DreadBall Design Notes – Stats & Player Roles

Damn my intricate design!

I’ve come back to add this to the start so please excuse the dishevelled look. Explaining one thing without mentioning another is really fiddly because things are all rather interlinked. Or perhaps I’ve just been sitting on this for so long, not talking about it, and now I can I’m like a kid in a sweet shop – I don’t know where to begin.

Well I have to begin somewhere, and stats seemed like the place. Then, when I’d written the bit explaining those rules I really wanted to talk about them, but it didn’t make any sense without roles, so I added that bit too. As ever, I’m trying to explain some of the why as well as the what because I think that makes the whole thing easier to understand.

Bear with me, this won’t be short.



Every game needs some game values, or stats, to define the pieces. DreadBall only uses a few stats, mainly because I wanted to keep things simple enough to memorise. I much prefer games where you can focus on the game itself and not on looking things up.

One of the other things that makes DB’s stats easy to remember is the fact that they are race specific. Each race has its own values, and they are the same for every member of that race*. This means that when you start out playing one-off games, all the model in your team have the same stat line, which makes things easy to remember.

So what stats do we have? Well to start with there is Move. This is how fast you scoot about the board. Move is defined as a simple number (4 or 5, for example). All the models in the DreadBall box have a Move of 5 (Trontek 29ers and Greenmoon Smackers). The two teams that are listed in the rules, but which are not included as models (Midguard Delvers and Skittersneak Stealers), have a Move stat of 4 and 6 respectively.

The other 3 core Stats are Strength, Speed and Skill. Nothing like alliteration to give a game designer a warm, fuzzy glow. These 3 stats are each defined as X+, so 3+, 4+, 5+, for example. This tells you exactly what you need to do to succeed, ie roll 3+, 4+ or 5+. These values are never modified in game*, which also helps make them easy to recall.

Strength is primarily used for hitting people.

Speed is used for Dodging attacks and Evading round people.

Skill is for Throwing, Catching or picking up the ball.

And we’re done.

Well, we are for “real” stats. The other values on the team roster are Armour (which is related to the role a player has rather than his race), Starting Team (how many of that player type you get in a starting team), Cost (how much another one of those players costs to hire in a league) and Notes (empty in a starting roster except for a single word in one player type).

“OK”, you say, “I can see it’s simple, but how can that be fun? Isn’t it boring and simplistic when every player is the same?”

Funny you should mention that. No, it’s not simplistic at all.

In common with many of my designs, what I’ve gone for is a few simple rules that interact in complex ways. Although each rule is easily memorable, they are layered in such a way as to give considerable variety and texture in play. I’ll explain what I mean in a minute, but first I need to tell you about Player Roles.


Player Roles

Every Player is trained in one of 3 roles: Guard, Jack or Striker.

The role defines a number of things and is central to the way the game works. A Player can never change their role.

Roles define what type of armour a Player has. All Strikers of any race wear Striker armour, all Guards wear Guard armour, etc.

Roles also define which Actions a player may take and whether they get a bonus for doing so.

Guards hit people and cannot pick up the ball.

Jacks do a bit of everything, but not as well as either of the specialists.

Strikers do the clever stuff with the ball and cannot hit people.

As you can see, the roles are archetypes of the big thumpy guy, the nimble agile one, with Jacks in the middle as the Jack of All Trades – able to turn their hand to anything (which is surprisingly useful). The layered rules approach allows me to again have very easily understandable rules (roles) when they need to be explained, but for them to be far more subtle in their variations when all the other factors are considered.


Put it Together and Stir

So each part of the stats and roles is simple enough. Added together you get something more interesting. A Veer-myn Striker, for example, wears the same armour as a human Striker and gets the same bonuses to rolls. However, he starts all his rolls from a different place because his stats are 4+, 3+, 5+ instead of 4+, 4+, 4+. This makes him distinctly better at ducking and weaving in and out of opposing players, and better at getting out of the way of attacks, but worse at actually making the Strike when he gets there. Couple this with the fact that Veer-myn teams are largely made up of Strikers (and humans only get 3 in a starting team) and this is what starts to give them their character. Veer-myn are great at making opportunities, but average to poor at adding the finishing touches. As was mentioned at the initial DreadBall playtest day, and many times since, Veer-myn teams are not for Coaches with nervous dispositions or delicate heart conditions.

