Dreadball Xtreme on Kickstarter

Dreadball_logoOnce again Mantic are taking to Kickstarter for their next game project instead of fronting the capital themselves. I like Mantic, I like their games and…well, their models are okay, but I’m disappointed that they are once again using crowd funding. Aside from the obvious, and worn out, argument that that’s not what Kickstarter is for: surely they must know by now that if they produce a Dreadball game it’ll make money?

But what do I know? Of the $100,000 target (no you’re not reading that wrong), they’ve raised over $275,000 with 22 days to go.

So what is it? Well, basically it’s street Dreadball. It’s Necromunda meets Blood Bowl. No really. It’s Dreadball without the rules and copious amounts of gang violence. They may as well have named it Dreadbowl or Bloodball.

But it does also look pretty tasty. And the quality of the models seems to be much higher this time although there’s still on 3 variants. Again. The stretch goals also hint at where they’re taking the game. Which is, obviously, in a very similar direction to Dreadball only not. For a start there’s different game modes which can mean lots more players on the…er…pitch? Which certainly adds an interesting dynamic to a game that relied on careful team balancing.

However, despite the models, cool new playing arena and all that joy, I kinda feel like people will be buying the same game only with a different box.

As always, though, we shall reserve judgement until we get our grubby little mits on a copy.

If you’re interested in the Kickstarter, click here.

Dreadball Ultimate – A Review

471e27f330bd96c059203afdab82dfef_largeIt’s time to once again done our spangly jumpsuits and silly helmets and try to catch some speeding balls… I refer to, of course, to Dreadball Ultimate, the third rule release for Dreadball from Mantic.

Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of Dreadball. The games anyway. The models are a bit hit & miss. Season 2, whilst useful, wasn’t convincing as a real supplement as it offered very little to the game other than teams it didn’t really need. And I’ll be honest when I heard about Season 3 I rolled my eyes and concluded that Mantic must have still had some of the Dreadball kickstarter money lying around.

When it was announced that Season 3 would be called Ultimate and offer a multi-player option I was pleased for two reasons. The first was that it actually sounded like you’d get something for your money. The second was that Ultimate had a nice ring of finality about it which meant Mantic could stop trying to come up with nonsense rules and focus on making the ones they had better. And the models for that matter.

dreadball-ultimate-coverSo what’s in the box? Quite a bit actually. A lovely big gaming mat for use with up to 6 players, a deck of cards, a nice shiny new book and some Giants – the new model type new for Ultimate.

I must be honest – unlike me I know – but I don’t like the idea of Giants. Aside from being, well, giant, they do two things that piss me off: the first, require their own set of rules because they don’t fit the existing ones and the second is they’re overpowered to the point that if you don’t take a Giant of your own to counter act your opponents you stand very little chance of taking them down. It’s something that always really annoyed me about MVPs in Dreadball, they just unbalance the game too much. And Giants are just mental. They ignore the threat hexes of non-giants, they get bonus dice up the whazoo and thanks to their size they’re not the easiest opponents to get around.

I’ve never been a massive fan of Blood Bowl but at least star players were just juiced members of your chosen race/team. In Dreadball they can be used to offset team weaknesses (which were designed to be there) whilst being nails to take down. Giants are this but more so. Which is a bit pants. It’s difficult because I know my opinion won’t be the popular one and it’s kind of one of the big draws for Dreadball Ultimate but the reason Dreadball is so good is because it’s genius in its simplicity and things like Giants rather over egg the pudding. It’s all a bit gimmicky.

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But if you’re wise enough to buy the Ultimate boxset, rather than the book, you get them all included so take ’em, don’t take ’em it really makes no odds.

There’s a couple of rule tweaks in Ultimate/Season 3. There’s nothing really to write home about other than it’s now against the rules to screen the model with the ball. I’m a bit mixed about that as it rather seems to benefit the newer weaker teams especially going up against the likes of the Forgefathers. But you know what? It’s not going to ruin my day. It will ruin Neil’s (of The Chaps) though as it’s a favourite play of his to shut the ball down if the score is tight with only a rush or two to play.

As usual there’s also yet more teams to add to the ever-expanding Dreadball league. If I’m honest, I’m fairly indifferent towards them. There’s a couple of interesting ones . The Kalamarin, with their sticky or hard guards (I’ll leave you to make your own jokes) and the teleporting space armadillos are the Ukomo appeal but otherwise it’s just ticking the boxes to make sure they’ve robbed all the teams from Blood Bowl as well as a couple from the sci-fi hall or fame. Including some diminutive grey chaps. And some of the models look bloody awful.

