HATECon One Tournament February 2016

This was a last minute decision, since East London isn’t terribly easy to get to from the West Country but I have a friend living there that I haven’t seen in a long time – the efficient use of time is to visit one and attend the other!

My choice of team was made, as is traditional, on the morning. I chose the Rebels in the end since they are better painted than the Ada-Lorena, and I wanted to show off. As for upgrades, I chose two ranks on each of the Gaelian Jacks (they’re the centaur-type that can run and slam).

This was the first tournament to use the 2016 style rules pack, where Jacks can move up to half of their movement on actions.

Game One – Dale’s Tsudochan

Dale was running this tournament, and he brought his stunningly painted Tsudochan team. As usual, he’s got to the precise requirements of the team and did a great job of keeping the pressure on me. On the other side, my dice completely abandoned me – I don’t normally complain about my dice, but right here they were awful. I failed so many “easy” rolls, to dash, to pass, to catch, and so on… it was a little painful to watch. It wasn’t too bad, as I managed to score 2 kills and 3 4-pt shots but I ended up losing by 3 points. The game had swung quite significantly, I was 5 points down early on and three points up later in the game, before the final score.

Game Two – Leanne’s Veer-myn

If I play Dale in a tournament, I’m probably also going to play Leanne. Her luck was typically excellent, and I was almost completely unable to clear the 3pt zone of rats. In the end, she won with 5 points.

Game Three – George’s Teratons

Teratons are as usual a challenge. George was fairly good at keeping the Strikers away from scoring, but eventually I managed to scrape together 7 points for a landslide win, and my first of the day.

Game Four – Andrew’s Marauders

This game was incredibly close, and it was the first time of the day I hadn’t been the Home player (Andrew had been slightly luckier; this was his fourth Home game). Andrew’s Marauder team had an interesting setup – they ignored guarding the strike zones and instead bunched up near the centre line for an early push. Like George, Andrew’s guards did a fantastic job at managing the Ralarat Strikers. When they were on the pitch, they were too far away usually to do anything. He scored a 2pt lead early, and it was several turns before I managed to equalise – to be immediately bested by another greenskin 2-pointer. The ball moved around a lot without a score, until the very last turn when I finally managed to score a 4-pointer and edged a 2pt lead. That last action was the first time the score had moved into my favour, that was how close the game was.

Conclusion

Two wins and two losses, I feel is a fairly good result. It was great, as always, to see Dale and co again and I got to play against some new people which is always a pleasure. I look forward to seeing some of them at the Bristol tournament.

I was a little too tired to explore the rest of the con, but they had a lot of other wargames events on, demo games, some roleplay stuff and a bring-and-buy sale upstairs. It’s probably for the best that I stay away from shop, I’m sure that many people would understand! The only downside is that I feel the lighting downstairs was a little dingy and dim. Overall though it seemed very well organised, there were plenty of staff checking things were going smoothly and they were easy to identify with their bright yellow t-shirts.

On to the scores! Dale rather embarrassingly took first place with his Tsudochan, Rob failed to take most bloody. I ended up in fourth place myself, and had most 4-pointers. The thing that I was most pleased with however was the Best Painted award, as done by player vote! It’s the first time I’ve won best-painted and it was one of the (distantly hopeful) reasons that I brought the Rebels instead of the Ada-Lorena. They are one of the teams I feel I’ve done the best on, but my opinion is not always matched by that of the world at large. I was disappointed in a previous tournament not to have won for the painting of my Martian team which was, at the time, my best work. I have a nice certificate, and another art print to put with the others (I must get those on the wall some day).

All in all, it was a fantastic day and I will try to go again next year if they run again and I get the opportunity.

2015 Nationals

Here it comes, the big one of the year! Since 2013s final was late (beginning of 2014), and 2014s just didn’t happen for some reason, it’s nice to see the big tournament happening on time and organised. The regional champions all get free tickets, and I am glad to be one of them now. Hopefully we don’t have to show our Blaines at the door…

I figure the team to beat will be the Convicts. The standard strategy of putting three players at the back and blocking big strikes is easy for the convicts to take out. Action one: Sprint a player to sit next to all three defenders. Action two: Shock Collar, undefendable and watch them all get sent off or knocked down. Either way they are no longer a barrier to scoring. The other possibility, of leaving two players on the bonus point lane to threaten three-pointers and prevent four-pointers, isn’t going to work for the same reasons. However you place the players, it’ll be possible to knock them both out with a Shock Collar or else you’re not even threatening some of the three point shots.

