional leagues in FM is a real bone of contention for people who follow the Llama ethos and way of playing.
On the face of it additional leagues that take the game lower into non-league football should be a godsend to a way of playing that prides itself on navigating the murky backwaters of far flung leagues, however there is a reason why use of the editor in any shape or form is dubbed "The Spawn of Satan" outlined here at lowerleaguemanager.xyz:
"But what's that, you've found an error in the game that needs to be corrected? No! Once you start using the editor you won't stop. It's best if you just forget that it even exists, put up with the error, and let the official FM researchers know so they can correct it for the next update. Llamas do not use unofficial updates because these can be biased and/or incorrect. They can also make your save-game less stable and more prone to crashing. This is especially undesirable for a LLM game, as they tend to be long term, which could increase the likelihood of an error occurring."
I agree with this whole-heartedly, my only argument is to do with the use of league add-ons. The guideline was written with the idea of cheating in mind which in my opinion under-plays the amount of effort put in to make these expansions realistic.
I personally like to occasionally play with league add-ons especially in leagues that I know like England. As long as it is only the league structure that is added on and thoroughly tested, I personally don't see a problem.
Any league expansion that I would use I would extensively test with a holiday save for at least 10 seasons to ascertain the integrity of it and so that I could check for any glaring issues and would contact the creator to check that no changes have been made to any player data.
The community making expansion leagues has been around for well over a decade now and some of these updates are works of art. The creator’s commitment to realism in some cases is incredible.
Of course the use of these expansions is up to the individual but you may find that when first starting out your LLM journey that the game comes with more than enough leagues already.
Reviewing Expansion Leagues
I always try to look for locally created databases, done by a single editor who is dedicated to a league or country. Megapacks look good on the surface but the chances are that the updater has spread themselves too thin and it can compromise realism.
With that in mind I tend to get my own expansion databases from local makers, think fmbrasil.com for your Brazilian add-on etc.
Another great place is the dedicated Editors hideaway at the official SiGames Forums the benefit of this is that you can see other users feedback and check the progress of the development.
Below is a link to my reviews of expansion leagues and further explanation of the methodology used to determine how "LLaMa friendly" an update is.
If you do want to play with expansion leagues and write about your exploits there is an LLM-But...With Leagues Added section for such saves at the Lower League Manager Forums. (all other posting rules still apply)
· Start in the lowest league of a nation
· Set your coaching badges to at least National C or use the recommended tickbox
· Use only your own tactics
· Use only your own training schedules
· Use Scouts to find players not the player search function
· Only sign staff through the job centre
· Always use the original game database
· No exploiting of the game – play realistically
· No reloads (save scumming)
· No outside help (Good player guides, tactics advice)
· Play honestly
Last but not least, ask yourself "is this realistic" and you won't go far wrong.
If you've got this far then well done to you, it might well be that you're up for the challenge of the LLaMa way of things but if you are still unsure remember that these guidelines aren't meant to hamstring you or hold you back they are meant to give structure for a more rewarding and realistic experience.
Try to think of it in terms of the recently added club culture, some clubs want you to play attacking football and only sign youth players. Well consider the LLaMa spirit in the same terms, your culture is commitment to realism and honesty.
Need some inspiration? Check out the recent LLM blogs. Reading how others get on inspired me to take my first steps into LLaMadom.
Remember too that the journey can be just as rewarding as the result so if you're struggling and finding good performances hard to come by just image how sweet it will feel when you finally do achieve something having used your own mettle to make tactics and training schedules from scratch.
Take my word for it you'll wonder how you played any other way.