A Breakdown of DreadBall – the Futuristic Sports Game by Mantic Games

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Design
I need to begin by complementing this game designer. It’;s not often you discover a game so thoroughly consistent in design. When you have to ask “how does this work?”, the answer then is always “exactly like you’;d expect”. Each rule and action flows together smoothly and seamlessly. Learn one, and you already are most of the way to learning how the following works. The ‘;exception’; is definitely the exception in this rule book. This is by far the most intuitive game designs I’;ve played.

Rules
Even though the design is fabulous, the rule book is only decent in my estimation. It is surprisingly easy to check out and find how you can do things while playing as needed. However, the order, layout, and presentation make your game a little more confusing to master than it ought to be. Find out the game from the rule book, but reading it seems like looking at a masterpiece painted on a piece of toilet paper.

Game
Dreadball lasts 14 turns, with each coach (the individuals playing the game) getting 7 turns. Each turn you have only 5 actions total to distribute regarding the 6 on-field models. As a result for little down-time and fast games. You play on a hex field, working to toss the ball for a score at various points on your opponents half. After scoring, your turn ends and the ball is launched back onto the field. Players in the game will not reset. The score track is combined, so a score pulls the score marker closer on the track and away from your opponent.

Actions – At the heart of the game are actions. You receive 5 per turn, and this can be supplemented by card play. Each of your players can have up to 2 of the 5 actions spent on him. The action selection is simple and easy to know, but your tactical choices are deep. You have to think a turn ahead, even (or especially) if you score, since the board does not reset. You can do somewhat standard type actions like move, slam(tackle), steal the ball, throw the ball, pick up the ball, stand up. The actions all have the same basic mechanisms, so learning and remembering them is easy.

Cards – The cards add a nice extra bit of planning alternatives to the game. Each of your players can have 1 card played on them per turn. Most just give them the ability to do an additional action of some type. They are not broken, and they are expensive, as they cost an action to buy during the game.

Fouling – Fouling is simple in the game. It is basically doing things you would already do, but in a dirtier way. Like Slamming someone when they are down, or taking actions but having lots of men on the field. You can look at to be sneaky about fouling, because it is up to your opponent to call them on you. If he misses what you did, then you pull it off.

Abilities – You will gain new Abilities as your player advances. There’;s not too many of them, however they are just about all useful and straightforward to comprehend.

League Play
I have not played in a league game yet, so I cannot say from experience how this technique works. I can say that it looks again very simple to learn and play with. Things are very streamlined in execution, but nothing you would expect is cut out from the system. Your players can die (but be bought back for a price and small XP penalty), you should purchase new players, MVPs, as well as other team bonuses. Your players get new skills and abilities. There’;s a handicap system inbuilt for underdogs.

DreadBall Ultimate

The latest addition to the game is DreadBall Ultimate. Unlike the regular 2-player game, up to 6 people can play DreadBall Ultimate, opening a whole range of new tactics, options and game-play dynamics.

Comparison to Blood Bowl
This is probably the first question anyone would ask if they have ever played Blood Bowl. If you have played Blood Bowl, this game will feel somewhat familiar too you. The basic concept of moving a ball around the field is similar, but the game play is vastly different. Blood Bowl could be a real brain burner, grinding game of chess. In Blood Bowl, there are many pawns to move carefully into position for the 1 or 2 players that turn would make a move amazing. DreadBall plays a lot more like a game of chess, but devoid of the pawns. This will make for a faster and more interesting game. Personally I think like all the thrill continues, but in a tiny part of the time. The rules are usually much cleaner than Blood Bowl, so just understanding all of your actions and abilities is easier. DreadBall has a idea of threat zones, like Blood Bowl, however are not influenced by other players as with Blood Bowl. Calculating the modifiers is instant in DreadBall, whereas someone had confusion with that in just about any game of BloodBowl I played.

Components
Ah, I saved the best for last. Ok, maybe I didn’;t want to focus on the ‘;worst’; part of the game first. I will start by saying that I find every one of the components completely functional and none are junk (except the counters).

Board – The playing board is adequate, the art and quality are slightly below what you would expect for an average ‘;hobby’; game. But you can play on it without issue, plus it looks decent.

Cards – I’;d rate them about average, maybe slightly substandard on quality. They look nice and are not too thin. They shuffle just fine. No printing / cutting difficulties with them. Not deluxe linen finish, but very serviceable.

Rule Book – The best non-mini component. You wouldn’;t find a higher quality rule book in a board game, especially for the size of it.

Dice & Counters – The dice roll and show you numbers. They do look sort of cheap. The counters are quite poor. Almost paper thin, although they are printed double sided. There is no need that you use the included counters. I know I won’;t be, as any cube, bead, whatever would work just fine.

Miniatures – Here is where the components really shine. These miniatures are better than anything you would ever find in a board game from a detail and quality perspective. Some of the newest FFG games get sort of close, though. This is a miniature company, and this is their business best. Difficulty to assemble would vary dependant upon your background. If you arrive from miniature games, they’;re dead simple. If you come from boardgames and have never assembled a model/used glue before, then you should probably find a video and take your time at first. There are very few pieces to put together per model, but like anything new, it is a challenge at the beginning.

Verdict
You should play this game, if for no other reason, that it is a masterpiece of fine design (once you can see past the rule book layout). Rules are simple and intuitive, games are fast and fun, and the play is incredibly rewarding.

Nine stars out of 10!

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