Sunday, 18 March 2018

Dreadball: Teams and Cheerleaders


I'm on something of a Dreadball roll at the moment, trying to finish painting all the models I have.  Still to go are 3 of my 13 (?) teams:
  • Kalimarin Ancients: painting in progress, a few models near completion.
  • Fran-Taar Philosophers: undercoated, but nothing further.
  • Koeputki Kolossals: still in box, not started.
  • 4 spectators: two are complete and the other two are maybe 50% painted.
The end is in sight, at least until/unless I buy more stuff (that commentary-box/event-card-holder looks very nice, though rather pricey).  To give you an idea of my progress, in the last 3 or 4 weeks I have finished two teams and one squad of cheerleaders.  Here they are:

Ukomo Avalanchers

The Ukomo Avalanchers (note: that's Mantic's name for the team, not mine.  I'll give my lot a different name when I can think of one.  So far, my mind is a blank...) are of the Teraton species.  That is to say, they are intelligent, bipedal turtles who can teleport short distances.  Obviously this gives them certain tactical options that other teams do not have!

Teratons are somewhat slow and clumsy, so the team doesn't have any specialised ball handlers ("strikers").  Instead, the team consists of general purpose "jacks" (above)...

...and specialised tacklers ("guards").  I like these models quite a bit, but it is difficult to tell the jacks from the guards.  If you examine the figures carefully and you know what you are looking for then it is possible to distinguish them: the jacks have a ball-launching "Dreadball glove" on their right arms, whereas the guards do not.

However, there's a simpler way that doesn't require an understanding of subtly-different pieces of equipment: the guards are more heavily armoured.  The guards have armoured boots and (most importantly, for recognition purposes) armoured tails, whereas the jacks do not.

In hindsight, I could perhaps have painted more visible marks to distinguish the two classes of player!  However, the effort required to edge all that armour plate was significant and I'm not going to revisit these models with a paintbrush.

The Shining Sentinels

Mantic's earliest robot team was the "Chromium Chargers".  I've decided to name my version differently - and also depart from the "official" colour scheme somewhat.

The Chromium Chargers are robots that can change their role during a game.  Each robot can play as a striker, a jack or a guard, though it takes time to alter from one form to another.  As a consequence of this, all the team models look quite alike.  There are subtle differences if you know what to look for, but having just encountered exactly this problem with my Teratons (above) I decided to use colour to make the roles more obvious.

Consequently, the strikers for the Shining Sentinels have yellow flashes and accents...

...whilst their guards are marked with red.

Finally, the jacks are highlighted with orange.  Presumably, when a robot changes role it has mechanisms to alter the colour of its accents as well as extruding extra armour, forming a ball-handling "glove" or whatever other physical aspects it changes.

I'm quite pleased with the numbering on the robots' backs.  The digital numerals are not exactly high tech, but they were somewhat easier to paint than many of the alternatives might have been.

The Nice Girls

I now have 2 sets of cheerleaders for Dreadball.  This squad of 4 is one I painted up some time ago, but I don't think I've shown it before.  Since I will be describing the other, newly-finished squad below, I thought it would be worth comparing with these.

"The Nice Girls" is my temporary name for this group of four cheerleaders, until I come up with something better.  These plastic/resin models depict four wholesome young women dressed in short shorts and wearing a form of halter top.

Each cheerleader has 2 large "shields", one attached to each arm.  I imagine these to be high tech devices, probably with LED or similar technology that would allow them to change what they display.  The possibilities are enormous; they could spell out words, show fireworks or other patterns, or have "cascades" where a logo or message moves from one shield to the next along the line.

Of course, my imagination is rather greater than my ability to paint any of these concepts, so I coloured them all white and added a simple "star" decal of my own design.

The Punkettes

Mantic produce another set of cheerleaders; these are definitely not the nice "girl next door" sort.  They're dressed in a variety of spikey, probably leather gear and one of them even has a knife down the side of one boot.

These cheerleaders also have devices on each arm to help with their work.  In this case, they look like cast iron ovals, though they're probably make of lightweight composites instead.  In the centre of each oval is a strong, brightly-coloured light.  I guess that these could be strobe lights, thus allowing the Punkettes to produce a form of mini-disco within their routine.

As with the "nice girls", I've decided to use a different base colour for each model.  Obviously, since there are only 3 figures in this set there is no "yellow" variant.


Well, there you have it: more Dreadball figures.  If these aren't your thing then don't worry - I'll be onto something different very soon.  My interests are many and varied...

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Paleo Diet: The Hunt Begins


I've run games that pit men against ice age mammals before [for example, here, here and here] and my "go to" set of rules was "Adventures in the Lost Lands" by Two Hour Wargaming.  However, despite the number of times that I've tried this game, it didn't quite work for me.  Either a player's choices were too limited or combat outcomes were too one-sided or something; it just wasn't the game I really wanted to play.

