First experience of playing DreadBall

So last night, after a series of yes, no, and maybe false starts at getting this arranged, I finally sat down and played my first game of DreadBall; It’s a game that has been on my radar since I got back into gaming almost a year ago.

I’m going to talk briefly about my experience of playing the game for the first time. This is not going to be a review, an unboxing or a tutorial. It’s just my thoughts having played 1 game of DreadBall. If you want any of those other things then I’m sure the net is awash with them.

In preparation for the game I had a look through the rules so that I could become more familiar with the basic terminology. I didn’t actually do as much of this as I intended to though as other interests and hobby stuff got in the way. As a Blood Bowl player, most of the concepts were very familiar from the different races and positions to the actions and skills. My opponent was new to the game himself having played only a few games before this one, but he had devoured the rulebook. Before we started he spewed rules knowledge at me and I tried to absorb as much as possible. At the end of the day though, there was only one way that I was going to get to understand this game and that was to PLAY!

I elected to play as the space humans and he took the space orcs. As you can tell I’ve not been through the fluff of this game yet. I thought that this would give me more balance given that they have all three position types available to them.

First impression of the pitch and its hexs is that it is very tight and a little on the compact side. I know there aren’t many players on the pitch at any one time but it could have done with being a little bigger in my humble opinion. The orcs lined up first dominating the half way line. I lined up further back, nervous about the size of the orc guards lining up in front of me. Not knowing whether to put strength or speed up front. The first couple of turns were a bit of a blur. I had Blood Bowl’s wrap around tackle zones in my head and had trouble distinguishing which way round my players were facing. This lead to me getting beaten up – slammed – in every direction and the ball quickly ending up in the hands of a scoring goblin. It seems a little strange to be able to score from various hexs in the opposition half. I’m more used to the end-to-end scoring system of most fantasy and non-fantasy sports.

I went 4 points down within a couple of turns and was hating the game a little. New game syndrome I suppose. Rules and actions that hadn’t meant too much on paper suddenly coming to bite me of the arse.

I was starting to like having to make ‘successes’ based on rolling a number of dice, the number of which was modified based on position and situation. This mechanic is fundamental to the game and very different from the usual mechanic of having to hit a target number on 1 or 2 dice with the target being modified based on situation as in Blood Bowl. Everything felt a little simpler and a bit more emphatic. There are some complications in terms of doubling your opponents number of successes etc but these should become less troublesome as I get more games under my belt.

As the game went on, I let go of the Blood Bowl player in me and managed to pull back a couple of points myself. The game was clumping into three main action areas and we kind of got bogged down a little. I was going for the win on the last turn of the game and after my striker stood up, evaded and then picked up the ball, I initiated my throw action only for the opposition coach to pull his ‘exploding ball card’! What the f**k! I was not a happy bunny. I wasn’t even a happy vole. I was pissed.

I had grown to like the game though. Not love it. How can you love something with an exploding ball trick?!

I like the pool of dice mechanic, I like not resetting after a score and I like that a player being attacked (slammed) can decide what action to take in response. This is a little Blood Bowl annoyance of mine and clearly the game’s designer thought so too. Why shouldn’t a quick player be able evade/dodge an incoming attacker? I also like the fact that a player’s tackle zone (or whatever it is in DreadBall) is only effective in front of it and not behind.

I didn’t like the models or the board very much. The different scoring zones are not defined clearly enough and the models seem a little flimsy and pathetic. I also don’t like that the facing of the player is important and yet out of the box it isn’t clear which side is the front side. This can be fixed with a little hobby time of course but still it annoyed me last night. I need to read the rules about knocked down players and pushing and sidelines etc as that didn’t come across very well in the game that I played. I’m not going to pass too much judgement on the game play itself yet as I’ve not played enough to truly comment. Maybe I’ll come back to that another day.

It’s not Blood Bowl. That’s for sure. It’s good but you can tell it’s a new game and a new mechanic. There is lots to like about and lots to be ironed out. I’ll certainly keep playing it. The time it takes to play each game means that I’ll probably be able to get in a game of DreadBall before or after a match in the upcoming Blood Bowl league. I kind of have a worry that the simplicity of the dice pooling mechanic could become something of a downfall for the game. With the number of dice rolled being generally based on position and action I think that it could end up being very complex as you add more skills and adaptations for races. Hey what do I know, I’ve only played one game of Season 1 rules/teams.

So should you give it a go? Yes.

Will it replace Blood Bowl for me? No.

Will I play again? Yes.

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