Why So Zeerious?

I couldn’t come up with a backstory for the Zees. I had so many ideas for them, drawing from many sources including my love of genetics and the Planet of the Apes series. I came up with something long and complex with pointless detail and it wasn’t even entertaining for me (and as you’ve seen elsewhere on this blog, my standards are fairly low). It occurred to me that the Zees are anarchic and unpredictable, they’re irresponsible and irreverent. They aren’t going to be honest about anything, much less their own history. They probably even stole their equipment, rather than look at all cohesive and organised. Every single one of them will end up giving a different account of who they are and where the come from, and laugh about the confusion caused.

For the Zees, I went for a colour scheme inspired by The Joker. I put more orange in than purple because I wanted to differentiate them from the Z’zor team I already painted, but I think the three main colours match well.

The skin is Khemri Brown with a Flesh Wash (ancient GW paint), another highlight of Khemri Brown and some have a Dheneb Stone highlight. I found Dheneb Stone a bit difficult to highlight with because it is so strong with pigment (being a foundation paint, I guess) that it doesn’t have anything between “covers everything” and “this is a wash”. The eyes were Eshin Grey. The orange was a practice run for my Nameless team – it works here, but I might need to do something else to get the effect I want on the Nameless. It was a Vermin Brown base with Squig Orange. The purple was Liche Purple with a Genestealer Purple highlight. Some of the models had a Tentacle Pink edge highlight, but I didn’t like the effect too much. The green was Snot Green, Orc Flesh Wash (again, an ancient GW wash), more Snot Green and Scorpion Green highlight.

It still needs to be finished off with a highlight of yellow on the visors, and Incubi Darkness on the bases to cover my sloppy boot painting.

This is the first team that I managed to name every member of it. It was always the plan to name the teams, but I find it a little difficult. This one was much easier! The line-up is:

  1. Benjamin
  2. Benchamin
  3. Benjummin
  4. Benzhamin
  5. Benchummin
  6. Benzhummin
  7. Benjimun
  8. Benchimun
  9. Benzhimun
  10. Benjamon

Doombar League Part Two

Game four was cancelled, as my scheduled opponent quit the league after his prior game. Since this is a structured league rather than a free-form one, the organiser decided to award all of his future matches as an average of his recorded ones. The upshot of this is that my monkeys got three experience increases (resulting in a Skill 4+ player!) and their first win of the season! Hooray!

Game Five – Josh’s S1 Corporation (team name unknown)

This was a nail-biting game – neither team’s coach managed to pass they coaching play rolls very often, and only three scores were made in the game. An early three-point lead completely failed to be matched by the Zees, the closest that they got was scuppered by the ball shattering as they got to the strike zone. They made it back by waiting for a human Striker to sprint all the way to the ball, before Running Interference onto the ball, flubbing the pick up and having it scatter (with a Fast Pitch event in play) way too far for the Striker to catch it.

Another Zee tried to Sucker Punch a human guard to turn him around but kept rolling 6s, until the Guard was dead. Dead dead dead. Zees don’t normally kill things, so that monkey was very happy. And removing him from the board is even better than turning him around!

On the other hand, I lost two turns – once to trying to pick the ball up for my first action (and failing) and once because the ball launch landed on a prone Zee, bounced into the ref, bounced into a human Guard, bounced into another Zee who had no dice to catch it with – thus ending the rush before it even began.

It wasn’t until the final Zee rush that they finally scored, bringing the score back to zero and hoping to go into Sudden Death – however, there was one Corporation rush left and they got a single point to finish.

I really love it when a game comes down to the wire, and Josh is fun to play. I played him at the previous Bristol Megalofunotron tournament (also with Zees, he took Robots).

The Relegation Battle – CJ’s New England Patriorx (Marauders)

As I was now second from the bottom, I had to play a match against the second-place player in Division Two. If he won, we swapped places and if I won, I stayed where I was.

It turns out I was playing against CJ, from the last league. He’s still taking his Marauders except that his league team has hired Slippery Joan (all of his models are female Orcs… including the Jeerleader).

It was the tensest game yet, on both sides. I was in the lead (barely) for most of it, but the luck just wasn’t with me where I needed it. Four monkeys bit the dust, most of them had some unused experience but no ranks.

I managed to hold onto a draw for the final turn, but only had three players on the pitch. Slippery Joan started with the ball, and all she had to do was score… and did so. Easily. Game over by two points in Sudden Death, and with four simian corpses to recycle. Luckily, the underdog bonus managed to replace them all in time for the Ultimate season-ender!

And good luck to CJ in the second season, playing up in Division One!

Season Finale – the Ultimate Battle

We managed to get all five remaining players in Division One together for a massive Ultimate game – it was a good finish to the league, as we’d all played each other previously in the season. I actually wasn’t the massive underdog in this game, despite not having as many advances as the other players and suffering worse casualties throughout the league – I did have enough underdog bonus to max out my cards and hire an MVP for the game (the Praetorian).

The Praetorian was sent off early as I attempted a Sneak foul, and a massive pile up blocked much of the centre near our arm (I was sharing with Tom’s humans) with Sam’s Nameless taking on everything around them. Stu had hired the Enforcer for the game, and he flew around looking for a good place to smash things.

I did fairly well, scoring a few points and defending myself well (The Ball Shatters on Stu’s striker, after he’d committed the Enforcer to moving my defence and travelled from the far side of the pitch to a scoring position…) and once the Praetorian got back into the game, scored a few points in his zone (rather safely since there’s only one Ball Shatters in the game).

The Nameless managed to grab a landslide win, since monkeys can’t stop very much at the best of times and his guards had advanced a few ranks already. I did finish on 5 points though, so if I’d managed to grab the next turn somehow it would have been my chance to take the win – and would have been my first legitimate win of the season, just before I leave for Division Two!

What’s Next?