By simply inverting the standard three player defence – instead of forming a line on the strike zone itself, you form a line around the strike hex (so two players are not on strike zone hexes), it becomes massively more difficult to take out all three at once. On the other hand, it puts an unthreatened hex front and centre for your bonus lane defender to get Slammed. With my Sphyr team, I will intend this to be a Striker with his back turned, to make it the most favourable match-up that I can.

The other thing that I can do is to move that line forward a hex so that pushing the middle player back does not place them on the Strike Hex (and thus a potential target).

By trying to keep as much threat in the three-point zone as possible, it’ll be essential to remove the Convicts ability to score bonus points at all by removing their Strikers. This is dangerous, since trying to threaten a Striker enough to knock them out bunches my remaining players up enough to be hit by a Shock Collar themselves and the Convicts Guard is pretty nasty regardless. I can’t be sure exactly whether to go for the Strikers and slow their advance or their Guards and keep my offence safe.

As for scoring, it’s going to depend very much on the opponent. If they commit to blocking the three-pointers (as I will be), then I will probably focus on two-pointers. This is also more action efficient, allowing me to Slam their players more as I go. If there is a three-point path open, it’s not too difficult for a Sphyr to go for it and try to eke out a lead.

All that talk about the Sphyr aside, I didn’t end up taking them. I flip-flopped up until the morning of the event (how many times I’ve sat in a hotel room staring at two teams…) and eventually decided upon the Kalyshi.

I think the Kalyshi are the dark horse of Season Five. With the Mutants and Mechanites taking a lot of thought in construction, and the Convicts having such a shocking ability, the Kalyshi are sort of forgotten. I think it helps that they are the less optimal team in Xtreme, where they debuted. However, they have four excellent Strikers that get a 50% chance of a Skill upgrade on the Season One chart, and their Jacks (if used correctly) can get a 7 dice Shove-Backstab-Slam to push people off of the four-point lane. It’s only Strength 5, but they too have a 50% chance of boosting that Strength. And all I need to do is move someone a little, since the Strikers have Jump and can squeeze into tight gaps to drop a few points.

Game One – Mike Clark’s Nameless

Mike is a strong player, and his setup caused me some extra thought. He had two Sticky Guards on the 4-point line, and flanked them with two Strikers. His two Hard Guards were on the 2-point lines. I had no chance of moving both Guards in a single turn, and the Shove can’t remove a player from the pitch so they would only get moved back in the following turn.

Eventually his Strikers moved, but that still placed a lot of threat hexes on the three point zone. Luckily, I was able to score just a little more than he did and kept the game pressed firmly at the far end of the pitch. One memorable moment was the end of a rush where my Striker had the ball but no chance of scoring due to threat hexes – no dice left. So I ran it into the far corner to reduce the chances of having it taken. He chose to pin me in place with a Hard Guard… meaning that I got a chance to use Jump to avoid two Evades and sneak out to score 3 points. The game ended with a three point win.

Game Two – Dan’s Veer-Myn

Dan came up from Bristol separately this time around, and it’s always a pleasure to play him. He had his Veer-myn in the configuration I normally choose (to mixed success in tournaments) – 2 Strikers with two ranks each.

We each scored every single turn. Every. Single. Turn. Every damn one of them. No failed shots, no balls left lying around, just wall-to-wall scores. It was a grind, but the score was moving slowly my way. It ended up on rush 14 as a landslide win to me, although I tend to think of rush 14 landslides as “technically” a landslide.

