Dreadball 101 – Picking Up The Sports Game of the Future

Evening Folks, time to talk through the basics of the newest and most successful of the crowdsourced tabletop games, that of Mantic’s Dreadball.

Following its 3,644% funded run on Kickstarter the game is spreading steadily. One of the places its taken a firm root is my gaming club here in Southern Blighty (thats England to the rest of you), and after a quick mini tournament we’ve got our league underway.
At first glance you’d be forgiven for looking at Dreadball and seeing it as “Bloodbowl reskinned with TRON”. After all they’re both alternative American Football games, they both feature mortal enemies taking to the pitch for a kick about and they both feature an above average amount of bloodshed. However the differences are also fairly prevalent, enough so that I much prefer Dreadball to Bloodbowl, a game I could never really enjoy.
This article is going comprise of an introduction to the game and its mechanics to give you a taste, and maybe we’ll see some more tactics and match replays in the future if people are interested.
As previously mentioned the game will be familiar to anyone who has played any Bloodbowl….or watched any Rugby or US Football. Although in Rugby the ball doesn’t fly at 200mph and ricochet off the walls and the corpses of your enemies.
Your Team
There are currently 4 teams available, but at least 5-6 more in the pipeline (including a Robot Team, a Team of Tau/Kamino hybrids and a team of giant Lizards in power armour who can teleport on the pitch!). These teams will again be familiar to anyone who has played Mantics Warpath series. At present you have the Corporation (the Humans), the Orx, the Veermyn and the ForgeFathers.

The roster is made up of 3 player types. That of the Guard, the Striker and the Jack. As you can guess from their names, the Guard hurts people, the Striker scores and the Jack is a middle grounder. Some teams are limited and can only take 2 of the classes (for instance Orx cannot take Strikers. Just Guards and Jacks, limiting their scoring potential, but maximising their ability to inflict pain)
Orx Guard

Each player has a standard stats table of Move, Strength, Speed, Skill and Armour. Again those of you who are naturally intuitive will understand what each of these determine. Move is how many Hexes a player can move per action, Strength is how hard they hit, Speed is how fast they are to react, Skill is how good they are with the ball and Armour is how good their padding is.
Corporation will be familiar to anyone who plays Power Armour in 40K and is largely 4+ across the board (except for a move of 5) . By comparison the Forge Fathers are slightly slower (Speed 5+, Move 4) but hit harder (Strength 3+). Veermyn have a Move of 6, a Speed of 3 but a Skill of 5+, making them faster but harder to score with.
The Game
 In each of your turns (or in game terms, Rushes) you may perform up to 5 actions. Each player may ordinarily only perform up to 2 actions per Rush. These are;
– Move. You may move a number of hexes equal to your move value
– Sprint. You may double your movement value, but need to spend one of those every time you wish to turn adjust your direction
– Slam. A special Move where you tackle an enemy player. Guards may move their full Move value then Slam, Jacks may only move 1 hex then Slam. Based on Strength
– Shoot/Throw the Ball. Exactly what it sounds like. Requires Skill Tests
– Stand Up – Try to get a knocked down dude on his feet. Based on a Speed Test
There are also more specialist actions, like stomping or stripping the ball, but I’ll leave them out for a future article for simplicities sake.
You keep making actions until;
– You use all of your five action points
– You fail an action involving the ball.
This is one of the biggest departures from Bloodbowl AND one of my personal reasons to pick DB over BB. In BB you end your turn if ANY player fails a roll. Lose a combat, trip over, drop the ball ANYTHING can end your turn. In DB your turn only ends if you fail with the ball. Should you fail to pick up the ball, miss a shot (or score!) or the ball carrier trips, then that is a Rush Ender. Should any other player screw up its still your turn. And to me that slightly more forgiving nature makes me prefer this game to BB. You still have to assign priorities to your actions and do the safer stuff first, but it makes the game less annoying when your rush doesn’t end on your first action because you failed a single roll.

ForgeFather Striker (L) and Guard (R)

An Action – Slamming!
To perform any action you need to make dice test.
For example say your ForgeFather Guard chooses to Slam a Corporation Jack.
The ForgeFather player rolls a number of dice. You get 3 dice for the test. The FF gets an additional dice for being a Guard in a Slam and a 5th because he moved into the “combat”. The player rolls the 5 dice, testing against his 3+ Strength. He get a 1, two 3’s, a 5 and a 6. Against his 3+ strength that is 4 successes. However in Dreadball any roll of a 6 is a success AND grants an additional dice. This mechanic of rolling 6 for more dice is infinite. Keep rolling 6’s and there is no end to the number of dice you can roll! The player rolls another dice for the 6 and get a 4. This grants him 5 successes.

The Corporation player rolls his 3 dice (didn’t move into combat and isn’t a guard so no bonus dice). As a Jack he punches the Guard back (Strikers dodge based on their speed and get 4 dice before modifiers, Jacks and Guard Slam back) against his Strength of 4+. He rolls a 1, a 3 and a 5. Its not looking good for the human.

