Vanguard League Season Two – part 1

With our normal organiser getting too busy, the second season was delayed slightly – and then taken up by a new organiser. Me!

I always said that if no-one else organised leagues or tournaments in Bristol, I would have to do it myself. So here I am.

I kept the two divisions from the first season – there were a number of drop-outs, and a bunch of new players, which roughly evened out. Division One was a player short, so each round someone has to sit out and do nothing but it’s all equal and they’ll get the same number of games.

For this league, I’m going to be taking the Z’zor. I find that I usually get better at playing a team if I take them in a league, so my aim is to work out how these bashy teams work (while sticking with my familiar “Skill 5+” style).

Game One – Merrick

We started with the best of intentions – we both turned up on time. To different venues. We weren’t able to reschedule, so I put it down as 0-pts each. Technically, we did both turn up and nobody won the game.

Game Two – Adrian’s Rats

This game went fairly well – I scored a few 3-pointers but so did the Rats. Fortunately, they dropped more strike attempts than I did so I squeezed out a 3 point lead (could have been 4, but for a last minute score by the Veer-myn).

The highlight for me was one Z’zor Striker scoring an achievement by throwing a 9-hex pass to another Z’zor Striker, and having it be caught. It took both coaching dice, but he made it! It only got a single cheer pip, but that’s not too bad.

After the game, one of my Strikers got Grizzled on the Extra Coaching table (which makes him extremely hard to hurt) and the Guard got Quick Recovery on the S2 advance table, on the off-chance that he actually gets hurt. I chose the S1 Extra Coaching table since 4 of the 6 options are attractive to a Z’zor Striker – Can’t Feel A Thing essentially means “choose” in addition to the normal “choose” option, Lucky is universally useful and a Skill improvement is definitely welcome for 5+ players. So it stands to reason that he should gain Grizzled instead. At least I can be sure that he won’t get damaged when I come up against the two Marauder teams near the end of the league…

Game Three – Stuart’s S2 Corporation

This game was nail-biting – by turn 6 I was 5 points down, but my Guard was moving up the pitch knocking out anyone standing in the three-point zone. Unfortunately, no player went out for more than two turns and my defence was almost empty, making it easy for Stuart to score three points most turns. From that halfway point, I got lucky and scored a four-pointer for each three-pointer scored against me until I actually had a point in my favour. Unfortunately, in rush 12 he scored 3 to bring the score to two in his favour, I missed my four-point shot in rush 13 but to balance, he missed his three-point shot in rush 14.

So the game ended as a loss, but I made it as tough as I could (and I’m amazed that Z’zor Strikers can score four-pointers…) We tried out the Achievements rules again, and since I was mostly beating up human Jacks I got a lot of “triple-Slam” results. Unfortunately, most of these (and my fan checks in general) ended up being events. With an extra Coaching Dice, maybe I’d have won…

After the game, my second Striker gained a Skill advancement (again, on the S1 Extra Coaching table). And I’m aware of the counter-intuitiveness of complaining about not having enough Coaching Dice and then spending one to roll on an advancement table. Don’t judge me.

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.

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).

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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Mantic Open Day November 2013 & Gamers For Life Tournament

I wasn’t too sure about going to the second open day, until both a DreadBall tournament was scheduled and the Nationals were postponed as the venue couldn’t host it anymore. It looked a little shaky, but we got babysitters sorted so both Jen and I could make it. Then we dragged Oli into it too…

Jen decided quickly – Season One Corporation. That’s her favourite, and they’re almost ready. Oli has his favourite too, the Season Two Corporation. He told me that he couldn’t get his team painted in time though, so I offered to paint my second Corp team for him and finished it just two weeks before (not including highlighting, which is going to make a big difference). I took a long time to decide – I had four teams to choose from that were ready to take. The Veer-myn, Marauders and Z’zor are all finished or nearly finished, and the Judwan (while basic) are ready to take at least. I heard that there might be painting prizes, so I would rather take the Z’zor (my best painted team) but given that I still don’t think that my best will be good enough I settled with the Veer-myn. I’ve only taken them to one tournament (the Welsh Regional) but I really enjoy the fast teams over the bashy teams. I definitely need more practice before I take a bashy team to a tournament again.

