Sunday, 25 February 2018

DreadBall: Saturday Matinee game


Yesterday, my friend Steve came round and we spent the day gaming.  There was a bit of  talking and eating as well, but mostly it was gaming.

What did we play?  Well, we started with Congo, where the McCoy and Glover white men expeditions faced off across a crocodile-infested river.  Then we had our first two games of Paleo Diet.  All I'm going to say about this for now is that there were mammoths; more on this another time...

Finally, we filled the last part of the day with an introductory game of Dreadball (using the Version 2 rules).  This was introductory in the sense that Steve hadn't really encountered the game before, whereas I have played quite a few games.  This is what happened...


This isn't going to be a blow-by-blow account of the match, as that would take far to long to write (and would probably be quite tedious to read as well).  Instead, I'll mention some of the highlights and low points.

Starting positions: both teams are playing a zone defence.

Steve is playing the Orks and Goblins: the Mean Green Team.  They're in the red armour, at the far end.  For those who don't know DreadBall, the team consists of 2 types of player:
  • Ork guards are strong and tough; they're very good at stomping things.
  • Goblin jacks are fairly average ball carriers.  Being jacks, they are also quite fast and are theoretically capable of slamming an opponent (though in reality, I wouldn't generally advise it).
I chose the Judwan team who are dressed in dark green armour; I don't yet have my own team name for them.  The Judwan are humanoid aliens with exceptionally long limbs.  They are also notable for being pacifists and refusing to injure anyone deliberately.  The team consists entirely of:
  • Judwan strikers: good ball handlers, but only wear light armour and are rather fragile.

The Plays

Early in the match, one of my strikers grabbed the ball, ran up the sideline, dodged around all the goblins and threw the ball on target for a 3-point strike.

Score: +3 to Judwan

One or two rushes later, an Ork guard decided to do some marauding.  He charged down a defender and hit the poor Judwan full on.  In the slam, the Ork scored 7 successes (rolls of '6' count as a success and grant a re-roll, thus allowing the possibility of extreme results on rare occasions).  The Judwan dodged poorly and came up with just 1 success.

7:1 isn't just a loss, it's a catastrophic loss.  The poor defender took 6 hits to armour, failed to make very many saves (unsurprisingly) and was consequently smeared across the neodurium and removed as a casualty (damage of 4 or more cannot be recovered during a match).

Following this removal of the Judwan, a goblin jack ran in to score 1 point in the now-undefended strike zone.

Score: +2 to Judwan

Right, my response had better be fairly decisive.  Shortly after this, my star player ran the ball from deep inside my half up to the centre line.  I don't normally do passing plays, but this time I felt lucky.  The striker threw the ball to a waiting Judwan player, who then ran down the pitch to score in the highest-value zone: a 4 point strike and multiple fan checks!

Score: +6 to Judwan.  Note that the game ends as a landslide victory if either side manages to move the score to 7 points in their favour.  I was very close to ending the game early in this manner, but not quite there yet.

Now for something that I hadn't thought through properly.  As soon as a strike is scored, a new ball is launched automatically along the centre line.  The ball is small, hard and fast - a bit like a cannonball, really.  I expect you can see where this is going...

My star striker was standing on the centreline and therefore took a 5-dice hit from the newly-launched ball.  Fortunately he didn't have his back to it, but unfortunately his dodge still wasn't quite good enough to avoid injury; he had to leave the pitch for treatment.  D'oh!

The goblins responded quickly, using Slippery Joe (their star player) to pick up the loose ball and run in an easy 1-point strike.

Score: +5 to Judwan

OK, let's end this.  The Mean Green Team have left their deep strike zone uncovered (their guards were busy trying to hurt a solitary Judwan striker, who kept managing - just! - to dodge out of the way.

A replacement striker ran on for the gangly aliens, thus freeing up one of the existing defenders to run the length of the field.  A careful combination of action cards and coaching dice allowed him a good shot at goal; his throw was spectacularly on target: 4 points!

