Pitch Protocols—Tactics Talk: The Dao of Dirty DreadBall

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“I didn’t do nuffin’!”

“If ya ain’t cheatin’, ya ain’t tryin’!”

DreadBall is a game of strength, skill, and finesse…..at least, for some teams. For others, it’s an exercise in pushing the envelope of rules interpretations. And when simply “bending” the rules doesn’t get it done, well, they will undertake flat out BREAKING them with equal gusto. If this sounds like your preferred path to victory on the pitch, take head of the Fouling Foursome:

“Whadda ya mean that’s a Foul?!?”

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The Fouling Foursome

  1. Cheat early, Cheat often. For teams that make fouling a central pillar of their formula for success, there is no point in waiting till later in the game to do it. While dirty play can take many forms, often it helps to create numerical superiority on the pitch: whether that is from removing opposing players, sneaking your own on, or creating situations to maximize modifiers as if you had more players than you really do (Restrain). Additionally, Fouls can create fan checks. Fan checks, in turn, create resources in the form of coaching dice and DreadBall cards. By getting busy early, you create more opportunities to cash in for extra resources, giving you more to work with over the course of the match. Lastly, when you are the home team, there is no greater time to know exactly where the ref is going to be all the way until the end of the second rush: giving you a distinct advantage in planning your rules infractions in advance and to maximum effect.
  2. Manage the Killjoy. You know the one, that mechanical thing that chirps an annoying alarm every time your squad seems to do anything. Putting a little extra mustard on that Slam? BEEP! Running over to “check” on that opposing player flailing hopelessly on the ground? BEEP! BEEP! Geesh, it’s like some people (aliens, robots, whatever) think DreadBall is a Mu’shen’wan demonstration! Anyway, you know the ref isn’t gonna see your interpretation of the rules, so you will have to manage them accordingly. Have in the for front of your mind where you are most likely to attack with questionable tactics, and seek to move the ref as far away from that area as possible. Secondly, you still want to make sure that you have plenty of players available to quote the rulebook to the ref should a dispute arise, so plan accordingly. It is better to have plenty of your players in range to Distract the ref, yet within 7 of the foul taking place, than it is to have the ref on the other end of the pitch with no one to consult the manual.
  3. Make it count! Don’t get all willy nilly breaking rules just for the heck of it. Have a method to your madness. It doesn’t make sense to stomp on an Agility 3+ Striker without some assists. If your gonna take the risk of a foul, make sure that you make it with your while and put the player out! Maximize the impact of the action. The cost can be steep and cost you a player, make sure it will cost your opponent one first!
  4. DISTRACT! Aside from the obvious, “don’t draw attention to your foul”, you can’t forget to scrounge up every distract bonus you can manage. Firstly, your own players. As already mentioned, they should be managing that robotic killjoy with impunity. Try to make sure at least one of them is a Guard if you can, to cash in on the bonus dice from that. Next, don’t hesitate to use as many players as possible, particularly if it is your own Rush. The worse that happens to a distracting player is sitting on the subs bench. If you have actions left, you can immediately replace them….with them! Don’t forget that coach assistants can also be used to distract. Further, if you have a captain on the pitch, they can spend an action token to use the same ability. Costly, but potentially worth it if you really need the dice and the foul. Lastly, keep an eye out for cards that can benefit you as well. Inattentive Ref being a particular favorite, but even Vigilant Ref serves a purpose….either simply denying it to your opponent, or sabotaging any retaliation fouls they may have planned. Works great for a a reroll too. These cards can’t be counted on, but if you are following step one and generating some bonus cards, you improve your chances of drawing it.
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Some folks prefer a rougher style of play….and that’s ok too….I think….

There ya have it, The Fouling Foursome. Now go get down with some dirty DreadBall!

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Pitch Protocols: Tactics Talk—Playing for Keeps!

