DreadBall Design Notes – Managing Your Actions



I want to take a step back from the detail of the dice and stats, and look today at a slightly bigger picture. You already know the overall picture of trying to win the game by scoring Strikes and you know the nitty-gritty of rolling dice, but what comes in-between?

Planning your team’s actions is the answer.


Team Action Tokens

In each Rush, a Coach gets 5 Team Action Tokens. Each token allows a single player to perform a single action from a list that depends on both the situation and the player’s role. Actions are things like Run, Throw the ball, Slam an opponent, etc – many of which use the core dice mechanic to determine their level of success.

The Coach allocates a token to a player, selects the action to attempt and then resolves it. Once that has been completely resolved, the next token is allocated, and so on. This continues until all 5 are spent, he runs out of players, or loses the ball.

Here’s where it starts to get interesting. Each player can have 0, 1 or 2 tokens played on them in each Rush. As there are a (legal) maximum of 6 players on the pitch and only 5 Team Action Tokens per Rush, this will obviously mean that you will need to prioritise your allocation, and that some players will probably not act in each Rush (depending on your level of injuries).

You do not have to pre-allocate all your tokens, so you can adapt as things go right or wrong during your turn. If you want to spend 2 tokens on a player then they do not have to be consecutive (though they could be if you wanted). You could activate player A, then player B, then player C before activating player A or B again.

In practice, a Coach will generally work out a play involving several players and then try to execute it with his tokens. Ending your play with a Strike on the 5th token is ideal because this doesn’t waste any. You only have 7 Rushes in a game, and 5 Team Action Tokens in each, so they are a very limited resource. Spend them wisely.


Free Actions

So how do you get anything done with only 35 actions in a game? The answer is that you really end up with rather more than that. The first way you get extra actions is by doubling certain other actions. By doubling picking up the ball, for example, or doubling a catch, you earn a free action with that player. The circumstance list which type(s) of free action you can take, and a free action is exactly the same as one bought with a Team Action Token (apart from the limit to type and the fact that it’s free). This free action could, in turn, generate a subsequent free action, and so on. You can chain together as many as you can get – they do not count towards your 2 (or 3 – see below) action maximum in a Rush.

Obviously, working out how to engineer these free actions for your players is all part of a Coach’s skill.


Another Trick up my Sleeve

And this one’s a card trick.

DreadBall has a deck of cards as well as dice. These are used for a number of functions, and I’ll talk about them in more detail another time. For now, let’s focus on one type of card – the most common type – Special Moves.

Special Move cards are, in effect, extra Team Action Tokens, but ones that restrict who they can be spent on and what they can do. So, whilst you might be lucky enough to have an “Any Player, Any Action” card, you could also have a “Guard, Slam” card, or a “Striker, Throw”. These latter examples allow only that specific combination of player role and action. However, they are allowed in addition to the normal 2 action limit per player from Team Action Tokens – each individual player being allowed one more action from a Special Move card for a hard maximum of 3 (paid for) actions per rush. Remember that free actions are just that: free, and do not count towards this total.

Cards can be bought with Team Action Tokens, which means that (whilst they are not all Special Moves) you can effectively save an action for a later turn if you don’t need it now. By building these Special Moves into your cunning plan for a winning play, you can sometimes surprise your opponent who can calculate what you can do in 5 actions and defend against that, but can never be sure which cards you have up your sleeve.


Stir it All Together

This flexible combination of tokens and cards gives a very different game from one where every player gets to go once each in a turn, without fail. It puts a load more tactical options in the hands of the Coaches, and helps to keep the game balanced, fast-moving and exciting.