Game Three – Gareth’s Rebels

After explaining in detail to Gareth earlier in the day why I thought the Kaylshi got underestimated and why they were actually pretty good, I realised that perhaps this was unwise. I have only played against Rebels once before, and won in sudden death. I last played Gareth at the 2013 Nationals, where he had Marauders and killed three of my Veer-myn, contributing to his unexpected leap to Most Violent player (and totally at odds with his friendly, pleasant demeanour!)

Gareth scored four points in his first turn, and I dropped the ball in mine. From there, the score fluctuated between 3 and 6 points against me but somehow, by rush 14, I had pulled it back to a draw (with a few more “easy” catches rolling away across the floor). However, sudden death is pretty easy for the Home player and he picked up a one point win far later than I expected.

Game Four – Richard’s Rebels

Wow, Rebels are hard to play when you don’t have a lot of offensive power. Who am I up against next then? Oh.

I’ve not met Richard before, and he had an amazing custom built pitch with hand-painted floor, transparent acrylic walls, walled-off subs benches and even strike posts cunningly placed between hexes so as not to interfere with the model placement. The hexes were extremely large, since he has played with Nameless teams a lot in the past. It’s always great to meet new people!

This was another close run game, but at least it got to one or two points in my favour a couple of times. I used my Defensive Coach to call Offensive plays a couple of times to make sure that I got my lone Striker all the way back to the ball, up to the three-point zone and score. Again, at the end of the game I managed a final turn equaliser to put us into Sudden Death and again… the Home team advantage put me down a one point loss.

Conclusion

I always try to have fun even when I’m losing. And having such close games that finished much later than I expected, and much better than I expected (I was pretty sure Gareth and I would be commentating other games after a landslide early on) I really didn’t feel like I was losing. I was a little surprised to hear that I had come seventh out of fifteen (I was thinking that fifth was still possible) but on reflection, it makes sense since I really only won two games. If I had beaten Rich by two points, I would have been third place… but if wishes were horses, etc. I was really surprised that Jen came in last place, since that’s normally reserved for someone who lost all their games but the competition was so close this year that everyone (bar the stand-in player) had won at least one of their games.

Gareth was the only player to win all four of his games, beating Leon (South-East Regional Champion, and previous National Champion), Dale (North-West Regional Champion), and me (Southern Regional Champion) to get there. I feel glad that I gave him such a tricky game, hopefully I was the toughest opponent for him to beat! That’s almost an imaginary second place, right? But well done to Gareth, he played an excellent game, was great fun to face across the table and I can’t wait to see him again at the next Nationals, or one of the 2016 Regional events.

The only other thing I was close to was a Fan Favourite award, with a personal best of 39 cheers – I was only beaten by Mike, with 41 cheers.

Outside of the games, we caught up with a lot of people we’ve not seen since the last National tournament. Chris came up from Wales, Dale and his crew from Peterborough (Dale had some terrible luck, and perhaps his Teratons are now going to retire from a successful 2015?) and the more Northern folks like Dan, Charlotte and Gareth who don’t often make it down South far enough to cross our paths. It was really, really great meeting up with everyone and having a good laugh.

DreadBall Southern Regional 2015

The Southern Regional this year was held in Brighton, a city I have only ever seen in the dark, going to the theatre. In the day time it is beautiful. As I walked from the train station I could look down a hill along a long straight road all the way to the sea. Brilliant.

The venue was the King and Queen, an oversized 18th century farmhouse converted to a pub and really playing up it’s old roots with pictures of royalty from previous centuries on every wall. We were playing in a room upstairs although the weather was so nice maybe we should have gone and played al fresco.

The turnout was a little disappointing – Dale brought his carful down from Peterborough and I had trekked from Bristol (although staying with family in Portsmouth overnight to make the journey slightly easier). The only local was Simon, the organiser, who we had met in London a month earlier. However, such a small field was balanced by the fact that all players were extremely good at the game and veterans of tournaments – often placing quite highly in the results table too.

As I have all year, I brought the Sphyr with the same loadout of a Defensive Coach and two coaching dice.

