Vanguard Dreadball League

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I was tempted to step up and start some DreadBall community in Bristol, since no-one else had done so and the nearest tournament, official or widely announced, was in Milton Keynes. The ‘Southern’ regional heat was somewhere out East somewhere, and pretty much useless for much of what I think of as the South region (anywhere from Bristol out to Brighton and beyond).

Conveniently for me and my sanity, the Welsh regional heat was arranged in Cardiff. Since I commute there every day it’s not a big problem for me to travel out that far. Not long after that someone got in touch with me on the Mantic forums to tell me about a new wargaming venue in Bristol called Vanguard Wargaming, with an active community who were really getting buzzed about Dreadball.

They were starting a league, and I wanted to join a league, and so I signed myself and Jen up for it! It means that quite often, we’ll probably not be there together (children need watching) and as they are fortnightly rounds there will probably be one day every week that we don’t see each other. But it will be good for both of our playing to be able to play other people. In between league rounds, we can play friendly matches against each other too. We’ve gone through three of the four planned rounds so far, and I’ve been putting match reports on every game I’ve played on the Vanguard Wargaming forums.

Round One

Marauders vs. Corporation (Pete vs Jen, friendly)

We had a friendly game to start off the season, but the term ‘friendly’ is a bit of a misnomer. Marauders took the first rush and by the third action a human striker was already being recycled.
The game went back and forth with a number of small goblin strikes balanced by larger human ones. In desperation, a lone goblin sat on the human entry hex to block reinforcements coming on while the ref was occupied at the high-point strike zone on the far end of the pitch, avoiding the Eye in the Sky and driving the humans mad with fury (and hell hath no fury like a woman stalled…)
In the final rushes, the goblin Jack left the entry hex to avoid being called out and the goblins were 4 points up. But in the final human rush, another 4 pointer brought the game into sudden death!
Sudden death was thankfully short, as the goblins grabbed the newly launched ball and scored a single point to tip the game to their favour.
In the aftermath, one Orx guard was voted Man of the Match and promoted to a Keeper while a human striker increased in rank and gained the Roll skill.

Marauders vs. Marauders (Pete vs. Hung, league)

First league match, and my first ‘mirror-match’ – Marauders vs. Marauders! Thankfully, not both in the same colours. Hung’s Yellows lined up with 3 Orx and 3 goblins, and my Reds faced them with 1 Orx and 5 goblins.
The first six rushes saw a lot of fighting, but not a lot of injury. The ball was picked up, stolen, slammed and dropped, picked up again, but never got further than 2 hexes from the centre line.
Finally, one of the Red goblins grabbed the ball and made a break for the 3-pointer zone. Two Yellow Orx were knocked down and pinned by the starting line for several rushes while the scrum was sorted out and broke off a bit.
The Reds scored two 3-pointers, then Yellows took the ball for a 4-pointer to bring the score back to 2-0.
In the final turns, the Reds brought in another Orx to replace an injured goblin and got a few back slams on the Yellow Orx – killing one! Despite sucker punches from both sides, the refs were content to let greenskins murder each other with complete abandon.
Just before the end, the Reds got another 3-pointer and a tense moment based around the high-point strike zone prevented a Red landslide in the final rush. Final score: 5-0.
Dave’s Yellows had awful luck, and my Reds were unusually lucky – no player on either side spent more than a single rush injured, both refs missed everything, and goblins dodged left, right and all over the place.
Man of the Match went to a Yellow goblin, and two Red goblins got advances (one Skill advance, one Safe Pair of Hands).

Corporation vs. Corporation (Jen vs. Skindog, league)

Not much of a league report here – Jen couldn’t make her game, and in the interest of time they agreed to count the game as a draw.

Round Two

Corporation vs. Marauders? (Jen vs. Skindog, league)

I wasn’t here to watch this one, but from what I can tell Skindog had awful luck – dropping the ball two rushes in a row. Jen ran all over him to get a landslide by the 6th or 7th rush.

Marauders vs. Marauders (Pete vs. Chillydogg, league)

My second league game was really forward and back. Both of us had moments of terrible luck, and points were it could have swung the other way, but the dice were against us. I set up the same as I did for the game against Hung, with 5 jacks and 1 guard. Kev lined up against me with 2 jacks and 4 (!) guards – it was even more extreme than the match-up against Hung!