At the time of writing, Division Two haven’t played their final Ultimate game yet. I think there will be a short break – there’s a new player in the area who is interested in getting in on the league so we might be back up to 12 players again when Season Two starts.

The underdog rules are being changed for Season Two (trialled in the Ultimate game) that allow us to hire MVPs, coaching staff, cheerleaders etc as well as the free agents.

We’ve also got the opportunity to scrap the team and start again with a new one. I don’t think I’ll go that far – I’ve actually got a monkey with an extra rank, and almost the full complement of cards. It’ll be nice to follow them on a more long-term journey.

The Ultimate game also left us with huge piles of cash. I’m considering buying an MVP, but this is fraught with peril for Zees. They are vulnerable to ref check fouls, and takes away the point of playing a ridiculous team like the Zees if you actually hire a star player who is good at scoring. Maybe having a bruiser on the pitch would be a better idea, or maybe I’doomll just stick with Riller to support the clones and provide some more power to the monkeys.

On with Season Two!

Doombar League – Games One to Three

After the Vanguard Wargaming store closed permanently, the Bristol Vanguard club found a new home at the Old Duke pub in the centre. The parking is slightly harder but the public transport is much easier.

Also, it was time for a third league! This one is more organised than previous ones – the pairings are fixed, there is a two week time limit to get the game in, and while friendlies are allowed they won’t gain XP or cash. There are twelve teams split into two divisions, with a promotion/relegation mechanic at the end of a number of rounds. It’s also possible to permanently hire MVPs, although I’m not sure that I’ll ever get the money to be able to afford Riller (the only one worth taking for the Zees).

I took the Zees again to this one – I think in a league setting, with a bit of development, they can really shine. They’re obviously not as easy to play as some other teams but the victories are much, much sweeter.

Round One – vs Sam’s Nameless

Things started alright, in the first few turns I managed to avoid injury or sending off, and even scored a three-pointer! The tables quickly turned though and by the fifth rush I only had three players on the pitch. This is very, very bad. The score was only one point down for me, but with so few monkeys around it didn’t look good. It was at this point that I started to remember to roll for Monkey Business dice…

I brought the score back up to three points but the slow trickle of players back from the injury bench wasn’t going well. On top of that, Sam’s luck was coming back and he began to kill players – three had gone off the field by the end of the game. He took the score three points into his favour, and there was nothing I could do on the last turn to even mitigate that slightly.

So, Sentient Being of the Match went to a Nameless Sticky Guard and three Zee clones were recycled. I’ve decided to only replace one of them and buy an Offensive Coach – maybe that can help get me the scores when it looks good and call Defensive plays if it doesn’t. I’ll have to replace those missing Zees at some point – I’m only one credit away from getting another Zee which would bring me back to nine on the roster, and hopefully in my next game I can get at least back to the starting ten.

Game Two vs Stu (Pale Marys, S2 Corporation)

Having gone back to the clone farm to pick up a new recruit and hiring an assistant coach (offensive), the team went on to the next fixture – the Pale Marys, on top of the first division after round one.

Being an underdog, I got a Nameless guard (sticky) as a free agent to help out. The danger with free agents in a Zee team is that they might be sent off, but I was lucky this time around. A sticky guard is a really great addition to a Zee team, especially one that is down a couple of players.

The game went OK (no-one died, on either side) and my strong-Zee picked up more experience as my only score of the game but I still lost by 4 points. The sticky guard really shook things up and I think it used it to best effect. I didn’t Slam much, but he as able to hold players in place and prevent the human guard from causing too much damage.

The final turn, I had the choice of a 3 point score to lose by one (on two dice), or a four point score to get a draw (on one dice). I figured a draw was infinitely better than a loss, and a loss by one isn’t much better than a loss by four. Having thought about it since, maybe the minor loss would have been better for the league tie breakers, but any chance at a win should have been taken (even though I still had the unfinished problem with scoring again in Sudden Death…) because that’s Dreadball!

With my underdog ‘winnings’, I replaced another of my clones to put me back at 9 players. I’d like to buy some cards, but at the speed the Zees go out of the game I need plenty of spares.

Game Three vs Tom (Woolwich Armourers, S1 Corporation)

Going into the third game, I was bottom of the league thanks to my ‘risk it all’ attitude in the last game. I picked up an Asterian Guard as a Free Agent, which could be useful.

The game was very close, Tom was very good at keeping players off of the pitch and rolling good ref checks. The Asterian guard used their Dirty Tricks twice (thanks to a card) while a Vigilant Ref was in play but only managed to send one player off.

I managed to get the ball to the far end a few times, but Tom had great use of Running Interference cards to block me whenever I looked close to scoring. On the other hand, he failed an appalling number of pick-ups, catches and throws. Incredibly good luck with his good plays, and incredibly bad luck on the game-winning ones.

Picking up tons more cash thanks to the underdog bonus (17mc!) I now have a choice between buying cards or players. I do find that with only nine players I am finding it hard to keep more than six on the pitch at a time, but I also need the additional cards to give me more options in the turn. In the end, I decided on a bit of both – one card and one Jack.

Cardiff League – Conclusion

My first four games in the league have been good so far – my first experiences against the Robots at the top of the rankings, which I think may have been orchestrated to get me a head-start on income since I was inheriting a poor, downtrodden team with no experience. This catapulted me to a high enough team ranking that I couldn’t get MVPs or Free Agents any more, and the second two games (Corporation and Teratons) ended in wins to the monkeys.

I’ve missed one game so far, the player has been MIA from the Facebook page and the club and everyone seems to be waiting on them for a game (that explains why “weeks five to nine” would be five games, not four…)

Game 5 – Home vs the Wrong-Tech 69ers (S1 Corporation)

This game went awfully for my opponent. I actually managed to turn up in person, intending to play someone else but I ended up playing one of my missed games from a previous week since I could start a little earlier and be sure to catch the train.