Game 1: Leanne’s Veer-myn (the Strike-Happy Squeakers)

Immediately I had a sense of deja-vu as I had played Leanne first in London, same teams and same upgrades. This time however I was more lucky, and managed to push the rats around with relative ease using a forward Guard while a Running Interference card helped disrupt the rats scoring. The game ended at half-time in a landslide to me as I opened up the four-point shot. As an extra boost, I had the Ball Shatters card in my hand at the end of the game in case it hadn’t worked out.

Game 2: Phil’s S1 Corporation

Phil got to the top table at the end of the London Regional, and we had played previously in Wales (although he was using Teratons then). I managed to get a couple more four-pointers in this game, and ended it halfway through with another landslide win.

Game 3: Dale’s Teratons

Dale is always great to play against – he knows his team inside out and always gives me a challenging game. The fact that we have ended up against each other in the final game in the last two tournaments, which by the Swiss system means we should be roughly evenly matched, bears this out a bit. I decided to forego my normal Sphyr passing game and trying to get 3-pointers and to focus entirely instead on preventing him getting three-pointers and using my large number of good Strikers to score 2-pointers exclusively. The passing is a good backup in case one of those strike zones in blocked, but I didn’t need it in the end.

The game started a little poorly as I ran up to put the Teratons on the launch lane into threat hexes… which he teleported out of and slammed my poor strikers. I must pay more attention to the teams I am facing…

Regardless, the strategy worked well for me, and based entirely on 2-point strikes (and Dale’s poor luck) I took a third landslide win.

Game 4: Phil’s S1 Corporation again

Rather than play Rob (who I’d not played yet) or Simon (who was really the spare player), I was paired up against Phil as the second place person, and who had the best chance to beat me. This game started poorly for both of us – he fumbled a strike attempt, and I fumbled picking up the ball after it. I realised that this was the first game that the score had even gone into the other player’s track; although I could afford some loss given the relative Strike differences.

In the later turns, I moved a Jack away from defence to get the ball for a long throw… and again, I fumbled it. This left the 3-point zone open for more points from Phil, bringing the score back to a 1-point lead to me, and on turn 14 I brought it back up to a solid 4-point win.

Conclusion

So with 4 wins, three of them landslides, I took the tournament and the beautiful trophy! The calculations were being made after game three and it was almost in the bag – I could lose by 6 points and still be ahead on strike difference. In a landslide loss, I would need to have more cheers to win the tournament.

This shows one of the benefits of treating a landslide like a regular win in terms of tournament points. Without it, we would have been able to call the tournament completely after game three and the final game wouldn’t have had any peril, or point. As it was with strike difference it was very difficult for me to lose (I just had to prevent being completely steamrollered) it was still a possibility and I could have lost the tournament if the dice had been unkind to me.

In the final standings, Rob took the Wooden Spoon and the Most Violent (7 kills, out of 13 in the tournament as a whole), Phil took third place and Dale took second. I got first place, as well as Fan Favourite (most cheers, although this wasn’t a particularly huge number) and Hot Shot (most four pointers, I got 4 across the day). Due to the low turnout, there weren’t any prizes besides the trophy but Simon painted some Xtreme free agents in gold and silver for us – I got a Pusk Rampager for Fan Favourite and a Judwan for Hot Shot. Great stuff!

So this follows the trend so far of winning one tournament each year, and proves that I can do it without the Veer-myn. I’ll probably be taking the Sphyr to the UK Nationals in Nottingham in October, where we’re hoping to bring a few more Bristolians and expecting to meet the Peterborough crew again.

London & South-East DreadBall Regional

One of these days...

My second regional tournament this year was all the way over in London. As I left Bristol by train, I saw some hot-air balloons in the distance and remembered it was the Balloon Fiesta weekend.. Ah well, I’m sure I’ll catch it next year (for the twelfth year in a row).

It was held at Dark Sphere, an interesting place that felt a little like B&Q with the high shelves stacked full of models along one wall, the other wall covered with row upon row of gaming tables. The only downside is the railway track built onto the roof. I was able to tune it out from the beginning of the day but partway through the final game it started to intrude on my awareness more and more and became a real distraction. Fourteen DreadBall players came out for the event including a rather large number from the East of the country – including super-champion Leon Chapman and dedicated traveller Dale Robinson, with their crew in tow.