The FF has won by 4. He has also doubled the opponents score. If you don’t double you just push the loser back a square. If you double…then the injuries start. The Jack is pushed back a square and knocked down. He also has to take 4 armour saves. However many armour saves you must take you always roll 3 dice. If you only need one save you roll 3 dice. If you need to pass 10 saves….its still only 3 dice. You just need to keep rolling 6’s to get those extra successes to live. The Jack rolls against his armour (4+). He rolls a 6, and a 1, a 2 and a 3. He rolls a bonus dice for the 6 and gets a 4. Therefore he has 2 successes and passes 2 saves, but fails 2 as well. He is therefore in the Sin Bin/Injury Bin for 2 of his teams rushes. (Incidentally if you fail 4 or more saves – the player is dead, squished flat by a short angry man.)
This is another difference to BB. In BB you can only get injured or new players on when a player scores or its half time. In DB they move down the Sin Bin at the end of each of your turns. So the aforementioned Human is going to sit out the next 2 rushes of the corporation player. Seeing as each player only gets 7 rushes in the game, being knocked out for 3 rushes is a big hit.

Corporation Jack

An example of the bottomless 6’s occurred in my last game. My poor FF Striker was slammed by 3 Orx Guards. I only had 2 dice to dodge based on my speed of 5+.  He scored 5 successes on me. I rolled a double 6. Then another double 6. Then a 5 and a 6 to somehow manage to avoid being turned to Dwarf paste.
Another Action – Shooting!
Scoring is the obvious aim of the game. Getting that ball to the endzones and putting it away is how you win the game. In DB there are 4 different scoring zones with the ability to shoot earlier for 1 or 2 points or go deeper into enemy territory and go for 3-4. To shoot you get your player to the shooting point. Using our previous teams examples, with the Jack knocked out cold, the way is free for the FF striker to bring the ball up. He moves up to the zone. If you have the actions spare, he could stand still and make the shot with a second action to be more accurate. However times up and moving to the zone was his last action. So he takes the shot for a 2 point goal (you can move and throw as one action, its just less “accurate” with you getting less dice).
The striker gets 3 dice. He loses a dice because he moved in the same action as shooting. He loses another because he’s shooting for goal. He loses his third because he’s taking a long shot for more points. However he gains one for being a striker. For those of you not keeping count, that’s 1 dice. And yes it is possible to have no dice to shoot with (obviously failing). There is always the option to add your coaching dice to the mix (a free dice every player gets and can earn in game, that they can spend and add to any roll they want). The FF chooses to add his coaching dice to increase his chances of making the shot count. Against his skill of 4+ he shoots….and rolls a 3 and a 1. He misses the target. The ball ricochets randomly and the Rush is over.
The scoring system is first to 7 wins a shutout, or the winner at the end of the game for a normal win. However rather than giving a simple 3-2 score, the score is cumulative on your opponents score. If he scores a 2 pointer then you score a 4 point, the score is not 4-2 but is 2 to you. Again a difference to BB. Here you can get shutout very quickly.
My first game my opponent scored a 4 pointer in 3 rushes. The new ball ejected, my guy failed to pick it up, it scattered and ended up 2 spaces away from the guy who was still stood on the 4 point shot target. So my rush ended, he spent 2 actions to pick it up, walk back and score another 4 point. Game Over, Shut out before the Halftime show…..


Blood for the Ball God!
Dreadball is a much cleaner game than Bloodbowl (for now) but fouling is an option. You can commit a foul in a few different ways;
– Slamming a guy in the back when you started that action in front of him
– Having more than 6 players on the pitch
– Stomping on a guy who is on the floor
If your opponent spots a foul he can call you on it. You always get a spotting dice from the Eye in the Sky camera. If the ref is within 7 squares you get a 2nd spotting dice. On spotting a foul roll those dice. Counting each dice separately on a 4+ the foul is unnoticed by that official. On a 1-3 that is how many Rushes the offending player spends in the Sin Bin. If you roll more than 3, but only on dice less than 3 (so two 2’s or a 1 and a 3) then the player is sent off for the rest of the game. Therefore if you commit a foul away from the ref, you get a 50-50 chance of getting away with it and can only be Sin Binned for 3 turns. Do it near the Ref you only get a 25% of getting away with it, and a greater chance of being thrown off for the whole game.
Well I’ve written far more than I expected to, so I’ll leave it there. But I hope that maybe gives a brief look at the basics of what is a really fun, and very cheap game (you can get a functional team for less than £15 or a full set of 2 teams, pitch and the counters and cards for £50). If people enjoyed this and/or want more info I’ll look into some of the more detailed parts of the game, such as the card system, random events, Fan Checks and the All Star MVP’s. In the mean time, look up Dreadball, either on the Kickstarter or on Mantic’s Store.
Let me know what you think of the game and this intro in the comments below!

All photos taken from my club (Southampton Sluggas) League Teams

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