Having twelve Zees available really helped, but I wasn’t able to get all of them on the pitch at the same time. My luck was up exactly when I needed it and two Zees scored 4-pointers. The cheerleader was placed on the score track again but was never used, and I ended up scoring a landslide in the thirteenth rush. Luke managed to score a three pointer, killed a Zee and injured a couple of others. That got his Guard the Strength upgrade he was holding out for and his Striker (already a superstar) getting on the cusp of another rank. The underdog bonus also favoured him, getting almost twice as much in income as I got!

The End?

At this point, a ‘break’ was announced and an offer for someone else to run the league for a while. I had two more opponents to play, but having altered my hours slightly in work I was finding it harder to get to the club and one of those opponents has been completely absent for a while. It looks like momentum has dropped out of this league as well, and the results haven’t even gone up.

Conclusions

I found this league more enjoyable than the previous leagues I’ve played in. The big difference is that instead of being a completely open format, the Pathfinder running it was very hands-on. You could play friendlies, but the league games were set at a rate of one per week, and it was arranged for you. I’m not sure whether this was randomly determined of the ‘remaining matches’ or if there was an algorithm to determine who was best placed. It was good for me coming in late to play against a team as far as ahead as the robots I played, because the underdog bonus catapulted me ahead.

The other nice thing was the pace. Both leagues were double-round-robin leagues, but where the Cardiff league set your matches for you one a week it gave an incentive to arrange and play the game. In Bristol, I was on the forum every week saying what days I was free and getting very few replies.

The only downside is the way that this league has ended – much the same as the previous ones I’ve been in, the momentum fizzled out (in Bristol, who knows why and in Cardiff, because the organiser took a break). In both of them there was no end, no event, nothing to mark the league as ‘over’ at all. Even in the Bristol leagues where the ‘last day to play’ was announced, it was after the league was already unofficially over and the date came and went with nothing really happening at all.

So what are you going to do about it?

Well, I don’t know if I can play a league in Cardiff again. It’s not easy to fit around family and travel and things. I enjoy the team progression of a league format – the standard 120TR tournament format is nice, but there’s no growth from game to game. There’s no feeling of “ooh, my star player just levelled up again” or “let the rookie take the shot”.

I might even start a long-form league between friends, since we can get together for a day and play a few games together it should be possible to make a lot of progress in short bursts.

Welsh Regional Tournament 2014

There wasn’t really any way that I could miss this one, as last year’s winner. It almost looked like it had been cancelled too, as the local Pathfinder was no longer able to run it. I was offered the opportunity to both run it and play, and as I was planning on being there anyway it seemed like a simple enough deal!

I wouldn’t need to do any of the tricky stuff like arranging a venue, sorting tickets or prizes or anything like that, just sort out who plays who in each round and give out the toys at the end (provided by Mantic, given to me at the Open Day). In addition, since I was still allowed to play (and win – I checked).

This helped to decide my team for me – I was dithering between Nameless and Zees, since I’ve used them both this year and enjoyed them, but the Zees are quite a complex team and if I was going to be called by anyone else for rules queries, I didn’t want to have to cut a game short with my current opponent in order to answer a rules query for someone else. Not a lot of people have played with or against the Zees, and not everyone has the Season Three book, so quite a few people are unfamiliar with the way that they play and all their odd rules – they’d be likely to cause rules queries, and I didn’t want there to seem to be a conflict of interest. Finally, a Zees game can take a while (more rules, more decisions, less ability to score) and I wanted to have time to go around and take pictures, collect results and get the next round sorted out as early as possible. With all that involved, I figured the best choice was to take the Nameless. They have fairly well-known rules already, their errata and FAQ are very simple, no strange Running Interference, Teleport or Dirty Tricks to annoy people with obscure rulings, timings and loopholes.

Game One – Dan’s Brigstowe Raiders (S1 Corporation)

I started off well with a rematch of last week’s game in the Azure Forest tournament at the Open Day. This went much more my way with good rolls, and I hit a landslide win to take the game. I even managed to kill two models, putting on top in points, strike difference, kills and cheers!

Game Two – Oli’s Saltford Slappers (S2 Corporation)

My lead didn’t last long – Oli plays Running Interference perfectly, and held up all of my strike attempts. He did manage to take a win, putting him in the lead overall.

Game Three – Andy’s Arkham Harleyquinns (S2 Corporation)

I first played Andy back at the Bristol Megalofunotron, and he was the only player at the Welsh Regional who hadn’t come from Bristol! He travelled up from Exeter. He was even hotter on the Running Interference than Oli was, and took a landslide win in turn five.

Game Four – Dan’s Brigstowe Raiders (S1 Corporation)

As there were only four players, we had to duplicate our results and I ended up playing Dan again for the final game. Again, I managed to take a landslide win – and so early, that we started off a friendly game – swapping sides to try out the opposite teams.

Results

It was slightly disappointing having a small field again, it would have been nice to have some of the guys from the Cardiff League turn up but unfortunately it was left a little unconfirmed until about three weeks before (hence my being drafted in to keep things running).

I managed to pull third place, Dan unfortunately had last (losing every game, as compared to his standing in the Open Day tournament). Oli and Andy were so close going into the last game that if it was a draw, Oli had won. If Andy won by two points or more, he had won. It went backwards and forwards all game, it could have gone either way.

It came right down to the last couple of dice of the game, and time ran out… It finished with three points to Andy, and his strike difference won the tie-breaker. In fact, cheers would have been identical if the final event of the game wasn’t ‘Bored Fans’, losing a fan check card and putting Andy on top there too.

It was a fantastic day, it was nice that everyone had a chance to play everyone else even though it was a low turnout. We all had a good laugh, the final game on the ‘top’ table was good and nail-biting (as is only proper).