I've never given up hope for a hunting game, though.  Now there is a new kid on the block: "Paleo Diet", from Ganesha Games.  In Paleo Diet, one or more players take control of a small number of hunters.  These humans can be equipped with bows, clubs, fire and/or dogs, though the default weapon is a spear which can be thrown a short distance or used close up to stab at things.

The basic mechanism is that a hunter chooses to roll from 1 to 3 dice each turn, with a "success" granting an action and a "failure" alerting a nearby animal.  A fresh, unwounded hunter has a pool of 2 white dice (success on a 2+) and one coloured dice (success on a 4+); an injured man downgrades one of his/her white dice to a coloured one.

Animals never act on their own, but rather they react to various events such as the proximity of a fire, being attacked or a hunter failing an activation roll.  Different classes of creature (from apex predator to small prey animal) will react differently, but on the whole if you're far enough away they will ignore you and if you're very close then their reaction will be more extreme.  Usually the carnivores and large herbivores (mammoths &c) will defend themselves aggressively whilst smaller herbivores will run away - but different reactions such as roaring/trumpeting or stampedes are also possible!

So far, so good; this sounds very much like the sort of game I'd like to try.  Everything in a hunting game depends on the animal behaviour, though: is it believable?  Let's see...

Trial Game 1: The Mammoths

We had 3 players, so we set up 3 groups of hunters.  One group had 2 neanderthals, whilst the other 2 groups each had a neanderthal and his dog.  So, a total of 4 men and 2 dogs.  Let's go mammoth hunting!

After a short conference on tactics, we decided that we needed to split up the pair of mammoths and concentrate all our efforts on just one of the beasts.  Goodness knows, it would be hard enough to face even a single such creature!

To this end, the hunters crept forwards carefully.  Crug sent his dog on a wide, flanking move.  In hindsight, this wasn't a terribly clever idea: if the dog failed any of its activation rolls in the future then it would probably try to rejoin its master, which would result in it sauntering through the mammoth herd.  That's not really what we intended!

Durc stalked right up to within touching distance of the mammoths, planning to hide and ambush the chosen target later.  Unfortunately, something gave him away and both beasts rounded on him

The hunter wasn't badly wounded, but he was pretty shaken up.  It didn't help that one of the mammoths then trumpeted loudly and the other pursued him for a short distance; Durc fled!  Well, at least we had split up the pair of mammoths; there was now a significant gap between them...

Durc spent much of the rest of the game hiding in some foliage.  The player claimed that he was laying a fresh ambush, but personally I reckon he had soiled himself.

Broud's brown dog then decided to have a go at the nearer animal.  It did manage to bite the pachyderm, but the mammoth squashed the dog in return.

Then, Crug's grey dog had a go.  It rushed in and bit the mammoth on the bottom (so that's 2 wounds inflicted; another two will bring it down).

The mammoth reacted with extreme hostility to this assault on its nether portions; it spun around and flattened the dog.  Hmm, both dogs are now out of the game - but that's OK because they don't count against us when determining victory.

The hunters (apart from Durc) moved in and tried to spear the mammoth.  There followed a long and confused sequence of quick assaults, trumpetting, retaliation and so on [far too complex to describe in detail!].  Any notion of a plan had gone out of the window after the beast's first short charge!

The end result was that 3 of the 4 hunters were injured, but the mammoth had taken a 3rd wound out of the 4 hits it could sustain.  Sadly for the hungry tribe, the mammoth ran off the table before it could be finished off.

One player suggested that we had a go at the other, uninjured mammoth that was still grazing peacefully in the middle of the table.  This suggestion was quickly vetoed by the other bruised and battered hunters!

End Result: mammoths are tough to hunt, especially without ranged weapons and/or fire; expect casualties.  Leave the dogs at home; they might be good enough against a deer or a wolf, but they're really outclassed here!

Trial Game 2: Something Smaller

For our next hunt, we decided to try some smaller prey.  This time, there were 5 neanderthals and only 1 dog; we had a small herd of deer as our target.

The hunters stalked carefully around the edges.  Our plan was to surround the herd and then pick off as many as we could from close range.  We needed to kill 3 of the 6 deer to collect enough meat to feed the tribe, so we really didn't want any to escape if we could help it.

Initially, the plan seemed to be going very well.  All the hunters (and the dog) crept closer and closer...

The first hunter to act was Broud.  His thrown spear hit a young buck and wounded it, but the startled and confused animal then ran straight at the hunter and tried to attack him!  Fortunately for the man, the deer then fled in the opposite direction without injuring him.