I scored 3 points in the first time and started juggling my goblins up to the top scoring zone and back. Despite having 4 guards against me, I only had a couple of jacks out injured at a time and no-one on my side died. Just like every other game in this league, I killed one of the opposing team – this time, it was an Orx guard. He had extra anyway. The ball was constantly being dropped and carried back and forth, but on it’s travels it scored a 2-pointer and two 4-pointers for Kev’s visiting team to end the game in a landslide against me in the 9th rush.

Round Three

Unfortunately, interest fizzled out in round three as the final pairing found it difficult to organise their game and everyone was waiting on tenterhooks for Season 2 models and rules. It was decided that as a practice run, Season 1 was a success and we would begin a new league with Season 2.

What’s Next?

I enjoyed the club, and will be jumping in on their Season 2 league when it starts. From what I could gather, there’s going to be a different structure, where a game night is picked and everyone plays as many times as they like/can in that evening. At the end of the round, the best 3 games are submitted for your score (so obviously, it helps to play more games to have a larger pool to choose from). I’m not sure what team I would pick in Season 2 – perhaps the Judwan, since they are playing a passing, dodging game which is how I am trying to play the Marauders at the moment.

First Games Night of 2013

Our first games night of 2013 was a success! Not that I was expecting a failure, but the previous one (almost a whole year before) had two guests. This time we had four, meaning we could fill out the full six players in some games! We were expecting another (so we could have filled out an entire crowd for Kill Doctor Lucky) but for some as yet unexplained reason he chickened out.

We played a few games – started off early in the day with the keenest players, with a quick round of Toy Story 3 Yahtzee with Fred. I don’t think he realised that people were coming round just to play games, but he was telling everyone that they were his best friends and thanking them for playing his game nicely so that was cool. We were thinking about having a demo game of Warhammer earlier in the day, but I haven’t read the latest rulebook in a long time and haven’t had a chance to get it back from whom I lent it, so revised that down slightly to a demo game of Gorkamorka or Necromunda, but a cock-up by Homebase means that our study is filled with a bath until I get time and assistance to fit it. The bath conveniently blocks off all access to scenery, models and rules so that’s completely removed.

Before the main event I managed to teach Chris and Mark how to play Dreadball, as I threatened before – I spectated/refereed and taught the rules as they went along although by the end of the game they were only really checking numbers with me. I got to play against Mark the following day, and although it was only his second game he was only asking me “is it this many dice and that number for success?” and was usually right. He’s even considering picking it up to play against his brother, since it’s so quick to learn and play and as a veteran Blood Bowl player he’s already keen on the small-team miniature games. I think it also helped that he won both games, and managed to make the Forge Fathers succeed every speed test they had to take! Chris too was keen to come round and give it a try again someday. When I’ve got the models painted, I’ve now got a total of five players willing to join in a one-day-league (including myself). It’s just a shame that I only have four teams to go around until Season Two!

As much fun as Dreadball is, it’s only a two player game and I can’t teach everyone to play at the same time so we played a couple of rounds of Thunder Road before more guests turned up. Thunder Road is a fun and fast game based on a Mad Max style race through the desert on the straightest, longest road ever created. It’s really quick to pick up – although the helicopter mechanic was a little bit strange and took a while to grasp before I really understood it, it wasn’t complicated and once I properly grokked it there was no confusion at all. It’s a great four-player game and I’ll definitely request it be brought back another day. The Wikipedia page has the rules available for download, if you want to take a look. I’m not sure whether the game is available anymore, but maybe it’s somewhere on eBay.

I had to duck out to keep putting the kids to bed (and Jen was pretty much unavailable the rest of the night with more of the same) so I missed a couple of childless games of Toy Story Yahtzee, and resolved that the next games night will absolutely 100% have a babysitter. It wasn’t nice that Jen wasn’t able to play in most of the games of the evening, and we had originally planned a babysitter but there was a last minute change of plans.

ultravioletdragonFinally, we started to play Order of the Stick with some of the Shortening rules. I put in Wandering Xykon but left out Backstories, since I couldn’t remember the rules well enough to want to put in even more mechanics. I figured that we’d get Xykon out early and see how that worked. Unfortunately, we all had big and nasty monsters so the first level was entirely unworkable for the whole of the game. For an example, the first monster out was an Ultraviolet Dragon (roll a D12, add your defence of 1, and hope that it somehow gets higher than 18). Other dragons, big Ogres, and named NPCs filled out the rest of the first floor.

