September 21, 2012

Dreadball FAQ

DreadBall FAQ

How long does a game of DreadBall take?
During playtesting, most games ended up between 45 and 75 minutes, with the occasional bloodbath going on a bit longer!The game works on a "differential scoring" system - it starts at 0, and moves towards the scoring team whenever a Strike happens. So, for instance, if the score is one point in my favour, and you score three, the the score will be two points in your favour. Get it? After 14 turns, if the score is 0, Sudden Death starts, and things get interesting. The gates slam shut (so no Reserves can enter play), and the first team to score a point - or the last team standing - is declared the winner!

How do cards come into play?
The cards are multi-use - they each contain four different pieces of information:

- They've got an in-game effect
- They've got a list of numbers that's used for random player selection
- They generate a random number for Ref movement
- They've got a "Cheer" rating, used in Fan Checks.

In-game effects are the main part of each card. These are Actions or Events. Actions cards can be used to supplement your five action tokens for a turn, letting your team do that little bit more, or pull off a complex play even when the dice don't behave themselves. Event cards are generally remains-in-play effects, lasting until another Event is played or drawn. They change the game in small ways - maybe the ball bounces more randomly, maybe one of the players was partying too much last night, or maybe the Ref is feeling particularly short-sighted.

You can spend an action in-game to buy a card and keep it in your hand, ready to be played later, meaning you can lose an action in the short term to gain something useful in the long term. Most teams also start with a number of cards in-hand.

Sometimes, cards are drawn randomly - for example, when the Ref has to move, when a random player needs to be selected, or when a Fan Check is made due to a player scoring a high number of points or landing a real bone-crunching hit. When this happens, and the random card is an Event, it comes into play immediately - this can cause sudden, subtle changes in the flow of the game at key moments.

How is the ball moved around the arena?
The ball is carried by players, but it can be lost fairly easily, so it's best to keep a ball carrier away from enemy players. The ball can be thrown, but the throw distance isn't massive, so tactical movement is encouraged. The game features a core "facing" mechanic (i.e. the way your models are facing matters!), and this comes into play with passing - it's a heck of a lot easier to pass to a player who's looking in the right direction...

Of course, if the ball's dropped, it starts rolling around the pitch. The direction of travel is randomly determined with a dice roll - the hex system is very handy for this - and loose balls travel a number of hexes equal to a dice roll. This can take it quite a long way, and if it hits a wall, it bounces off.

How likely is it that a player will be killed during a game?
Deaths happen in almost every game; however, with the advanced medical technology held by the DGB (The DreadBall Governing Body, a.k.a "Digby"), it's not as much of an inconvenience as you might expect! If a player is killed in the arena, the team's coach has the option of paying a fairly hefty medical bill to have him revived, or recycling his vitals through approved DonorVend sites, making a bit of money back in the process.

How does player advancement work?
Players gain experience during games by doing the sort of thing the fans love - scoring lots of points, really hurting enemy players, or just being generally useful. When players level up, they can gain a random skill or stat advance from a list depending on their player type. Players advance fairly quickly at the start of a season, but this levels out as they become more grizzled.

How do the teams differ from each other?
Sticking to the four Season One teams, here's a brief summary:

The Corporation team is the most generic all-rounder, although it does fare slightly better when going for passing / Striking plays that it tries brute force - especially when playing against the heavier teams! The starting composition is three Strikers, two Guards and three Jacks. The best tactics I've seen involving Corporation teams feature lots of free actions, chaining up passes between Strikers to move the ball past the defence and into a position to make a three or four point Strike.

Marauders, on the other hand, are just plain brutal! Orx are the hardest hitters in the game. They've got a statline that's all about dishing out violence, and as Guards they get bonuses to dice tests for Slams and Armour Checks. Goblins, on the other hand, are fairly good at dodging, and average at picking up the ball, but not great at hitting opposing players! It's a team of two halves (staring line up is 3 Orc Guards and 5 Goblin Jacks) and you need to play it as such. Success generally means taking opposing Strikers (and other threatening players) out of play as early and as frequently as possible, giving the Goblins a chance to score Strikes where they can.

