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June 09, 2022

DreadBall - Into The Pit

MW Updated
There Will Be Games

A little recap of my first DreadBall experience.

A few months ago, I wrote a blog entry on Blood Bowl and the discussion of DreadBall came up and what my thoughts on it were. At the time I hadn't played the game but intended to later in the year. Well, we got the game on sooner than planned.

Once a year, toward the end of the summer, the wife and kids head out to her parent's for about a week. During that time, I host a little 'PitCon' where people stay over at the house. These events usually also feature going out to catch a movie, maybe see a band, and one year shooting at the range. This year looked to have a revolving door of players over the three day period, but an old Blood Bowl buddy of mine was going to be able to fly in from Alabama. With his inclusion, I'd have the original four 2001 XBBL members at the house on Sunday, August 16th. A BB tourney for old time's sake was out of the question, since Alabama would be flying out around 5pm. But, I did read that DreadBall only plays in about an hour. This seemed possible and who better to test the waters with than the original XBBLers?

I quickly went about getting a copy of the base game, an extra board, some cards, etc so that I could have two games going at once. I also purchased a few teams so everyone would have one to play. I went about selecting teams that were: A) Not in the base set. If a player ended up liking the game and bought a base set later, they then wouldn't have a duplicate team. B) Not a 'fantasy' race. The DreadBall universe has space skaven, space orks, space dwarves, etc. I didn't want this to feel like BB in space, but its own thing. I went with totally different races settling on robots, insects (Z'zor), alien monkey clones (Zee), and what appear to be 'greys' (Judwan).



With inspiration from a picture of a ticket in the DB rulebook, I doctored up one myself for the event, slipped it in a envelope along with the team and shipped these out to the attendees unknowingly. I figure folks are making the effort to come stay at my place a few days, plus I've known these guys 15-20+ years, the least I could do was hook them up with a little something. The downside is that with my buddy announced he was a go on short notice (about two weeks) there likely wouldn't be time for everyone to have their teams painted. Oh well, I figure the event was still worth a shot.

The event...Like I said, I wanted this to feel different from BB, so went with a little bit different format. I draw a lot of inspiration from 80's dystopian sci-fi so wanted to lean the tournament in that direction. I also wanted it to have that b-grade, 'tournament' movie feel where competitors come from all over the place to compete, and eventually fight the big bad that's hosting. So, I cooked up a little website ( ) with this hacked story of these brothers on a mining asteroid wanting to test the material of some newly found metal. They put a call out for up and coming DB teams to come compete with the best performing team challenging the house squad at the end. I tied the names of this asteroid and setting into 'The Pit' and put together a little Spotify playlist packed with outrun music to help set the mood on gameday. With four coaches we would play each other once (three games) and the team that did the best at the end would play against a human team with a Big Mech (a giant character - like a BB ogre or something) that the player who did the worst would control. During the course of the mini-tournament, this set-up would allow us to see 5 teams in action - with one being a 'standard' team, a giant in play, and allow for the player who did terrible to play as the favorites at the end. Before I go further, a little on the game.




In DreadBall, there are three positions:

Striker - fast, but weak. They do your scoring, but can't really hit.

Jacks - The jack-of-all-trades. They do a little of everything...none of it well.

Guards - Heavy hitters, but they can't score.

Each team starts with 6 players on the field. Each side has three hexes that points can be scored in. The closest two to the middle for one point (or two from the farthest strike hex) and the farthest hex for three points (four from the farthest strike hex). Most attempts in the game have you rolling 3d6 and looking to roll higher than the appropriate attribute. For example, picking up the ball would be a check on the Skill attribute, of say 4+. If you roll a 4+ on any of the three die, then you are successful. Often times, this will be competing if you want to slam a dude. Both coaches roll 3d6 against and compare the number of success they get. The Slamming coach is looking to roll higher than their Str skill, with the opposing coach either looking to roll higher than their Str or Speed skill depending on if they are attempting to slam back or get out of the way. NOTE - There are of course more details to these rules - modifiers to these rolls that add or reduce the number of dice you roll, restrictions on what skill you use (the Judwan are peaceful, so can never slam or slam back), usually if you double the number of success needed you get extra actions, etc. Oh, each mini has six facing sides, but they only threaten their front three so facing does matter here, unlike BB where a model threatens every square around it. Also, unlike BB when a strike is scored the ball is instantly launched back onto the pitch from the middle, so there's no resetting up of the team. You've got to be ready for the game to 'play on'. More differences to BB:

BB, obviously, is like American football. When a score is made, everyone resets and the other player gets the ball. Each turn is a well thought out play much like each down in the NFL. Every player has to do their part and if they fail, usually ends the drive that turn. This is why coaches usually perform actions from chances of highest success to lowest. If any player fails at any point in that chain, it's a turnover. The game is also more violent. Tripping can kill you. Additionally, both BB and Football are slow grinds down the field (for the most part) with every inch of turf fought for. Referees are only involved if a player attempts the two sorts of fouls: hitting a player on the ground or bringing in a weapon. BB coaches each have 16 game turns and every model on a team can move barring a turnover. Games generally last 2-3 hours, if not a little more on occasion.
DB is more basketball with three hoops on each end - to include extra point zones, much like a three-point line. When a score is made, it's launched back in whether you are ready or not...but you may have a chance to end up with it. Similar to how basketball players pass the ball back in right after a score...a pass which is often stolen. The game is very fluid and a failed play on the ball is the only event that causes a turnover, so there can be more individual showboating and less dependency on team reliance. Though there is physical contact that can take a player out for a few turns, nothing seemed crippling. Even after a pitch clear by the Robots on the Judwan, the Judwan were able to cycle guys from the injury box back onto the field. Also, you do not usually get injured simply for tripping while trying to go an extra space. The game seems to push you to take more chances rather than BB's more cautious style. There's an actual referee model that players move around between turns that can gum up the field and they only roll to see if they spot a foul if they are actually within like 7 hexes of the transgression. DB coaches only have 7 games turns and then there are only 5 action tokens per turn so not all players will move. You spend a token to take an action with a player, and yes players can move more than once. Our games lasted a brisk hour or less.
I opted to play as the Zee. These are the alien monkey clones, who seem to be the 'halfling' team of the game. They're fun to play, but doubtful they'll win. I went with 'Kleptonian Zeeroes' as the name and a red and white color scheme. Originally, I wanted mainly white with red trim, but thought they would look too much like a Japanese flag, and well, painting white is a pain for me, so I flipped them to red with white trim. The Zee team is entirely made up of Jacks, so no real strength one way or the other. They also don't score very well, nor hit so hard. Their claim to fame is that they can strip the ball easily and have a high chance of cheating. When a foul is called against them they have an ability that allows them to roll and reduce the Ref's success. This enables them to have way more than the starting 6 players on the field as well as take some dirty shots and not be called for it. Not a scoring or hitting threat, but the Zee are chaos on the pitch.
The Judwan are all Strikers, and have a peaceful philosophy so they can't slam. At all. They sure can run and score though.
The Robots all start as Jacks, but can take an action to attempt a transformation into a Striker or Guard.
The Z'zor are tough as nails insects who have all three positions on their roster. They reminded us a lot of the vanilla Chaos team in BB. Strong, not great early on, but would be killer in league play as they seem to seldom take casualties. I like the look of this team and may get one for myself soon.
So, how'd this go down and what'd we think of the game?

The coaches got a kick out of receiving the surprise in the mail and thought the ticket guiding them to website with resource material was a great touch. (At one point there was a secret document that was dropped out of the back of a mail ship...) One expressed that there was no way he'd be able to get the team painted in time, which I figured would be the case. Sure, I'd have liked for all the teams to at least have their starting figs painted but, again, short notice. We did spend about a week via email trying to determine how we'd do the bases. Eventually, we settled on leaving the bases clear, but using highlighters along the edge to signify facing arcs and position (green = striker, yellow = jack, red = guard).

The Zee only ended up wnning one out of four games and that was against the Z'zor. To be fair though, the Z'zor coach forgot until the last game of the day that he could have his players sprint for double movement. The Judwan won all but one game which was their match with the Robots. The Robots went undefeated and the Z'zor coach played the human corporation team in the final against the Robots. The Big Mech crushed the Robots like cans and the tournament hosts won the event. In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have added the giant to the human roster, but I didn't really know what I was doing (not a first) and this was more a fun introduction to the game rather than a serious event, so it was fine.

