New Dreadball Teams Revealed

Two of the teams for Dreadball Season 2 have finally been put up on the Mantic website.

First up we have the Corporation Void Sirens…

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The Void Sirens are one of the better-known all-female teams with a long and illustrious history. They have, at one time or another, beaten most of the top teams, and they are always worth watching on the tri-vid. The roster relies on their Jacks and their training focus on Running Interference. This, together with an extensive additional coaching schedule, enables them to react swiftly to opposing plays, and makes the Sirens very tricky to predict. Any offensive drive needs to punch a much bigger hole than usual to guarantee a way past the Siren’s nimble Jacks.

Next the Judwan Pelgar Mystics…

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The Judwan are a placid, calm and peaceful race and the tiny number of Judwanese teams play an odd game of DreadBall. They have neither Guards nor Jacks and never try to damage their opponents; they simply outplay them. A Judwan Striker needs no glove to catch or throw the ball, instead using his long, lithe arms and slender fingers to launch the ball with as much or more speed as other races. Their games are fast and often surprising, with a tendency to end suddenly in a 7-point landslide.

Dreadball – A Review

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That’s right sports fans, it’s time for Dreadball. Or as some may choose to call it…Blood Bowl in Space. Or Speedball 3…

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Never let it be said that Mantic are afraid of running with a good idea. But seeing as Jake Thornton penned this particular game it rather seems like he ran out of GW HQ with it and hoped no one would notice. Something Mantic seem to be making a habit of. Project Pandora, that I reviewed back in May last year, was a reworking of Space Hulk with non-brand Imperial Guard and Skaven in Space. Also written by Jake Thornton. But, to be fair, it was pretty good.

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So what of Dreadball, the futuristic sports game? I have to admit that I was very much in the camp of people who thought it was Blood Bowl in Space. And seeing as there are Orks, sorry Orx, and Veer-myn, I and the rest of the camp can be forgiven.

However, where it differs is that Dreadball’s emphasis is more on the sport element rather than the krumping element. Some may see this as a bad thing but it’s actually not and I’ll explain more why in later. First of all; what do you get in the box?

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Well a very pretty board, a deck of cards, some counters, some dice, two teams – human and Orx – some balls (ahem) and a very lovely looking rulebook. And why shouldn’t it be lovely considering it was the result of a very very successful Kickstart campaign. It’s something I’ve written about before and I won’t rant about it here, but Mantic clearly went to great lengths to either spend the money or make it look like they spent the money. The rulebook is very nice to look at. Gloss cover, silk pages, lots of lovely graphic design. But it’s badly written with typos all over the place, padded to shit – it could have easily been half the thickness – and doesn’t have useful things like a summary of play in it. I had to read the rules twice to fully understand them and there aren’t that many of them. This is very poor form considering Mantic raised over £450,000 from a £12,000 Kickstart.

The models equally are the half way house between economy of production and quality. The human models are actually really cool, I like them a lot. All three of them. Because all you get is multiples. The Orx are a bit poor and again there is only 3 unique designs. For the cost of the game and the fact that it had the investment it did I really do feel Mantic could have done more. That said, they’re not bad-looking and the simplistic design means that even unpainted you can identify the player classes at a glance.

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Those gripes aside I absolutely bloody love Dreadball. No really.

It’s so joyously tactical and fast paced. And once you wrap your head around the two principles that 1. it isn’t always about manging people in the face and 2. you need to lay up your plays so they come off a Rush or two down the road then you’ll love it. Speaking of Rushes – which are basically turns – you only get 7 a piece which means the game can be over a bit quick. It’s not necessarily a bad thing as it means you can get a couple of games in of an evening.

Actions are limited to 5 per Rush and, depending on which player you activate those actions vary. Equally, as those actions are performed modifiers add or subtract dice without modifying the dice roll. Both very effectively represent the speed with which the action is unfolding in the thrilling world of Dreadball.

The other nice touch is scoring. It’s the first to 7 points, but it’s worked out by points difference rather than a conventional score. It means that victory can be snatched from your grasp by a cunning and daring play, dragging a points difference of, say +6 to +3 at a crucial point meaning you have to rebuild your lead all over again. And because the ball is fired from the centre line straight after a Strike is scored teams that over extend can find themselves flat-footed and racing to regain the initiative. As I say, it’s very very tactical.

As I mentioned, the manging is not the focus of the game – it’s far more akin to real life American Football where ‘Slams’ are like blocks in that they’re designed to knock down or otherwise prevent your opponent’s players from preventing your team from making a play for the Slam Hexes. That’s not to say that manging doesn’t occur but it’s quite hard to pull off. But at least you can commit a healthy variety of fouls to keep things interesting. Including distracting the utterly pointless Ref model. Which you can move about the board but it feels like busy work. And during a play test we just didn’t bother and it had very little impact on the game.

For all my misgivings about Mantic using Kickstart and the cut corners in production the game is brilliant fun. It’s slick and, once you decipher the rules, is huge amounts of fun to play. The book also includes rules for leagues, new abilities, MVPs and, rather coolly  corporate sponsors so it has genuine replay value.