Forgefathers might seem a bit like a short, bearded Corporation team at first - they're the only other team (so far!) to have all three playing positions. However, the way they use them is quite different! Forgefather teams aren't very fast, but they make up for that by being characteristically fierce and uncompromising! Their Jacks can hit almost as hard as an Orc, and their Guards are terrifying brutes who simply refuse to be knocked down. The presence of Strikers on the team makes a passing play viable, which some playtesters were surprised (and delighted!) by. Starting line-up is three Guards, two Strikers and three Jacks. The team adapts well to different tactics, but is particularly good at making its way up the arena, bowling enemy players aside, and letting a Striker make a high-scoring Strike.

Veermyn are, in my mind, the oddball team. They're the one that's got amazing potential, but is most challenging for a new player to use. They've also got the strangest line-up. See, Veermyn don't make natural DreadBall players - so they have to compensate! As a result, every player who isn't massive enough to be a Guard is trained as a Striker. This, when added to their natural speed and agility, makes the team a frightening prospect in the hands of a skilled coach, even if their lack of immediate flexibility makes them a challenge straight off the bat. They can dash around defenders like they're not there, they can Sprint from one end of the arena to the other in the space of a turn, and it's near impossible to knock them down and make sure they stay down. Unfortunately, their achilles heel is their low level of ball skill - you can't guarantee they'll always pick it up, let alone be able to score! The starting lineup is 2 Guards and 6 Strikers. Tactically, it's best to aim for multiple low-point Strikes - you're after quality, not quantity! Also, use spare Strikers to help your Guards when it comes to Slamming enemy players - as you've only got two players who can dish out damage, you want to make sure they've got the best chance possible of doing something!

Each race has its own profile, meaning they all feel different, with their own strengths and weaknesses. Each player is ranked in Movement (how far they can move, funnily enough!), Strength (how good they are at hitting people), Speed (reflexes, agility, etc.), Skill (with the ball), and Armour (i.e. how much of it they're wearing!). Armour is dependent on player class rather than race, with Strikers getting the least protection and Guards getting the most.

Why don't Veer-myn teams have Jacks? Is there a plan to release them later?
As it stands, as far as I'm aware, there's no plan to release Veermyn Jacks - it's a characteristic of the team that they don't get them, and something that makes them stand out. In fact, the option of having Jacks would massively overpower the team, as it would greatly add to their flexibility. Similarly, don't expect to see any Orx who aren't guards, or Goblins who aren't Jacks - with one notable, moustache-twirling exception - for the same reason.

That said, there's nothing saying that future releases and expansions won't address these things. I'm just talking about the game as it currently stands!

How do the various player positions act in the arena?
Strikers and Guards are opposite ends of the DreadBall spectrum. Strikers get bonus dice for tests involving handling the ball and being agile, but they have weak armour and don't have the ability to make attack actions (or reactions). They also get the bonus ability that whenever they take a Throw action, they get a free Run action (normally, a Throw action lets you make a one-hex move before throwing).

Guards are just the opposite - they have bonus dice on armour checks and Slams (your main offensive action), and they get a free Run action as part of a Slam (again, a Slam normally involves only one hex of movement). However, as Guard armour doesn't feature a DreadBall Glove (the attachment that lets players handle the ball without getting their arm ripped off!), they don't have the ability to pick up or handle the ball in any way.

Jacks - short for "Jack of all trades" - are the middle ground. They have access to all actions (including Throws, so yes, they can score too!) but they don't get any particular bonuses. Ask any Jack, and he'll tell you that he's the most useful person in the arena, and also the most underrated! Jacks are cherished for their flexibility and the fact that they can step up to any task - with a bit of luck, there's nothing they can't do!

There's also a secret fourth player position - the Keeper! Starting teams don't get Keepers, as it's an experienced-based upgrade for a Guard. Keepers get even heavier armour (a Keeper's armour stat is 3+ rather than 4+, and he still gets a bonus dice as he's a Guard) and a DreadBall glove - meaning he has a limited ability to handle the ball! He can't make a normal Throw action, but he can Punt it by placing it anywhere in the arena and scattering it twice. This means Keepers make great defensive players - they can batter incoming ball carriers, grab the ball, then fling it up the pitch. Okay, a Punt ends your rush (because you lost the ball), but it's better than having it sitting right next to one of your Strike zones!

How many skills are there to choose from?
There are 14 skills (called abilities in DB) in the initial set. This might not sound like a lot, but remember that each of the 3 player roles can already do different things, so the abilities build on three varying starting points. In addition, because each player type starts from a different place and does something different in play, the extra abilities vary in utility from role to role (and race to race).

