One History of Fantasy Sports Board Gaming part II

Coaches were left with a charge at the end of our last history lesson.  If a sporting footnote between 1982 and 2004 needed mention, comments were welcome.

Among all responders, loyal BreadDoll reader Mike Mueller was quick to reply with perhaps the most obscure title that preceded 1982’s Grav-Ball by three years!

From the annals of Wyrd, behold this relic from 1979;

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Troll Ball, 1979.

Greg Stafford and friends manipulated the Runequest combat system into a sports game. Competing troll teams face-off on a field of violent mayhem, with an objective of most points scored.  A “point” is earned by carrying a living trolkin across a goal line.

Troll Ball may very well be the first fantasy football sports board game, thus knocking Monsters of the Midway off my previous mantle.  Troll ball is very much a product of its time.  It’s a compact ruleset at five lean pages, but still includes team and character creation, as well as leveling.  And it’s funny to boot!  It’s also very DIY.  Coaches need to craft their own pitch!  Those with a spare 1/2″ grid map will be able to save time before the starting whistle.  Glorantha needs dedicated sports fiends to field Troll Ball.

Other responders were kind.  And… kind of off-mark.

The “One History of Fantasy Sports Board Gaming” is so titled for a reason.  There are parameters.  An editorial decision has been made, and consequently, a lot of games have struck the killing room floor.  Part of education is understanding boundaries, and part II now shifts focus to what is out-of-bounds.

If it’s a card game, it’s not part of this history lesson.

Slapshot (1982), Dream Team (1997), and Blood Bowl: Team Manager (2011) are fine games.  In fact, I’ll revisit Blood Bowl: Team Manager in a future lesson detailing the Blood Bowl franchise.  However, each of these titles and their poker deck sized brethren are not included.  A board is necessary, and by inference; tokens representing players.  Baseball Highlights: 2045 (2015) will most likely make a future appearance.  While a card game at its core, it does include a baseball diamond board and player pawns are fielded.

If there is no Board, it’s not part of this history lesson.

Guild Ball (2015), Darkball (1996), and Sports Fuzz (1995) are…  games.  Guild Ball has no board and frankly, no sport.  Dark Ball also has no board.  However, thanks to the nineteen nineties, it does have POGS!  Coaches mileage may vary depending on their experience with pogs, but Darkball is fine hybrid of sports gaming and tiddlywinks.  Sports Fuzz is another miniatures combat game disguised as a sports title, but it gets a mention on the BreadDoll for creativity.  Fuzz Ball is dependent on existing toy collections, their size and color.  It’s a “miniatures agnostic” game.  Any ruleset that champions cross pollination over publisher shackles gets a nod from this editor.

If it’s a race, it’s not part of this history lesson.

This distinction is arguably polarizing.  Racing is a tried, true, and tested form of competition.  Cockroaches.  Dogs.  NASCAR.  These qualifiers may describe North Carolina, but they also describe a small sample of countless speed-based sporting events. So does Arena Maximus (2003), Blood Race (1999), and Monster Derby (1994).  And yet, the BreadDoll’s history on fantasy sports board gaming ultimately exists to compare and contrast games with the greatest sport in the galaxy.  DreadBall.  DreadBall is a sport that pits two adversarial teams in direct conflict over a limited resource.  Racing and Ballin’ is like apples and oranges.

Missing Links, circa 1993 – 2003:

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Thunder Ball, 1993.

Mark Hanny’s take on basketball, now with Harry Potter-like antics!  If any title could use a refresh via Kickstarter,  Thunder Ball would be it.  A hex based court with multiple baskets and spells?  Think of a simplified DreadBall Xtreme meets Wiz-War.

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Jugger, 2002.

Lloyd Krassner’s turned medieval war machines into ball-smacking’ sportsmen!  Mentioned here only to lay groundwork for a similar themed game in a sci-fi setting.  Privateer Press will have an entry in part III!