In practice, because each of these rigid and simple rules is layered across the grain of the other, and because of the way the dice rolling works**, these minor differences are enough to have big impacts on the pitch and give character to the different players. Strikers may all share the same armour and bonuses, but each race of Striker is different. Same goes for Guards and Jacks.


*  In a league a player can get a single point bonus to a stat and so may end up with different values.

** Yeah, yeah, I’m getting to it…

This entry was posted in DreadBall - The Futuristic Sports Game, Game Design Theory. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to DreadBall Design Notes – Stats & Player Roles

  1. thedauntless says:

    Am really looking forward to this project! Great to see another stand alone(ish) game to rival a very similarly-based sports-based miniatures game that has largely gone unsupported precisely BECAUSE it is a stand-alone model that doesn’t generate the same revenue their main lines produce over time. This is a venture I am happy to kickstart and look forward to getting to grips with before Christmas! I have some concerns about the rules being a tad universal between the stats – but I could easily see the value of the player improving through leage play, and most importantly for someone like me – being direct enough to bring beginners into and encouraging new players altogether. Well done, mate – and with the rate of success seen in the backing already, I honestly don’t know what stretch goals you could do when it tops 100,000 (ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND! ONE. HUNDRED. THOUSAND!) in the next ten minutes or so! Good luck to you!

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Hey dauntless, glad to hear you’re up for this.

      Couple of things I’d like to pick up on. First DreadBall is entirely stand alone rather than stand alone (ish). You just need the box to play the game. In common with many other games there will be ways to expand outside this, but the basic box contains board, rules, dice, cards, counters, and two more than complete starter teams of models.

      Secondly, your concerns about “universal” rules – I’ll be doing more posts to explain how they interact from the viewpoint of dice rolls and number crunching, and to explain how they generate very different players for the different teams.


  2. Monkey's Blood says:

    The more I read about dreadball the keener I get. The miniatures and the pitch look sweet and the rules are sounding very nice, clean and compact – I really do hate games that take multiple reads of the rulebooks and multiple plays before you even start to get a grounding in them. My one concern at the moment though is that 4 teams isn’t enough. How long will it be before we have more options on that front? And do you have any opinions on what is the idea number of teams? Bloodbowl, I feel has too many – reckon about 10-12 would be ideal, but I’m not basing that on anything scientific, just a gut feeling

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Is 4 teams enough? That depends on how much you play. I think it is about right for casual players. I’ve gone with archetypes to start with, so people who play it a few times have simple and easily recognisable themes to play with. If it’s the success we all want it to be then I’ve got more (and odder) teams in playtest, waiting on the benches now 🙂

      How many is enough? Well that’s a hard one. About 10-12 does sound like a good number, though I’m also working on a variant that would make counting how many teams there are tricker as what a “team” is may change. Or. if not change, then be more than one thing. This is probably confusing but the rules aren’t finalised yet and I’m not really supposed to be discussing them anyway, so…

  3. Monkey's Blood says:

    You tease 🙂

    I agree that 4 teams is great for casual play, it’s leagues and tournaments where there will need to be more. Personally I like the fact that you are using the distinct archetypes (fast, tough, hitty, all-rounder as far as I can tell) as that means if I fancy a bit of variety on a visual level I could convert a team to fit one of those characteristics quite easily and just say it counts as forgefathers, veer-myn or what have you. But the main thing is that there are other teams (of some sort) in the works – that’s very reassuring.

  4. Pingback: DreadBall Design Notes – Dice |

  5. Sharad says:

    Hi Jake, I’m truly impressed with the game as I’ve seen it so far. I like the fact that simple rules make for fast and furious play! Can’t wait to get copies for the store and the club! Great job (from what I’ve seen) and look forward to seeing how DB progresses! 🙂

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