Some abilities are limited by player role. In DreadBall nothing is limited by race, always by role. So, if a human Striker can do something then a Veer-myn can try his paw at the same thing. Of course, as they have different racial stats then their chances of success will probably be different too. Having said that, not all races have access to all roles, so in that way there is a racial limitation. I haven't checked to see whether that means that a specific ability is unavailable to a given team.

The available abilities are called:

A Safe Pair of Hands
Can't Feel a Thing
Does This Hurt?
Mind Like Water
Really Lucky
Running Interference

Are there coaching staff upgrades and team re-rolls?
Coaching staff upgrades are slated for Season 2. The equivalent to Team Re-rolls in DB is Coaching Dice, which have a broadly similar effect. However, in DB you can earn them during the match as well as spending those you start with.

Does failing a roll end your Rush, or will a team always get to complete its five actions if they don't drop the ball?
Rushes don't end when you fail unless you drop the ball, so you can go in, fluff something completely and then still carry on, as long as you didn't drop the ball. Of course, you can end your own turn voluntarily if you choose and you could have so few models left standing that you ran out of people to act with before you ran out of actions, but these are both very rare events and are included mainly for completeness. In most Rushes a Coach will get to use all of his team actions.

Are there injuries that stick with a player in a league format?
No, we don't have injuries. Although it can be characterful, it is something that many people don't like in BB (though others think it's great). DreadBall was intended to be slightly more streamlined than BB and this was one of the details I deliberately left out - no point in replicating something that people moan about, is there? Of course, you can get dead, which does affect you quite severely in future games.

What does the Ref model do?
There are various fouls in the game, and your opponent has to call them. However, just because the Coach has spotted them doesn't mean the ref has.

There are actually two referees in the arena - one is a floating "Eye in the Sky" that hovers over the pitch and can potentially see anything. This is not a model. The Referee you get a model for is the on-pitch ref. She moves about the pitch, controlled by both players in turn.

When a foul is called by a Coach, you roll to see whether the perpetrator has been spotted by the ref(s) and if so how long they are sent off for. You always roll one dice for the "Eye", but you only roll a dice for the on-pitch referee if she is close enough to the perp when he makes the foul.

So, moving the ref is tactical. You can use them to get in your opponent's way by blocking a hex, to get out of the way of your own players as they commit fouls, or move them up to try and spot likely fouls by your opponent. Moving a ref is a free action in addition to your Team Actions.

How many players can a team have in play?
It's 6 on the pitch at any time; starting teams (eight players) then get two in reserve. Of course, unscrupulous players can sneak more than six on... but if the opposing coach spots it, there's a good chance a random player will be sent off!

How many players can you have on your roster, and are there limitations on positions?
The composition is quite flexible. Teams start out as a fixed 8 model squad. The limit is a total of 14 players. This limit can be made up of any combination of roles with the single proviso that you cannot have more than double the number that you started with of a give role. So, a human team starts with:

2x Guard (max = 4)
3x Jack (max = 6)
3x Striker (max = 6)

The most it can have of each is double, but because this is more than 14 in total you have some flexibility. Also, Free Agents and MVPs don't count towards this total of a player type, but do fill slots of the 14, so if you have left a slot or two for them then you've got more variety to your composition.

How does tackling work?
Tackling is represented in two ways. Firstly, Guards and Jacks Slam opponents to try to knock them over (as an action), which is represented by an opposed test (your opponent can dodge, or "Slamback" if they're not a Striker and the slam didn't come from behind). Secondly, all players have a "threat zone" - the three hexes in their front arc - and enemy players have a negative modifier when taking actions if they're standing in one of those hexes. Also, if they try to move away, there's a chance they'll get tackled and fall over.

Are all players worth the same amount, and can you create your own teams?
Players have different values - a human Jack doesn't cost the same as a human Guard, and a human Guard doesn't cost the same as an Orc one. Each starting team has a set number of players, and as Jake said, the maximum you can have of each position is twice the starting number. (Yes, a Veermyn team can have twelve Strikers. The horror...) Incidentally, did you know that as well as leagues and basic, out-of-the-box games, there are rules for Exhibitions? You both pick a budget, create teams from scratch (buying experience and MVPs), and have a one-off riot! It's a fun way to get some extra character involved, and to try out some of the more advanced rules, without having a full-blown league.

How does the game play single-game vs. a campaign/season? Would it play well as a series of multiple games between two people?
 in order to make the game fun at all levels, it was designed to work as a aone off game without the cards. This means that the core is solid and fun (as it has to be) and that the cards and the league system build on that. I've played loads of one-off games, often several against a single opponent in an evening. We had fun!

