The Coaches’ Corner is an in-depth interview with DreadBall Coaches, Commissioners, and Creators. A game is fourteen Rushes, and the interview is fourteen questions.
Most queries are conducted in the locker room. Honesty is quick to rise when interviewees are forced to inhale post-match Veer-myn musk. But this time, we’ve stepped into the front offices. Coach Ciaran Morris is busy at his terminal, programming playtime.
Ciaran. Morris. A newly-born fantasy cartographer, longtime dreamer, and an eternally hopeful creative!
1) How did you first learn about DreadBall, and what do you remember about your first game?
I’d heard of DreadBall a little when I was getting into Mantic’s Dungeon Saga on Kickstarter in 2014, but I was only getting back into tabletop after the pretty common hiatus many gamers experience so passed it by. It wasn’t until October 2017 when I got a serious itch for it, I think talk of the 2nd Edition Kickstarter delivering was starting to ramp up. I’d been watching videos of 1st Edition tutorials and other matches and it really hooked me. I was so keen that it was around then I also sent an “ideas” pitch to Mantic for a tentative DreadBall community hub! Then in Dec 2017, I started hitting eBay for random bits of 1st Edition models and rules to see what it was like. Meanwhile, I waited on getting my hands on a 2nd Edition “Striker” KS pledge.
I remember little about my first game to be honest – it was me teaching it. Having only been through the rules myself, it was a very “vanilla” flavoured experience but fun nonetheless; 29ers vs the Smackers using 1st Edition rules right before I picked up 2nd Edition. I got to smack a few players but was lacking in the scoring department. Despite my keen interest in the game, the setting, and the models, I’ve not actually played that many games!
2) What is your favorite team, and favorite MVP?
As mentioned above – the Greenmoon Smackers are the team I started with and have a serious soft spot for (same applies to the Marauders faction in the wider Warpath Universe setting). I like a bit of “crunch!” with my sports.
I have to show my Rookie status in the DreadBall arena and say I’ve not played with any MVPs, but only through lack of opportunity; I really like the concept behind them.
So I’ll have to choose on aesthetics and “cool” factor and pick Yurik “Painmaster” Yurikson – a great stunty miniature and super official paintjob to boot. I love the general design of the Forge Fathers models in DB.
3) Across the entire DreadBall line, what is your favorite model? If you painted it, how did you do it?
Do we really need to pick favourites? I’ll have to stick with the simplicity of Yurik who I mentioned above… but need to give honourable nods to any of the Ada Lorana striker models, the Hobgoblin guards, Schnorkel the Avenger and Eko’o (a “Yarasa hunter”) from the Galactic Tour expansion – all great miniatures!
I’ll even go a little off-road and say that the Simian Brawler model from Star Saga / Deadzone is pretty special and one of them will be making its way into my Rebs team as a keeper!
4) Shifting gears for a moment, what do you do when you are not playing DreadBall?
Anything and everything really! Aside from working the day job in IT and time spent out and about with my wife and 2 kids (pre-COVID-19, I actually drive a lot of my free time into projects with Mantic in the background… I’ve had the chance to work on various websites, helping develop some of Kings of War Vanguard and sitting on its Rules Committee, bits of things with Dungeon Saga \ Star Saga before that and more recently I’ve got to dabble in designing faction logos and drawing maps and for Kings of War 3rd Edition. These have essentially become my “hobby” and a great creative outlet (my excuse for not painting!!!). I also love watching and going to rugby matches, something sorely missed this year with the way the world has turned!
5) While we’re at it, how do we pronounce your forename?
Hahaha – I love how my name throws people for a turn J Think of it as a hard C, so pronounced “K” like “Key”… so “Keer-an” is probably the most phonetic way of saying it – often seen spelt as Kieran. Mine is just the traditional Irish spelling (it’s lacking the fada but that’s a different story!). So disregard that pop-star Ciara and how she pronounces the female version of it!
6) Back to the Galaxy’s greatest sport, I understand you designed the very handsome website called http://www.dreadball.com. Please explain your involvement.