Playing for Keeps

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Keepers: Strike-stuffing, Super-slammin’, tough as nails, and swagger for daaaaays. Yeah, they are pretty cool!

I have always been fascinated by the concept of the Keeper position in DreadBall. Honestly, when trying out the game waaaaaay back during the first Kickstarter, it was probably one of my most looked forward to aspects of the game. Even one of the pledge levels was called Keeper. The concept art for them looked ridiculously cool. Big, Heavy armour. Presumably some great goal tending skills too.

Alas, it is an understatement to say that Keepers were….underwhelming in first edition. Sure, they lived up to their heavy armour reputation, but that was about it. They contributed nothing to goal tending, at least no more than any other player, and their ball handling ability was more liability than asset. 

Enter: Second Edition.

Now, Keepers play like they should! Placing a Keeper in a Strike zone allows them to threaten any Throw in it, even if they are not adjacent. This makes scoring a little more challenging if the Keeper is not dealt with. Additionally, Punt is now an action worth taking and can be an extremely useful ability, particularly for slower teams that can’t afford to be running back and forth across the pitch. It only scatters ONCE now, and doesn’t end your Rush. Meaning you can clear out your end of the pitch and continue playing. Don’t worry though, Keepers still have their heavy armour, but it does cost them a little movement now in exchange.

Here are a few tips for playing with Keepers:

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Make sure Keepers get put into position to do what they do best!

1: Setup DEEP and CENTER. Place the Keeper right in front of the Strike hex. This does two important things: a) it keeps the entire strike zone in their front arc, allowing them to threaten throw attempts. b) it blocks bonus point strikes completely. While this is far from fool proof, it often has the benefit of forcing your opponent to spend actions on dealing with the Keeper, meaning they have less left to mark your other players and still score.

2: Slow teams should consider TWO Keepers. One to guard the 3/4 zone, and one to roam the middle of the pitch to punt the ball down to their ball handlers in the opposition end of the pitch. Teams like Matsudan, Forge Fathers, and Crystallans have such slow Movement, that they can’t afford to spend actions running back for the ball and still setup good scoring opportunities in the same rush. Keepers let them play on the other end of the pitch with a little more freedom.

3: COUNT your scatter potential before you Punt. When you go to Punt, be sure to look at the possible directions and distances of scatter from your ball placement. If the pitch is fairly open, you can be fairly confident on the general area the ball will end up. If you try to Punt into a more congested area, subsequent scatters may ensue and make the ball’s final resting place a little more….dicey. This is also a great time to play those cards that let you choose direction or distance of scatter for pinpoint punting precision.

4: Don’t forget the Double! If you double a Punt, the Keeper can make either a free Run to reposition for goal tending duties, or take a free Slam-punishing would be Strike scorers no doubt!

Lastly, paint one! Treat yourself. Because, honestly, some of the coolest models in the DB range are the Keepers. And seeing as how it’s a thing in real sports, being a Keeper let’s you kind of alter your team color scheme for some extra pizzaz. 

Happy Punting!

Top Tips: The “Secret” to Success

Shhhhhhh….it’s a “secret”!

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Well, it’s no secret that I love DreadBall. Really, I enjoy not just the “game”, but also the future sport it’s meant to depict. However, one of the things I really enjoy about the DreadBall hobby, is continually learning something new. It helps keeps the hobby fresh and exciting.

One of the best ways to create opportunities for learning something new is playing in tournaments. I really appreciate the way it creates match-ups against coaches I’m not familiar with, and that see and play the game differently than I do. Sometimes it’s simply different set-ups. Other times, it’s different tactics. Or even just a more varied team composition, or compositional preference. Regardless, it usually gives a jolt of inspiration to develop something I can adapt and incorporate into my own style of play.

When it comes to tournaments, though, there is one learning tool that I prize above all the rest. The “secret mission”. Every tournament for the last couple years, I have set myself some additional objective that I try to achieve. This has the added dimension of having to look at the game differently than I normally do, and doing away with some of my own “best practices”. In so doing, I sometimes develop very effective new ideas. And sometimes, it simply helps reinforce why best practices are best! 