The panicking, injured buck fled straight towards Goov, who had no difficulty in felling it at close range.  As he did this, the rest of the herd stampeded, running over the unwary Crug and kicking him in passing.

The hunters scrambled to try to head off the small deer before they fled out of reach; it looked as if their prey was about to elude them.

All their efforts achieved was to scatter the herd; deer ran in all directions.  Brun managed to bring down another buck as it raced past him, but no-one else was so lucky.  Despite a brief stalk of the remnants of the herd, all the other deer eluded the hunters and fled to safety.

End Result: we didn't gather enough meat to feed the tribe and one of our hunters got a broken rib!  Not the ideal result, though at least we weren't totally hopeless.


I think that we all enjoyed these games very much.  The players each had plenty of choices each turn and the animals reacted in what seemed like a realistic manner.  I don't think this will be the main event in one of our gaming days, but it's a very pleasant filler (it would work very well as a participation game at a convention, I think).

Clearly, our hunting tactics leave something to be desired - but that could change with practice.  Perhaps we should set more ambushes and then have a few hunters drive the prey into them by shouting and/or throwing stones?  I'm also quite keen to experiment with that new wonder weapon which Ug keeps talking about: fire!  More figures have been ordered...

Afterthought: even the deer are dangerous; they hurt one of our hunters.  Maybe my stone age men should become rabbit hunters instead.  What could go wrong with that?

Monday, 5 March 2018

Congo: The Crocodile River


McCoy expedition at the far side, Glover expedition in the foreground, objectives in the centre

Deep in the jungle of central Africa in the latter part of the 19th century, 2 groups are trying to extend their spheres of influence.  This time it isn't one native tribe against another, or even colonial powers trying to subdue a native village.  Rather, this game is set between two "white men expeditions" to see who can control more territory.  Or maybe there was a disagreement over which group got the last bottle of gin in the closest trader's store, or someone cheated at cards.

Whatever the reason, the "Glover" expedition (led by a rather unscrupulous retired army officer) and the "McCoy" expedition (a much more genteel affair, led by a formidable lady scientist) clashed on the banks of the Lomami river.  This is their story...

The Scenario

This is a fairly simple scenario:
  • There are 3 objectives (territory markers?) in the river that runs along the middle of the table.
  • Points are scored for carrying these objectives off the far side of the board, or at least for having them in enemy territory.
  • The river is deep, muddy and infested with crocodiles!

The Forces

Major Glover's Ruffians

Major Glover's own group of Ruga Ruga are exhausted: they lose a man and panic before the game has even begun!
  • Several (3?) bands of Ruga Ruga: fearsome mercenaries, though rather prone to superstitious terrors.
  • Some ascaris, led by a flag bearer
  • A group of native warriors
  • A group of native archers
  • Several bearers.

Mrs McCoy's Column

  • Several groups (3?) of trained ascaris.
  • 4 rifle-armed, well-trained soldiers
  • A band of native warriors
  • 3 white adventurers (we wondered if this was the 19th century's equivalent of a "gap year" for the aspiring young gentleman).  One of these was lost to exhaustion before the game started.  I wonder if it was malaria, dysentery or a hostile witch doctor who put paid to this chap?  Or maybe syphilis?
  • Several bearers.
  • A journalist.

The Game

Normally, I would advance the action in a game fairly equally along all the points of interest.  However, in this game the forces were distributed between the three objectives and the thick jungle (and limited command & control) meant that there was little interaction between each group.  It will be more instructive to handle each sector in turn from start to finish.

The Left Flank

Blue Ruga Ruga entered the river on the right flank and seized that objective, long before any of the red forces were close.

They were chased out of the river by a crocodile and then charged by the red ascaris, but the Ruga Ruga held their nerve and savaged their attackers.  So far, this was all going swimmingly (if you'll pardon the very bad pun!) and there didn't seem to be much to prevent the blue unit from carrying its trophy off the far edge of the map.

Then, sporadic rifle shots rang out.  With almost every shot, one of the Ruga Ruga fell; the blue group just couldn't figure out what was happening.  Finally it was revealed: the two red adventurers had opened fire from a nearby patch of jungle.  Even though the Ruga Ruga were under cover, the white men shot like champions and almost every bullet was a hit.

Between the murderous rifle fire and frequent terror attacks (playing on the Ruga Ruga's superstitions), the blue unit was severely reduced.  Eventually, the last two men fled back across the river; only one made it to the other bank.  [Technically, this loss was due to a flee action after the unit took too much stress, rather than a crocodile attack.  It is possible that the second man did survive - but decided that he had pressing business elsewhere].

By the end of the game, the blue unit was in a very bad way; it was reduced to a single, highly stressed individual.  However, he did have possession of an objective marker.