Everyone enjoyed playing Dreadball and two of us (myself included) loved the game. The Alabama coach is going to buy a set and start up a little league with his kids. The Z'zor coach likes the game, but wants to play more before he makes a final decision. He's also interested in a different team, so maybe that'll make the difference. The Robot coach says he only has time to actively engage in BB and Mordheim, but will play DB on the occasion I set it long as we're still playing BB too.



We knocked these 4-5 games out in about 5.5 hours. My future with DB looks fairly bright. BB will still be our main league game, but I see myself sending out tickets in the mail about every 3-4 months for a one day mini league in The Pit. It also seems like a great game I could play with my son and his friends. The DB teams are very affordable, so I imagine I'll be picking up several more before the year is out. I'm also really sold on my sci-fi setting and am looking forward to fleshing it out more down the line. This game is different enough from BB that both have a place at the house. Do I need another sports game outside of these two? Likely not, but they seem to fit the long and short game niche and with both apparently having great league rules, I'm really excited about future games.

Oh, I also understand San Antonio has some shops that host DreadBall tournaments. I'm going to try to not get sucked into those. Try...

(Other games played at PitCon '15 were: X-wing, Cyclades, Marvel Legendary, Colossal Arena, Citadels, Ticket to Ride, and Risk 2210. Sponsored beers were: Guns & Oil and Shiner Ruby Redbird. Movie seen at the Alamo Drafthouse: Ant-Man - thumbs up!)



There Will Be Games
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hotseatgames's Avatar
hotseatgames replied the topic: #209770 01 Sep 2015 16:33
Awesome write-up! Dreadball sounds fun. I'd love to check it out some time. Especially since I went all-in on Deadzone during the last kickstarter.
drewcula's Avatar
drewcula replied the topic: #209805 02 Sep 2015 08:50
I was looking forward to your DreadBall write up, and you didn't disappoint my expectations. I'm really glad to know you and your buds enjoyed the game.
I don't post all that often on F:AT, but most of time it's in praise of DreadBall. I love this damn game, as does my six player league. We're starting our fifth season next month. In the meantime, I'm going to gratuitously steal your idea of the "big bad" for one of my winter tournaments. Great idea! Check your inbox for the invite...
Mr. White's Avatar
Mr. White replied the topic: #209806 02 Sep 2015 09:03
Thanks, fellas!

One of the things I really like about this game is that the teams, from what I can tell so far, are very unique. They seem to be more diverse than BB.

I mean, the BB teams differ by stat lines and the combination of skills. But these are skills most all the teams have access to and it's that distribution of initial skills that sets them apart.

In DB, some teams have abilities that seemingly only they have. From what I can tell, the robots are the _only_ team that can transform. The Judwan straight up can't slam. Etc.

This is different than BB. I really like this game. I mean, _really_ like it. Now that I've got a little experience with how it plays, I'm looking forward to seeing how a league plays out.

Also, I gotta give props to this team (photos from BGG). I'm going to have to get some of this paint!

Check out the glowing playpad!
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #209809 02 Sep 2015 09:27
What a great post... and your gamedays are fucking epic, I'm jealous.

I've never thought about putting so much work and effort to game day.
Egg Shen's Avatar
Egg Shen replied the topic: #209810 02 Sep 2015 09:40
This is such a great write up. It's the kind of write up that makes me want to spend way too much money! I'm with Gary Sax, I love the effort you put into this. It really seems like you planned an epic event. Very cool.
Mr. White's Avatar
Mr. White replied the topic: #209812 02 Sep 2015 10:07
Regarding events...

My philosophy on game ownership has changed over the years as the hobby has become more mainstream. More and more of my buddies have their own collections of sorts that'll range from 5 games to several hundred. I no longer need to be the one with a closet full. Outside of games I play with the family I have maybe about 10 hobby games and over half of them are card games of the FFG Silverline variety.

Instead of collecting and buying a lot of games, again, plenty of buddies that do that, I've turned my attention toward going deeper into fewer. I'll host a mini 2-3 session rpg game and do it up with themed music, food, etc. I'll put together a Wings of Glory event ( ) and have the right film playing in the background. You (my friends) bring a couple of your boardgames for us to play before and/or after.

This has gone off the Dreadball topic, but this arrangement works. I actually end up spending way less than I used to, but get to immerse myself a bit more (the old role-player/minis gamer in me loves the between game session tinkering). My buddies get to have their boardgames played as they bring them by the arm full.