Azure Forest Tournament May 2014

I was pretty disappointed that the Open Day in May didn’t originally have a DreadBall tournament planned. The Open Day last year was the first tournament I’d ever been to, and got us both into the tournament thing. When first announced, they said “bring a team – get a few pick-up games.” Coming from Bristol, it’s a pretty long way to go since we don’t play Kings of War, Deadzone, or any of the other Mantic games and we’re not likely to pick up new toys on impulse. Three hours drive each way, a B&B and getting babysitters for the weekend are just too much for a seminar which may talk about the games we’re really interested in and a look at the shiny DreadBall Xtreme models currently in development.

So when they finally announced the tournament at the event, I was over the moon. The fact that it’s an Azure Forest tournament is even better, as I like the changes it introduces. We may still miss the seminars (like we have previously) but I think they did a good job last time of trying to give everyone the chance to attend, and I’ve heard that this year there’s a seminar specifically for event participants timed around the games so we should be able to have a look this time.

The Gang

In the 2013 ManticBowl, Jen and I went on our own. For the November Charity Tournament, we managed to drag Oli up to Nottingham too. This May, Oli was busy but we convinced Dan and Chris to come along with us. Both are new to DreadBall, have played a couple of games each, and convinced they are going to come last but at least only one of them can! At the last second, Jen got ill and wasn’t able to attend – but the other three of us were on our way.

Dan took the S1 Corporation team (the one Jen usually takes, since he had practiced with those and Jen wasn’t using them) and Chris took the Judwan, as he figured using a team of all Strikers would be less to remember. I painted up a Nameless team, putting my faith in extra ranks rather than cards. I put an ability on two Strikers (hoping to get Skill 3+) and an ability on each of my Sticky Guards (hoping to get 360 Vision, so I can sit them in the three-point Strike zone as a super-defender). Without cards, I’ll be vulnerable against bad weather events but hopefully that will be as much of a hindrance to my opponent.

Game One – Adam Cooper’s Crimson Corpse Creators (Marauders)

Adam and I have an Open Day history – we played in the first ManticBowl (I beat him by a landslide), the Gamers For Life charity tournament (I beat him), and we were drawn first in this tournament. He took his Marauders again, and for the majority of the game the weather was “heat haze” that lets us get away with fouls. Despite that, neither of us had to foul to get the advantage. My luck was awful here – I flubbed pick-ups, evades, dashes, and when I got there – strike attempts too. The game ended at a one point loss to me.

Game Two – Dan’s S1 Corporation

My second opponent, and again someone I’ve played before (since I taught him the game and brought him with me…) Again, my luck was foul. Dan managed to get me six points down – I pulled it back with a four-pointer. He jumped up to five points… I pulled it back to two… he got back to four points, and there we sat on his last turn. I’d just failed a strike attempt, so the ball was in the high-scoring zone with my Striker. He slammed me, I doubled the dodge and stepped onto the ball. Doubled the pick-up, threw the strike, and pulled it back to another one point loss in his turn (for a couple more fan checks). Still, not making great progress in the tournament.

Game Three – Charlotte’s Veer-myn

I met Charlotte at the 2013 Nationals back in March, but hadn’t played her. She’s the only other Veer-myn player that I’ve seen in a tournament, and was able to match me bad roll for bad roll. This was the first game that I rolled skill upgrades for my Strikers, so I was able to score quite easily. I killed a Guard and managed to get a landslide win! Quite a reverse from my other fortunes today.

Game Four – Nick’s Judwan

We suffered for most of the game with a Scorcher weather effect in play. It forced me to make more slams, and with less players, he was unable to use all five tokens most turns. It started off tit-for-tat scoring, but we both failed a few and I was getting my guards up to the full 3-pt defence to try and get some more opportunities. In the last couple of turns, I killed four Judwan – clearing out that nasty defence, failing every strike up there, and taking a two-point loss.

Conclusion

So with a barely-positive strike difference, I wasn’t anywhere near the top. There were 7/8/9 players total, probably because of the Open Day, Kings of War game, Deadzone campaign, Loka tournament, and everything else happening. Several people I’d seen playing previously were also working as Pathfinders on the day, so there’s some more potential players out.

I don’t think my plan was too bad, but the dice failed me on the day. I didn’t work hard enough to push my guards to the back to open my opponents defence, or maybe I need to write off the first couple of turns to just smash my opponent’s scoring potential. I’m still not sure I’ve worked out how to use the Nameless – or bashy teams in general – yet.

The overall winner was also using Nameless, and there was a third somewhere around that I hadn’t seen. Chris managed to take away the Wooden Spoon prize – a Rebs Starter Box for Deadzone!

The Open Day

I walked around the Open Day, but I didn’t really dip into anything other than the tournament. I went to the “tournament players” scheduled seminar and heard a lot about Dwarf King’s Hold, but didn’t get into anything else. I had a quick chat with many people I’d seen at previous Open Days, which is great fun, and picked up the prizes for the Cardiff Regional next week. I was also just about coming down with something nasty that knocked me out of work for three days, so I think that affected my enjoyment on the day – I was exhausted, I didn’t bother taking any pictures (after promising myself that I would) and didn’t make the time to try anything out (Project Pandora and Deadzone were high on my list to sample between games). If I’d known the seminar would be dominated by Dwarf King’s Hold, I might have gone for another game or to have a better look at the “studio” – a table with painter, sculptor, and lots of unfinished/pre-release models. I really regretted not talking to the Mantic painter, but didn’t realise this till later when I had the time to run the day through my brain and work out what I’d missed.

Bristol Megalofunotron Tournament Review

This was another local tournament, like the Bristol Blitz last year. It would be nice to bring every different team to a tournament at some point, to get proper use out of all of them, and given that I’ve been using Zees a lot this year (especially in the Cardiff League) it would be a good chance to get those out for a bit.