Points scored for the left flank

  • Red (McCoy expedition): 0 points.  No enemy units destroyed, no loot discovered, no objective in or taken off the board through enemy territory.
  • Blue (Glover expedition): 0 points.  No enemy units destroyed, no loot discovered, no objective in or taken off the board through enemy territory.

The Centre

The McCoy Expedition's soldiers reached the river first.  They tried to cross, but disturbed a waiting crocodile.  These hardy warriors kept their heads though; the crocodile was driven off without loss.

Blue ascaris (with the blue expedition's flag bearer) took cover behind vegetation along the edge of the river.  However, they weren't in time to prevent Mrs McCoy's ascaris from seizing the objective.  Shots were exchanged between the groups; the blue ascaris all missed, but the better-trained red ascaris hit several of their opponents.

The red soldiers crossed the river to try to enfilade the beleaguered blue ascaris.  However, a thunderous charge by Major Glover's recovered Ruga Ruga threw them back across, leaving several of their dead behind.

In any case, the remaining blue ascaris survived by rallying to the flag and keeping their heads down.  Eventually Mrs McCoy's red ascaris retreated out of the chest-high water when a crocodile took one of their number.

The crocodiles were really active now - or at least, fear of crocodiles was running rampant.  The retreating soldiers panicked...

...and the pursuing blue native auxiliaries (who had finally reached the river right at the end of the game) were also inconvenienced by things real or imaginary moving below the surface.

At the end of the game, neither side had anyone on the enemy's side of the river.  Red did have possession of an objective, but since this was still in their own half, it didn't score anything.

Points scored for the centre

  • Red (McCoy expedition): 0 points.  No enemy units destroyed, no loot discovered, no objective in or taken off the board through enemy territory.
  • Blue (Glover expedition): 0 points.  No enemy units destroyed, no loot discovered, no objective in or taken off the board through enemy territory.
So, could either side do any better on the right flank?  Read on...

The Right Flank

Blue's native archers tried to take an early shortcut through a patch of thick jungle...

...but were severely stressed by some local wildlife.  They did eventually recover their composure and carry on, but it took most of the game before they were anywhere useful.

Maybe the archers wouldn't be needed anyway?  Blue's right-flank Ruga Ruga easily beat the opposition to the river and claimed the objective.  They topped this by firing a murderous volley which stopped the advancing red ascaris dead in their tracks.

Not wanting to risk a crocodile attack, the blue Ruga Ruga climbed the far bank of the river.  A red warrior unit attacked them and was driven off, but the Ruga Ruga were building up quite a lot of stress.

The defeated warriors (encouraged by their attached journalist, no doubt) started to throw assegais instead.  This proved to be much more effective and two blue Ruga Ruga fell.

[Note: in this confrontation I didn't record whether the remnants of the red ascari unit fired as well as - or instead of - the warriors.  It doesn't really matter either way; the result was still the same].

As the end of the game drew near, the blue Ruga Ruga took cover behind some bushes.  Blue archers were approaching, but were too late to offer any assistance beyond the dubious morale benefit of their support.

Points scored for the right flank

  • Red (McCoy expedition): 0 points.  No enemy units destroyed, no loot discovered, no objective in or taken off the board through enemy territory.
  • Blue (Glover expedition): 5 points!  No enemy units destroyed, no loot discovered - but one objective taken into enemy territory (just).


This game was pretty much inconclusive.  Neither side encroached much on the other's territory.  There weren't even that many casualties; not a single unit was wiped out!  Even though the (blue) Glover expedition scored 5 points to the (red) McCoy expedition's 0, that is peanuts compared to what might have been achieved if either side had run off with one or more of the objectives.  At best it's a very marginal victory, though I think it more fair to describe it as a close-fought draw.

From the preceding paragraph, you might think that it was a dull game.  Nothing could be further from the truth: it was an enormously fun morning!  Both sides had chances, but found themselves limited by superstitious terrors, bad aim or hostile fauna.  Red very nearly prevailed on the left, but were possibly a little too slow.  Red also had a good chance in the centre; the blue flag proved invaluable in rallying the faltering defenders.  On the right, blue's early rush paid off: the outnumbered Ruga Ruga managed to hunker down and survive.

Possibly red's scientist could have gone looking for discoveries - and this might have given their journalist something to write about - but there's no certainty that such a plan would have reaped any rewards.

Finally, the crocodiles in the river only cause one (directly attributable) casualty.  Their main effect was to cause a lot of stress, both in game terms (stress counters) and in tension to the players.  There's nothing quite as nerve-wracking as losing a melee on the bank of the river and being forced back into the crocodile-infested waters!  

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!