While getting ready to go, and ordering our breakfast, we found out that as well as ourselves, our hotel was also hosting a couple of tournament players, a pathfinder and both the Scottish and Irish regional winners – what are the odds, three regional winners under the same roof! If we’d known, we’d have shared our three-player Ultimate game with them (as well as the vodka, beer and prawn crackers). Next year, there was a suggestion of getting in touch with the hotel and trying to book as a group to get a discount.

Game One – Craig Johnson’s Vanaheim Vixens (S2 Corporation)

My first game went very well – a landslide win! It wasn’t easy, and Craig was an expert with Running Interference. He used a couple of tricks I’d never seen before – if you run interference on someone when they move into the ball space and win, you can attempt to pick up the ball yourself. He even managed to kill a rat, which is pretty good going for humans.

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Craig went on to get second place and win best painted, and his models were so clean and clear I’m not surprised!

Game Two – Adam Cooper’s Marauders

I played Adam at the previous Mantic Open Day in May and it was good to see him again – it was also good to see his dice were on his team this time. Last time, he played Judwan while I took Marauders with an Offensive Coach. This time, he had Marauders with an Offensive Coach. The cards I picked up were almost useless, and the game devolved into a massive ruck behind my three point Strike Zone. For a fair portion of the game, there were no models on the opposite side of the pitch – including the ref and the ball!

Both of us used the referee to try and block avenues of escape – me to stop him getting to the three-point zone, and him to stop me getting the ball back to his half. A couple of times I did manage to break away and score to get a win.

Game Three – Matt Willis’s Marauders

After lunch, I played Matt and his Marauders. He bought an extra Orx, and lined up all four on the starting line. It didn’t look easy to break through. Luckily, they scattered fairly quickly and opened up the pitch. He played a heavy slamming game, and kept so many rats off of the pitch I had a tough time getting to the ball and scoring. For a couple of rushes, his Goblin held on to the ball and didn’t move at all, while the rats were being pummelled! In the end though, I managed to scrape enough points to get a win.

It was after this game, on table two, that I realised I might be in with a chance…

Game Four – Dan Porter’s Asterians

Table one, baby! This was the hardest game by far, and Dan had got here with three landslide wins. I got a bit of a pep talk going into the game, since of all 12 teams I’d not played with or against the Asterians before. Before taking any actions, he used Dirty Tricks and got my guard sent out of the game. That’s an incredible ability, and there is absolutely no defence against it (unless you are Zees).

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Dan used Taking a Dive really well, and I soon had a Striker out of the game too. I did get a hold of the ball fairly often, and had five strike attempts – four at three points, and one at one point. Guess which one actually worked. Dan had four successful attempts at two-pointers, and one failed at a three-pointer. Despite losing by a landslide, I felt at every point in the game that I could have brought it back – at first, I felt I could get a win, then a loss, and finally in rush 11 it was all over, although Dan had to Sneak to be able to do so. I think I played well, and if my dice had just behaved once I could have got something like a 5 point loss, or possibly even better.

Results

So Dan obviously took first place, with four landslide wins. Craig took second place and best painted, Oli got fourth, and I came fifth. Jen did fantastically – after getting Wooden Spoon in every tournament she’s been to, she had a perfectly even day with two wins (one being a landslide) and two losses (one being a landslide), putting her exactly halfway out of 27 players – fourteenth place. She managed to play two Nameless teams and a Teraton, as well as Marauders.

This time around, everyone had to provide their own pitch. This mean that I got to see a couple of Tesla Domes and the Mighty Dorx stadium, but unfortunately didn’t get to play on any of them. The Tesla pitches are especially nice, with a much better resolution than I expected – they are really clear and beautiful. If I didn’t already have three pitches, I’d be tempted!

