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!

Sunday 18 February 2018

Heroes of the Neodurium


I've been playing a few games of Dreadball recently.  Dreadball 2 came out at the start of the year and we're finding it to be a distinct improvement; games are fun!

With that in mind, my model-making has been directed towards reducing some of the pile of unpainted miniatures that I have for this game.  At the last count, I had 4 unbuilt teams and a number of stars ("Most Valuable Players"/MVPs), plus some auxiliaries such as fans and cheerleaders.

The MVPs seemed like a good place to start.  Since each was an individual, any one figure wouldn't take long to paint and I ought to be able to finish a few quite quickly.  Here's the tally so far...

Rico van Dien

From the manual, Rico is "handsome, well-educated and hugely rich".  He's a show off, loved by the crowd for his showboating style.  Rico also has perfect teeth...

I've painted Rico in the colours for my human corporation team (the "Sky City Slammers"), but of course his armour is rich and glittery compared to their much more modest blue & silver.


Galdo is a rather foolish Kraaw with massive gambling debts.  Some underworld boss has decided that the best way for him to repay these debts is by starring in Dreadball matches, where he will either earn riches or perish miserably.  Either way, the criminal underworld will have extracted its revenge...

In Dreadball 2, Galdo is listed as captain of the Rebs team.  However, since I don't have that team (and have no real intention to obtain it), I'll use him as a regular MVP who can be hired by anyone.

Lyra the Fixer

Lyra is an ex-assassin who enjoys the "legitimate" violence of a Dreadball match.  She's fast, nimble and vicious!

It's not clear to me what species Lyra represents.  Her protruding face and the large claws on her feet suggest something alien, but she could just about be a modified human instead.  Like much else about her, this seems to be shrouded in mystery.


In the past, Asylum has been treated for homicidal, drug-induced rages; he's now allowed back onto the Dreadball pitch.  It seems that remnants of his old personality still exist, though: his style of playing is distinctly aggressive!

Most humans who play Dreadball have full armour suits.  Asylum just wears a mask...


What's an Asterian war robot doing in Corporation space?  Well, its personality banks have been fused with the memories of a Kalyshi rebel and now the authorities look the other way and let it play Dreadball.

It's fast and nimble, but Alo-Khan is still a war machine at heart.  Sometimes it forgets that this is just a game...

Number 88

An enigma wrapped up in a mystery and served up as a puzzle?  All that anyone knows about Number 88 is that he/she/it is an incredibly fast and agile striker.


Eko'o is a Yarasa hunter, kidnapped by a Corporation team from his primitive home world and forced to play Dreadball for the amusement and titillation of the masses.  Just don't expect him to be happy about it (and don't turn your back on him, either!)


Buzzcut is an ogre, in every sense of the word.  He's huge, savage and sadistic.

I've painted Buzzcut in a vaguely "rugby union" style; he looks a bit like a caricature of a prop forward.  I suppose that I was channelling the rugby players from "Asterix in Britain" at the time...


Blitz is a Fyrit; a four-armed, hot-tempered bipedal lizard.  With all those extra limbs, he's especially good at pummeling opponents.


I'm quite pleased to have finished off all these MVPs reasonably quickly.  The individuality of each model meant that I didn't become too bored, as might have happened for a large group of identical figures.

You may have noticed that I've used clear perspex hexes for the bases of these figures.  Obviously, this has required cutting the models from their original bases.  In a few cases I am a bit concerned about the new joints, especially where there are few/small contact points between the model and the pespex.  However, on the whole I consider this to be very successful and I plan to base all my Dreadball teams this way from now onwards, though I probably won't rebase my existing teams.

I expect we'll be playing a few more games in the near future.  If we limit ourselves to one MVP per team per match (seems reasonable) then it will take quite a few games just to try out this lot - let alone the others that I have still to complete!

Sunday 11 February 2018

Congo: Reinforcements (and wildlife)


Today I've not got anything special to talk about, so I'll just show some recently-finished models instead.  These are all for Congo (or could be used for any other game set in Darkest Africa, I suppose).

Forest Tribes

I finished another five warriors for my Forest Tribe about a month ago.  For the purists, they probably belong to at least 2 different tribes; the combination of hide and wicker shields would probably not occur within a single group.  I'm not too bothered by this, though in a game I'll probably try to put them in different squads (perhaps they're allies from a neighbouring tribe?)

These models are from North Star; they're well sculpted and cast.  Natives like this are really easy to paint as there is very little in the way of clothing or equipment to detail!

Ruga Ruga

The Ruga Ruga are mercenaries with a reputation for being flamboyant, though somewhat shabby in appearance (and possibly drug-takers as well).  These six Foundry models will be used by my Arab Slavers, though they could be hired by white men or natives as well.


Above are some more armed followers for my White Men column.  They're Foundry models, but very compatible with the North Star or Copplestone "Darkest Africa" figures.  I think these are some of the more useful poses for skirmish games; I'm not a big fan of the "every man in every squad is shooting" look.


This is the North Star African Elephant.  It's a 3-part model: there are 2 body halves and a separate head.  The body parts fitted together very well, but the head was an exceptionally poor fit.  Still, plenty of filler seems to have worked well in hiding the join (and it's somewhat hidden behind the ears anyway).

Personally, I think this is one of the nicest-looking 28mm African Elephant models out there.  It's also priced quite reasonably.

