Xtreme Team-Building Part 2

Having talked about the background of the game yesterday, it’s time to look a bit closer at the details we need to consider when replicating it on the board. The changes between DB and DBX in terms of play style as well as the differences in background throw up a number of issues that we need to address. These include:

1) The greatly decreased life expectancy and poor medical facilities in DBX makes using individual players as the basis for increasing a team’s overall experience impractical. A different approach is essential.

2) I want people to be able to pick up and play DBX as easily as DB. This means that team-building cannot be mandatory.

3) Hiring players for a team should not just be about money. A system that only uses money is too open to exploitation and the randomness of a single lucky win or unlucky loss. It doesn’t adequately allow for rewarding veteran Sponsors (people who have worked their way up the ladder over time). There needs to be an additional means to allow for longer term improvement.

4) Every Sponsor should be able to hire almost every player. At least in theory. A tiny minority (c5-10%) may refuse to work for someone under any circumstances, but the guiding principle should be that the team is up to the Sponsor to pick. All these options do not have to be available at the start, but they must be achievable in a league.

5) However, even with (4) being the case, the system cannot be so open that the forums decide on a single “best” team and gamers only play that. Different Sponsors should arrive at different teams based on their relationships with players (and the gamer’s preferred style of play). Which brings me to…

6) There needs to be a way to show the trust (or otherwise) that a player has in a Sponsor and this should make it easier or harder for a given Sponsor to hire an individual player.

7) Finally, Sponsors must be encouraged to field good teams rather than just fulfilling the minimum requirements (and there must be minimum requirements).


I resolve these issues as follows:

1) Focus on the Sponsor instead of the players. The Sponsor is a permanent feature and will not die. Increasing his overall game value increases his team regardless of the changes in individual players within it.

2) Every Sponsor/team combo in DBX comes with a recommended 100mc version that you can pick-up-and-play in the same way as the Trontek 29ers from the first DB book. You can use this for a one-off game or as the basis for a league, or ignore it completely and tailor your team to your own tastes. This gives a wider set of options for the gamer. However, because they all use the same basis to build a team you won’t be seriously disadvantaged if you choose to take the easy route.

3) Obviously players have a cost. However, you may also need to do a favour for them before they will play for you. Limiting the ability to do favours at the start of a league gives a Sponsor an ideal measure for showing his increase in power and influence alongside his increase in wealth.

4-6) By linking each Sponsor and each player to one or more Groups, and then having players charge less to the Sponsors they know (share Groups with) you can easily give each Sponsor the ability to access a wide variety of players without making all of them easy (or cheap) to afford. This also makes a given player a different option for each Sponsor, and this balance helps make Sponsors different.

7) Each team has minimum requirements in both numbers and cost (on mc). This ensures that every game is worthwhile. This also means that a Sponsor’s earnings for a match need to at least cover these minimums.


Having looked at the challenges and the some ways round them, tomorrow I’ll put it all together in a more traditional rules approach.

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Xtreme Team-Building Part 1

To start with, let’s talk a bit about the Xtreme background. This is what the rules reflect, so it’s worth understanding. So, how does hiring players work? What motivates Sponsors?



For players it’s all about trust. Trust and money.

In the illegal world of the DBX game you have to be careful who you talk to and who you believe. After all, there really are police and DGB spies lurking in the shadows, and both Sponsors and players have been busted before now. Many times. While the Sponsors may have enough power, influence and cash to buy their way out of trouble, most players don’t. A decade or two rotting in the slammer is not a happy prospect. A player’s best defence is not getting caught in the first place. Hence the trust.

Players want to play for people who will come through as promised. There will be a payday at the end of the match (assuming you survive), and if you don’t then you will get rezzed or your family/mates/local dog shelter will get the cash in your place. You need to believe that you aren’t taking all this risk for nothing.

Players trust the people they know best, and if they don’t know you then they’re going to need convincing. For some this is as simple as giving them more cash. For some, money talks. For others, this means proving yourself. If you claim to be legitimately corrupt, then show me. Do something that no DGB narc would do. Make me believe you are who you say.

Cash is simple. Every player needs to be well rewarded for taking his life in his hands, which is exactly what he does every time he steps out into the arena. The better the player the higher the price, just like anything else. The best players can command very large payments per match, as you’d expect. After all, even the best players don’t last long. At the other end of the scale, the more desperate players will take bigger risks playing for less money and for people they don’t really know. These are the folk who get arrested most often. Luckily there’s always another hopeful looking for a way to make some quick cash.



Scientist smlSponsors need the trust too, but really it’s about the money. In order to be a Sponsor you have to be powerful and wealthy already. This means that they have an infrastructure of henchmen and flunkies who will make troublesome people disappear into the recycling vats without any questions asked. Filtering out the spies and informers is all part of business as usual rather than a specifically DBX thing.

For a Sponsor, the main issue is money. There is a great deal of money to be made by putting a team onto the arena and sharing in the profits of the game being run. Then there’s all the betting scams and other more dubious financial dealings to arrange. A typical Sponsor will have their fingers in many pies.

A Sponsor wants to hire players that will make them look good. They have a reputation to maintain as well as cash to earn, and without the former the latter is much harder to do. On the one hand you might think that they’d want the cheapest players they could find, and sometimes they do use this ploy to save cash for later matches. More often, a Sponsor will buy the best team he can afford for a match. Winning is always better than losing and his standing among the shadowy folk who organise these Xtreme matches is only as good as his last match or two. Did he put on a good show that brought in the crowds? If he did then everyone else made money too, and that’s good. If he put a rubbish team out that got flattened in a couple of rushes then who’s going to want to see his next match? Nobody. And that means no money on the door, no percentage on the betting and so on.