It took a while to remember and relearn the rules as we went, and it seemed to take too long before we even started trying to attract Xykon. I wonder if I got some of the rules wrong in the skim-reading, I’ll have to check that later. At some point we decided to just start the dungeon collapse and end the game without Xykon. When that happened the game finished fairly quickly, so next time I think I will assign a time limit and start the collapse at that point. Another reason it may have taken so long to get to the Xykon stage is because we had 5 ½ players, so obviously each person has less time to get at monsters and gain experience.

Everyone enjoyed it, even the ones unfamiliar with both roleplaying games and the Order of the Stick comic, which is always a bit of a worry to me with really niche games like that.

For the first time in a long time, we didn’t play Kill Doctor Lucky – I noticed that we were expecting another player, and it was one of the only games we have that advertises up to 7 players (and still optimistically expecting Jen to be able to join in) so I put that aside until they got to us. They never turned up and Order of the Stick ran on so long (I was enjoying it too much to notice that it wasn’t really any shorter a game…) so Kill Doctor Lucky remained on the sidelines.

Next time, as I mentioned before, we’ll definitely be organising babysitters. I think I’ll make a shortlist of games to bring out for the evening (Zombies!!! hasn’t been out for a while, nor has Talisman) and read the rules in advance. If I put Order of the Stick in again, I’ll really have to read the rules first so I can be more helpful with it and try the Shortening rules properly – I’m sure I missed something or got things wrong. I’m aiming for the middle of April so we can try and attract some people who always seem to miss our games nights.

All in all, an excellent night and I look forward to the next one!

Butter-Fingered Dwarfs

Our best game of Dreadball so far – I got the Forge Fathers and Veer-myn assembled and challenged Jen to a game. I took the Forge Fathers, and she took the Veer-myn, and we decided to try out cards for a game (no ref this time).

She played Home and I played Visitors – which seems to be the general way that my games have gone so far, and she proceeded to dance her rats all over the pitch. There was a giant scrum on the centre line as our guards got into a huge fight, and one of mine was killed outright. The others did almost nothing for the first half of the game as we slammed backwards and forwards, all the while the rats running around with the ball behind my lines. She scored 2 four pointers, and I was completely unable to even pick up the ball, even with my Strikers.

In rush 8, I managed to get the ball! And transport it all the way to her four-pointer spot! And get it stolen off of me by a Veer-myn striker running straight off of the bench! This was about the time that I managed to clear much off the space on the centre line, asserting that Forge Fathers are stronger than Veer-myn. Even if they can’t score for toffee. This slowed the rats down, although Jen managed to get the ball back up to my scoring zone for a rush 13 landslide victory.

I thoroughly enjoyed the game, despite barely having any contact with the ball. We’d introduced the ref this time so there were more events – the biggest effect on the game came from the ‘double-distance scatter’ event, with the ball ricocheting all over the pitch, especially where it collided with the ref and the scrum on the centre line.

In our next game, I picked up the Forge Fathers again and Jen took the Marauders. It was more difficult for her to get behind me and Sucker Punch my guards, and her lack of strikers made scoring more trouble. Forge Fathers are also pretty good at holding their own against Orx. This time, the dice gods had completely changed their minds and the Goblins found it difficult to pick up the ball, while the Forge Fathers managed to score two four-pointers and a three-pointer for a landslide victory in the second half despite an early Goblin two-point strike.

As with the previous Veer-myn game, I think it helped that I cleared the table of opponents – there are fewer models to evade around, straighter paths to the strike zones, and less threat hexes to worry about. Jen didn’t top up her teams from the subs bench because there were models closer who could be immediately effective to spend the action counters on.

In both games, the fan support and the ref didn’t really matter – no-one scored the high points to get enough fan support for a free coaching dice, and no-one fouled anywhere near the ref. I also realised just how far away the ref can see things going on – it can cover a large amount of the action, if placed near the centre line.

I noticed on the Mantic website that there is a games day at Firestorm games in Cardiff in June, and hopefully I’ll have at least two teams painted by then. I’ll just need to work out if I want to do the work commute on a weekend, and if I can convince Jen to come along too. As there’re two of us, it’ll work out cheaper to drive (even factoring in parking and the bridge toll). I haven’t heard about anything in Bristol yet, and if nothing happens maybe I’ll try and organise something myself. Cut ‘n Thrust Wargaming is pretty good and has plenty of space, and it’s where I played the Dreadball demo game that convinced me to jump on the Kickstarter.