Winners all around.
Ska_baron's Avatar
Ska_baron replied the topic: #209815 02 Sep 2015 11:29
Really love the ticket idea. Unannounced is perfect.

Great write up!
Mr. White's Avatar
Mr. White replied the topic: #209817 02 Sep 2015 11:37
Yeah, I enjoyed putting those together and getting the texts as their packages arrived.

Like I said, I expect to do up tickets again in the future for the next DB day. I'll drop those in the mail as well. Snail mail though...seems odd for a sci-fi game. However, there's just something to getting a tangible item in the mail.

With some in the group now having experience, the next time we'll use the league rules and witness some team development.
SuperflyPete's Avatar
SuperflyPete replied the topic: #209913 03 Sep 2015 19:08
I just traded a KS version of this based on the article. 4 teams, 12 idea about this game beyond this article.

I have to say, you sound like one hell of a good friend, and I'm very jealous of your friends.
drewcula's Avatar
drewcula replied the topic: #209916 03 Sep 2015 19:44
Pete - if you need any help/advice/therapy, I'm happy to offer DB opinions.
gversace's Avatar
gversace replied the topic: #209919 03 Sep 2015 21:30
DreadBall is a great game. I had low expectations of DreadBall; it looked like a simplistic version of Blood Bowl when I saw the original kickstarter. I was totally wrong. It is certainly faster, and the teams suffer from some imbalance (original DB Forge Fathers are just terrible), but the game is a ton of fun, and quick to play. Even the multi player version is excellent.
metalface13's Avatar
metalface13 replied the topic: #209920 03 Sep 2015 22:00
Jeff is an excellent dude. I'm gonna get sappy for a moment and admit I miss my ATX gaming buddies.

Great to hear you guys had fun with DB. It's got me interested in trying it out myself, wonder if I can get some like-minded people in Pittsburgh interested, my BB stuff is in storage right now anyways.
hotseatgames's Avatar
hotseatgames replied the topic: #209922 03 Sep 2015 23:44
So Dreadball Xtreme... totally different game? Do teams cross over? Why would you pick one vs. the other?
drewcula's Avatar
drewcula replied the topic: #210106 07 Sep 2015 09:51
Crudely speaking, consider "DreadBall Xtreme" as Blood Bowl's "DungeonBowl." It plays with roughly the same player mechanics and scoring objective, but it is more random and deadly. One-off games are fun, but you lose the depth of league play. League play is VERY different. There is little player advancement because so many die during a match. The focus instead lies on the team's "head coach" (called a Sponsor) and their improvement. There is a lot of opportunity for customization in Xtreme, but only if you already have access to a lot of DreadBall miniatures. If you're just starting out, I highly recommend the first game (aka DreadBall Original, or DBO) before Xtreme.
Mr. White's Avatar
Mr. White replied the topic: #210287 10 Sep 2015 08:02
Sorry about the delay here, but I was out of town for a few days.

Casey, Dreadball is perfect for where you are right now. The teams are affordable, the board is fairly small, and the games are quick. However, you get all the sports action you'd want plus the league/campaign building that I know you love. You really need to sell or trade what you can in order to get it.

A few years ago I lamented in the forums about wanting a good minis game with a neat setting, league rules, cool fluff, etc. I was basically describing another solid option to the oop GW offerings. Dreadball is that game. I love it.

What Drewcula said about Extreme being a variant like Dungeonbowl . I'm staying away from it at the moment. I like the simplicity of the base game plus I don't want to deal with the terrain pieces and stuff atm and focus on the teams.

Speaking of Drewcula, the man helped me out with a lot of questions and should be the DB go to guy.

Pete, I know you're into modelling...and though some of the minis from mantic may require a little trimming of flash, DB has some really diverse teams and a few are done up in that transparent blue, which I hadn't really seen in a minis game proper. Looks cool leaving parts of the mini clear:

The teams all around though are really cool. I'm digging the hobgoblins:

and the Star Frontiers fan in me wants the old-school looking Z'zor and Mechanites badly:

hotseatgames's Avatar
hotseatgames replied the topic: #210305 10 Sep 2015 09:15
Ah... those Mechanites look awesome! Cyberball was a great arcade game.