There was a surprising mix of teams here – I expected more Asterians, like the Judwan flooded out in May, but there were only two teams. Void Sirens seemed strong again, and Nameless and Marauders were out a lot – which I honestly didn’t think that I’d see. I heard of one Forge Father player, but never saw them, and spotted Judwan and Robot players. There were also a couple of Teraton players. I was the only Veer-myn team. No Z’zor, no Zees – are people just picking teams alphabetically? The top five were a good mix of teams, with Asterians, two S2 Corporation, a Marauder team and my Veer-myn.

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Open Day

The Open Day itself was pretty amazing. Enough time was left between games that if you finished early, you could get to a seminar. Oli got to one in the lunch break, but I was hanging around for the Regional Ultimate so I missed it myself. There’s been mention of an online seminar for those that missed it though, so I think I might get in on it anyway. Jen’s game went on a bit too long for her to be able to reach it too.

After the first game, we walked around the halls. Mantic had invited other companies to show off their toys – Dropzone Commander and Bolt Action were both in attendance. Deadzone had a big presence, and I was extremely jealous of the Kickstarters who were picking up massive, massive boxes of plastic. There were literally hundreds of wide-eyed gamers hauling massive boxes, with a slightly disbelieving grin on their faces. It’s hard not to want to buy the lot there and then.

Loka was a surprise to me. As we passed their table, Oli took a look. I’d not cared too much for it when it was released because I’ve never liked Chess that much. But Alessio invited us for a game and being a long time Warhammer fan I couldn’t pass up the chance to play a game on the same team as him! The rules were surprisingly simple, the game is really quick to play, and it nearly swayed me. Oli was heard through the rest of the day saying “I love Loka. I want to buy Loka. I can’t get Loka. Should I get Loka? Loka is amazing. What will my wife say if I buy Loka? I can’t buy Loka. I won’t buy Loka. I just bought Loka.” I have to admit, it’s a really nice game. I was told that they sold out a couple of times through the day, it was just flying off the shelves.

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Before the final game, I asked James Hewitt (Mantic’s Community Manager) if there would be time to see the shiny new models at least after the last game. He made a quick phone call, then told us he’d come get us later. True to his word, he brought us to the main room where Silvain, Mantic’s sculptor, had just brought over some of what everyone else was drooling over for us to take a look at. I even got to hold the Zombie Troll Shaman, and I want that model so bad it hurts. I don’t even care what game it is for. We got close up to the resin masters for the DreadBall Convicts and Brokkrs too, and they look absolutely amazing. When the next round of Kickstarter comes around, I am going to be so out of pocket. So for that, unseen internet thanks to James and Silvain! Sorry to everyone else for not taking a picture. But not that sorry.

James clearly takes his role as Community Manager extremely seriously. When he was explaining how to get to the pub for post-Open Day chill-out, I asked “Is it walkable?” For the second time that day, he didn’t answer the question. He said “Hang about, and I’ll give you a lift.” He ended up making two trips to take happy gamers to beer! There’s a man who cares about the gamer community, and makes Mantic fans very happy.

Other people have already got their Open Day news up – I suggest you read the Daily Punter (who won second place in the DreadBall tournament), Tiny Tactics and Afternoon Tea, GMort’s Chaotica, see the Facebook event pictures, the new UK & Ireland Ultimate DreadBall Champion’s blog (and another one here) and read Mantic’s blog about the day. Beasts of War covered the day too, mostly interested in the new Deadzone stuff, and in the background of their video you can see the three of us many times (many, many times).

Regional Ultimate

I found out more about the Regional Ultimate on the day, although only from another regional winner. It didn’t seem terribly well planned or publicised, and started 25 minutes late – meaning instead of leaving halfway through to get to my next tournament game, I wouldn’t even be able to start. I was told that it wouldn’t clash, but I preferred to go for the standard games than the big one.

The Regional Ultimate was a multiplayer game between the Midlands, Scottish, Irish and another English Regional Winners and in the end, Ireland won!

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I did get the opportunity to pick up my metal pitch – it is awesome! I have made two rash promises that I don’t know if I’ll keep yet – first, that only painted models can go on it; second, that it will not cross the border into Wales. Hopefully that will convince some Welsh people to come out to win it next year!