All this makes Sponsors quite careful about who they hire. They don’t just pick the first person who comes along and says he can play. Not at all. He’ll have to prove himself in real or training matches. Maybe the Sponsor (or one of his flunkies) will watch the player in action in another Sponsor’s team; perhaps they’ll put them through their paces themselves. After all, there will be several teams’ worth of likely candidates that all need testing out. Pitting them against each other weeds out the unworthy pretty quickly, and also lets the Sponsor see who plays well in what role and which players gel together as something like a real team. Meanwhile, a Sponsor will be getting background checks done just in case. Trust isn’t the main issue, but they’d be foolish not to ask a few questions…

Posted in DreadBall - The Futuristic Sports Game | 5 Comments

Not Long Now…

extreme-logo-preliminary-3-isolatedWow, that went fast! There’s only three and a bit days left on the Dreadball Xtreme Kickstarter, so if you were trying to decide whether to jump in or not you need to think fast!

I’ve been busy writing Mars Attacks expansions and so I haven’t been keeping up with all the DBX developments. However, I’m hoping to get a final Beta version done that incorporates the last of the questions on the FAQ. I also wanted to talk a bit more about the team building and sponsors. I did write something for the Mantic blog, but that was only brief. If you read that then you should know the basic bones of the process, however I do like to talk about the whys as well, as regular readers will know ;)

Are there any other aspects of the game that people are wondering about before they decide?

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Nexus Psi

The KS backers got the digital download of this campaign supplement today. I’m putting this here in case anyone has any comments.

Posted in Deadzone | 23 Comments

Martians Everywhere

MA saucer invasion

If you were wondering where I’d got to the last few days, have no fear. The invasion has been contained. While you were getting all frenzied over on Kickstarter with DreadBall Xtreme, I was ducking and dodging among the ruins of Greenville, fighting off the Martian hordes.

Saturday saw us playtesting the second and third books for Mars Attacks, and the days before that were full of preparations: stat balancing and scenario checking and so on. Now I’m tidying up all the wreckage from the battles so it can sit neatly in the books and boxes of the range for when you guys start seeing saucers on the horizon. And what a lot of saucers! One of the scenarios has 4 of them, which is a bit scary. Not as bad as the 3 stompy robots that I keep trying to sneak into the last battle, but worrying enough.

Robot throwing carThanks are due to the brave folks who made it to the saturday games. Always good to hear new viewpoints. Given that almost none of the proper models are available yet I didn’t bother taking pictures. Mind you, the very large Cthulhu standing in for one of the robots was fun. I wonder if there’s room for a new faction…


Posted in Mars Attacks! | 23 Comments

DreadBall Xtreme On Meeples & Miniatures

Episode 121 is all about DBX, apart from a bit at the end on Kickstarters in general. You can find it here.

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DBX Details: What Do Sponsors Do In Game?

Sponsors organise the games of DreadBall Xtreme, and put together the teams that play in them. But what do they do once the game has started? Well, it’s not all champagne and caviar.

If you read the beta rules you’ll see that Sponsors continue to scheme throughout a game, doing whatever they can to gain an edge, both on the field and in a league. Each Rush you get to pick one dastardly scheme. The options they have are:

  1. Intimidate: gives you an extra Coaching Dice for this Rush (use it or lose it).
  2. Nobble: threatens or blackmails an opposing player in to performing badly in their next Rush. They get -1 to all their tests (except armour).
  3. Bet: puts on a side bet that you will win. If you do then you get more cash at the end.

Each of these is useful in a different circumstance, and different gamers I’ve watched prefer different options.

Bet is only worth doing in a league match. Money doesn’t matter in one-off games and so this is irrelevant. When you are in a league match Bet adds a longer term choice to other options which are both very much immediate game effects.

Nobble is most useful if the other side has a single important player. Perhaps they have the ball at that moment, or look like they might be making a run to strike. Maybe it’s their only remaining Striker or Guard. Whatever the target, this is most obviously useful if the opposing team has a clear choice of player for a task. Mind you, if they have two to pick from then you could use this on one and then Slam the other out of the running.

Gaining an extra Coaching Dice with Intimidate is always useful, and becomes the default for many players as it’s so easy to use. Don’t forget it only lasts for this Rush though!


A Bigger Picture

These options are not only different in detail, but focus on different styles of play. The first boosts your own team, the second hinders your opponent, and the last looks at the bigger picture.


On The Board

The main use of the Sponsor model is to show which of these schemes is in operation at any one time. The hexes in the Subs’ Benches each identify one or other of these choices. When you pick one you place the Sponsor model in the appropriate position. This means that you can tell at a glance what’s going on.


Future Sponsors

These options are the basic ones. One of the things I’d like to do with future Sponsors is to look at these schemes and see what else we can come up with. The three “big picture” categories will remain as I think they’re a good framework, but there’s more than one way of helping your own side or hindering the opponent. These will be listed as Sponsor abilities and are another way to define the unique character and style of the many different Sponsors.

I have a couple of pages in a notebook dedicated to wacky Sponsor ideas, but I’m sure I’ve missed some good ones. What do you think would be fun for them to do?

Posted in DreadBall - The Futuristic Sports Game | 16 Comments