As part of the same package from North Star, I obtained 3 hyenas.  Now I've seen a number of 28mm hyena models and most of them are somewhat...disappointing.  In particular, a lot of sculptors seem to have difficulties with the hyena's classic "sloped" profile, with long forelegs and much shorter rear legs.  These models, on the other hand, are excellent!  They really do look like the animals they represent (though I've possibly gone a bit dark with my painting).

Note that I've based my hyenas on smallish 40mm x 20mm bases, rather than the more common 50mm x 25mm cavalry bases.  They're quite large models (for hyenas), but they're not as big as horses!

Finally, here's a leopard - also from North Star.  It's a nicely-posed model, though perhaps there's something not quite right about the tail.  Anyway, I'm just glad that I don't have to paint more than one of these beasts!


More forces for Congo - can't be bad, right?  Also, this is a very useful expansion to my collection of African wildlife (currently one lion and a crocodile, I think).

Mind you, I still need some hippos.  I like the Foundry models (waterline and otherwise), but they're very expensive.  Hmm, we'll see...

Sunday 4 February 2018

Movement Frames and Trays


In case you hadn't noticed, "small unit" skirmish wargames are very popular these days.  For myself, I play (or at least, collect models for) both Saga and Congo, though there are plenty of other games which use similar numbers of models.

The common factor in all these cases is that they use a squad (for want of a better term) as the basic group for movement, combat and so on.  In Saga this will be sized from 3 to 12 models and models within a squad must remain within a certain, proscribed distance of each other.  For Congo units are from 3 to 6 models (but may have one or two characters, auxiliaries or other supernumeraries attached permanently to them) and each figure must touch at least one other model from the same squad.  These groupings are fairly typical of many modern wargames.

Where am I going with this?  Well, it's a bit of a pain to have to move every model individually, so some people buy or build "movement trays" to allow the entire group to me moved at once.  The remainder of this article will examine a couple of types of movement frame.

MDF Movement Tray

There are a number of different companies who supply movement trays made from MDF; these are from the excellent Warbases.  Such trays are always made from 2 sheets of MDF stuck together; the top one has holes to suit the desired figure bases and the lower one is solid.

MDF bases are relatively cheap, extremely flexible (the number, size, shape and layout of slots can be customised extensively), but here are two things to consider:
  • Because of the nature of the material, slots in an MDF tray are usually spaced out by 5-10mm
  • In turn, this requires that the MDF needs some work to paint the bases.  I could have just used a single colour on the examples above, but I felt they looked better with some texture, dry-brushing and static grass.  None of this is difficult, but it's extra work.

3D-Printed Movement Frames

There is an alternative to MDF.  A recent browsing session brought Winterdyne Commision Modelling to my attention.  They make a number of 3D-printed "no effort" movement frames.  I thought that I'd dip my toe in this water as well, so I ordered a few of these recently.

First thoughts: Winterdyne don't produce anything like the variety that is available in MDF trays.  That's OK; it looks to me as if this is a starting venture and I imagine the range of products could increase if there was enough demand.

For now, you can buy trays with:

  • 5 or 10 slots exactly
  • 25mm, 32mm or 40mm circular holes
  • "Ranked up" or "offset ranks" positioning [i.e. no semi-random variants]

For Congo in particular, I really wanted frames with 4, 5 or 6 slots.  It turns out that the 10-slot frames can be cut apart with a sharp knife and a bit of care, as shown above.  This would allow creation of frames with any number of slots from 2 to 10, though at some effort.

I don't think it would be at all easy to glue bits together (for example, to produce a 12-slot frame); this would probably be better handled by petitioning the manufacturer for different products instead.

How do they look?  Very well, I think.  These frames hold the 28mm figures almost as close together as they would be if no frame were used; there aren't any large, open gaps between them.

I could have painted the frames to match the figure bases and this would have been very easy: a single base colour would have been enough.

However, another thought has occurred to me: perhaps the frames should be coloured according to the faction to which their troops belong.  In genres where many warriors from opposing forces look similar (for example, Dark Ages Europe or tribal Africa or any civil war), painting the frames red and blue would enable friend and foe to be distinguished quite easily.  Of course, this could be applied to the MDF bases as well.

Note: Winterdyne also produces a flexible movement frame where each slot is something like a link in a chain.  With one of these frames, a unit could vary its layout from (say) a line to a compact cluster at different times in a game.  I'm not totally convinced by this concept: on the one hand it's a very clever piece of engineering, but on the other it seems to be an over-complex solution to a fairly simple problem.  Others can make their own minds up...


I'm torn between both these forms of movement accessory.  At the moment, the MDF versions have overwhelming flexibility in shape, size and so on.  However, because of the way they are manufactured a squad based in one of these will always occupy significantly more area than the individual figures.  That's fine (even desirable) for skirmishers, but less suitable for those troops who wish to be nearer to each other.  Of course, "close ranked" MDF trays are also available; these tend to be hollow, rectangular frames which work well enough for drilled troops but which look a bit odd in a skirmish game (or so I think).

 I could see the 3D-printed movement frames catching on quite quickly.  If so, then the range of different types might expand quite rapidly and this would make them much more attractive.  Even without this, they are less effort to prepare for the table - indeed, no effort at all if you accept the black colour and the default 5- or 10-slot layouts.

Alternatively, I could just continue to move each model individually, for the ultimate in flexible formations (cheaper, too!).  Ah, what to do... ?