The tournament has a slightly different format to the traditional tournaments we’ve been to, and instead of just being four plain identical exhibition matches this was more of a surrogate league – each game is an exhibition match with more credits, and the team you use each game is based on the team you had in the previous game. Unlike a league, any rank increases are rolled at the beginning of each game, and deaths are ignored (instant, free resurrection between games).

In addition, it’s a five-game tournament and the final game was an Ultimate multiplayer game.

Game 1 – Andy’s S2 Corporation (4pt win)

Andy was great fun to play against – I got a good six-point lead early on but he refused to let me get the landslide. We made it through to the end of the game, where I got a final point to put me on four and with the three-point strike hex blocked up with two on the bonus lane, it was going to be impossible for the Corporation to score a win. This is one of the games that I expected to be the hardest, since the Zees had the fewest upgrades. The Monkey Business dice didn’t favour me much, but the Offensive coach was very useful.

He did kill a monkey though.

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Game 2 – Rob’s Asterians (7pt landslide loss)

The Asterian Dirty Tricks and Dive-Taking failed to do too much to the monkeys, as expected. Rob played well and blocked the three-point strike hex from me, and with their 3+ Speed there was nothing I could do to open it up. Like the last times I played Asterians (at the Charity Open Day and 2013 Nationals), I was permanently on the back foot trying to slow down what seemed like an inevitable loss. I managed to hold off until turn 12, which is pretty good for a Skill 5+ Jack team against one with Skill 3+ Strikers.

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The best moment of this loss was pointing out that he hadn’t called any fouls all game, and I’d had ten models on the pitch uncontested for almost the entire game. It clearly didn’t help me, but it was rewarding nonetheless. On the flipside, I didn’t notice that he’d had 7 players on the pitch for at least half of the game himself.

Game 3 – Cai’s Teratons (3pt win)

Cai was a sharp player, he knew how to use the Teratons to best effect and made it difficult for me to pick up the ball by applying threat hexes to it. At one point, I played the Ball Shatters card to my own player because he wouldn’t be able to safely Evade out of two threat hexes. When relaunched, the ball landed in the only spot with two threat hexes on it, so it didn’t really help me at all. He called foul almost every one of my actions, but found it difficult to kill off the monkeys quickly enough to stop them scoring.

Game 4 – Josh’s Robots (7pt landslide win)

I wasn’t too sure how I would end up doing against the Robots, and Josh didn’t know about the Zees. I managed to kill a Robot Guard by slamming them in the back (with plenty of threat hex support, obviously) and in my final turn, took a one-dice 4+ chance at a 4pt Strike to get the landslide… and got it.

I don’t think Josh is used to someone fouling against him, and I feel a little bad about fouling, but the Zees require the foul to be able to do anything. Still, he called more fouls than Rob did and got a few monkeys sent off – just not enough.

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Josh had a great, simple paint scheme for his robots – white undercoat with a coloured wash for position. One of the big problems with robots is determining player role, since they are all so similar, but this made it so easy for me to tell what was a Jack, a Striker or a Guard.

Game 5 – ULTIMATE!

The Ultimate game involved Andy, Rob and Josh from my previous games, as well as a Nameless team and an S1 Corporation team (Tom, who I’ve played in previous tournaments) to make a full six players.

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I called Defensive plays for the first couple of turns, but didn’t need the dice and didn’t get much done in those turns. I’m not sure whether it was subsequently calling Offensive plays or just having more Zees on the pitch closer to the action that did the trick but I started scoring again. At one point, I was tied for first place with Tom’s Corporation and Rob’s Asterians but Tom scored an extra couple of points on me to pull himself ahead and push me down to third place when the time ran out and we ended the game.

I think I liked this game more than the others in the day – I even managed to pull a couple of nasty surprises on people (Running Interference cards!) and took a Nameless Hard Guard off for three turns thanks to many threat hexes and a slam in the back (with a few unused Monkey Business dice).

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Conclusion

Overall, Jen and I did pretty well – she won her Ultimate game by a landslide, and we were both tied on tournament points with Tom (who won our Ultimate game). Taking into account strike difference, Tom came in second, I was third and Jen was fourth. I think that’s a brilliant turnout for the Zees. I think it was even better for Jen, who had misunderstood the format and was reducing her tournament bonus each game, instead of adding it on, and effectively was being outranked by her opponents in games two and three. I think – although I’d need the complete results to be sure – that if the Ultimate game hadn’t happened I would have been in second place.

The overall winner was Rob Taylor with his Asterians – I’m definitely going to have to arrange some practice games against them, since they are the team I do the worst against.

The aim of the ‘league-ish’ format was to encourage other teams to come who are perceived as needing a bit more development to be competitive – teams like the Zees, the Robots and Z’zor. I think it definitely helped the Zees to be able to spend more than 20mc since they need an Offensive coach to really push for the big scores but 5+ Skill (and unpredictable coaching dice) is even more crippling for them than it is for the Veer-myn. On the other hand, every other team had the same number of upgrades as I did so it was still a set of four balanced matches.

I like the different format, it kept things interesting and I was really pleased to have done so well with the Zees. I hope that other people will take them in the future, since I have not yet played against them – I think they’d be an interesting challenge. It was also very good to have two full Ultimate games – no dead Strike zones – with all the chaos that entails. I’d like to play another tournament in this format one day, but it’s quite tiring – four hour games and a two-hour Ultimate game to cap it off is a gruelling schedule.

The giveaway for this tournament was a set of custom acrylic tokens with a Bristol Vanguard logo on them (a Banksy bear throwing a dice) – Jen and I picked blue and red to supplement the green Kickstarter ones we already have.

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DreadBall Nationals 2013

Planning

After my disappointment that they had not gone ahead in November, and then the slight irk as I felt they had been replaced by the Ultimate game I passed on at the Charity Open Day, I was understandably thrilled when the Nationals were announced, postponed, for March 9th.

