DreadBall Design Notes – Any Requests?

DreadBall, like most games, involved a large number of people in its production. I’m happy to say that many of them are now floating round the net answering questions and explaining how things work, and while I am the designer I am not the only person who can deal with detailed queries. I had two playtest leads, and loads of playtesters, among others, and many are very active posters. Hopefully this means that you’ll be able to find answers to your questions here or elsewhere, but just in case you can’t I wanted to explicitly ask what you’d like to know more about. Some people are shy about speaking up, and I’d much rather they just asked. So…

I’ll do an FAQ to cover any gameplay issues once the game comes out. What I’m asking here is for topics you’d like to see me discuss in these Design Notes articles. I’ve got several planned already: scoring system, winning the game, board development and leagues, for example. There may be more I’ve missed.

What I’d like to hear is any areas of the rules that you’re curious about. Do you want to know how something works? Are you more interested in why things work this way?

Ask away.

And feel free to post this link and this question wherever you like. Whilst my flying monkeys patrol the skies over most of the net we can’t be everywhere at once. I always check this site daily, so if you ask here you can rely on getting an answer.

Looking forward to filling in the gaps in your DreadBall knowledge πŸ™‚


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

45 Responses to DreadBall Design Notes – Any Requests?

  1. Kiwamu (from Kickstarter) says:

    How does the team set-up work? Can we mix and match to our hearts delight (given the 2x initial position restriction), or does every position come with a point attatched. How much MVPs are you allowed to recruit?

    I’m also curious how you can cheat, if there is an all-floating eye as a second ref, next to the refbot!

    • Quirkworthy says:

      In every game that has team or army selection there is a tendency towards “standard” set ups. People debate the pros and cons and after this debate you see the same armies again and again. This is especially true of tournaments where people are trying to finesse things.

      As all this tinkering takes ages, and greatly disadvantages those who just picked the game up and don’t know, I decided that DreadBall should go a different route.

      In DreadBall the starting teams are set, and each has been balanced in dozens and dozens of matches against the others. This means that anyone can pick up the game and have a strong team to play. Of course, they need to learn the rules and tactics to get the best out of it, but at least they’re not stuck with a lemon because they didn’t know any better.

      Once players have a handle on what the tactics and rules are then there are simple rules for picking what you want, if you decide to. Personally I would just stick to the starting teams as they are given, but it doesn’t hurt to have the option.

      Of course, once you’re into a league then teams will grow and change naturally, which is a big part of the fun.

      To actually answer your question rather than just rambling: each player has a cost, though it doesn’t matter in casual one-off games – it’s really for leagues. MVPs are usually only used in leagues, though again there are rules for incorporating them in one-offs if you want to. They are bought in auctions, which is an exciting part of managing your money in a league. Do you bid high for an MVP for the next match, or are you bidding up the cost just to make your opponent bleed cash? Do you want them if you win? This matters because you still have to pay even if you can’t use them. Maybe denying them to the opposing team is worth it.

      Fouls are always a risk because of the ref and the “eye”, and more so if both can potentially see you. When you commit a foul, the other Coach has to call it, and if he does then you roll to see if the ref and the “eye” see it too. If they do then someone gets sent off; if their attention was elsewhere then you got away with it. This time.

      • Lex says:

        So, here I am again, begging. πŸ™‚

        In 11 day’s time, you can bet I’ll take that good ol’Chessex mat of mine, and try out the rules for a spin. But what really makes me curious is the whole team management thing… buying players, team composition, skill evolution choices, etc. If you could find it in your black, black, coal-ish heart to spit out some wisdom on this in a future update, I would be eternally grateful.