What’s Next?

Mantic are apparently moving into the abandoned hospital, hopefully they’ll get plumbing, lighting and heating in there throughout next year. With the offices in the same space getting a studio tour should be easier for us hardcore DreadBallers, and the lighting in some of the rooms was only barely adequate. It was clearly only temporary, and will be better next time. They have a rough plan to hold an Open Day in May again, and maybe next November too. If they make it a DreadBall tournament too, we’ll be there!

It was an improvement on the last Open Day in that there was time for the tournament players to see some of the other stuff, it looks like Mantic are definitely listening to feedback. It’s a shame that the DreadBall tournament was off in a side room this time but after the first game, I didn’t notice it.

I met so many lovely, amazing people. It never ceases to amaze me how friendly and welcoming gamers are, and how I never see any of the real horror stories of tournaments. Even the top tables of the DreadBall tournament were, in my opponent’s words, just like club games. Jen found people giving her advice during and after games, and gave some herself, and we all learned a lot from our games. I cannot stress enough to anyone on the fence that they should drag themselves to a Mantic Open Day tournament – whether or not they have been to a local tournament or not, and whether or not they liked it. They’re such fun, and everyone is wonderful. Don’t worry about being new, I played a guy in his seventh game ever and a couple of the players had only played once or twice before. They had a blast!

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Next time, I’m going to have to either convince a real photographer to let me borrow their camera, or to come along themselves. A camera phone really doesn’t do justice to some of the awesome stuff on display.

Vanguard DreadBall League Season Two – Games Four and Five

My Robots continue plodding their way through the Vanguard Season Two League

Game Four – Stu’s S2 Corporation (Away)

This game showcased the awfully fickle nature of dice. For his first action, Stu slammed a Robot with his Guard – and his Guard went out for three turns. Pretty much every slam he tried failed – combined with a failed Evade roll, I ended up with a single Robot threatening two down humans and the 2-pointer bonus hex. For my part, throughout the game, I failed to pick up the ball two or three times and failed two 3-point shots. The only Robot to get experience was the one who took out the Guard on the first turn, and I got no fan checks at all.

That being said, I don’t think I played badly – just Stu played better. He considered every turn extremely carefully, and used Running Interference extremely well. I think I need to practice more against the S2 Corporation to get used to being surprised during my own turn. I think they’re also the only team that I haven’t played a single game with – it might help me to understand them a bit better.

In his last turn, Stu got the last few points to score a landslide win – and with the underdog bonus, tons of income.

Game Five – CJ’s Marauders (Home)

This game reversed both of my previous game’s fortunes – CJ’s Marauders weren’t able to kill anything and only injured a couple of times, despite stomping a prone guard who was surrounded. On the offensive side, I was able to pick up the ball and even score with it! I fumbled one pick up and failed one strike, but both of those were near the end of rushes where I had either one action or none left.

CJ made me work hard, putting threat hexes and Slamming all over the place to make things difficult for the robots. He kept up the danger level with many many slams, but unfortunately his dice were against him and I was able to dodge most things and suffered minimal injuries. For the first half of the game, the ball was carried up and down the pitch without a single Steal attempt – only Slams. The robots managed a single Strike attempt and failed it. In the second half, they got another Strike attempt for 3 points, the Marauders used an Offensive coach to get their three points back (involving an excellent tactical slam to move a Robot so their goblin could sprint past), the Robots went for another three points but the ball exploded…

In their final rush, the Robots got the three points again and the Marauders spent the last rush trying to put some pain on them in revenge but fortunately for me, nothing happened. It ended as a three-point win to me.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, the next three games that I scheduled were cancelled by my opponents. With school starting, we’re getting used to a new schedule that makes it even harder to get to the store to play games, so I’ve not been able to get any further. I don’t know why, but I think everyone else’s interest has fizzled out too.

It has taught me a little more about how to use Robots – I prefer Strikers to Guards, because 5+ Speed is devastating if someone hits them in the back. I like being able to roll on any skill table, half of my players have 360 Vision – which is extremely useful for both Strikers and Guards. I think that the Robots need a league format, they really feel like late bloomers who need a little advancement.