Not the most convenient day, as it means travelling across the country and arriving home quite late on a Sunday, but there was no way that I could miss this one. I got my “crew” together – Oli’s S2 Corporation (borrowing our Steelbridge Emperors again) and Jen’s S1 Corporation (our Starport Starlets, as usual) and that left me to decide how to go ahead.

What with one thing and another, there’s been no time to practice or paint. I wanted to stand a chance at winning so that left either Judwan or Veer-myn, two teams I felt that I could do quite strongly with and were already painted to at least a playable standard.

There was some sense to bringing the Veer-myn, as that’s what got me there in the first place. On the other hand, they didn’t really rampage quite as well at the Open Day as they had at the Welsh Regional tournament, and maybe I needed a little more skill (hence the Judwan).Jen and Oli practice while I try to decide which team to bring.

The other consideration was whether or not it would be immodest to bring the metal pitch I won in that Regional, especially since with the extreme lack of practice (I think I had two or three games since Christmas, including teaching new players) I was not confident in being able to think my way out of any problems.

The Day

After all that to-ing and fro-ing, I ended up with the Veer-myn. I’d packed both, just in case, but if someone clogged up the three point strike zone, the Judwan would never be able to get the points needed to come back.

The perfect place to pray for 6s...

The venue was amazing. I thought it was being held in a church hall, it was actually in an abandoned church. It fits the purpose of a gaming hall perfectly, with plenty of space but was very cold. I imagine this will be sorted in time, but they’ve only been open since October after the church was empty for 12 (or 20?) years. It’ll be nice to see what it’s like in the summer. A nice bonus was lunch included in the ticket price, I like this as it keeps everyone together rather than spreading out and keeps the cost of the day down for everyone.

Game One – Shaun Riley’s Triple Rs (S1 Corporation)

Shaun was a great player, I had a really fun game here. He also had a special wipe-clean mat with spaces for coaches, spent action tokens, cheerleaders, etc and he could write notes on them for every game and wipe it off when it was no longer needed. It’s a really good idea and I’ll see if he’s put it on the DreadBall Fanatics Facebook group.

Shaun was playing his Corporation aggressively, and did a good job defending his strike zones. We hovered both sides of the 0-point mark all game but in the last rush, it was one point in his favour. The Veer-myn had completely failed practically every Evade test that they had to take. I normally risk one or two without thinking because a three-dice 3+ test is almost a certainty.

So I was off to a bad start, but it was the best lose that I could go for (only one point conceded and a pile of cheers).

Game Two – Gareth Humphreys’ Goram Reavers (Marauders)

As Shaun was bottom of the winners and I was top of the losers, we were picked to play again but instead swapped with two others. I got placed against Gareth’s Marauders, and again he played aggressively. So aggressively, he killed four of my players! Kills don’t count, however, and I managed to get a hard fought landslide win – back in the running.

Gareth was another great opponent, good fun to play against and really polite as he murdered my rats. He went on to win Most Bloody, after he took out three of Jen’s players in a later game. We accounted for more than 75% of the casualties that got him there!

Game Three – Dan Haslam’s Sonic Strikers (Judwan)

Dan had terrible luck this game, and his Judwan were totally unable to dislodge me from the three-point strike zone – or at least, were unable to do so when they had the ball and could get up to score. By the time he had, I had replaced the Striker and blocked the gap. I mashed the three-pointers and pulled another landslide win.

I’m not a nice enough person to open that three-point strike zone, and I feel bad about giving Dan a game he found very difficult. Hopefully he still had a good game, and I enjoyed having a chat with him – another player who knows his stuff, and is good fun to play against. There’s not a lot that can be done against that sort of defence, especially when the Judwan have had their speed reduced. I think they’re pretty competitive in general (and too competitive in skilled hands) with the good speed, and not competitive enough by far without it. I don’t have any better ideas though, so have to leave it at that.

Game Four – Ian Fielder’s Ellshar Smashers (Asterians)

Asterians… why did it have to be Asterians? I got lucky in this game – his Jacks threw themselves down but few players got sent off, Dirty Tricks was fired from the Guard without anything, and Inattentive Ref came out early and wasn’t replaced for half of the game. That deterred any further shenanigans, for the short term. This was also the first game were none of my players got the Skill upgrade, meaning I was playing against a team practically the same, but a little bit stronger. He also adapted to my focus on three-pointers quickly and moved to block that off, since 5+ skill will make it difficult to get two-pointers in the lower strike zones.

OK, so this is Jen playing against Ian in game two. I had too much fun to take pictures of my own games.

I managed to kill an Asterian, but that didn’t help too much. He focused his upgraded Strikers (who did get the Skill bonus) on two-pointers, and I barely managed to scrape it until rush 13 when the landslide loss hit me. I was pleased to keep the game going that long, and Ian had a mastery of the game – he was perfectly clear on everything, and we clipped through the rushes at a good pace.

The Veer-myn watch the Asterians score again... and again... and again...

Conclusion

I loved every minute of the day! The venue was excellent, albeit pretty cold, there were plenty of tables and lots of space, the tea was nice, lunch was plentiful (several trays of Subway) and opponents wonderful. I hope I get to see them at another event this year. Jen and I are planning on going to the Mantic Open Days – one in May, and possibly another one later in the year – if they have DreadBall tournaments again.

The winner was Leon Chapman, the South-east Regional Champion using a Nameless team. I’d be interested to hear how he plays the Nameless, I’ve only tried them a couple of times and feel like there’s never enough action tokens to make full use of their team synergy. Second place was Ian with his Asterians, the only person he didn’t get a landslide win against was Leon. I think this shows that in the right hands, any team can do well.