These “secret” missions have ranged from not using a particular formation, to seeing how many Punts I could pull off in a tournament, or even just challenging myself with a team I don’t usually use. The mission didn’t matter so much as it provided new “discovery” opportunities in playing the game—the ones that give a rush of excitement when you “discover” a new combo, team makeup, or tactic that you can’t wait to try. It’s simply my opinion, but I feel it also helps add variety, and therefore longevity, to the game. And in the process, I think it’s helped me become a better player too.

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“Check out THIS combo….”

If you get a chance, you really owe it to yourself to participate in a DreadBall tournament. If you feel that’s old hat, maybe freshen things up and take a “secret mission” for a spin? 

Anyway, keep it secret, keep it safe, and Good Luck when you hit the pitch!

 

Top Tips: How to Get Lucky

How to “Get Lucky”

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Final Rush. Down by three. One action left. Your Striker has the ball, makes an evade, a dash and launches the throw from the 4-point bonus hex…..IT’S GOOD!

“You got lucky!” Your opponent harrumphes. 

Well, did ya….punk?

Here are some tips to try and ensure you “get lucky” as often as you please.

  1. KNOW WHAT NEEDS DONE! If you need to score, for example, make sure you save at least one action token for that (or not, if you have a card, but more on that later). Some vets will count out what action tokens they NEED to do and set them aside, leaving the rest for any extraneous actions to play with first. This may seem frivolous, but keep in mind, success in small actions can have knock on effects, like removing opposing players, or generating fan checks that result in bonus dice or cards. It also helps to make your Rush more efficient. With only 5 tokens, there will be times you will need to prioritise
  2. POSITION PLAYERS TO SUCCEED. If you want your Striker to have the ball with a chance to score at the end of the match, they can’t be on the bench. Likewise, if you want to make a successful Slam, use a Guard if you can. Trying to decide if you want to Steal or Slam to get the ball? Which is your player best at, and can you get behind the opposition first? You know the saying, it’s “How you use it” that matters!
  3. PICK A CARD, ANY CARD. Get some DB cards. Somehow. Whether you have them on your roster, generate them from fan checks (I almost never take the dice), or simply spend some action tokens to acquire them throughout the game. The cards are HUGE! They serve two primary purposes. One, they can give you extra actions later in a Rush when you need to do more than 5 tokens will allow. Two, they can provide some additional “insurance” on those critical rolls when you NEED it most. Don’t underestimate the cards.
  4. PLAY SMART! This goes back to the “know your team” advice from The Playbook. If your team isn’t built to smash, don’t waste actions on it! If your team is full of brutes, lay the hurt down early and often. Play smart by matching your team capabilities to a strategy that utilizes them effectively.

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So, there you go. Four tips to help you get lucky. Go get ‘em tiger!

Pitch Protocols: Famous Formations—3 Pillars

Famous Formations: 3 Pillars

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The Sphyr have opted for a 3 Pillars formation. As the Visitors, they have opted for a more defensive arrangement, committing two players to a short-screen in the middle of their end of the pitch. Additionally, a second player has been tasked with guarding the 3/4 zone by taking up position on the bonus hex.

The 3 Pillars is a flexible formation that can be utilized by both offensive and defensive minded coaches. The Pillars refer to the players who take up position in the middle of each Strike Zone. Their purpose is to deny bonus point Strike opportunities, and in the hands of some teams, can even serve to frustrate regular Strikes as well. This allows some passive defense in each Strike Zone, and still leaves players free to take the match to the opposition. Like always, there are many variations, and you will usually see Pillars added to other formations to make full use of a teams roster and set-up.