But on to the real reason to get Dreadball Ultimate: the big mat and the rules for some utterly mental game play. This is where the real work’s been done. The board/mat/thing is gorgeous. I mean bravo to whoever designed it because it’s arty without being fussy and actually builds on the look of the Dreadball pitch rather than just emulating it. It doesn’t feel quite right rolling on it mind, the bounce just isn’t the same as rolling on the board or a table but I suppose the answer is to, you guessed it, roll on the table. But on a serious note, the surface tension created by the fabric does mean the dice don’t roll as well. So, yeah, roll on the table next to the mat.

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It’s a finely balanced thing, having up to 6 teams running about the place, but Mantic just about pull it off. Three players is a bit more manageable though. And quicker. And having that many people playing a game designed to be that quick has the potential to get confusing and lead to disagreements but some how it does work. And having two balls in play at any given time is only going to end well.

With Dreadball Ultimate I rather feel like they were trying to do too much to make it worth the price tag. In the interests of fairness, it does. There’s a lot in the box that adds a lot to the game. I’m not 100% convinced by it all but the rules for 3-6 player games and a pretty new board is enough for me either way. I do think the Giants are daft and I think that they’ll actually make for some pretty boring games but as a one off bit of fun I could live with them. It’d be a different story in a league however.

I do dearly love Dreadball and the introduction of new teams would get me excited if it didn’t feel like Mantic were just covering every possible statistical iteration available, and if they put more effort into the models. Some of them, particularly the the Not-Space-Elves look utterly, unforgivably poor.

But is it a poor supplement? No. Granted the book feels rather padded out, again, but the Ultimate rule set is way cool. Some of the new teams are way cool. The Giants are daft and overpowered but they come in the box so fuck it. With the addition of some new cards and the like and it does genuinely add a whole new dimension to what is already an awesome game.

Dreadball Ultimate is available from Firestorm Games priced £35.99.

Dreadball Season 2 – A Review

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Okay sports fans, I’m slowly working my way through the backlog of reviews. I fully blame my daughter for being a baby and monopolizing my time with cuteness, vomiting and nappy changes in roughly even measure.

An impressive 2 and a bit months late, let’s take a look at Dreadball Season 2

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So what’s in the book? Well, at the risk of banging on: spelling mistakes.

You also get rules for cheerleaders, assistant coaches, new rules, new abilities, new teams and league rules.

Regular readers will know that I’m a bit of a Dreadball fan so I was quite looking forward to this supplement as it promised to expand the game beyond the one-off games the core rules rather leans towards.

First up: cheerleaders. My goodness the rules are fussy but Mantic went to great lengths to reflect the unpredictable and, essentially, unquantifiable effect cheerleaders have on any sporting game beyond the bloke at the back of the bleachers in the dirty mac. The funny thing is that despite their obvious benefit to the game the rules put me off bothering, plus the aforementioned benefit is far from certain. A positive move over Dreadball’s sperm doner, Blood Bowl, is that there is a limit to how many cheerleaders you can use at one time, which stops the big teams from gaining too much of an edge. That all said, the models have boobs so…yay.

Assistant Coaches on the other hand are so useful that if you use the Season 2 rules and don’t use Assistant Coaches you’re simply the silliest bugger in all of Dreadball land. You have to hire a coach for each type of play, which stops them from being over powered and forces you to commit to a style of play early in a league be it to augment a strength or ease the pain of a weakness. Obviously as the league progresses you can acquire others. The nice thing is that the coaches come in blisters of 3 so a single purchase sorts you out for the league. The best thing is that the bonuses you can gain from your coaches can be decisive if timed well but won’t break the game, which is nicely done considering how over powered some of the MVPs are.

League rules are a nice surprise as they’re written from the point of view of gamers, so it gives you rules for a league to suit you and your mates, rather than pushing you towards something overly complicated that results in you spending more time administrating the league than playing in it. The usual features are there such as player progression and MVPs but by far my favourite is the Cheating Death on the Cheap table which allows you to bring fatally wounded players back to life but on a budget. Although after a couple of trips to the quack you may just want to let you guy slip off the mortal coil and buy someone new.

If I’m honest, although the league rules are straight forward they’re a tad thin on the ground and I rather suspect that Mantic saw the rules for Cheerleaders and Assistant Coaches as part of it, which is fine but it should be presented as such.

The rest of the book is new skills and new teams (for the skills to go with) as well as a FAQ helping to decipher the woefully unclear rules from the core game. And I say that with love.

The new teams are actually quite fresh and original although it’s very much a case of special rules differentiating them from the Season 1 teams. Which isn’t a complaint perse because who doesn’t want a team of transforming robots, it’s just one of things that will inevitably slow play down because players will be referring to their rosters or the Season 2 book all the time.

