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 ( https://pitdl.wordpress.com/ ) 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 checks...like 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:
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 up...so 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!)