Coaches’ Corner: Sam Graven

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.

Sam Graven is in the sin bin for this iteration, and he’s agreed to answer some BreadDoll questions while reflecting on the chaos of multiplaying Dread.  He’s a commissioner for a tight knit and mercurial league – his family!

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Sam Graven.  Educator.  Game Influencer.  And, a man with an inexplicable fear of big boats (although he would argue the phobia is completely rational).

1)  How did you first learn about DreadBall?

Well, I suppose when the original Kickstarter came out.  It was a topic of general chat at my local club, but at that time I hadn’t really got back heavily into any kind of mini gaming: I played a lot as a kid, then moved on to RPGs and TCGs (fairly competitively).  Those TCGs were why I’m very wary of tournament play of any variety as I’ve got older – and only started coming back to minis with, of all things, Heroclix.  By the time DreadBall 2nd edition came around, I’d been back into gaming, and blogging about gaming over on bigcomicpage.com, for a few years.  I got a review copy, and I was hooked.

2)  What do you remember about your first game?

Chaos!  But in a really good way.  It was fast and intuitive, and I liked the way the score swung back and forth constantly.  The consistent 3d6 mechanic appealed to me too, as it gave a peg to hang everything else off.

3)  What is your favorite team?

You mean favoUrite team, right? 😉 [Editor’s note: Sam is our first interviewee from the UK].  That’s such a hard question.  Teratons were the first team I played with after the Marauders and Humans, and I still love their aesthetic.  I’m enjoying playing Crystallans a lot, at the moment, and I like the sheer variety – and challenge – of playing Rebs, especially against experienced opponents.  But for total unabashed fun, it’s got to be the Zees.

4)  What is your favorite MVP?

Now that’s easy, Nightshade, hands-down.  Occasionally hopeless, but usually incredible. I often play fairly slow and/or Jack-heavy teams, to give the kids a chance to try to outmaneuver me, but at the same time I want someone with serious speed and skills to give them a fright.  He ticks the boxes, and has only once ended up doing a comedy juggling act.

5)  Across the entire DreadBall line, what is your favorite model?

Probably Barricade?  Dynamic, fun to build, paint AND play with.  Although I like the lids on the small objects in X-Treme!  The tension they generate appeals to me, and they’re just a really nice bit of design.

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6)  How do you primarily play DreadBall? [One-off, league, tournament, Xtreme, Ultimate]

Ultimate all the way.  Dreadball has social appeal to me.  I don’t often get to hang out at my local club that much nowadays (three kids) but it’s easy to rock up with a copy of the game and a bunch of teams.  It never ceases to surprise me how quickly folk get it by just watching, and in Ultimate that can mean you have full 6-player in no time.  Likewise, with two kids of gaming age, it’s good to have things which we can play together.  We play board games, of course, but a lot of mini gaming feels a bit clumsy with three players, or is horrendously time-consuming (and prone to the whims of a rampaging three year-old).  Ultimate is the ideal game for us to play together; the kids have painted up teams, so they feel more invested in the experience, and in fact my older son bought himself a Kalyshi team just because he liked the fluff.  Because we tend to play Ultimate, we’ve been experimenting with a host of other rules and spent this summer testing and playing an Ultimate League*, which has been great: a particularly jumpy Kalyshi Striker is now mounted on a flight stand, the Yndij Captain is notorious for stealing all the glory off the rest of his team, and woe betide anyone who goes near the legendary Crystallan Guard known simply as “Mr Hitty.”

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7)  Shifting gears for a moment, what do you do when you are not playing DreadBall?

Like so many gamers, I have terrible hobby ADHD.  I really like Superhero gaming, primarily DC stuff, though Kitbash Games’ new Supers Unlimited range is beautiful.  Gaslands is a heck of a game, who doesn’t love toy cars?  Wings of Glory, because for the first time in my life it’s a game my dad will play (he’s really into WW1 aviation).  Walking Dead, X-Wing, Harry Potter, and more Death Guard than’s remotely healthy – I run a very broad church.  Lots of Board Games.  A bIt of TCGing too – Transformers with my older, Warhammer Champions with the younger.  So the common thread in all of these is that I can play them with the kids.  The geek shall inherit, and so on.  Oh, and in real life?  I’m a teacher, Media and English, secondary school.  High school, in colonial parlance.