For the money Dreadball Season 2 is very much worth it. It’s worth it for the simple league rules and the coaching staff. It’s worth it for the teams. The only thing that grates a bit is that Season 3 is imminent which means that Dreadball will stop being a really cool, quick, boardgame and become akin to Rogue Trader that required many tomes of rules and a large cart and donkey with which to transport them.

But until that day comes I shall continue to field my Lark Industries Iron Men in all their red and gold glory.

Dreadball Season 2 is available from Firestorm Games priced £8.99.
Dreadball Coaches are available from Firestorm Games priced £7.99.

 

Dreadball Pelgar Mystics – A Review

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The first my Dreadball Season 2 articles I take a look at the Pelgar Mystics, the Judwan team featured in the all new Dreadball: Season 2. The Judwans are the space hippies of the Dreadball universe boycotting the usual tactic of kicking in faces and instead try to out play their opponent. Had I read the rules first I may have just opted for another team, rather flying in the face of my usual style of crump things and run through the hole they leave.

That said, never let it be said I’m not up for a challenge.

So, a new Season in the life of Dreadball, does it mean a new standard of models? Well…no. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still cool and there’s some nice detailing but Mantic seem to holding steady on their ‘3 model variants and that’s your lot’ line. Which is fine providing you know that going in.

The detail is better and sharper on the Mystics compared to the Marauder team and they do a pretty good job with the heads in terms of detail. Unfortunately mould lines run over all their heads and faces so meticulous filing is in order. But, because of the type of plastic Mantic uses they come away with minimal effort. Which is just as well really.

As a concept it’s nice to see a faction that has its roots in classic science fiction but with Mantic’s own twist.

Equally in game terms they more like the greys from X-Files than from Independence Day. The entire team is made up of Strikers so if you like a punchy gang, forget it. But they are quick – movement 5, with speed and skill rolls of 3+ and 4+ respectively. So all in all a pretty nippy bunch of buggers.

They also get Long Arms and Feint (Misdirect) which means they not only can throw the ball further than everyone else – and having a whole team that can is pretty tough to deal with – but they can pretty much dance around any bugger that tries to stop them. More over they get to turn any would be attackers in another direction which means their threat zones are pointing the other way. And that means the Judwans can run about the place with impunity. And that means scoring.

Although what’s a tad unfair, considering how massively tactically you have to play with the Judwans, is you don’t get bonus points when you score. So you can only score a maximum or 1 or 3 points, depending on the zone. It strikes me as a tad harsh considering how easily they’ll get their faces kicked in so every play will be a close run thing.

But I suppose the cocktail of speed, long throws and feints is quite potent. That said an MVP (or two) will be an essential purchase especially if you’re in a league as the Judwans simply won’t have the durability required when going up against teams more interested in the manging of faces than the scoring of strikes. In fact I’d probably try to take an MVP straight out the gate the points are available as you’re only allowed 6 players in your starting team so the team will be two players light. Which is a steep hill to climb on top of the other restrictions.

The Judwans quite clearly fall into the ‘experienced’ gamer column for Dreadball but that’s fine because they present a genuine tactical challenge that some players will find very rewarding in cracking. Against certain teams, like the Veer-mym that can match their speed they’ll have a tough match. Equally the Forge Fathers for their strength. But what it’ll be is entertaining. Which is kinda what Dreadball is all about.

The Pelgar Mystics are available from Firestorm Games priced £13.49. This time requires the Season 2 expansion book available from Firestorm Games priced £8.99.

My Day at Salute

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So yesterday was Salute 2013, a day that I spend the previous 365 days looking forward too hugely. And why? Aside from it being a massive room full of toy soldiers, games, scenery and even more toy soldiers, it’s a gathering of wargamers from across the country enjoying their hobby. It’s always great fun to see all the different people who are drawn to wargaming and what kind of games tickles their fancy.

I had a rip-roaring day. I always make a point of visiting as many companies as I can that have supported The Shell Case in one way or another. So I stopped by Amera and may or may not have impulsively preordered their new Dreadball Arena. Also spent a huge lump of wonga with Ainsty Castings on a tremendous 4×4 sci-fi installation board so you can expect a review of that soon.

I also managed to catch up with Andy from Heresy Miniatures and Jed from Antenociti’s Workshop – who I must apologise to for not popping back to see him but time ran out. Mantic got some of my pounds as I picked up Dreadball Season 2 and the Judwan team. I also picked up those Troopers from Heresy like I planned.

Two big highlights for me: A couple of highlights for me was catching up with friend of The Shell Case, and all round nice guy, Chris Wraight at the Black Library stand and we talked Horus Heresy and what was coming next. Excited doesn’t cover it.

I also got the opportunity to talk to Mike McVey about what’s next for Sedition Wars which, again, is hugely exciting and I can already see my bank balance shrinking but it’s so cool I don’t care. The shitter was that I was so engrossed that I missed out on the last limited edition Vanguard model that was on sale. But you can’t have em all.

