A particular DreadBall quirk of mine is that every team I use has to have their own set of dice. Not just any dice, mind you, these dice have to match the team colors and/or theme. I’m not really sure why I do it, there are some sets of dice I like better than others, but a habit is a habit. Last week for Origins found me buying a new dice cube just hours before the first launch of the tournament.
I also happen to use a completely different set of dice for coaching dice during the match as well. I only have a few sets of these, the most important part is that they are easily distinguishable from the “normal” dice I use during a match. My favorite set for coaching dice at the moment are the exceedingly beautiful BreadDoll dice, with the BD properly placed on that good ol’ exploding six.
Not that it matters too much, but I also have a habit of only using 16mm dice too.
It’s got me to wondering, what match quirks or habits do other DB coaches have?
Here are a smattering of some DreadBall tournament moments that for one reason or another are forever ingrained in my memory. I have many favorite moments from individual games, but these five stand out for completely….different reasons.
5. The Clock! Adepticon. The first DreadBall tournament in the US of A, debuting at Adepticon. This was memorable not only because it was the first tournament, but because it experimentally decided to borrow the chess clock rules that were being used in Kings of War at the time. However, a misunderstanding of the rules packet led to the entire game being limited to 3O minutes, rather than 30 minutes per player for the one hour rounds. This resulted in the fastest four rounds of tournament DreadBall ever!
4. The Comeback! Adepticon. The start of the North American DreadBall Circuit was off with a bang, and the early favorites appeared to be a Hobgoblin team running a double Hulk build. 4-0 going into the Fifth and final round, the Hobgoblins found themselves in a rematch with an earlier victim from the day. An interesting quirk, in the NADC, five round tournaments sometimes result in rematches in the fifth round due to the nature of the size of the field, and the fact that the final round has the top two teams play each other, regardless if they have already played each other or not. Well, as luck would have it….or not, depending on your perspective, victory was not to be for the Hobgoblins. The characteristic aggressive play style marking their earlier victories was notably absent in the thrilling final to crown the North American Champion. The opposing coach had found themselves in a hole early in the day, but managed to climb back to the top with win after win to claim the NADC title!
3. League in a Day! EVO Games. League in a Day is just a memorable experience no matter what. While this wasn’t the first one I had participated in, it was one of the most fun! There were several teams and a variety of play styles represented that resulted in some wonderful matches on the day.
2. Stomped into Submission! Adepticon. A woeful tale of so close, yet so far. Final match of the tournament for me and my Beltway Bruisers (Marauders), I was only having a so-so tournament. One final match could bring me a bit of redemption. However, Jon Carter and his Teratons were not having it! In a brutal back and forth affair, it looked like I might eeck out a victory, but in the end settled for a tie….or so I thought. In the final rush with the score tied, and very few scoring opportunities available, Coach Carter went with a foolproof plan…STOMP! The physical nature of the match up had taken a toll on my poor goblins, and only one was remaining on the pitch. Recognizing an opportunity, Jon managed to knock the goblin prone….and proceeded to mercilessly stomp on them despite the protestations of the referee. Time was called, and while the score was knotted at “0”, I had no remaining players capable of scoring left on the pitch—resulting in an unexpected loss! I constantly point to this match as an excellent example of situational awareness.
1. Slam from the bench! Gen Con. This was the first ever DreadBall tournament at Gen Con. For being thrown together last minute from a hospital bed, it had a pretty decent turn out too. At this time there were only Season one teams available, the game being less than a year old. Early on, there was a Veer-myn team that seemed primed to run the table. However, one play would turn their fortunes upside down. The rats looked poised to take down a Corporation squad early…they had a lead, and the ball, and were preparing to go for another big strike. The Veer-myn striker was carefully trying to skirt the defense outside the strike zone when it happened.
A Corporation Jack came off the bench with one step and completely blindsided the rat, ball careening down the pitch. The abrupt end of the rush caused a huge momentum change. The corporation recovered the loose ball and immediately scored to take the lead and eventually the match. The rats, once poised to take the day, fell from the top table for good. Another classic example of how a single play can change the momentum of a match!
“Begin With the End in Mind”—Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (and probably DreadBall coaches too!)