8)  Which opposing team do you… Dread… the most?

Oh, Yndij, easily.  All of my most memorable defeats are to them, and given that my younger son plays with his Ninja Sharks all the time, that’s a LOT of defeats.

9)  Describe your most memorable DreadBall Rush.

I’m going to cheat slightly with this (don’t tell the Ref).  We had a fantastic Mantic Scotland Day up at Common Ground Games in Stirling, organized by our local Pathfinder and good buddy, Gofur Hunter.  Myself, the kids, and a couple of other mates rocked up for a day of Ultimate whilst most folk around us played Kings of War.  We’d started to set up, and a couple of young lads asked if they could try the game, so we gave them the Yndij to play together vs my Zees, my older son with Z’Zor and another friend with Marauders.  They went last in the first Rush, managed to score 3, went first in the next, flipped a Faulty Scoreboard event, and scored 4 off their second ball!  They enjoyed it so much they went over immediately to hassle their dad into buying a copy of the game!  Job done.

10). What would you like to see from DreadBall in the future?

Man, what a toughie.  Little things to spice up the game.  I think card packs would be great – like Azure League.  Limited Print-On-Demand, or even pdf packs, relatively low cost but would add a lot to the game.  Or a commercially available DreadBall Ultimate pack, with the second edition Ultimate cards and Subs’ Benches, as shown in the Collector’s Rulebook.  I ended making physical subs’ benches from Battlezones bits.  Other than that, maybe a pdf of Challenge Cup and/or Xtreme stuff, bringing it into the mainstream?  Which is kind of what we’ve been doing for Ultimate League, I suppose.  I don’t think there’s much needed model wise; could do with Beauty and the Mob being back in print!  Maybe some new Giants – who do I see about that? [Editor’s note: The Rules Committee has been play testing.  There is good news afoot]

11)  You often play DreadBall with your children.  What are the family dynamics during matches?

Tense!  My kids are great, my older maybe a bit too competitive, my younger a bit too sensitive, so I have to be Ref-Dad sometimes.  It’s always fun when they realise they have to stop bickering and gang up to take me down!  But it’s definitely a great way to spend time together.  The duck and weave of Dreadball beats pretty much everything else we could play hands down.

12)  You’re an educator.  How would you assess DreadBall and what distinction would it receive?

Well, you know, it’s not about grades any more – it’s all about giving productive feedback.  So, excellent work, just keep working on promoting the game as widely as possible!  I think Dreadball’s greatest and most underrated asset is the potential of the community.  And hey, BreadDoll is nothing if not the proof of how awesome it is.

13)  DreadBall exists within Mantic’s Warpath Universe.  What other Mantic titles do you play?

I like how you said play, not own… The Walking Dead: All Out War was actually the mini game that really got my kids playing.  Terrible parenting I know!  The wee fella was seven, maybe only six, the first time we played, and he immediately threw Carl to a Walker as a distraction to help win.  Genius, if somewhat terrifying.  We’ve found ourselves playing more Here’s Negan! though, as we like the hybrid mini/board game model.  I’m blown away by Hellboy, incredible sculpts and visuals – I’m a comic nerd, after all – the difficult curve on it is immense though.  That’s not a criticism, mind you.

14)  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?

The chances of me BreadDolling are very high! I would glory in it. Because at the end of the day, bread is amazing. When I was a kid I would eat bread like cake. Not much has changed.

* Sam’s mention of an Ultimate League caught the BreadDoll’s attention!  Loyal loaf lovers can look forward to a thorough explanation in the near future when we invite Sam back to become our first guest writer!

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