I also got to chat with the guys from Pulp City about their impending second edition. I may have also picked up a couple of their models just because they’re way cool…

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Steel Crown Productions, the dudes behind Exodus Wars, are up to some way cool stuff and are really gaining momentum with the new ranges. By the time I caught up with one of the creators – Tom – there were a lot of empty pegs on their stand. I also came across a company called Ammon Miniatures who do some awesome stuff so make sure you look em up and check out their Indiegogo campaign.

 

An unexpected gem was what KR Multicase are up to. They’re producing wargaming tables and furniture. All I need to do now is get my man cave built in the back garden and I’ll be all set. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to speak to Dayl so I don’t have prices or anything for you but as and when I do I shall put them up.

I did spontaneously buy myself this bad boy from Forge World so it does rather look like I’ll be doing a small ally contingent of Tau to go with my Ultramarines.

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Just to be clear, as it’s allies I don’t break my ‘no new army’ rule. So there.

Obviously one of the highlights of the day was catching up with various #warmongers and sitting down with a dozen or so of them for lunch. There was much showing off of toys and the usual banter one would expect from all lads together.

It was a chuffing brilliant day with lots of good people, piles of money spent and piles of plastic, metal and resin to show for it. All I can say is roll on next yet.

Dreadball Skittersneak Stealers – A Review

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What up sports fans, it’s Phil bringing you the low down on the Skittersneak Stealers.

MGDBV11-1Okay, enough of that.

But it is time for the review of the Veer-myn team for Dreadball that I reviewed just a few short days ago. I’ve been rather taken with Dreadball and it seemed like a rather sensible progression of the first review to follow it up by looking at one of the other teams available. So I opted for the Skaven in Space aka the Veer-myn Skittersneak Stealers.

Now I have to get something out-of-the-way because it’s just daft, and typos has been a hot topic lately. On the back of the box it states it contains 8 Marauders. Well it doesn’t. It contains Veer-myn. And there was 10 of them. Now I’ve asked Mantic if the box is meant to contain 8 Veer-myn or 10, but they didn’t respond. So for now we’ll just say that the box will contain between 8 and 10 Veer-myn. Not Marauders.

But as we’re on the subject of the box, it’s actually brilliant for the simple fact that it resembles a VHS box and it’s presented like the Skittersneak Stealers‘ best bits of the season, which is just superb. It’s a simple touch but a very nice one and the box is deep enough that you can keep your fully built team in it which is immensely handy for storage and transport. For the younger readers VHS are the things that existed before Blu-rays and DVDs that used reels of tape. And you know, you young whipper snappers with your MP3s and your drugs.

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But on to the models themselves. Which are a bit of a disappointment. Not because of the detail which is fine. In fact the Guards are actually pretty cool. It’s the poses of the strikers which make up 80% of the team which are peculiar but worst of all, the striker that leans forwards, with a hand flat to the floor, doesn’t go together properly. At all. I had to bend the ankle of every one of them to fit the arms in place. Once they’re built they’re fine, and they hold together well. The reason being that all the key cut pegs and holes are actually much tidier than the human and marauder teams you get in the box set. The casting quality is also very good with hard any mould lines.

But as has been discussed many times before, the models are gaming standard. But they do the job and do the job well enough. And with a descent paint job – from what I’ve seen – they look the part. They’re let down by the larger gas masks on one of the strikers which make them look very front heavy. But you know what, Dreadball isn’t about the models it’s about the game so, frankly, fuck it.

In game terms, the Skittersneak Stealers are a slippery bunch of bastards. The fastest and most agile team going, but with all the skill of a retarded monkey. So on the one hand they’ll be running some quick plays and are more than capable of making a strike in a single Rush. However, because of the aforementioned similarity between them and dimwitted apes they’ll struggle to make a Strike at range which means playing the long game and going for 1 points scores over 3.

Trying to play it any other way and you’ll find yourself being out played despite actually being the quicker team. And because the Veer-myn don’t have Jacks to bolster defence, if the opposition get the break on you or you fumble the ball – which will be often with a Skill of 5+ – you’ll struggle to regain the initiative. That said, if some crumping and/or face manging is required the Veer-myn Guards are big, mean and make things go splat. Opponents will have to go Guard to Guard to stand any chance of resisting an aggressive Rush or to punch a hole for their own.

The Veer-myn are hugely fun. Their mix of speed, and agility but lack of skill makes them unpredictable to use and to play against. Their Guards are big, mean and make faces go squish. But basically they make for a fantastically fun game and I’m already itching to get back on the field.

The Veer-myn Skittersneak Stealers are available from Firestorm Games priced £13.49

 

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.