Mantic gets a lot a lot of flack for the obvious parallels between their products and those of other developers, some of it well deserved, however Dreadball is a very different animal from Blood Bowl and if I’m honest, I prefer it. It’s awesome.

Dreadball is available from Firestorm Games priced £42.49

Project Pandora – A Review

Time for another review but on this occasion its a board game that’s coming under my scrutiny. Specifically Project Pandora: Grim Cargo by Mantic.

First of all I think it’s really important to deal with the elephant in the room. I, of course, refer to the elephant wearing terminator armour who in his spare time likes to wander around hulking derelict spaceships. Yes it’s a game a little bit like Space Hulk by the Games Workshop in so much as there are dudes wandering around a pretty banged up spaceship hunting things that are very good at ripping their faces off. But by that logic Warhammer Fantasy is a rip off of Lord of the Rings…oh, wait…

So, Project Pandora is set on-board the merchant vessel CSS Zloveshy Vassily. The Corporation – who look a cross between Imperial Guard and Cobra Commander from GI-Joe – are transporting a super secret shipment of Verminium. No, really. However the Skaven in Space Veer-myn want it for themselves. Greedy rat-bastards.

The models are pretty good sculpts for the most part. I wouldn’t say they’re Mantic’s best work but they’re meant to be easy to build, easy to paint toys that allow you to play the game as quickly as possible, so it’s not really a bad thing. I’m pretty sure that they’re actually the same toys as the ones for Warpath so Grim Cargo is a pretty cost-effective way of getting some more models as well as a game.

They’re more than adequate to convey that the Corporation shouldn’t be messed with and that the Vee-myn are going to anyway. Because they’re mental.

Needless to say much peril is set to ensue and the Corporation Marines are tasked with manging the Veer-myn whilst the rat people attempt to return the favour. At this point I concluded that Mantic weren’t taking things very seriously. Take concepts like Verminium and scenario names like Moustrap and Yodobashi Maru – a homage to the Kobayashi Maru training mission from Star Trek – and it all rather points towards Mantic hamming it up a bit but really it’s just an excuse to have a punch up on a space ship. Which is fair enough.

The scenarios themselves are played out over tiles that form a board again like a certain other sci-fi board game. Mantic did a great job of making the tiles look grungy without making them look like they were lifted out of 40k. No mean feat considering the legacy Space Hulk possesses and the inevitable comparisons being made. The production value and attention to detail is good although I’d have liked a little more variety in the tiles if I’m honest. However I think this is as much to do with keeping the cost down for the consumer as anything, plus it allows for supplements to come out along the way, which should be interesting.

The game itself is actually a pretty neat system. Each side has tokens which allow you to give your blokes orders. These orders vary from shoot someone in the face, to run at someone’s face or both. However, it’s not quite as clean-cut as that as the majority of the orders will allow you to perform actions with multiple models but the actions will be a combination – e.g. move 1 shoot 2. So, quite simply move one bloke, shoot with two.

The reasoning for this is that it forces you to play the game almost like Chess; thinking two or three moves ahead at all times. Weirdly you almost have to try to outplay your limitations as heavily relying on your strengths just won’t cut it and you’ll get turned to mush. Also, the team specific special rules not only make complete sense and really gives the opposition a headache as to how to deal with it but makes the game very cinematic.

The Corporation, for example, can make reaction fire actions, attempting to splat Veer-myn as they rush down the corridor. However, the rats are capable of dodging out-of-the-way of incoming fire if they only sustain a single point of damage which makes me imagine the Veer-myn leaping and bounding of bulkheads and ceilings as bullets whizz through the air all around them. However they’ll get manged if there isn’t a free space to jump into which, again, conjures images of a horde force being whittled down as their numbers count against them in a confined space.

There are lots of other natty little rules that make this game much more of a survival horror such as all corridors are considered to be in the dark which can test the mental stability of the Corporation Marines to the point that they can Panic Fire and piss away all their ammo. But the Marines can use flares to light their way. Similarly the Veer-myn can make squares dark allowing them to escape injury or lurk in the shadows waiting to pounce. So it’s nabbed a lot of the cool bits about Alien. Which is no bad thing.

Shooting and combat is nice and quick to resolve and requires a single dice off which bares a remarkable similarity to Risk although a tad more streamlined and using far more interesting models… At first I wasn’t too sure about this but the whole point of Project Pandora is that it’s supposed to be as quick to play as the action unfolding on board the CSS Zloveshy Vassily.

Models get activated in turn so the situation can change really very quickly depending on what you order your forces to do and your opponent in response. The action can slow down a bit as you use up your order counters or spend a turn reissuing orders (where you get all your used tokens back) but that’s why making the right decisions at the crucial moments is so important, and utilising those special rules to the best ability.

On the surface I thought Project Pandora was a pretty straight forward game and in the sense of learning the rules that’s true, but an easy to learn rule set is by no means a bad thing. It’ll take a couple of games to get the hang of and the token system may, at times, frustrate as your find yourself without the right orders at the wrong time. But the point is that in real combat situations bad decisions cost lives and really that’s what PP:GC so aptly demonstrates.