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Peace Bowl, 2003.

Angelo Porazzi’s Warangel/WarBeast universe expands!  2-4 players push themselves around while trying to get a ball into one of three end zones.  Mentioned here only to lay groundwork for a similar game with a pop culture smash up.  CMON will have an entry in part III!

Is the history lesson still missing a gem?  Let us know!  In three weeks, we’ll dive into the 21st Century with full abandon.  2007, here we come!

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Scattered Scullery: Elastopod Captain

Snörk-El The Revenger

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Captain for the Sole Survivors Elastopod Team

The Captain for the Sole Surviors is the mysterious Snörk-El. No one knows who hides beneath the mask Snörk-El always wears. It’s a “mystery”.

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Captain Cards

PDF of all the cards: Snörk-El_Cards

One History of Fantasy Sports Board Gaming part I

Young Coaches, gather round.  This here Old Timer has a tale to tell.  Now, it’s not a complete story.  And it ain’t a yarn that’s meant to rib ya.  But it’s something y’all need to know, because understanding the past helps manage the present.  And sometimes, the past can help predict the future.  I have here a recollection of the bones rolled from an Ancient Grognard.

This BreadDoll editor is the Grognard.

I’ve played a lot of fantasy sports board games.  To be clear, I stress the distinctions.  1) Fantasy.  2) Sports.  3) Board.  4) Games.

There are a lot of board games about sports.  Strat-o-Matic, anyone?  No.  We’re talking fantasy.  Strat-o-Matics don’t count, nor do any of the sports titles prior to 1961.  In fact, this history lesson begins in the late 20th century.  1982 to be exact.

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Grav-Ball, 1982.

Grav-Ball was ground breaking.  Literally.  It was played in zero-G!  A science fiction setting, a robotic referee, and a ball made of metal!  WOW!  FASA published L. Ross Babcock and Fred Bently’s design with a lot of zest for the early eighties.  There was so much zest, FASA had to outsource the thirteen metal miniatures to Martian Metals.  Of all the games recollected in this history lesson, the fifteen dollar Grav-Ball is the only title that eludes me.  So I’ll punt.  The best description of this long forgotten title is certainly from the game box itself.

Grav-Ball is a sporting event of the future reequiring skill and courage. Played in a zero-G court, the two six-man teams try to score with a five kilogram steel playing ball. Anything can happen in the meantime! Leagal actions include body, ahnd, and foot checks, passes, and actual goal shots. Illegal actions, or actions requiring a penalty check, include striking with the ball or elbow, shooting the player with the ball, and all out assults. The usual result of such body contact is a high player tunover rate. The player’s body armor does not guarantee physical safety from opposing players or from the ball itself. If the game gets too rough or a fight occurs, Heartless Huey is released. This invulnerable robot will incapacitate the nearest player. He then moves on to the next, nearest player until all are terminated or the fighting stops. All of these factors make Grav-Ball an exciting and action-packed game of the future.

What’s old is new again, yeah?  Keep Grav-Ball in mind you whipper snappers.  We’ll come back to it.

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Monsters of the Midway, 1983.

Released in issue 65 of Dragon magazine, I declare this gem of an insert the first fantasy football sports board game.  Draft monsters, create teams, and beat the hell out of one another on a board that looks a lot like a football field.  Occasionally, efforts would be made to handle the ball and carry it into an end zone.  Designer Gali Sanchez was on to something.  Monsters of the Midway was unique and cheeky.  Under an hour to play, it was fast.  Considering is was included in a magazine, it was free.  Win win.

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Blood Bowl, 1986.

I don’t know if designer Jervis Johnson was influenced or inspired by TSR’s first effort.  I suspect he at least read that issue of Dragon.  Blood Bowl took everything Monsters of the Midway had, and elevated it.  Everything except the game play, which was a peculiar translation of Warhmamer onto a football/rugby field.  Clunky play aside, 1986’s Blood Bowl did raise the bar for creativity: evocative illustrations, funny writing, and strong world-building kept imaginations on fire.