Every coach, every team, has some sort of strategy for victory. Now, not every strategy is necessarily a good one, and sometimes they may be mismatched, but it’s there all the same. The best strategies have a clear goal in mind, a very specific end of game scenario, or solution if you will, to the puzzle the other team will pose to them. So ask yourself, once the teams are lined up, and the ball is set to launch…how do you see the match ending?
If you have a predilection for violence, you may envision the pitch nearly void of opposition and their sin bin strewn with corpses. Fair enough. But you also need to pay attention to the scoreboard too, which mean that while scoring may not be your focus, you can’t let the points difference get out of reach.
The opposite, however, may be true if you have a preference for flinging the ball over flinging bodies. That’s great too. You need to prioritize scoring early and often, and your “perfect ending” may mean grabbing a landslide. Or even a simple insurmountable lead with a rush remaining. But you have to keep enough players around for that to happen!
So while having a clear picture of your ideal end game is helpful, it’s actually managed rush by rush. To efficiently and effectively achieve your goals means wise allocation of your precious actions. Therefore, each Rush must also have a clear “end” in mind as well.
Let’s use the example of the bashy team above. Eager to lay waste to their opposition, they spend almost all of their actions on slamming or getting in position to mark or slam. However, if this coach wants to get to their endgame, they need to not neglect the fact that they are down by four points at the moment. They need to spend at least one action to pull the score back and keep the match alive for their long game!
Basically, you must:
Define your goal.
Each Rush, prioritize actions based on achieving said goal.
Of course, it’s never quite that simple as your opponent is trying to do the same, and thus the conditions of the match are in a constant state of flux. However, the coach that best adapts to the situation and stays focused on their priorities will often come out on top. The “art” of DreadBall comes in making each Rush build of the previous toward your inevitable end game scenario. Good Luck!
At first glance, the Matsudan seem like the perfect blend of strength and skill….everything you would want in DreadBall team! However, they are not with out their drawbacks, DreadBall is a fast paced game after all, and these tubby lizards can have a hard time keeping pace with the opposition.
Obviously, the great Strength of the Matsudan is a key advantage. Loaded with Guards and Jacks to take full advantage of this attribute, the Tectonics can live up to their name and rock their opposition for sure with a devastating Slam game.
Additionally, the Matsudan all start with Grapple. This is an excellent ability, that can really give an advantage to shifting opposition players around the board.
Lastly, the Tectonics all start with Steady. This can make them very difficult to deal with, as since they all have pretty decent armour, there is a pretty good chance they stay standing and rearing to come after you for revenge!
Move….4. Speed…5+. The big weakness for the Matsudan, is that they are not getting anywhere fast. This can sometimes make it difficult for them to take full advantage of their great Skill. Matsudan Jacks will often have to resort to a Throw on the run, or have trouble reaching the deep strike zone all together. It’s not uncommon for Matsudan players to have to make either a second action where their opponents only need one, or have to risk some Dash rolls in order to try and preserve action tokens. This can put a real drain on their resources and how much they can hope to accomplish in a Rush.
No Strikers. While this need not be a huge disadvantage, and can be off set by the tremendous skill of the Matsudan, lacking a scoring specialist can still be a hindrance. One less dice on handling the ball can certainly add up, especially if your having to move on top of it. A Jack throwing on the run from short range is already down to one dice, and forget bonus strikes without coaching dice! And while it’s not the most likely set of occurrences, Matsudan Jacks can turn into prime targets for Bashy teams…if they take them out, you can’t score!
Also, I’d be remiss not to mention that they are Honourable, meaning you can’t intentionally foul with them. This means no sucker punches, so you will have to plan your slams accordingly. If you like to play dirty….this may not be the team for you!
Strategy and Tactics
There are many approaches to victory for the Matsudan…they can play to score, or they can play to kill. They can do equally well at both. As such, nearly every strategy is open to a Tectonics Coach.
However, to mitigate getting stretched on the pitch, consider adding or developing a Keeper on your roster. They can pay HUGE dividends for the Matsudan and keep them from wasting actions chasing the ball around the pitch. Baring that, perhaps keeping at least one Jack on each end of the pitch will give you some options too.