I was disappointed that my Kickstarter package hadn’t arrived as it meant I didn’t get to use the foldable pitch mat but it’ll be here soon… soon… I got a good look at someone else’s mat although I didn’t get a chance to play on it myself.

One of these days...

Once more, I took the Sphyr along. I’ve not had a lot of chance to practice before the event (something I will have to rectify before the next one) but I feel like they worked sufficiently for me.

Game One – Leanne’s Veer-myn

My first game was against one of Dale’s gang, Leanne. She put up the standard defence of three Strikers on the back strike zone, and they proved extremely difficult to move on. I was reduced to grabbing two pointers while she scored three-pointers, taking many more risks than I would have done when using the rats. I was rather late in blocking the three point zone, expecting that the Veer-myn’s poor skill would work in my favour. The game ended in a 3pt loss.

Leanne's lovely rats

Game Two – Simon’s Kalyshi

Simon’s Kalyshi were absolutely beautifully painted. I’ve not had a chance to play against any of the Season Five teams yet, and haven’t had a good look at the book either (despite having the PDF). Unfortunately, they were not terribly lucky with the ball and I was able to score three pointers happily, and end the game with a landslide win.

I was so happy to have played against such beautiful modelsDidn't jump once

Game Three – Rob’s Brokkrs

Rob is a veteran tournament gamer who typically goes for “most violent” prizes. He has played Marauders and Teratons in the past in service to this objective, and  the Brokkrs are just as bashy as either of those teams. Last time we played I managed to landslide him with a team of Zees in turn five to the amazement of all. This time was more difficult though. The Brokkrs were brutal, and managed to kill two Sphyr (although I did manage to get one in return). They are much more resilient than the Forge Fathers, and much harder to put down. Near the end of the game, I had a tough choice to make. Either go for a risky, moving two-pointer to win by a landslide, or a slightly easier three-pointer throw that was near to a Jack. I took the chance with the Jack who had a Running Interference card hidden away, knocking me down and giving him the initiative. The game did end a couple of turns later with a landslide win for me.

Despite appearances, not your grandfather's Forge Fathers

Game Four – Dale’s Teratons

Dale and I are fairly evenly matched. Our teams were identical to those we took to the Wales Regional, where we faced each other in the final game of the day. This time however, he beat me by 3 points. It was very nearly a landslide win for him, thankfully I managed to claw back three points near the end of the game (there was no way that I was going to manage a draw let alone a win).

Conclusion

Overall, Leon Chapman took home the prize with his Convict team. If he was beaten in the final game, it may have gone to someone else but he had an impressive lead at that point and it would have been difficult.

I came out fifth again, which I feel is a strong position. I had a lot of fun in all of my games, and my first games against Leanne and Simon were terrific. Simon’s models in particular are fantastic, truly beautiful pieces. He won a joint prize for best painted, as there was another team there (Void Sirens) that were also absolutely stunning – not playing against them though, I didn’t get quite as good a look at them.

It looks like I will be seeing Dale & Co at the Southern Regional in Brighton, along with Simon (for whom it is home turf). I need to decide whether to stick with the Sphyr or try out a different team.

The spread of teams at this event was very good. Season Two was under-represented, but there were no Rebel teams (surprising, given the internet’s current whines of overpower) and four Brokkr teams (mostly using Forge Father models). There were even two Convicts and one Kalyshi team, and I’m glad that in addition to playing two new players, I got to play against two new teams. Variety is fun!

All in all, I had a great time. Big thanks to Rob Taylor for running the event, and to all the players who came out for it. With the loss of the Bristol Pathfinder, it looks like it is definitely down to me to organise the next tournament in the South West and that will probably have to be March next year now. Watch this space!

Finally, some of the other teams that I managed to snap whilst there. Couldn’t work out which was which with the Convicts, and forgot to get people’s names, but some pictures are better than no pictures!

Finally, the two teams that were tied for Best Painted:

Wales and South West Regional Tournament 2015

This year was a huge improvement for the tournament. There were fourteen players overall, coming from Bristol, East Anglia and even Wales! Genuine Welsh people! And just after Mantic added “and South West” to the name, too.