Score: +9 to Judwan: game over with a landslide victory in rush 10 or 11 (I forget exactly which).


This was a decisive win for the Judwan, but remember that their coach (me) was considerably experienced, whereas the Mean Green Team were run by a novice.  I think that the difference came in two ways:
  1. Steve played quite conservatively, frequently using 2 actions to achieve (safely) what might have taken only 1 if a little risk was accepted.  For example, for a player to Dash 1 hex if they are not quite in the desired position at the end of their move is not a huge risk, but it might take a few games before a coach understands the cost/benefit ratio of such a decision.
  2. On a tactical level, a novice player may not recognise the best moves for their players, either to disrupt an opponent's attack or to facilitate their own.  DreadBall rewards those who think ahead at least one or two rushes and positions their models accordingly.
So, I'm feeling a bit guilty at administering such a drubbing to a new player, though in my defence I did try to advise on tactics as well as rule interpretations.

In any case, the Orks are probably quite happy, as they did manage to send one opposing player to the morgue!


  1. Looks like you had a lot of fun. I haven't played dread ball but I used to play Blood Bowl a lot back in the day and really enjoyed it. Glad you enjoyed it.

    1. I've heard good things about BloodBowl, but the fantasy setting just doesn't make sense to me. Anyway, DreadBall is a very different game to play (or so I believe) and I enjoy it a lot.

  2. Replies
    1. Well, technically Orkz are aliens too. No, put me down! Don't do that, Glog! Please, aargh ...

  3. The Mean Green's Public Relations executive seizes the microphone from his team's captain.

    "What Glog means to say is
    'We acknowledge defeat in a fair contest.
    We will train hard for the return game.
    Many thanks our sponsor
    Klean EZ Perspex Bases
    - the discreet yet stable base for the modern dreadballer.'"

    1. "Clarg Kenner, Daily Planet. Will the Mean Green Team be making a donation to the Judwan Widows and Children Benevolent Fund? I'm sure the fans would like to know."

      (Actually, I suspect that the fans couldn't care less, so long as they see plenty of action!)

  4. Great fun game (maybe not so much for your opponent on this occasion). I've played Blood bowl and enjoyed it, but never Dreadball. It would be interesting to read a comparison between the two. I disliked the multitude of teams with their own 'special; rules etc, in BB and played human v human. Dreadball has the advantage in using similar teams imo.

    1. Well, there are a multitude of teams available in DreadBall too, you know :-) .

      BloodBowl is a very different game and I've heard that it's fun - but for me the fantasy setting is just too implausible.

  5. Never once been a fan of sports games but this looks sufficiently different to warrant a 2nd look. (Ok I suppose Gladiators is a sports game but that and chariot racing aside not a fan of sports games)

    1. I've posted this elsewhere, I hope you find it interesting.

      Steve's hierarchy of gameable sports (Best suited to least suited).

      1. Team sports with a strategic angle and a natural stop/start (e.g Baseball, Cricket, NFL Football). Because the game turns coincide with the stops.

      2. Racing games with team tactics and a bit more than just "Big engine fat tyres": (e.g. Motorsports, cycling, horse racing). Because racing games are fairly well understood.

      3. Team games with continuous play and goal scoring (e.g. Rugby, Hockey, Football (Several variants of each of these)). Usually struggle with "All players move and slow play" or "One player moves while 21 players spectate".

      4. Sports between individuals (e.g. Tennis, boxing, ski-jumping) - may work well as detailed simulations, but usually lack much gameplay - there's a reason why the likes of Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Katie Ledecky achieve total dominance in their field and retain it for some time).

      We now return you to the dreadball discussion.

    2. On that basis, I wouldn't suggest that you race out and buy the game, Clint. However, if you get a chance to play a game then I wouldn't pass it by :-) ...

  6. Congratulations on your victory. I am sure once Steve has a few more games under his belt he can explore his teams options a bit more.

    1. It was really more of a tutorial than a game, at least in my eyes :-) . I don't know if Steve and I will play many more games, but my younger son is quite keen and has beaten me on a number of occasions!