Be sure to make use of Sprint where applicable, it’s an action that sometimes gets forgotten is the hustle and bustle of dishing out pain. But for slow teams, you sometimes need to spend an action solely for the purpose of repositioning a player for future use. And while far from an “all the time” type of play, you may look at “risking” a Sprint for a pick up on your Matsudan Jacks. Yes, it’s only a two dice pickup, but on Skill 3+ it’s not the worst odds, especially if you have a card in reserve to burn for a reroll if necessary. It’s a great way to try and add some extra range to your plays where appropriate.
Lastly, don’t fall for your own strength. Many times bashy teams get caught up in slamfests, and in their eagerness to reach out and hurt as many players as possible, they stop spending actions on marking players. Now, certainly there is some wisdom in causing as much havoc as possible, and there are definitely many scenarios where support may be overkill. BUT, if there is a KEY slam that you absolutely HAVE to have for a play to work, don’t succumb to hubris and stack the odds in your favor. What matters more? Making more slams, or making them count?
Tournament gaming is not really my bag. Still, it can serve as a useful challenge in a variety of ways to improve your personal playing style. It’s been through participation in tournaments that I’ve been able to develop a variety of tactics and strategies I may never have taken notice of otherwise.
Tournaments represent a great opportunity to step outside of your local scene and pit your DreadBall expertise against new faces and approaches to the game. The results can be eye opening. Folks who swear that the Castle is unbeatable, find it crumbling despite their efforts to the contrary. Coaches who insist Strikes are where it’s at, find themselves being ground out by bashy squads. And proponents of a brute force approach…..get circles run ‘round them by those favoring finesse over muscle.
Sometimes, people just simply get good at playing a certain type of coach, learning their individual ins and outs. When faced with new, unknown opposition, the game can radically change.
All this, to simply state, you are a result of your habits. You play the same people, teams, play styles, etc. You start to simply play the game a certain way. That’s where tournaments can shake things up, by turning what you think you know, on its head.
However, maybe traveling to a tournament isn’t in the cards for you. That’s fine, just try and adopt some of the same concepts into your regular games to keep things fresh, and give yourself the opportunity to expand your skills.
Tryanewteam. So, yeah, you are pretty much unstoppable with Crystallans….that’s great. How about trying Judwan? Taking a team drastically different than what you are used to can help you appreciate the game better. It may give insight into how to better defeat your antithesis (you know, the whole “know your enemy” thing), or better yet, you may discover a taste for a different play style than what you are used to and thereby increase your enjoyment of the game! SCORE!
Tryanewstrategy. Sometimes this is related to trying a new team, or sometimes it’s simply a different way of using what you already have. Perhaps you get a little more aggressive with your Veermyn Guards….or start flinging the ball around a bit more with your Corp squad. Again, tackling a different approach to the game can help you better understand both how to use AND how to defend against, different play styles.
DON’Tuseyourtriedandtrue. You don’t lose when you Castle. Great. But you don’t “win” either ‘cause everyone is crying about how broke it is. Fine. Don’t use it. At all. Dare yourself to play without that “one tactic” or strategy or what have you that is the normal key to victory. It will force you to grow your approach to the game. The Castle example, will force you to assess how to take advantage of the relative weaknesses of the approach, and search for the matchups to exploit within the game. This approach can be applied to any number of setups, tactic, etc.
Teachanolddog, anewtrick. Huh, Keepers look cool. But you’ve never used one. Make yourself do it! Find a skill, position, MVP, combo, etc. That you like the look of and just get it on the table to try it out. Theoryhammering is one thing, but playing is another. Pick something out and put it to practice and you just may surprise yourself with what you find.
Anyhow, enough rambling from me. Don’t get caught up in just “chasing wins”. Explore the game, and all it has to offer. It will enrich your DreadBall experience, and in time, the wins will start rolling in too!
The Neobots are a well rounded team that are deceptively average…..on paper. However, clever use of their Linked ability can allow them to be VERY active in their Rushes and get a lot of work done on the pitch.
One advantage of the All-Stars roster, is their access to specialists. They have Jacks, but their default roster contains three each of Guards and Strikers. This allows the team to be tailored to any style of play, and can make it easier to get a Specialist role in position to do what they do best.