Leagues are different rather than better or worse. I think that's true of other games with similar systems. I enjoy the added story elements they bring, but they are more effort all round.

Can you intercept a ball that's thrown by an enemy player?
Interceptions were considered in the very early stages of the game, but ultimately discarded as they never, ever happened due to the nature of the game. If a player was in your way, it was really easy to take a step to the left or right and throw. This, coupled with the fact that it wasn't entirely easy to explain when a player counted as "in the way", consigned interceptions to the cutting room floor. I think I can safely say no one's missed them!

How do fans work, and is there a home field advantage?
Fans are represented by the game cards. Whenever a player does something cool - a high score, a big KO, etc - you draw a card and check its Cheer rating (Generally between 0 and 2). If there's at least one Cheer, you store it under your Fans card; once you get three Cheers under your card, you trade them in for a bonus Coaching Die. (These are dice that you get a certain number of at the start of the game, depending on your team, and which you can add to important dice rolls to make sure you succeed.

There's no advantage for home fans, but certain cards do indeed have events that represent the crowd singling out a certain player!

Is it only Strikers that can Strike?
Nope – Jacks can also make Strikes, they're just not as good at it. Guards can't handle the ball at all, unless they take the Keeper upgrade.

Can you win by wiping out the opposition?
It is technically possible, though I've never seen it done. The Landslide victory rule which means that one side wins automatically if they get a 7 point lead has tended to stop games before the wipeouts happen. In DreadBall it is quite hard to retain possession of the ball, so people tend to try and score Strikes as soon as they can. Holding onto the ball in order to pummel the opposition is asking for them to take it off you.

The four teams that are available are all named. Is it possible to design your own teams?
The best way of thinking of the teams we've listed is as the archetypes for their races. So if you want to do a Corporation team, use the Trontek 29ers stats. This isn't their stats at the height of their fame and power, it's their stats when they started out as a rookie team and were much like every other rookie team of their type. Same goes for the others.

Can a player stand in the strike hex to block opposing players from scoring? Especially a big hulking guard/keeper?
This came up a few times in playtesting and we tried it both ways round. In the end we decided that you could not block a Strike Hex.

On most pitches the Strike Target is actually a hologram which appears just as someone enters the Strike Zone carrying the ball (ie become eligible to score). As the target is a holographic projection, measuring whether a throw has been aStrike or not is done by computer tracking of the ball's trajectory. This means that standing on the Strike hex won't make any difference as the computer will simply calculate the Strike whether it hits the player or not.

How easy is it to win in two turns with a seven-point Landslide victory?
Very hard. It has probably been done, but I haven't seen it myself.

Do adjacent opponents give negative modifiers to checks when throwing the ball, etc.?
Depending on facing, possibly. In general, standing in the Threat Hexes of an opposing player gives you a -1 dice penalty per player to a max of -2. That's when the action is not in opposition to that specific player. So, if I Slam you we roll an opposed roll, so I ignore your Threat hex. But if I Throw the ball when I am standing in your Threat Hex then it's at -1 dice.

Can the same MVP be hired by more than one team?
I won't go into too much detail here, as Jake's done a couple of blog posts on it, but there's a clever bit of jiggery-pokery in the extended rules where each MVP can only be hired by one team. The same mechanic increases the cost of popular MVPs throughout the season, while dropping the cost of less popular ones - meaning a season has its own model economy!

What ends your Rush?
The only ways your rush can end are when you lose the ball (or fail to pick it up) when you run out of actions, or when you run out of players who can take actions. As such, it's fairly rare for your turn to end when you haven't got possession of the ball!

Even a successful Strike brings your rush to an end, as you've (intentionally) lost the ball - one of the mistakes new players make is going for a Strike with the first action of a rush! Unless something particularly oddball happens, attempting a Strike is going to end your rush, one way or another.

What happens if you miss a Strike?
If you miss the shot then you have lost the ball - it will scatter and your Rush will be over, as stated above.

Does the Rush ending whenever you lose the ball affect the game's fluidity?
Once you get your head around it (usually by the end of your first game, going by playtests) it doesn't disrupt the flow of the game at all - in fact, it makes for some really tense moments! You've got the perfect strategy planned, all your actions lined up for the turn, and all you need to do is pick up the ball or it's all over... Surely rolling at least one 4+ on three dice can't be that hard, right...?