I’d been intending to bring the Asterians, but had screwed up the painting a bit so took the Sphyr instead. I was joined by Jen with her S1 Corporation as usual, Dan with Veer-myn, Stuart with his S2 Corporation and Dai who forgot his team on the day (he borrowed Dan’s S1 Corporation). As for upgrades, I took two coaching dice and a Defensive Coach.

Game 1 – Chris’ Rebels

This was a very, very close game. We went into Sudden Death, which I don’t recall happening in a tournament for me before. I scored a few four-pointers, and my Jack at the back of the pitch was indestructible – as a result of Slambacks, he sent off both Rin Guards and the Gaellian Jacks before he was finally knocked out for a turn.

These guys were knocked out in short order by a single Sphyr Guard...

In the first round of Sudden Death I managed to grab a single point and win the game. Exhausting, nail-biting, thoroughly exciting game!

Note the sin bin and subs bench...

Game 2 – Phil’s Teratons

Phil had travelled from the other side of the country for his first tournament with Dale, a well-known and very strong Teraton player from East Anglia who I’ve seen at many tournaments and hadn’t played competitively (he did come to see us for a DreadBall day in Bristol, where we got a friendly game or two in).

These guys were also knocked out by a lucky Sphyr guard..

Phil has been trained well, and made things very difficult for the fish men. However, the dice were still with me, and I managed to not only move two of the players blocking the three-point zone up – but kill them completely! It wasn’t helped that in the first action of the first turn, he slammed one of my Strikers, who doubled moving onto the ball, evaded out of the threat hex, and scored two points to get the very earliest of early leads. The game ended in a landslide win for me.

Game 3 – Dai’s Corporation

I was coming away from lunch on a bit of a high – I’d bought myself some new toys, I was winning my games (though not in the lead, certainly)  when I came up against Dai – an ex-work colleague who I hadn’t caught up with very recently. He completely dismantled my team and I hope I didn’t come across as a sore loser – there was literally nothing I could do to stop it. There were no glaring errors in his play to exploit, and in the standard approaches I tried my dice disappeared. He kept apologising (I probably had a real frown on by then) but really, I’d just done the same thing to Phil in the round before so it wasn’t a problem. One landslide loss to me.

Game 4 – Dale’s Teratons

Finally, we got to play each other in a tournament! Both a little tired (admittedly, he had driven four times longer than I had and most of the Welsh guys had come further than us too), I made some huge errors. I didn’t calculate the Teraton Teleport properly and kept miscalculating where he would choose to go, then I got into place for a risky throw only to have it pointed out to me that the shot was blocked. Despite the fouling up, I got a three-point victory.

Final Results

Chris’ Rebels came in first place, as well as getting Fan Favourite (most cheers) and Hot Shot (most four pointers). He was only beaten once, and barely at that, so I take some pride in my first game win against him. Stuart had been in the running for first place but the way the final scores shook out, he dropped down to fourth place. I finished in fifth, which I feel is a fairly good place in a fourteen-player tournament.

Looking back, I was much more aggressive than I needed to be in some games, and needed more defence than I put into. A single player to guard the three-point strike zone doesn’t work against all teams, and I need to vary my setup depending on my opponent. I think the upgrade options were right for the team overall, the defensive coach saved me a couple of times (against two Teraton players, and to deny the Rebels a four-point shot, definitely!) and having the coaching dice to boost a high scoring shot early in the game were extremely helpful.

I will probably try taking the Sphyr to another tournament this year, I’m still planning on going to the Southern Regional and the UK Nationals for certain and it’ll either be the Sphyr or the Rebels (because they are probably my best painted team). I know that Dale is aiming to get to every regional this year, who knows if we will face each other again in Brighton or Nottingham…

Finally, here are some of the painted teams from the event! I’ve forgotten who they all belong to, because I am an awful awful person. If you want to correct me on anything, please comment below! It was really difficult to choose my favourite, every time I looked I had two favourites… then I went for another more detailed perusal and came back with two totally different favourites… it was a tough decision and I don’t remember who I voted for in the end. Here’s the few I managed to grab a picture of – enjoy!