Overall, I had a slight loss, a landslide loss and two landslide wins. This gave me six tournament points (just behind James M Hewitt himself) at fifth place. Oli had two landslide losses, so ended up down in tenth place with hardly any cheers – his worst result, I believe. Jen had a better day than both of us – she took a landslide loss with Ian, but got two landslide wins and a plain win and ended up on seven tournament points in third place! I am so incredibly proud of her, I didn’t even think about my own placing. I am happy with how I placed, but ecstatic with Jen – she puts it down to luck, but she beat Oli by a landslide in a practice game the night before. I think the lack of practice recently hit me and Oli hard, but Jen has managed to keep her skills sharp (possibly sharper?) over the Winter months. I think that also means that officially, she is the third best DreadBall player in the UK?

Because the top positions were taken by pathfinders or staff members, their prizes trickled down to the first civilians… which meant Jen and I walked away with new toys! Having gotten everything in the Kickstarter, we called up a friend to find out what they wanted and donated it to their collection.

Unlike recent tournaments, Season Two Corporation teams were very thin on the ground – only Oli brought one. Nameless and Teratons are still popular with two teams each, two Judwan teams, two Veer-myn (on the rise?), only one Marauder and Asterian team (down from the last tournament) and, as usual, three Corporation teams. Plain old humans are always popular, it seems.

We had a few chats with James and Tim from Mantic who both told us that the DreadBall community was one of the nicest gaming communities that they’d ever seen. Apparently other game systems can have less friendly people at the top tables (and I’ve heard something similar from the Warhammer podcasts that I listen to), but DreadBall tournaments all feel like club games and friendly atmospheres. There were two Teraton players at the Nationals who weren’t even looking at winning, necessarily – just trying to outdo each other on body count (and were both outstripped by Gareth’s Marauders!) This event cemented my love of the hobby and the scene and I aim to attend as many local tournaments as possible and whichever of the official Mantic events we are available for. I love that it’s something I can do with my wife, and my friends.

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The next tournament on the horizon is the Bristol Megalofunotron at the end of March, and then there’s nothing planned until May. I need to get out of my painting funk and start getting something done again – I’m OK for Bristol (I intend to take the Zees) but I still have a lot of other teams to paint before my Xtreme Kickstarter delivers at the end of the year!

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Leon Chapman, who won the tournament, has written his own experiences of the day on the Mantic forums.

Cardiff League – Weeks Five to Nine

I was missing playing DreadBall regularly – tournament season appears to be in the Spring, and it’s been difficult to play against people other than Jen for a while. I eventually approached the Cardiff League guys to see if they would allow me to join, given that I could only attend in person every fortnight (at best) and would have to play most of my games remotely via Vassal. They seem to be more organised than the last couple of leagues in Bristol – the first one followed the rules from the book and people failed to challenge or complete their assigned games in the fortnight provided each round, the second was a more open double-round-robin but I had a couple of people stand me up and found it difficult to attend on the busiest club nights, no-one else was able to attend the same nights that I was and many didn’t try to arrange games on the forums (or reply to my calls for the same).

The Cardiff League has a very disciplined organiser sorting out the match-ups for each week, rounding up the results and making sure it all keeps ticking along. I’ve jumped in to replace one of his teams, with the team ranking and league points that they had accrued so far – 2 losses and a draw.

I decided to take my Zee team along for this league, since I think a developed Zee team could be interesting to play with, and I’d like the practice to try and perfect their tactics. Since I was replacing a Zee team, I only got 17 credits to boost my team rating – I bought an offensive coach and saved the rest for later. As I’m starting in week five, I’m hoping to organise some friendly games via Vassal so I can get some experience on the monkeys and make them better for the league games.

Game 1 – Home vs The Cylon Conspiracy (Robots)

The Cylon Conspiracy had a huge lead on me, having a few landslide victories behind them and on top of the league table. Being the underdog that I am, I got a bunch of free agents here. I got an Asterian Guard, a Sticky Nameless Guard, and two more Zees.

I swarmed the pitch and managed to get a few good scores, but couldn’t keep the three-point strike zone defended well enough and ended up six points down when I had to concede the game early and run to catch a train. I made enough cash after the game to buy two cards, and replace a dead Zee. Two of them managed to get experience, but not enough to gain a rank.

Game 2 – Away vs Squad Sonny (Robots)

I was hoping to squeeze this in on the same day as against the Cylon Conspiracy but the schedule was against me. Instead, we arranged this game by Vassal. It’s not as hard as I thought it would be to play via Vassal, and doesn’t get in the way too much.

Squad Sonny had a huge team rating, 250 against my 134. This meant my underdog bonus was more than I could possibly use. I bought Buzzcut for the game, and got a few free agents – Asterian Guard and Jack, and a Teraton Jack. The Teraton spent the whole game on the bench because I’ve not played with them yet, and I’m not sure how best to use their abilities. Buzzcut I used for some muscle, but wanted to keep the scoring to the Zees (as poor as they are) to try and get some experience. This worked well, with my two experienced monkeys scoring early on and getting me a six point lead before half-time.

Unfortunately, good luck doesn’t last and I wasn’t able to score again – Squad Sonny managed to push enough models around to get a four-pointer, and ended up winning by two. However, with the underdog bonus I had enough to max out my cards for the next game, and still have plenty left over to buy something else. I don’t know if I’ll buy more Zees, since there is a limit of fourteen and I would like the space for MVPs if I am the underdog again. I could buy some Cheerleaders to try and capitalise on scoring, so the cards can get me easier scores, the scores can get me fan checks, the fan checks get me the coaching dice that I’ll need to help guarantee the score for next time.

My two happy scorers both got Skill increases after the game, so given how close I was to a win this time (landslide, even!) I could actually get it to work next time!

Game 3 – Home vs Yutani Predators (S1 Corporation)

This was another Vassal game, but a little trickier without voice communication. I worry enough that I might be misunderstood with my voice, let alone in plain and emotionless text. The first half of the game was a frantic score-fest, with my two ‘striker’ Zees running and scoring three-pointers every rush, but having them negated instantly by a three-pointer from the Corporation Strikers. After a couple of fumbles from the humans, and a break in the scoring, I finally managed to pull ahead and started to get a lasting lead, and the game ended as a win five points up to me.