There’s a little bit of a tale to this one… I’d just come off the back helping do a temporary version of the Kings of War campaign website in Aug 2017 and was looking around at other ideas for gaming community hubs. The DreadBall itch started to scratch at the same time and being a sports fan and longtime SpeedBall 2 fan it seemed like a perfect fit. So I fired off some ideas to Martin Thirlwell at Mantic who was covering DreadBall – it was all some pie-in-the-sky thinking I had about a global league and fancy ideas for community engagement etc.
I hit the buffers however as something was already in development for the rankings and a new website. So with my jets cooled I looked elsewhere.
Just under two months later and I got a message from Martin to see if I would be interested in doing the official website. Things hadn’t worked out with the other developer and I’d already shown an interest and ability, so away we went. I learned what WordPress was just before Christmas 2017 and had the website live and the ELO rankings formula for DB developed by mid-March 2018.
I was pretty pleased with how it went all things considered – it looked the part, we got a decent bit of content available, had the global rankings table & system ready, offered full event management options for T.O’s and even dabbled in hosting a home for initial custom coach teams creation.
I’ve maintained the site and updated the rankings ever since but I’m about to pass that baton on.
7) As we’re discussing digital DreadBall, why don’t you take this moment to pitch Vassal (pun intended)? What is it, and how does a rookie Coach get started?
Without rambling, Vassal is a lightweight application for computer or laptop that lets you play 2D digital versions of board games where I’ve updated and developed a DreadBall 2nd edition to play on.
I’d had the pie-in-the-sky ideas of a true global DB competition a few years back and seeing how there were pockets of keen DB fans across the globe I thought a renewed digital version for 2nd Edition could be a cool idea to connect folks who share the same passion for the game but lacking the chance to get on a physical version of the pitch.
It’s missing the 3D elements that make playing DreadBall in real life so much fun, but I’ve tried to offer a little bit of extra fun in terms of sound effects to taunt your opponent with and really rub-in your latest strike celebration as well as a spruced up interface to still get across some of those DreadBall feels!
Any willing coach can get started by:
I. Check out the starter guide here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/oytbpk7zobqlmzr/DreadBall-Vassal-Starter-Guide-v1.0-BETA.pdf?dl=0&fbclid=IwAR0Ksm3cFK87T3LvAixQQ-XHvCeZ4f0z9SomiS1VIlE-_Tn_XCwIcdnQU4U
II. Download the main Vassal app (link in the Starter Guide)
III. And grab the latest version of the DreadBall module from my website here: https://foxrisedesign.com/downloads/
I’ve more to come for it, including better guides to make it as easy as possible for anyone to try!
8) What challenges/opportunities have you encountered while translating DreadBall into open source software?
I really had to double down on the rules – being a novice player meant I had to watch a ton of DreadBall content to ensure I was getting the flow of 2nd Edition gameplay right as other players see it, and not just how I interpreted the rules & flow in isolation. So that was a challenge, but feedback has been good so far!
I’ve loved the opportunity to mess around with sound effects to enhance the feel of the game a little more, in addition to a little bit of graphical fun with the faux-digital “Coach HUD” displays that are unique to the Vassal module and custom designed for the digital version.
It’s also been a great opportunity to be able to offer something that might help the game & community grow beyond isolated pockets of players playing in their own locales. A truly global game for the galaxy’s greatest sport is an exciting prospect!
I also want to give a shout out to Sam Lowrie and his TTS (Tabletop Simulator) version of DreadBall 2nd Ed that has arrived hot on the heels of the Vassal version. He’s providing the same aim (though it’s not free/open source unfortunately) in offering more coaches more access to DreadBall. We’ve been chatting together in the background and both want the game to succeed in whatever version possible and think they both offer something for many of the coaches out there needing a DreadBall digital fix!
9) How do you prefer to play DreadBall, and why? [One-off, league, tournament, Xtreme, Ultimate]
I’ve only played one-off games so far but my heart is in league play… I’m a big Seasons/Career mode player in any sports games I play on console or PC, so running a team through a season and charting their progression is a key part of my interest in sports, real or on the tabletop!
10) League play… Vassal… Is there any chance this could happen?