Planned next was the national super-league, but based on my scheduling here I didn’t think I could get to any games. A few other people are having the same problem so the Bristol Vanguard super-league will now be on a single day, like a tournament, but I won’t be able to make that day. I don’t know when the next ‘regular’ league will be, but I’ll have to see if my attendance can improve any time before then. Perhaps the double round robin format was a bit ambitious, since there were at least eight players every player has to play fourteen games. At one game a week (a reasonable expectation), it would take three months if people’s schedules are perfect. For myself, I find it hard to get to the club on a Thursday (club night, when most people attend) or Friday, can’t make Wednesdays, and only occasional weekends.

Bristol Regional Tournament 2013

The Bristol Regional Tournament! Held at Vanguard Wargaming, like the Bristol Blitz before it, and the first tournament I’ve been to without Jen. Oli came along and borrowed my Corporation team as his own Void Sirens weren’t painted yet.

I took a lot of umm-ing and ahh-ing about what team exactly I should take. My initial thought was for Veer-myn as they had done me so well before, but on the other hand I’d been told at that tournament it was not fun to play against. I decided to go with the Z’zor – because I had only played one game with them before, because they almost derailed me at the Welsh Regional, and because I don’t do well with bashy teams and this would be an opportunity to get some practice. In addition, people are put off by their Skill 5+ Strikers, but that’s what I am used to with the Veer-myn anyway.

I suffered from the Kickstarter mispack problem, so I had too many guards and not enough jacks. In the special provision given to tournaments, you can take the team like that and choose either a card and a 2mc penalty or a coaching dice and a 2mc bonus. Given that I would always want a card to give me the option to buy one in the game, I went for the card option. With the remaining 18mc, I chose extra ranks on both of my Strikers and a Defensive Coach (to try and keep them safe).

It was a fun event – five games squeezed into a single day, and 14 players overall. A bit more hectic than the previous Bristol tournament, but with only six players then it could be a little more relaxed with timings.

The only thing slightly marring the event were the new rules – in the week before the tournament, the ball launch rules changed twice and most people had no chance to play with them. On top of that, the widely rumoured change to Judwan to drop them down to Speed 4+ was used, removing their tournament penalty. These changes weren’t in the rules pack, and I was wondering if there was anything else going to change before the day. However, the new launch rules were printed out for everybody and weren’t too difficult to follow – although I think once people get used to them their play might change a bit. In spite of the last minute changes though, it was a very well-run event and everything happened as it should – the games went so smoothly, we actually finished a little early. Three cheers for Liam!

Game 1 – Broadside Bandits (Kev’s Marauders), Away

Start as you mean to go on! Kev hadn’t played at all since the Vanguard Season One League back in March – and that game was against me. He hasn’t lost anything though, as he beat me by a landslide – even when I got 3pts early on! My Strikers had Jump and Roll – neither of which came into play. A couple of times he managed to push me onto the ball launch path, and got me bashed by the new launch rules. Luckily, Z’zor don’t get knocked out too easily.

Game 2 – The Lunar Darksiders (Cai’s S2 Corp), Away

This time, I got exactly the skills that I wanted – Safe Pair of Hands and Skill increase. They worked quite well, although I always seemed to be throwing with the Safe Pair of Hands and catching with the other one. I managed to kill a human Striker, and get a 6pt win out of it.

Game 3 – Saltford Spankers (Oli’s S2 Corp), Away

I enjoy playing against Oli, because I think we are quite close in skill level. This time, my upgrades were Roll and Skill Increase – again, Roll never came into it and the Skill Increase was heavily relied upon. In this game, I failed many dashes and evades, and even got knocked down a bit. Oli used his Running Interference quite well to break my scoring runs. I lost many actions trying to stand up players that had no intention of standing at all – Oli even took a picture to show how many players were lying down at a time (from both teams). I used the last turn to score a single point and bring my beating down to a 4pt loss.