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Blood Bowl, 1988.

Games Workshop found itself in a transformative state in late 1980s.  GW began shifting from Games into…  Miniatures.  Blood Bowl had found enough traction in their modest cardboard standee version to merit a second edition.  This time, with toy soldiers!  A plastic human team and a plastic orc team would now block and blitz on a three-part styrofoam pitch.  Colored team inserts for end zones were a great touch.  A full colored rulebook with new and revisited illustrations made for an excellent read.  The mechanics were still a little cumbersome, but it was visually superior to the 2-D players that preceded it.

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Blood Bowl, 1994.

Three times is a charm!  Jervis Johnson retooled his parody of American football into something… more.  Rerolls, sand timers, and Coaches screaming “ILLEGAL PROCEDURE!” in the face of cheating (or forgetful) opposition.  Games Workshop retooled their efforts as well.  In the eight years since the first edition, GW was now in full blown mini-mode.  Blood Bowl still had a staple human and orc team, but now there were individual sculpts for positions.  The third edition was a culmination of what preceded it.  Refined miniatures.  Refined rules.  Robust league play.  Robust tournament scene.  But just as Blood Bowl found loyal Coaches far and wide, Games Workshop began using a different compass.  GW moved in a curious business direction, leaving their ‘specialist’ games (Blood Bowl’s categorization) on a back burner.  Eventually, that burner’s light would all be but snuffed.  [hee hee, “butt snuffed.”]. Fortunately for the previous metaphor, the legion of Blood Bowl Coaches around the world would keep the game’s flame of relevance for two decades during publisher neglect.  It’s what I  like to call, “GW’s dark years.”

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Battleball, 2003.

Milton Bradley.  They’re a huge game publisher that works for the lowest common denominator.  The bean counters insist on easily accessible toy-games that look attractive on the shelves of big box stores.  Every once in a while, their disposable and instantly forgettable catalog has something that shines.  Stephen Baker and Craig Van Ness were MB game designers with fondness for the gaming of the British Isles. Baker himself was a Brit, and was responsible for such epic MB / GW crossovers as HeroQuest, Battlemastes, and Space Crusade.  What if?  Just WHAT IF?  Milton Bradley could distill the majestic mayhem of Blood Bowl into an affordable and attractive toy?  It had been done before; Warhammer = Battlemasters.  Space Hulk = Space Crusade.  MB went for it.  Battleball was great!  If you were eight.  Twisting the fantasy of Tolkein tropes to Heinlein tropes was a clever shift in theme.  The dice were pretty and plentiful.  The miniatures were diverse and dynamic.  But the game itself was just too simple.  It didn’t capture the height of it’s giant grandfather, despite starting on it’s shoulders.  MB tried, and the rulebook hinted of future expansion* teams.  It was not to be.  Battleball did not move enough units, and is now a mere fantasy sports board game curiosity.  The best development from this experiment was the strengthening of Baker and Van Ness’ design aesthetic.  They would team up again for perhaps the greatest war game of all time – Heroscape.  It didn’t hurt that Heroscape had the same sculptor from Battleball.

*Expansions?  Oh, yes.  Yes yes yes.  No fantasy sports board game can survive this cut-throat hobby business unless there is always something to sell.  If a publisher doesn’t have something to specifically sell for a popular fantasy sport game?  There will be a vacuum.  And a vacuum will be filled.

Come back in three weeks for ‘One History of Fantasy Sports Board Gaming part two.’  In the meantime, leave a comment below.  Tell the BreadDoll about some sporting footnote between 1982 and 2004 that should not have been ignored.

Scattered Scullery: Don’t worry. Be Irish!

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May your team’s Medi-bot never earn an MC out of you, and may your heart never give out. May the ten toes of your feet steer you clear of all misfortune, and before you’re much older, may you hear much better toasts than this.