While being “Average” can sometimes be a tongue in cheek derogatory statement, in DreadBall, it can actually be an advantage. Their is no obvious weakness in terms of stats to take advantage of from an opponents perspective. They can’t abuse your Agility, Strength, or Armour. Sure, sometimes might have an advantage, depending on the match up, but that doesn’t mean it’s a weakness for the Neobots. This can make the All-Stars a difficult matchup to prepare for, as they can do just about anything, making them unpredictable in the hands of crafty coach.
The true strength of this team, though, is their Linked ability. Linked can be very strong, but for most teams it has limited value as the ability requires another player to have the same ability to be utilized. Since the Neobots all start with it, that’s no problem for them!
Linked really could have its own article on effective use, but it primarily serves two main functions: 1) Do a thing better or 2)Do two things for the price of one. For example, I could “do a thing better” when I play a Slam card on a Guard, and use the Free Run to first move another player to threaten the target. Or, I can “do two things” by playing the same Slam card, but use the Free Run to pick up a loose ball with a Striker. Done well, Linked allows the All-Stars to really outwork the opposition in terms of total number of actions completed.
For some coaches, being “well rounded” is a bit of a weakness, as the squad lacks that single minded focus of having a specialty that they really excel at.
The major weakness for Neobots, however, is their “trick” has a limit. You spend DreadBall cards to activate it, specifically Action cards. Thereare ways to work around this, but it’s still a cost. It doesn’t help that the suggested starting roster only has one card, making it difficult to take advantage of.
Strategy and Tactics
While the matchup is always a factor in determining how to best defeat the opposition, it is especially so with teams that are “average”. Look for the opposing teams weakness and try to exploit it. High strength teams, for example, tend to lack in other areas, and you want to build your strategy around your advantage in those facets of the game.
However, another approach is to try and take advantage of Linked as much as possible, flatly outworking your opponent in terms of number of actions completed. Doing more each Rush can add up to a big advantage that steamrolls later in the game. Try and draw a DreadBall card each Rush that you can afford it, and in most cases choose a DreadBall card on Fan Checks to try and stockpile options. Not only do the cards themselves represent extra actions, but with Linked, it actually gives you two!
As I’ve talked about previously, I love the idea of DreadBall taking place in different venues and on different worlds. These are not only thematically interesting, but can also pose unique tactical wrinkles to the game of DreadBall as well. While far from perfect, the 1st edition supplement ChallengeCup, was on the right track for the sort of experience I’ve been looking for.
One of the elements that could be paired with the GlobalRule suggestion from Franchise Mode, is the concept of ADifferentCrowd. Not only can the venue itself pose different conditions, but the crowd can also potentially impact the game as well. This could add some thematic home field advantage.
The premise is that not every crowd expects the same style of play, or appreciates the same elements of the game as another. For example, the Long Rock Lifers home crowd may be much more interested and excited in seeing players carried off in body bags or getting one over on the Ref than seeing skillful passing plays develop deep down the pitch. However, the fans of the Pelgar Mystics may have the exact opposite sentiment.
For now, let’s assume there are broadly four types of crowds to start. The TypicalCrowd, the BrutalCrowd, the FinesseCrowd, and the DemandingCrowd. The TypicalCrowd is the same as the standard Fan Check conditions already described in the rules, so there is nothing to examine here. But let’s check out the other three:
These folks LOVE violence. They can’t get enough of it. Often the result is of little consequence to these fans, as long as someone gets pasted. Instead of the normal Fan Check conditions listed in the DreadBall rules, only the following triggers Fan Checks for a BrutalCrowd:
*Inflicting an Injury
*Committing a particularly successful foul
*Win a Distract test
*Any cards, cheerleaders or special rules that generate fan checks work as normal.
This type of crowd loves the fancy plays and seeing the high level of skill professional players possess. They actually care about points being scored! Instead of the normal Fan Check conditions listed in the DreadBall rules, only the following triggers Fan Checks for a FinesseCrowd:
*Doubling a Strike
*Catches a 9-hex pass. Once per Rush.
*Any cards, cheerleaders or special rules that generate fan checks work as normal.
There are some fans that just won’t be pleased with regular, run of the mill play. These folks need to be wowed, and only exemplary effort and skill move them to cheer. Instead of the normal Fan Check conditions listed in the DreadBall rules, only the following triggers Fan Checks for a DemandingCrowd:
*Catching a scattering ball.
