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.
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…