        (Until the moment where we would face off on any kind of boardgame context, really. then you’d just be someone to trash talk. Obviously)

  2. Nick P says:

    It’s seems that one of the tactics available is to “eliminate” players by hitting them: the good old fashioned “stab ‘n’ score”. Nice. In the event that I manage to eliminate all of your jacks and strikers is there any game mechanic which would allow your remaining guards to pick-up the ball (in that exceptional circumstance)? If I manage to eliminate all of your jacks and strikers, you can’t score. And I’ll have X turns (between 34-1) to score (however bad I am at it). On teams with high numbers of Guards (Delvers/Orxs?) that seems it could be open to abuse. Or is “eliminate” simply knock-down (for a rush)/knock-out (for d3 rushes)/”injure” (-1 skill points)/etc.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      At the start I was a little concerned about this as a concept, but it just doesn’t seem to happen in reality. Originally Ronnie wanted everyone to be able to try their hand at everything too, but it muddies the waters. As it stands Guards, Strikers and Jacks all have special things only they can do, and the clarity and simplicity of this works very well. I tried fitting various sorts of escape valves in so that a team without any scoring players could do something, but it never happened, and nobody chose to use them anyway, so they were just cluttering the rules up. Feedback from playtesting was that they never got used. So I took them all out again πŸ™‚

      As it stands, whilst it is technically possibly to get into a position where you cannot score, I’ve never seen it happen. I think there are a number of reasons for this. Primarily it is related to the knife edge on which the game is balanced. If one side ignores the ball and just goes for all out violence then they will probably lose the game before they can remove all the opposition. Scoring Strikes is no harder for a Striker than Slams are for a Guard, and they may be easier (depending on the team). As you can potentially win the game with 2 Strikes (ie in 2 Rushes) if the opponent does nothing to rebalance the scores, there is a big disincentive to ignoring the ball. If this was Blood Bowl you could just grab the ball and hide it in a box of well armoured players while you battered the opposition, but that doesn’t work in DreadBall. The balance of player numbers to pitch size, and the fact that scoring zones are spaced out (and therefore harder to defend) makes attacking easier than defending, which in turn drives the aggressive style of play.

      So no, a Guard cannot score a Strike and a Striker cannot make a Slam. If you lose all your scoring players then you’re in trouble. However, another feature of the rules comes in here: the landslide victory. If you are every 7 points in the lead you win instantly, regardless of the number of Rushes that has been played. This is designed to cut short those dull and one-sided matches where all one player is doing is serving as a punching bag for his opponent. They are no fun for anyone, so why allow them?

  3. Ben Garbutt says:

    How do you score a strike and what are the stat differences like between the four teams?

  4. Tzoscey says:

    hi, jake,
    i would like to know how Mantic plans to contribute/cooperate with home/shop leagues…
    i mean about ‘850 pledge’ LARGE LEAGUE POSTER + PROMOTIONS PACKS options, will they be available later? which requeriments with?
    i’m a Bloodbowl player and i like the tourney scene it has. all made by fans for fans, do you plan to support it if DreadBall has a similar scene ?

    I know DB uses normal D6 die, i suggest to make some characteristic D6 dice , characterist strike symbol instead of “6” if u have such a symbol. Maybe a diferent color every year xD for leagues or tourneys

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Mantic are as keen about DreadBall as I am and see it as a long term game rather than as a flash in the pan. I’m sure they will be happy to provide support for stores and events. Exactly what that support might be, I have no idea, but I’m sure there will be some.

      If you guys start running tourneys and events for DreadBall you won’t be left out in the cold.

      The latest updates for the KickStarter have T-shirts and special dice, so we’re on the same wavelength here. The idea of a special dice for tourneys, etc is a good one we can talk about further once the game is out.

  5. I would like to read (or watch a video of) a detailed sample turn description, to get a sense of how it all comes together.
    Not too long, but maybe a few moves, a pass, a hit or two, and a strike, to just see how it works.

    Thanks for the great blog posts!

  6. moocifer says:

    Is the game IGO-UGO ?? If you don’t score a Strike at the end of a Rush what happens next to the ball ??

  7. Jon C says:

    I would like to know how defensive positioning affects play.
    I know that defending against a rush is in the setup… but how does this affect the strikers/jacks trying to score?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Defending is done by physically standing in the way, by each model exerting 3 Threat Hexes to their front which hinder opposing players’ movement, and by using Running Interference plays (rare, but potent) to Slam people in their own Rushes.