*Dashes 3 or more times in the same Action without falling.
*Evades 3 or more times in the same Action without falling.
*Tripling an (X) roll with 3+ successes.
*Any cards or special rules that generate fan checks work as normal, but the Cheerleader Ability WorktheCrowd has no effect.
In league play, a team could pick which type of crowd best represents their Home fans and use the modified conditions for Fan Checks when they are the Home team in a match. Or, if the game is more of a Neutral site affair, or you just don’t “know” what type of crowd is going to show up any given match, you could roll for it! Before the match begins, the Home coach rolls a dice and consults the following:
1: a DemandingCrowd
2: a BrutalCrowd
3: a FinesseCrowd
4-6: A TypicalCrowd
Of course, there could always be more types of crowds…and maybe some support staff that could modify or interact with that as well, but alas, that’s for another time. Now get out there and get those fans on there feet!
So, following on about Home pitches having global rules, I wanted to take on a Hobby project to make one of my own. Now, one approach would be to simply download one of the amazing pitches designed by an immensely talented pitch designer, BreadDoll’s own Geoff Burbidge. However, I, being a glutton for punishment, opted for a more three dimensional project. This is the first part of a “behind the scenes” in my pitch build project.
First, you need to come up with a theme. What kind of pitch is this going to be? I personally find the project to be more interesting if the theme offers a more “exotic” venue in contrast to the standard arena. What kind of strange planet or pitch conditions is the project meant to replicate? For this project, I was torn between two ideas that I really wanted to develop. However, the “easier” of the two was a simple ice world pitch. All most since the inception of the game, I’ve had some home brew rules developed that I’ve been keen to get on the table. Now I’m finally making a pitch to represent it!
Now that I had a pitch idea to run with, I had to get on with making it! There are a few approaches I could have went with, but again, this time around I was taking the easy road. I pulled out the old quadrant zero mdf pitch to use as a base. Because of some of the other aspects of the pitch I wanted to incorporate, I needed to mount the mdf to a backer board. A simple sheet of plywood did the job nicely.
Once mounted, I laid down some base colors. Going for a snow and ice look, I wanted to stay with cold colors like light blue and grey. And a little white dry brushing. The grey areas would be for the more snow covered places, while the blue would be for the more icy patches….though one need not completely exclude the other.
After laying down some base color on the pitch itself, I used some insulation foam to build around the pitch. I simply used the score track mdf pieces as a template to get the edges right, lining them up half way onto the edge of the foam, then tracing the edge of the hexes as a template for cutting. Using a knife, I carved out the hexes.
After cutting out the foam, I then glued the pieces into place around the exterior of the pitch. Once glued, I began putting some more paint layers on and the project begins to take shape.
Now the reason for the mounting of the pitch, was that I could do some decent sized ice patches this way in the recessed areas of the pitch. After getting the strike zones and launch lane painted, I used a hex and silver paint pen to trace the hexes in those areas, since there was no mdf pitch placed there. I also added some extra designs, some silver glitter glue snow flakes in the strike hexes and some white card stock snowflakes of a different design placed on the launch hexes.
With these extra decorations added, I then poured some water effect into those areas. I didn’t worry about doing it in separate applications, as this represented ice, cracking and splitting as the “water” hardened would actually be a desirable effect and add to the ice look.
We will look at the final result in the next article!
Happy New Year BreadDollers! Last time I was let out of the bakery, I rambled about Leagues and radical rule suggestions. After receiving “treatment”, I’m back to continue talking about Franchise Mode! But no rules this time, just “ideas”….for now.
Home and Away
Anyhow, I’ve always been smitten with the idea of Leagues having a Home and Away schedule. In other words, the schedule dictates which matches you will be the Home team for, and for which ones you will be the Visitors. One way to approach this is, for each match up, to schedule a Home and Away series. You simply play the same opponent twice in consecutive matches, once as the Home team, once as the Visitors. This is easy on scheduling, and makes it simpler in real life for opponents to get together once and play both matches at once if convenient. It’s one way to easily double the number of matches in your leagues without adding a lot of extra weeks to your campaign.