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Game 4 – The Clone-A-Cell Crushers (Adam’s Marauders), Away

Adam was a skilled opponent, and by this point I thought that I should focus more on smashing. This was successful! I got two kills! I lost by a landslide, and I don’t think I scored any points at all. Adam also managed to kill one of my Strikers. Once again, the skills I got were Roll and Backflip and were unused. Adam was very lucky with his dice – he managed to score about seven injuries on the Z’zor Striker, and to dodge five successes from a Z’zor slamming his Orx in the back on a single dice.

Game 5 – Orcs Orks Orx (Dave’s Marauders), Away

I played Dave back in the Vanguard Season One league earlier this year, and he brought his yellow-armoured Orx again. He suffered some very bad luck – I managed to push one of his Guards onto the ball launch and got him hit, and he also failed a ball pickup with his Jack on the DB1 hex. When I scored in the next rush, his goblin got killed by the ball re-launch.

Both of my Strikers had A Safe Pair of Hands, and I managed to win by 5pts, in part thanks to his goblins constantly missing their 1-dice attempts at 4pt shots. In the final rush, seeing that I couldn’t win a landslide and wanting to get a bit further in body count, I spent all my actions Stomping and Slamming, and had no ref checks against me, but didn’t even send anyone off.

Conclusions

The full results are on Liam’s website – I got 11th place out of 14 players and Oli came 6th. Sebastian Gerhart came top (winning an awesome, awesome trophy), and CJ (who I played in the Vanguard Season Two league) got the metal spoon – because a wooden spoon is not futuristic enough for DreadBall. Sebastian has put a few blog posts about his experiences there on his blog too – trophy and match reports.

It was a fun day – and I think either I didn’t focus enough on murder, or my dice were against me. It’s quite possible that both were true – I had some awful rolls, and missed a hell of a lot of 3pt strikes through the day.

I was surprised at how few teams were represented – I think there were equal numbers of Corporation teams, many Marauder teams, one Judwan and one Z’zor team. I wasn’t surprised that Forge Fathers and Robots were left out, but I was surprised that there were no Veer-myn. Maybe I’m the only one not put off by Skill 5+ after all.

There is another tournament in Bristol being considered for January next year. Hopefully everyone else had a good enough time to come along to that one, and we can get some babysitters so that Jen can come along too. Next big DreadBall event on the calendar is the National in Essex in November!

Vanguard DreadBall League Season Two – Games One to Three

The Bristol Vanguard are holding another league at Vanguard Wargaming – there are some major changes to the format based on feedback from the first (Season One) league they ran for two rounds earlier this year.

There are no rounds and no friendlies, instead every player will play each other twice (once at Home, once Away) in a Double Round Robin format. MVPs are not bid, but bought for each game (using underdog bonus) for three times base cost. I think these changes are good ideas to fix the problems we had from the previous league – it seemed that there was almost a week between rounds while everyone made their challenges and bid on MVPs, meaning two-week rounds become three-week rounds, and bad schedules can drag it on for a few more days too… basically, this format means that two players who will be scheduled to play aren’t waiting on an unrelated third player to bid on MVPs before they can go.

Game 1: Tom’s S1 Corporation (Away)

This was an interesting game. It was over in 5 rushes, because my son was flooding the bathroom and I had to concede and run home to put him back to bed and clean up. Because Tom had played quite a few games in this league already, his team ranking was 38 points higher than mine. Our particular league rules allow you to buy anything for your game with your underdog bonus, such as coaches, cheerleaders, etc. I picked up a human striker, an offensive coach and three coaching dice.

The coach failed to call a single play, I used all the coaching dice trying to catch the ball with my Jacks, and that blasted Corporation scored two three-pointers early on. I managed to kill off a human, getting me some experience, but no actual points.

Tom very graciously kept the score as it was rather than the landslide win I offered him, meaning I got a single league point out of it for a 6-point loss. With the four dice income, I bought myself an offensive coach to keep for myself and saved the rest.