      Also, in order to Throw a Strike you must have a clear line to the target, and a player from either side who is in the way will block this.

  8. Francis D says:

    I’d love to know what happens when a player fails his armor check. Is it like that other game that shall not be named, where you roll dices to know if your player has only been downed or if he was just cut in half?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      When a player Slams another, the target gets to choose to Slamback or Dodge. if the Slam is from behind the target then they can only Dodge. In either case, the roll is opposed, so instead of a set target number you have to beat the other player’s number of successes.

      If a Slamming player wins, then the amount they beat the opposition’s number of successes by is the amount of potential damage they inflict. Let’s say my Orx Guard rolls well, rolls a couple of dice up and ends up with 6 successes. Your Forge Father Jack is out of luck and rolls badly, getting only 2. This means that I win by 4 (6-2). As I have doubled your score you are pushed back and down and have to check your armour.

      Armour checks are 3 dice Armour value (X) tests, where the opposed bit is the difference in success from the previous step. In our case, 4. So you roll your dice against your 4+ Jack armour. The amount of injury you suffer is the amount of damage your armour does not protect you from (logically enough). So, if you make 2 successes with your armour check you will be injured for 2 turns (4-2). The sin bin marked on the board is used to hold both injured and sent off players, and in this case you would go into the 2 section. As the sin bin only has 3 areas, if you are injured for 4 or more then you are dead. Oh dear.

  9. Bastian says:

    I would like to know more about how player advancement works.
    Do you just roll the dice when the time comes and hope for the best or do you have some degree of control over it?

  10. Khail says:

    2nd on Player Advancement. I’d love to know more about the league system and how players/teams develop over the course of a (or multiple) season/s. Is there a balancing system that handles a developed team taking on a team of scrubs? Can a team be played perpetually (over dozens to hundreds of games) without the system breaking down?

    Really like what I’ve seen so far, keep up the good work and keep the answers flowing!

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I’ll cover the league system in more depth in an article, but the league system has worked very well in playtesting. There is also a section on playing developed teams against new ones, and rules for playing developed league teams against vanilla ones outside the league context.

  11. Quirkworthy says:

    Ooo… loads of good questions here. Some I’ll add to my list of articles to do, and others I’ll answer directly. Just got to finish off some more new MVP stuff then I’ll get on with it πŸ˜‰

    Keep ’em coming!

  12. moocifer (also from Nottingham) says:

    Just realised whilst browsing I have no idea what the goal/target/net/hole looks like that a Striker aims for .. Should this/these perhaps be a Kickstarter Stretch Goal to add to the tabletop ??

  13. Bioptic says:

    One thing that interests me – how well do you think the rules would adapt to non-standard board designs? Obviously anything approaching serious league play should use the normal layout, but would having different dimensions/strike zones layouts/walls on the pitch completely destroy the careful balancing you’ve created? Or are the rules fairly flexible in that regard?

    Would also love to hear how much of role cheating plays – having a ref on the pitch is quite a novel idea, and presumably gives lots of sly opportunities for putting the boot in when they’re not looking!

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Variant pitches is one of the things I want to include in Ultimate DreadBall. See https://quirkworthy.com/2012/09/09/ultimate-dreadball/

      How much fouling you do has turned out to be partly related to the team being played, but mostly to do with how much the individual gamer is willing to take risks. Fouling risks getting players sent off, so some people never do it and others weigh each opportunity carefully and then do it anyway cos it’s fun and in character πŸ™‚

  14. Tzoscey says:

    how do u score? i read somewhere score zone are holograms and i freak out xD
    is a keeper figure going to be done? or it is a regular guard figure?

    will xperimented striker be able to block as keeper can touch the ball?

    how do players fault?

  15. Calipso says:

    Can a player play in other race team how free agent or similar?