However, I am more of a fan of the matches being split up on the schedule. This way, if you get taken to task by your opponent in week one, you some time to circle the next meeting on the calendar, nurse a grudge, and gear up your roster for sweet revenge in the rematch later in the season. But to each their own. It does have the draw back of adding more time to the campaign, but this can be ameliorated in one of two ways.
One, if you tend to meet as a group to play your games, you could still attempt two matches in an evening, albeit with different opponents. Or, probably more amenable, is depending on the number of players in the leagues you simply subdivide in to smaller conferences or divisions. The teams in the same divisions play a short schedule against each other with division winners qualifying for the playoffs. As always, though, there is more than one way to skin a….er, peel a banana, so simply do what works best for your group.
Now, Home and Away is all fine and good however you handle it. BUT, what aGalaxy spanning sport like DreadBall REALLY needs is a variety of interesting venues to play the game in. To add more immersion to the difference between a Home match underwater for the Nemion Oceanics, as opposed to the reality bending experience of playing at the home stadium of the Wu-Ling Wanderers.
The sort of thing I envision is akin to Azure Forest or the Challenge Cup. The rules for playing at a particular venue might include one or two simple “global” rules that are always in play. These may represent some of the particular nuances of playing DreadBall in such a unique environment. The same environment may also have a small specialized event deck, to further add to the character of the venue.
I have a handful of venues in mind, some with house rules that have been played with a bit. I’ve finally gotten round to building a pitch for one of them and have much more grand plans for another. But in parting I’d like to ask, where in the world(s) do you want to be able to play DreadBall?
Ah, League play. I’m a big fan of Leagues, especially for sports games. Getting to grow your roster over the course of the season, the ups and downs, and trying to build that dynasty season after season. I much prefer Leagues to Tournaments, they are just a simply more rich and rewarding experience overall.
Unfortunately, I have very limited opportunities for League play in DB. I have had a few small sampling’s, and a couple of the very fun League in Day/Night events that I have been able to participate in, but that is sadly it. The real joy, at least in my previous experience with “other” sports games, has been the season after season legacy….or “franchise mode” of the game. This doesn’t seem to be something done very often anymore. It would seem most folks prefer to start over with new teams each season. Certainly that can be fun too, and add a lot of replay value to the game using different teams. This also makes it more accessible to new players joining in on a new season, everyone starting at the same level.
However, I’d like to propose a few “radical” ideas for use in DreadBall Leagues that have worked well in other games too. I present to you, DreadBall: Franchise Mode!
The Franchise Campaign
The first thing to keep in mind with the Franchise approach is that it’s not just about the current season, but the subsequent ones as well. That legacy game mindset alone can completely change your decision making on how you choose to level players and which support staff to add to your rosters. Other than that, things play out pretty much the same as any other league. It’s the roll-over that makes things interesting. This is basically encapsulated in two main rules.
For the start of “year two” of Franchise mode, there is a little quirk. You introduce a Salary Cap, which is a predetermined Team Value for starting teams. For our example, let’s say the Cap in season two is 1500. This would mean that all rosters would need to be trimmed to fit this value. If my team at the end of season 1 was, say 1700, I’d have some decision making to do on roster cuts. You essentially rebuy your team from your current roster using the players new values. Because, remember, when players rank up, their value increases accordingly. In dropping some veteran players, you may find yourself adding some new rookies to bulk out your roster as well. The nice part is, this still allows new players, or veteran coaches wanting to start new teams, an opportunity to join in the fun, they simply start with more credits to buy their roster using the same 1500 team value.
Another fun quirk is to not allow MVPs in your leagues. Instead, you have players on Waivers. After players finish adjusting their rosters, any veteran players that were dropped from teams are put on a master list for the league, and become eligible to be hired by other teams as transfer players. This adds a lot to the continuity of the seasons as players grow and change teams and build stories of their own. The only MVPs are the ones who have been created before your very eyes on the pitch.
Wait, There’s more?!?
While Salary Cap and Waivers are the two main rules behind Franchise mode, one of the other appealing aspects of a Franchise campaign is having more options to save and spend your hard earned credits on….like upgrading your team facilities or having more staff options to explore. However, that’s a little outside of the scope of this article for now. Maybe we can revisit that in 2019.
Anyway, what’s your favorite way to play DreadBall Leagues?