Yup! It will happen. I think we’re likely to have the Mantic-approved Vassal Tournament in July that I’m helping with before I get a Vassal League running (whilst allowing the TTS League to run without direct competition for Coaches valuable time), but Vassal League play is something I am super keen on.
But that’s not all – I also want it to tie into something bigger. Vassal League play, or any digital league play only appeals to a subsection of our coaches… Leagues can be a big commitment and digital play isn’t as good as meeting a coach across the tabletop neodurium in real life!
So how do you try to accommodate and encourage those coaches who want to play the galaxy’s greatest sport but not commit to a league and who don’t like digital games? How do we offer a chance to keep coaches connected with DreadBall?
That’s where my idea for DUEL comes in… the DreadBall Universal Equity League. A “something for everyone” website hub.
It goes back to my pie-in-the-sky idea from 2017 and is going to offer a full schedule for an “authentic” DreadBall official season with all the big franchise teams included. Coaches can play their own games at home or digitally and if they enter their results to the website then they’ll count towards that same franchise’s results aswell as be able to track how each team type performs.
So even if you don’t care about the Trontek 29ers, you’ll be able to track how Human Corporation teams do against their peers.
I’m dabbling with ways to simulate match results and match reports to help keep the feel & flow of an authentic DB season as if it were an active sport as well as provide a hub for leagues to host weekly round-ups and news. So even if you’re not actively playing, there’ll be some DreadBall fun to follow along with.
It’s getting there but not ready just yet – I keep getting involved in other projects and this COVID-19 lockdown hasn’t been kind in terms of offering me any extra time!
11) Which opposing team/Coach do you… Dread… the most?
As a novice player who’s only played pretty vanilla feeling games, I don’t have much experience to say really. In terms of coach I’d probably leave a brown streak down under if I had to face a certain Coach Burbidge on the DB pitch, it’d be like lambs to the slaughter!!!
In terms of an opposing team to Dread, from what I’ve seen and my ease for getting distracted, the Zees fill me with a certain fear!
12) Describe your most memorable DreadBall Rush.
That one time… at DB boot camp…
Honestly, it’s been that long since I had a face-to-face game and we were both such novices that it’s hard to pull out anything too memorable. So I’m going to default to my most recent game, a test/demo session on Vassal with Coach Forge France from the DB Fanatics group who I played a couple of rushes after an enjoyable evening talking all things DreadBall on Discord.
Mine was a simple 1pt Strike playing as the Draconis neobots – not memorable in itself – but it was a first public demo session of DB on Vassal, I’d had a great chat with Forge France all evening having just met him and was live streaming it open to the community via Discord. So it hit all the marks I could’ve wanted in terms of a rush and DreadBall experience…. I still lost though!
13) What would you like to see from DreadBall in the future?
I’d hope I can offer something in terms of the DreadBall DUEL idea – I’d like to see that sort of thing engage other coaches and get them enthusiastic for more regular DreadBall.
Aside from that, I’d like to see things like some sort of fan-vote based “drafting picks” for some new players or cards to the game roster per year/season. Get coaches invested in yearly content.
I’d also like the idea of a sort of Tactics or Playbook deck introduced that Coaches could pick from at the start of a game and if during play they had their players lined up in proximity to certain hex positions would offer a chance at a one-off “special move”.
More flavour too, not just in terms of places to play, but I love the idea of extra collectable stuff like the Commentary box resins of Elmer & Dobbs, so would love to see items such as physical locker room, advertising board and press conference sponsor screens content made available… some of which I see for Aristaea! We had some of it for 1st Edition, but I’d like to see it come back.
14) Lastly, if you won a BreadDoll in tournament play (last place), would you; eat it immediately in front of attending Coaches, or wait until you were in the privacy of your locker room?
I’m afraid you’re gonna need to head back to Chef-school coach!!! I’m one of those awkward coeliac (celiac to my NA counterparts) afflicted folks so I can’t be doing any of that “bread” stuff! Or at least if I did I’d have to do it back in my locker room to enjoy and then suffer in private!
Brilliant! There we have it Coaches! Opportunities to play DreadBall digitally, born in the age of quarantine. Plus, we have a potential target for our first case of ‘death by BreadDoll!’ Thanks Ciaran!