Game 2: Oli’s S2 Corporation (Home)

This was an up-and-down game, both sides were scoring a lot but the score stayed on my side. At the end I had a 6-point lead, but Oli was able to score in the final rush to bring it all the way down to 2 points. Still a win, my first with Robots!

This was Oli’s first league game, so he got a slight underdog bonus, with which he bought a card (since Season 2 Corporation don’t get cards).

Highlights of this game were a massive, never-ending ruck in the middle of the board, in which Oli’s guards killing one of my Robots, who had to have a budget resurrection – the freezer burn took his Speed down by one. Also, one of the scoring ‘bots got Machine of the Match, putting it into Rank 2 – I rolled on the Guard table and got 360 Vision, which means he will be useful either as a Striker or as a Guard. As I realised in this game, Guards are squishy when they get hit in the back.

Game 3: CJ’s Marauders (Away)

This was one of CJ’s first games, so I was helping him through the rules a little but trying not to be too patronising. He had just played a friendly game against someone else, and hadn’t realised that his Orx were Strength 3 (wondering why they weren’t as bashy as he’d been led to believe…) When I corrected him, every one of my Robots became a ‘target’. Another was killed early, and I played most of the game with three or less players on the pitch (at one point, everyone was on the bench!). It was at that point that he scored three points.

Despite the brutality, I managed to scrape a landslide in the last turn or two (mainly through a desire to stop the game and end the violence!) At one point, I picked up the ball with a Jack and realised that I only had one action and that wasn’t enough to score with. Instead, I turned him round and threw it to a Striker just behind an Orx guard, figuring that the Striker would be able to handle it a bit better. He was, and went on to score that last strike…

In the aftermath, three of my Robots levelled up – I chose Guard tables for them all, and got another 360 Vision, a Quick Recovery and Can’t Feel a Thing. Given the fairly deadly teams in this league (CJ’s PatriOrx and Liam’s Z’zorlanders), this should make me a little more survivable. My casualty got a budget resurrection, and lost his ability to transform…

Bristol Blitz 2013

Thoughts Before

The Bristol Blitz, my second tournament, is in one week (as of writing) and is hosted at Vanguard Wargaming. As soon as we finished the ManticBowl, I wanted to be at another tournament. I fell for tournament play hard.

This time, we have convinced Oli to come out with us – he’s one of the first people that I introduced to DreadBall, and the one who has come back for more (though in fairness, he lives closer than almost all of the others and has his own transport). Although he plans to get his own kit, he’ll be borrowing a team for this tournament.

So just like pushing to try and get the Corporation ready in time for the ManticBowl, I’ll be pushing to try and get the Judwan ready in time for the Bristol Blitz (and therefore leave the finishing touches on all the other teams for another day…)

The rules pack is based on the ManticBowl pack, with a couple of tweaks. The biggest two are the tournament points system and the “Secret Objectives”. At the Bristol Blitz, tournament points are all one higher than at ManticBowl and even a loss will give you a point – and in addition, conceding a game will be penalised. I’m not sure what the purpose of this rule is, but it’s being organised by veteran Blood Bowl players so maybe that’s something they’ve gotten used to over the years.

I noticed that “painted teams” was clarified in the Bristol pack as being “three colours” – ManticBowl just required painted models, and I did see a Z’zor team that appeared to be sprayed a single colour. I didn’t get close enough to be able to tell for certain though, that’s what it looked like from 6 feet away.

The Day

Well, Secret Objectives turned out to be… difficult to balance. The organisers said that this was the only game system for which their secret objectives didn’t work. In the end, they decided to drop them from the tournament.

It was a much smaller and laid-back affair than the ManticBowl. There were only six players overall (including myself, Jen and Oli!) so the tournament pack wasn’t adhered to slavishly (I noticed one team had only been undercoated in purple) and the Swiss system essentially meant that in the final round, we could either avoid duplicate matchups (meaning the top player played the bottom player) or follow Swiss matchings (so at least two games would be duplicates). We went for avoiding duplicates, but Jen and I played each other again – in fairness, neither of us remembered that we played each other in the first game, and even Oli thought that he’d played Jen that day! (turns out that he had, game two – which just confused me and Jen further!)