Happy St. Patty’s Day to all Coaches across the Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Cheers!

Scattered Scullery: We love you

BD Valentines Day 2019
Does any Coach need a chocolatey score marker?

Konrad Castle continues cooking chocolate.  And he’s pleased to report the C-4 will return in 2019!  Curious Coaches may need a reminder;

C-4 = Cocoa Castle Corporation Cup

If any competitive Coach needs a cause to attend a North American DreadBall Circuit (NADC) contest, the C-4 is the cream of the crop.

…because the trophies are chocolate.  Dates to be announced.  TEASE!

Meanwhile, Happy Valentines Day.

 

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The C-4 champion receives the coveted prize: THE CHOCOLATIZED BLAINE.

Scattered Scullery: Sole Survivors

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The last of their kind. Believe it.

The Sole Survivors

The truth can be hard to believe. It was once thought that there was only one last surviving Elastopod. Truly. This is ridiculous. There are 8 9.

The Elastopod home world was destroyed when a starship carrying unknown alien artefacts exploded, obliterating the entire Elstopod home system. This was almost the end of the Elastopod race. Luckily the members of the Elastopod Special Forces Bravo Squad were on patrol in a ship at the far edges of their solar system. When their planet was destroyed Bravo Squad survived. Really.

Making their way to the GCPS, Bravo Squad now plies their advanced military training on the neodurium pitches of the pro DreadBall leagues. They are a team to be feared no matter what some may say. Elastopods are not all bumbling goofs as rumor would have it. It’s unclear where that rumor began but the Sole Survivors are having none of it. Match after match the last of the Elastopods teach their opponents to respect Elastopods once again.

No, Seriously.

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Stat Card Front

 

 

Scattered Scullery: Fancy Balls

As mentioned in my last article “The Law” there were rules in 1st Edition DreadBall for an alternate referee: Ref Dredd. It’s a small change that can be made when playing the game that can add a bit of variety and a lot of fun. Along the same lines I present a few alternative DreadBalls:

The Adepticorp DreadBall

adepticorp_dreadballRules: If playing with the Adepticorp DreadBall any player that takes damage from being hit by the ball is treated as Fragile when rolling their Armor Test. Additionally if the Ball Shatters card is played all players in the same hex as the ball or adjacent hexes must make a Dodge test vs 6 dice (4+) or be hit by shards of the ball.

 

The Mark 2 DreadBall

mark2_dreadballRules: If playing with the Mark 2 DreadBall, the Ball cannot shatter. If the Ball Shatters Special card is played ignore it’s effect. Instead the player that played the card may look through the discard pile and take any 1 card they find there into their hand. The Mark 2 DreadBall is not only more durable, but also more aerodynamic with advanced gravity generators. When throwing the ball farther than 4 hexes treat all distances as 1 hex less.

 

The Bumper DreadBall

bumper_dreadballRules: The Bumper DreadBall bounces. If playing with the Bumper DreadBall, after a the ball is launched roll to scatter it. The ball can be caught on this scatter. The Bumper DreadBall allows a Bounce Pass. When throwing the ball to a player on your team or at an opposing player it can be bounced off the wall of the pitch. Any time the Bumper DreadBall scatters (other than after launching), always scatter it an additional time.

 

These alternative DreadBall and their associated rules can be swapped into any game of DreadBall for a bit of flavor and extra fun.

Rules Reference Cards:

 

Here are STL files if you are so inclined to print a ball to play with using these rules:

Adepticorp DreadBall

Mark 2 DreadBall

Bumper DreadBall

Scattered Scullery: Dobbs and Elmer 01

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Oh, those two… What sort of hilarity will they express next?

For the BreadDoll’s December membership drive, we’ll be giving away another custom miniature*.  Subscribe to this blog during the next week, and a random Coach will be drawn for a Secret Santa surprise!

*We’re not saying exactly what you’ll receive, but it’s bound to be finger-licking’-good!

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