What's in the rulebook?
The rulebook is split into 4 sections. The first bit covers background, intro, example Rush and listing all the components and what the different bits mean, etc. Then there is the rules section, which is about 25 pages long. After that there is a section on league play, running leagues, experience for players, and so on. Finally there is a reference section with the team and MVP stats in.

There are no advanced or optional rules other than playing leagues, which is a style of play and a time commitment rather than a variant.

How many Strikes are scored on average in a game?
Most games probably see an average of a Strike every 2 Rushes, and it is perfectly possible to score in a single Rush.

Are the cards language-dependent?
About half of the cards are fairly language-dependent, I'm afraid - the other half are easier, as they're mainly "Free action for a Striker" type cards. The first half, though, tend to have a title, a short narrative explanation, and an in-game rules effect; if you've played games like Last Night on Earth, Arkham Horror, or that sort of thing you'll know what I mean.

However, the good news is that the game will be translated into at least three other languages.

Is there a limit on the number of MVPs a team can hire? Could you theoretically play an all MVP team?
Technically, there's no limit - you can hire as many as you can afford! Also I love the idea of two all-star teams; there's no reason why this wouldn't work.

Is there an equalising mechanic so that new teams can play experienced ones?
 Each team has a value, which increases as players gain experience or are added to the roster. Before playing a game, you work out the difference between the two teams, and the team with the lower value gets a stash of megacredits (the in-game currency) to bid for MVPs, or to trade in for one or more rolls on the Free Agent table. These can be players from any of the core teams - for example, if you're particularly lucky, your Veer-myn team could end up with an Orc Guard to pad out the ranks! This might seem a bit crazy at first, but the idea is that it gives underpowered teams the chance to pull out something special when they'd otherwise be almost certainly flattened.

Which hexes in the Strike Zones can you try to score from?
You can make an attempt from anywhere in the strike zone. The bonus hex (the one furthest from the strike hex) gives you an extra point but is harder to achieve (you suffer -1 dice, on top of the normal -1 for attempting a Strike.)

What are the upper and lower limits for stats?
Currently, a game value can never be increased to better than 3+ with character advancement, and there are no 6+ values, but that's not to say such things won't happen in the expansions!

What does the “Sucker Punch” foul do?
A Sucker Punch is any Slam action during which you start in front of your target, then move behind him before making the attack. This has the in-game effect that your enemy can only choose to dodge rather than slamming you back, meaning that this is a great tactic for taking down enemy Guards. (...or most Forgefather players!) Of course, due to the fact that this is fairly easy to exploit and hardly fair play, it's counted as a foul!

How can the ball end up in a hex with a player?
This can happen in one of two ways:

First, players don't reset after a Strike. This means that there's a fair chance of a player standing in the centre of the arena and being in a position to have the ball land at his feet! Second, the ball could travel six hexes then rebound off the far wall, flying into either end of the arena where it could come into contact with any player.

Of course, in most cases the ball will scatter away, but if the player's a Striker - or wants to use a Coaching dice, as I rather cheekily did in a game yesterday! - they've got a chance of making a catch. (And if they manage to do really well on that catch roll, they could get a free action, which they could use to score in the enemy player's turn, if they're feeling really jammy!)

If you want to free up space in the arena to move in a player from the Subs' Bench, can you move a player out of the arena?
Yes – you move the player off through the gate to the subs' bench area.

If you Slam a ball carrier, do they lose it if they get pushed back, or only if they get knocked down?
They only lose the ball on a double, i.e. when you knock them down. Those gloves are pretty good at holding onto a ball when the wearer's getting shoved about a bit!

If the ball is launched into the arena at the start of the visiting team's turn, and the home team's Striker is in a position to catch it, what happens if he manages to do so?
As the visiting team haven't lost the ball (in fact, they never had it, or even attempted to pick it up!), their rush doesn't end. They get to act as normal, and I imagine their first port of call will be Slamming seven shades of nasty out of that Striker. However, if the Striker got lucky and rolled some sixes, he might have doubled the catch roll - which grants him a free Run or Throw action, which he immediately gets, even though it's not his turn!

Can you stand on your opponent's gate hex and block their reserves from coming on from the Subs' Bench?
Yes – this is a foul, though, called Stalling. If your player is caught doing it there's a fair chance he'll be sent off... and the Ref check is made every time any player on your team takes an action, not just when that player does.

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