DreadBall Catchup

I got my first DreadBall package a couple of weeks ago, and I calculated that it contains over £150 of miniatures – an incredible deal, when you also consider that I’m getting another two packages next year.

So far I’ve played three games with the unassembled Marauder and Corporation teams (luckily, even without arms and heads their poses make the positions clear enough). The first was a half-game against Jen where she beat me with 3 points, in which I played the Marauders and tried to smash the humans into a fine paste.

The second game went better for me – I played against Lord Scree (one of our roleplay group, who plays a human Tollkeeper in the game I’m running and once used a Sunspear to devastating effect) and scored 3 points myself early on. Unfortunately, his Corporation team got two 4-point strikes thanks to awesome passing and learning to smack Orx in the back of the head (although this might have been helped by my misreading that Orx guards only have a speed of 5+). It might have also helped that I got excited on threw a strike with the first action on my turn, and in DreadBall when you lose control of the ball (including throwing a strike) your turn is over and any remaining actions that turn are lost, wasted, unusable. So again, playing as Marauders against the Corporation, I lost by 5 points.

My latest game was against Jen again, and I got to play as the Corporation. I won for the first time, but I can’t remember by how much. The extra power that Strikers have over Jacks is pretty impressive, and now that I have the Veer-myn team assembled, it might be a bit of a fairer fight in our next game until we work out how best to use Jacks (especially Goblin Jacks, who are next to useless at slamming). She had some terrible luck, missing throws and catches with her first couple of actions, or tripping up with the ball while evading,

I’ve definitely got the bug, and my two test opponents love the game too. My next mission is to make sure that the models get assembled and arrange a games night to show it all off. Once they’re all assembled, I can get them undercoated at the first opportunity, then I can begin painting in the evenings again. As they’re all nearly finished, I can be sure that they’ll be assembled by February although I’ll need a good day’s weather (or borrow my in-law’s garage) to spray-undercoat them ready for painting.

I originally hated the colour schemes in the book, but they’re actually growing on me. I think I’ll skip on the Corporation scheme of silver and blue, but I haven’t come up with anything else just yet. I think I’ll stick with the Marauders scheme exactly as is since red goes well with greenskins. I had an idea of reverse-shading on the Forge Fathers, where the deep recesses are white hot and the armour appears to cool as it gets nearer the edge. It might be difficult to pull off, but it’ll be very Forge-y and intimidating in a sports-team style of thing. My Veer-myn definitely won’t be orange and white, I don’t like the clean look for rats at all. I was considering a plaguey green and brown, but the concept art in the book with yellow armour covered in dripping grime and slime, oily and mouldy, also appeals to me. I’m not quite ready to make my mind up yet anyway so I can mull it over, get some feedback, and see what more motivated players are getting up to on the forums.

When the female Corporation team is released next year, I will probably paint them in the same colours as the male Corporation team (when I decide what colour scheme) so I can mix and match the models. I’m not a fan of gender differentiation, and one way to get my attention for an hour or more is to talk about girl toys and boy toys. Just don’t expect to get a word in yourself while I rant. I’d like to have two mixed teams – one using the Season 2 Corporation rules with whatever special agility rules they end up with, and one using the vanilla Season 1 Corporation rules. Perhaps, if it doesn’t look too discordant, I can give them a mix of Star Trek uniforms from Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, where some have a black uniform with coloured shoulders and others have coloured uniforms with black shoulders and trousers. Maybe I’ll try and get a picture editor and experiment before I crack open the paint pots.

When it comes to the MVPs revealed so far, I am tempted in most cases to paint them the same as the team they can play for. In cases like Buzzcut and John Doe who don’t have a single team restriction, I’ve not made my mind up. Even Slippery Joe, who can only play for Marauders, I may end up painting the same as the ‘official’ paint job because he looks pretty cool. Wildcard looks like she’ll have a different uniform to the Season 2 Corporation team, so I can let my imagination fly there. Buzzcut looks to be mostly undressed so he’ll stand out even if I put him in the Marauders colour scheme – he’ll be green where everyone else on his team is in red armour.

I’m not a fan of the colour schemes used for John Doe and Number 88 – they both have the same grey uniform, which for Number 88 means it’s almost a completely grey model. For such a sleek model, I’m thinking about trying some freehand designs on the armour. My favourite idea at the moment is a sort of swirly, sketchy blue – a bit like tribal tattoos but more flowing and less sharp – on a plain white. Now that I come to describe it, a little like a china plate pattern. The flowing pattern matches the ‘Mind Like Water’ skill that the character has, where it can use martial arts techniques and is difficult to really smash. The plain grey armour seems to fit with an assassin on the battlefield, but not a showy bright sports game, televised, vid-casted and advertised all over the place.