  16. Mr Evil says:

    Are you more a Tea or a Coffee man ? is the most import question along with biscuit dunking tactics..

    also will we see teams of big guys !!! or maybe mixed race teams ?? or how about a street version that the population play out of the techno domes,, maybe less armour but more dangerous unless a friendly game !!

    also as the ball is round, can we kick the ball, and does it roll around a bit ?

    Where did i leave my phone !!!

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I’m afraid you aren’t cleared for biscuit dunking information. You need at least Amber clearance.

      Answers to most of the rest of your questions are in the posts I’ve done on Season 2, Ultimate DreadBall and DreadBall Xtreme (due tomorrow).

      The ball does indeed roll or scatter about a bit.

  17. Tzoscey says:

    yes i mean foul πŸ˜›

  18. Tequila says:

    I’m interested in player advancement as well. How do players rack up XP points, how skills are purchased, can you get improvements to MA, ST etc like in Blood Bowl. Is there an inducement system for league play when a more advanced team is up against a lesser team. Is this counted based on some sort of team value (as in BB)? Overall, I would very much like to see a blog post / update regarding how league play will work in DreadBall.and how (if) it differs from BB Living Rulebook league rules for instance. Keep up the good work, very interested in this.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I’ll cover this in the coming week ion more depth, but for now, yes players can get extra abilities and stats, there are rules for playing inexperienced teams against veterans, and so on.

  19. Khail says:

    Another topic I’d really like to read more about is Defensive Strategy in DreadBall. Does such a thing exist in any effective form, or does the game more or less come down to who screws up their strike attempts least (and which strike zone they go for)?

    I would categorize myself as a very defense oriented player in The Other Game – nothing makes me happier than ruining someone’s offense and scoring defensively. Untying the knot, so to speak. What I’ve read about DreadBall seems to indicate that the game will play more like Basketball than more defense oriented sports though, and I’m not sure it’ll scratch that “puzzle solving” itch I have. Maybe it will though, just in a way I’m not anticipating. Anything you can share on this subject would be great Jake!

    • moocifer ( also in Nottingham ) says:

      “or does the game more or less come down to who screws up their strike attempts least ” .. I have had similar fears.

      • Quirkworthy says:


        Pretty much every game is the same when looked at form a high enough vantage point. It is played in a series of moves in which you attempt to maximise your position by exploiting the weakest parts of the enemy position. A “position” ranges from perfect to utterly ineffective, with most falling somewhere along that spectrum rather than at the ends. A “screw up” is therefore a move that moves your overall position away from perfect.

        As a position is rarely perfect, you are effectively exploiting your enemy’s screw ups all the time in almost every game.

        I don’t see why DreadBall should be any different.

        Also, remember Napoleon who said “never interrupt your enemy when they are making a mistake” with all that implies.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      DreadBall is an aggressive game, but that doesn’t mean that you must always be moving forwards. There is more than one way to be aggressive. Defensive play is harder because taking the ball off a player is relatively easy in most cases. The pitch is small compared to movement rates, the number of players is low and they generally get spaced out, there are no resets to adopt standard defensive “boxes”, and so on. I think this is all good as it means that you need to think of new ways to adapt your solution to the puzzle each turn rather than simply porting existing strategies from old games πŸ™‚

      I would describe myself in general as a cautious player, often a defensive one. However, I will strike hard and fast if I see an exposed jugular. Those tactics work fine in DB.

      I think perhaps that the puzzle solving aspect may have moved to a slightly different part of the game rather than left. The way in which you resolve the equation of available actions to number of players and the things you want to do is indeed a puzzle, and one that shifts constantly.

      There aren’t as many opportunities for doing things like a typical Dwarf box in Blood Bowl, where you build it, stick the ball carrier in the middle and then spend 4 turns or longer stumping down the field, never needing to revise your plan or re-solve the puzzle. In DreadBall you have to continually adapt, and even though your plan will probably survive in parts (and probably be similar or the same in the one line executive summary), it will need frequent modification in detail.

      See also my reply to moocifer, above.

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