After my disappointment that they had not gone ahead in November, and then the slight irk as I felt they had been replaced by the Ultimate game I passed on at the Charity Open Day, I was understandably thrilled when the Nationals were announced, postponed, for March 9th.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).
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
Leon Chapman, who won the tournament, has written his own experiences of the day on the Mantic forums.