For John Doe, I think the deep purple colour is too dark and cartoony-alien coloured. I’m going to experiment with Earth octopi, with some fleshy-orange skin with a cream-white underbelly. It’ll be a nice test of my painting ability, and hopefully when I see the sculpts for the rest of the ‘Nameless’ team (though this won’t be until Season 3) I’ll see if it will still work. The armour I might try and do a slightly metallic blue-green to evoke the sea and marine colours. I’d like to save purple for the Asterians in Season 3 (incidentally, I really want to give them a Green Goblin style with metallic purple and green armour).

We haven’t tried a game with the ref or any event cards yet, since we’re all still learning but I’m looking forward to introducing them soon, in one of the coming games – perhaps after we’ve exercised all the teams a bit more. I’m definitely hoping to get better at the game and at least one team painted before another parcel of models arrives in May next year, with another 50+ models in it!

Dreadball

I’ve been hooked recently on a new, unreleased game called Dreadball. It was described in a nutshell as ‘Sci-fi Blood Bowl, but nothing like Blood Bowl’. A slightly better description is that it’s a fast-paced sports game with a futuristic setting. I played a demo game of it at Cut ‘n Thrust Wargaming in Bristol, and it was a lot of fun despite being a simpler version of the game (5 players instead of 6, 3 actions per turn instead of 5 and 3 turns each instead of 7). If you ignore the reduced scope of the game because there was a lot of rules explanation, it took about 20 minutes to play almost-half-a-game. I thought that was impressive, and according to the Mantic representative, full games only take around an hour to an hour and a half to play. The basic rules were quick to learn, and I started to wonder if even Freddy could learn to play – expecting the game to take a long while to come out. The reps told us the Kickstarter had December listed as a delivery date, but that was expecting major delays from their real plan of October and it always sounds better to say something was a couple of weeks early than a few weeks late on the same day.

What I’m really looking for in a game at the moment is zero setup time (check, the board fits on a normal table and there’s no scenery) and quick play so we can squeeze games in of an evening. Being a quick game to play should also make it easy to fit into a games night alongside other games – Talisman and Order of the Stick, while being great games, really need a whole evening to play. Saying that, I still haven’t tried ‘The Shortening’ expansion for OotS, so I’ll have to try and put it into our next game night as a 90-minute capped game.

If Dreadball is as fast and easy to learn as it appears, it can be added to a games night alongside quicker favourites like Kill Dr Lucky and Unexploded Cow – but I will have to make a second pitch as it’s only a 2-player game. The extra pitches on their Kickstarter drive aren’t really cost effective enough for me, and a basic paper pitch will be easy to get together.

One thing I like is that nothing is impossible – at the last turn, it looked like I needed 3 points to win, or 2 to draw. By aiming to win, I would need to get two successes with only one dice. In most games, that would mean that winning was not an option – you can’t get two successful rolls on a single dice. In Dreadball, any roll of a 6 gives you an extra dice. While it was highly improbable that I would win (I didn’t), it was still a possibility if I was lucky enough. I tried and failed, but at least I got the option and the chance. It’s also how my opponent managed to get 8 successes out of 4 dice to knock out my Orc Guard…

After the demo game, I put down my money for the Striker! reward level, which gets (as of writing) the base game, extra models for those teams, two additional teams, about a dozen MVPs, Season 2 digital book and some models for the fifth team as well as ‘non-game’ rewards like an exclusive trophy, event ticket, poster, and stuff like that. In addition, I’m planning to use the Kickstarter to pick up the fifth and sixth teams (they are buy-one-get-one-free) and some Keeper models for the first four teams, giving me pretty much the whole range as it (almost) exists up until next Summer. A games night is being planned for next year, where I’m hoping to fit Dreadball in for a few games.

If you want to see more about the game, check out their Kickstarter page which has a gameplay video (although it is slightly dull, it’s not as good as a real demo) and a PDF file which describes typical gameplay. It’s also chock-full of pictures of what’s coming out, and links off to places like Quirkworthy where the designer of Dreadball has poured out thousands and thousands of words describing the game, the rules, the vision, etc. Very interesting stuff.