Tournaments and Painting Progress 2015

The dates for this years DreadBall tournaments have been announced – about a half-dozen Regional events around the country finished up with a National tournament in October, meaning a tournament season of around six months.

As well as the Regional events this year, some tournaments can be “qualifying” events with the same nice trophies and free entry to the Nationals for the winner. Information on these has been thin on the ground but there is one happening in mid-Wales hosted by the Mid-Wales Wargaming Society, which will be raising money for charity (the Wales Air Ambulance Charity).

The Bristol tournament organisation has changed – Bristol Vanguard will only be running one tournament this year. It will be an independent event outside of the official tournament circuit, around September time.

The Wales Regional has been renamed the Wales and South-West Regional, possibly in recognition of the fact that not only has every Wales Regional winner been from outside Wales, but every other player too! Rather ironic, as I believe this is the first year that a Welsh person is going to attend.

Looking at the calendar, it is possible for me to reach the MWWS event in Builth Wells, the Wales and South-West Regional, the South Regional (in Brighton) and possibly the London Regional in a single day-trip, although a lot of driving. Everywhere else is just too far away. We will still be making the effort to go to Nottingham for the National tournament in October.

I’m hoping to get some of the new teams painted in time for these tournaments. I’ll be trying to take something different each time (and my Veer-myn are on a well-earned vacation) but what those teams are will depend on how well I do. I can see myself bringing Martians to a tournament later in the year because they were just so much fun to play, even being totally useless!

On the painting front, I’ve been able to do a little bit of painting most evenings for the past few weeks. It’s not a lot, but it’s getting the main coats down on a lot of teams or doing a bit more work if I’m not too tired to concentrate. The Asterians are getting (frustrating) progress, the skin on the Sphyr and Grogans are finished, and I’m working on the Rebs uniforms before tackling their various skin tones. I was impressed when I realised that the Gaelian Jack (a centaur-like alien) was wearing a jumpsuit designed for it’s unique physiology – good show that designer!

As much as I love the Hobgoblins, I have no idea how to paint them. I don’t like the colour scheme in the book. I’m tempting to go for something yellow-brown and green without looking too much like the Veer-myn. Maybe if I use some of my new blending skills to make the armour transition from one colour to the other in a more organic style than solid plates. One of the downsides of the Xtreme Kickstarter is that there aren’t “spare” models for each team like there were in the original DreadBall Kickstarter, so I can’t experiment with a bold style and then throw it away if it doesn’t work. That would mean opening up the mint, untouched, brand new bag with the duplicate team in.

Another challenge in painting the Hobgoblins will be arriving at a good colour scheme that fits both the scrawny, pathetic, stinky players and the Hulk.

My painting table at the moment is very disordered – I have Convicts, Kalyshi and Rebels on it as well as DBX scenery. There’s still a few teams from Seasons One to Three unpainted (sorry Forge Fathers…) and a few that are practically finished but for highlights. I’m helping a friend out with a DreadBall demo day in a couple of weeks and I anticipate being able to paint between demo games so maybe I’ll get something finished off in that time. Even though I’m jumping around (a lot), it’s all progress and despite not really finishing any teams that I’m working on quickly, I know that it’s helping me get them closer to finished without feeling like I’m rushing anything in particular.

Welsh Regional Tournament 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Results

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

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

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

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

Azure Forest Tournament May 2014

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

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

The Gang

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

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

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

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

Game Two – Dan’s S1 Corporation

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

Game Three – Charlotte’s Veer-myn

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

Game Four – Nick’s Judwan

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

The Open Day

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

Bristol Megalofunotron Tournament Review

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

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

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

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

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

He did kill a monkey though.

WP_000787

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.

WP_000788

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.

WP_000789

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.

WP_000790

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).

WP_000791

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.

WP_000793

DreadBall Nationals 2013

Planning

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

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

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

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

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

The Day

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

The perfect place to pray for 6s...

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

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

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

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

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

Game Two – Gareth Humphreys’ Goram Reavers (Marauders)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

WP_000776

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!

WP_000778

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