Advantages

Having players in each scoring zone make its easier to respond to opposition threats on your end of the pitch. The Pillar players are able to be a little more active and responsive in your Rush due to this positioning. And, in a similar fashion to the Castle, if the opponent wishes for bonus points, they are going to have to expend actions to shift players. Depending on the match-up, this can be beneficial in and of itself.

Additionally, certain abilities make the formation even more potent. Extended Interference and Alert, for example, can give you the opportunity to not only deny bonus strikes, but threaten or disrupt regular ones as well. Other abilities like Keeper and Stench, can be used for similar effect.

Disadvantage

A formation like this again necessitates committing half of your team to your own side of the pitch. For some teams, this is not much of a draw back. However, if you depend on numbers or raw aggression for your plays to succeed, this can be a bit of a detriment. Additionally, it doesn’t really take that much to shift a single player. This is where careful consideration of the match-up at hand is required, to ensure placement of the right players for the job, or even changing formations all together.

Pitch Protocols: The Playbook pt. 4–The Set-up!

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The calm before the storm! Your set-up makes a major impact on the rest of the match…choose wisely!

Okay, so, you understand your team. You’ve considered the match-up at hand and have determined your Overall Strategy for the match. Now, it’s time to set-up! The set-up is the crowning piece of the pre-game phase, it’s what all the other facets built upon. The set-up also dramatically impacts the in-game phase as well. Therefore, it is vital to do your team justice and set-up with purpose!

However, there are a few other considerations to take into account. Primarily, are you the Home team? Or are you the Visitors? This distinction is important. You may have it in your mind to play some Run-N-Gun, and unleash an offensive blitz on your opponent. To that end, you set-up your Strikers aggressively across the Launch line. Problem number 1: You are the Visitor. Problem number 2: Your opponent has also set-up aggressively, with a very bashy squad….

The Home team has to set-up first. As the Home team, it’s best to consider your set-up in terms of what you want to accomplish. After all, while the Visiting team may get a chance to react to your set-up, YOU get the first rush. Do not put yourself in positions that prevent you from implementing your game plan from the start. Many times I have seen, for example, a coach set up a Guard deep in their own half, then waste two actions just getting that Guard into the opponent’s end of the pitch. If you want your Guard to be be able to mix it up early and often, set them up appropriately! Likewise, if you have a particular player you want to field the ball for you, make sure they are positioned within reach of it!

The Visiting team has a little trickier time of it. While there is the advantage of seeing how the Home team will set-up, you have to be a little more reactive in anticipating what the Home team will do. They will be going first, so it’s important to account for how their strategy may interact with yours. Their set-up may tip you off as to what they intend to do, but also be mindful of what they are capable of doing (their strengths, abilities, etc.) as well.

Again, in our example above, setting Strikers across the launch line may be less than ideal against the bashy team. It gives them plenty of easily accessible targets to tee-off on, meaning they will be able to optimize their action token expenditures on implementing their game plan. There may be times you would want to do this, but most likely, you will want to set up in such a way that they have to “waste” some actions merely getting into position to Slam, minimizing the damage they are able to inflict on your roster. Against high-scoring, but weak slamming teams, you might see Visiting teams clog Strike Zones with players to try and minimize scoring opportunities for their opponents. This is the concept of “action denial”. While the Home team my go first, there is no sense in letting them optimize their rush. Force them to spend actions on moving and repositioning as opposed to scoring or slamming, as this reduces just how much they are able to effectively accomplish in a rush.

This is why you see set-ups like deep screens or castles, as the Visiting team looks to survive the first rush onslaught. However, be warned. Too extreme of a deep set-up will leave you either susceptible to a sucker-draw, or in danger of being unable to effectively utilize your own rush when control of play comes back to you.

This concludes the Pre-game Phase. Next, we will move the Playbook into the In-game Phase. However, we will still be talking about the Pre-game in analyzing specific set-ups for both their Strengths and Weaknesses. This will be a new article section devoted to specific tactics. First up: The Castle!