You could, for example:

  • Spread your actions among your players so that most of them did a little bit of something – a slow and steady approach.
  • Focus your actions on a few players to send them deep into the opposing half. They’d be unsupported, but what if they could score a Strike?
  • Focus your actions on a few players to reposition them against an opposing threat, perhaps scurrying back across the board to protect a Strike Hex when you’ve been wrong-footed.
  • Use all your actions to support a star Striker, using the minimum effort to make a hole and then sending him through with the ball for a Strike.
  • Spend your actions to break the opponents, ignoring the ball and closing down or hurting their best players.
  • And so on…

As always, you never have quite enough tokens and cards to do what you really want, and have to carefully manage your resources to make the best you can with a constantly evolving situation.  You plan your move, hoping perhaps for a double to give you the extra free action that the plan needs, but it’s never guaranteed. Even the best players fluff the odd dice roll, and it’s the job of the Coach – ie you – to keep the whole team rolling forward and scoring Strikes, no matter what.

Are you up to it?


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

16 Responses to DreadBall Design Notes – Managing Your Actions

  1. Lee says:

    Man is this game going to be AWESOME!

    • Lee says:

      Love the management of the actions. You get to use all of them every rush regardless of success or failure, correct, UNLESS you lose the ball?

  2. Monkey's Blood says:

    I find this really quite fascinating as 7 turns sounds really limited… I guess thats the point as it will eliminate dithering and really promote agressive play. Can’t wait to give this a go now…

    • Quirkworthy says:

      You are pressured for time, which helps drive the speed and intensity of the game.You have to focus.

      • Monkey's Blood says:

        I’d be interested to know how the number of actions/rushes developed in playtesting. Did it start higher and you whittled it down to the optimum pressured/playable number?

        • Quirkworthy says:

          As far as I remember, there have always been 5 actions in a turn. The first board I did had 20 rushes on it because I didn’t know how many would feel right. I did, however, know that it wouldn’t be more than that.

          After one game I crossed off the top 6 and it’s been 14 ever since. I’ll be doing a post about the development of the board at some stage.

  3. Minitrol says:

    SO… I think I read you can buy a card as an action? Can all types you buy be used the turn you buy them or is it a buy to activate in a following turn?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      You can spend a Team Action Token to buy a card, but you buy this blind and don’t know what you’ll get. There is a limit to the number you can buy in each Rush, and this limit can be raised during league play. However, there are few limits to when you play the card. You can buy and play a Special Move card in the same turn if you want. That said, the only reason I can think of for doing so is spending the TAT to buy a card hoping for an Event card, and if you didn’t get one them using the Special Move (assuming you got one of those). Other than that, a Team Action Token is more flexible than most Special Move cards, so why not just use that in the first place?

  4. Kiwamu (from Kickstarter) says:

    How does this fare with a team that does not have the position that card requires. I guess that’s why you made the MVP?

    Also this adds again to the wonderful coach dice, Generating Free Actions much more reliably when needed, which in turn gives a bit more control over your dreadful plan!

    • Quirkworthy says:

      If you don’t have that type of player, then you can’t use that card. However, you are stopping your opponent from getting it 😉

      • Kiwamu (from Kickstarter) says:

        Ah, I see. However now I begin to see, what seems at first glance simple adds up and connects. You turned me from “Well this might be interesting” to “That’s definetly a game I might end up playing in a tournament”.

        The tournament thing arose, because the players don’t have 4654354234523 options that other games come with. You just put on your models of 1 to 3 positions and have a blast ^-^o!

        Again. It’s truly amazing how easy this game might be at first glance, but how these easy things add up.

  5. Talarius says:

    Is there a limit to the number of times a particular Action can be performed per each Rush? If so, it sounds like the cards would supersede that limit. Example: if teams are only allowed a single Throw action per Rush, a Special Move card could allow a 2nd throw.
    Follow-up: what are the Actions available to the players? I’m wondering about Hand-offs and any illegal maneuvers?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Generally actions can be performed as many times as you like. A couple have specific limits, but these are rare. On the whole your restrictions are situational (can’t Throw a ball you don’t have) and tactical – ie, self-imposed.

      Who can do what and a full list of actions is really an article, so I’ll come back to that.

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