As for teams, Jen took roughly the same Corporation as she did to the ManticBowl (moving the skills from Jacks to Strikers), I took Marauders again (this time with an offensive coach and two coaching dice) and Oli took Judwan with four skill increases. Between them, the other players took two Corporation teams (one from each season) and a Judwan team.

Game One – Jen’s Corporation

In my defence for remembering nothing about this game, I play Jen all the time. The only thing that I remember about it is setting a net of goblins that she kept falling over in. It ended as a win to me.

Oli did get a quick snap for evidence of our first game though:

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I will be taking better notes next time!

Game Two – Liam’s Judwan

I found the Judwan frustrating – I got a landslide loss against them. The game was going well for the first half, as I had completely blocked off the three-point strike zone, although I wasn’t able to score points myself due to awful luck (every single scatter in the game moved the ball closer to my strike zones) and excellent double-up misdirects from the aliens. The most-used action was Steal, as we attempted to get the ball back off each other – with goblins and Judwan, this can take a while and often three actions in a single rush were all Steals! When I brought on an extra player to get the ball back from the far end of the pitch, one of my blockers was sent off from the three-point strike zone and from then on, I found it difficult to recover.

Game Three – Cai’s S2 Corporation

Cai was new to the game, and managed to beat me (although not by a landslide). Good use of Running Interference and blocking the bonus point hexes put me at a disadvantage, as well as forcing all of my coaching dice out early. We finished in good time, and I spent the rest of the game watching Oli and Liam’s “Jud-off” – despite predictions of a dull and quick game, they found instead that the score varied constantly, the Judwan caught the ball from launching and scored over and over again. In the end, Oli managed to scrape a win – his first non-landslide of the day and Liam’s first loss of the day. He had been lucky with his skills and extremely lucky with his dice (the cry of “Stop rolling sixes!” was especially memorable).

Game Four – Jen’s Corporation again

This game was over fairly quickly. I managed to score 3 three-pointers against Jen’s three-pointer, then knock a single point in near the end of the game to grab a landslide win. Again, I play Jen all the time so I don’t remember too much about this game. Again, the action was all happening at Oli’s table where he was playing Tom’s S1 Corporation. The score had gone back and forth, Tom had injured some Judwan, and in the end it was three points up to Tom in his final turn. He got the ball all the way to the four-point hex with a Jack, although a couple of us realised that if he had dashed the previous turn he could have had two dice to throw with instead of just one. He had no coaching dice left. Last action, last turn, he rolled… a three. We all breathed out. Then he said “Wait! That was Petrosky…” – he’d named his whole team – “And Petrosky has a skill of 3!”

So the Judwan were beaten by a landslide from a lucky four-pointer at the end of the last game! So exciting, we all cheered, including Oli.

Thoughts After

Well, despite the last-minute landslide loss, Oli came out in first place! I was really pleased that he did so well in his first tournament, since I’ve been pretty much been his only opponent up till now (he described his first and only game against Jen a week ago as his first “real” game, because he didn’t count our games!) and he won a team of his choice (it was Judwan). I spent some time after the tournament explaining modelling, mould lines, painting basics etc. and referred him to better painters than I am.

I managed to come fourth, and Jen unfortunately came last. She did beat Tom in her third game, and I think gave him a few tips which proved useful against Oli in his last game.

The next day, we went to see a friend and teach him and his ten-year-old son how to play – they’re going to pick it up later in the year as well. Between myself and friends, we’ll have plenty of boards and teams to play a decent mini-event between ourselves at some point. I’ll need to practice though, if I want to come in the top half!

I think my next step will be to play against Oli’s Judwan as much as I can for the next two weeks, to get ready for the tournament in Cardiff on June 8th. I’m sure there’ll be a few more Judwan there.

After Cardiff, I don’t know about any other tournaments in the South-West – it’s not always easy to find that sort of thing if you’re not already in a club. I might just relax and get on with painting, and take a break from Marauders to try some of the Season two teams. I’d like to see how the Z’zor work, and experiment with the Robots a bit.