Because of all the scoring, I got man monkey of the match, and another ability on one of my ‘striker’ Zees – who got Misdirect.

After this game, I’d maxed out on cards and had oodles of cash left. Looking at team rankings, I can’t expect to get too many more free agents so I bought a couple more Zees (never a bad thing) and a pair of cheerleaders, just in case.

Game 4 – Away vs the Tannhauser Kaiju (Teratons)

Yet another Vassal game – I will be trying to make it to the store at some point, as I need to get some paints and I think I’ve earned the leave at home. This was my first experience with Teratons, on either side of the pitch and they were formidable. Lots of upgrades (two Keepers) and the Teleport ability is incredibly useful! Why ever Evade again?

First score went to the Teratons, and they kept the pressure up high throughout the game. Even with my new hires, there were times I only had 5 on the pitch and no subs to bring on! While not quite so back-and-forth as the previous game, the tit-for-tat was a spread out a lot more and the score didn’t come near my cheerleader till near the end. My Monkey Business dice only gave me a little luck near the beginning, and I realised that Teleport can’t stop a determined Zee from Stealing the ball from a Teraton – but rolling low will scupper that.

My favourite points of the game were having more than half of my team in the Sin Bin thanks to injuries and fouls, and using a Running Interference card to snatch the ball before a Teraton Jack could pick it up… then doubling and running off with it! That Zee eventually sprinted off to a far corner of the pitch, where a Teraton Keeper attempted to teach him the error of his ways. It worked, but the ball scattered off the wall and straight back into the Keeper, who flubbed the catch, and a weird bounce dropped the ball into the almost undefended three-point Strike zone. That was the rush lost, and my final rush for one of the new Zees to sprint up, grab the ball (doubling with 5+ skill), and score (doubling with 5+ skill) to end the game on a 5 point win.

Monkey of the Match was mine again, same Zee as before (both times, he’d done nothing) and that meant a rank increase. He got Running Interference. Another Zee got a Skill increase, and three more are close to advances.

I’d love to play these Teratons again, it was a real challenge – but after the game they did buy a new Guard, so maybe I’d best save some cash for resurrection bills…

Zoatally Z’zorsome

Military psychologists have been experimenting for a number of years to find a way to condition Corporation soldiers for the challenge of fighting the Z’zor on distant planets. Many humans find it disconcerting, possibly due to the way they move, the noises they make, or the way they tap into the tiny, primal ape brain deep inside that holds an inexplicable fear of all insects, even those only two inches long. It could also be down to the totally valid fear of an insect seven-feet tall that could punch a hole through a car or slice a cow in two with their powerful pincers.

The Zoat corporation, a varied entity with a small foothold in many commercial industries both military and domestic, was one of the first to attempt to capture and breed Z’zor specimens for practice but still they found it difficult to break that psychological barrier. After a couple of years however, an interesting effect was noticed – the researchers and colonels overseeing the experiments had completely lost their fear of the Z’zor despite never having faced them. The fearlessness remained when the roles were reversed, and they were armed and sent against the captured specimens in a live-fire exercise. It seemed that constantly watching Z’zor in holo-vids, on screens and in slow-motion action replays nurtured a familiarity with the creatures, and familiarity breeds contempt.

A few short months later, and Zoat’s military training with the Z’zor had been cancelled. Instead, Zoat became the preeminent supplier of Z’zor DreadBall teams, making use of it’s military studies to secure funding from mercenary units and Corporation planetary expedition forces looking to employ a new generation of fearless human warriors ready to face the Z’zor in battle. This initiative has been so successful, the Zoat corporation now counts bioengineered Z’zor DreadBall teams as it’s most profitable venture. Second place is a product that appeared about the same time – the crunchy breakfast cereal with a unique taste, Zzorios.

First, a poem:

Mould lines on the Z’zor.
I hate them the most.
More than anything.

Hopefully that sums up how I feel about them!

As for paint schemes, I wasn’t sure whether to go with an old-school Space Hulk Genestealer scheme (deep blues and pinky purples), a more “chitinous” type of bone colour (which I’ve seen done well on the DreadBall Fanatics page on Facebook) or a sort of “Aliens” inspired black armour plates with a coloured highlight – either green, yellow or purple – in streaks and blobs, in a kind of organic insectoid patterning. I have settled on the bone colour for now, with the internal bits in bone and the armour plates in a dark, streaky purple. In the end, I didn’t trust my freehand enough for the patterning, and I prefer the contrast of the bone and purple rather than blue and purple/pink.

The bone was done with Zandri Dust, washed with a very old Flesh Wash then more Zandri Dust and a highlight of Bleached Bone. I think I overdid the Bleached Bone on a couple of the players. The carapace was Naggaroth Night, highlighted up through Liche Purple and Genestealer Purple in an imprecise, streaky sort of style. It didn’t come out as streaky as I thought it would, but I really really like the final effect. It was so simple, and just instantly added depth to the armour plates.

The eyes were done with red for a bit of contrast, the same way many people paint gemstones. My precise method was Crimson Gore, Mephiston Red, Blood Red, then a Bloodletter Glaze over the whole thing. I can only just tell the difference myself, but I do believe that there’s a very slight graduation through the eye, from bottom to top.

I decided to leave the numbers off of the models for now – I can’t think of any smart way to do it that would look natural enough for the rest of the model. If anyone can give me a good idea, maybe I’ll revisit them when I paint up my spare models.

I’ve taken them to one tournament so far (the 2013 Bristol Regional Tournament), and didn’t do greatly there – but I enjoyed playing a bashy team and I’m about to start using them in the next Vanguard league… watch this space!