DreadBall Design Notes – How Do You Score?

A couple of people have asked about this, so I’ll take it from the top. Firstly, how it looks in the “real” game that I have in my head, then in the board game.


Scoring Strikes in the Real Game

In DreadBall, a scoring Throw is called a Strike. This term lends its name to several other game terms, notably the type of player who scores the most: a Striker.

A real DreadBall pitch is divided into hexagons, several of which are grouped together in coloured areas to form a total of 6 Strike Zones, 3 on each side of the pitch. Within each Strike Zone is a Strike Hex (at one end) and a Bonus Hex (at the other). In the Strike Hex is the Strike Target.

Only Jacks and Strikers can score Strikes. Guards (and Keepers) may not.

In order to score, a player must be standing inside a Strike Zone and Throw the ball to hit a Strike Target in the Strike Hex that belongs to that same Strike Zone. You might want to re-read that last sentence slowly. Note that the ball must be Thrown, and that carrying the ball onto the Strike Hex does nothing.

Visually, the Strike Target is a small circle at about head height for an average human. The target is less than twice the width of the ball, and so is very hard to hit. When playing Street DreadBall with your mates, this target might be as simple as a bucket on a stick. In most professional arenas the Strike Target will be a holographic image, projected above the Strike Hex only when a player enters the Strike Zone carrying the ball (and so becomes legally able to score). The trajectory of the ball is constantly tracked and a Throw’s success or failure is calculated by computer.

The moment a Strike is made the ball is removed from play and a new ball is launched across the centreline. This removal is either by the mediporter (normally used to remove injured or dead players) or by using the inbuilt anti-grav system to make the ball go straight up.

The actual number of points awarded depends on which Strike Target the ball hits, and where it is Thrown from. Each side may score in any of the 3 Strike Zones in the opposing team’s half of the pitch. The closer two are worth 1 point per Strike; the farther one is worth 3. If you score a Strike when you are standing in the Bonus Hex (which is further away and therefore a harder Throw) you get an extra point, so the Strikes are worth either 2 or 4 points.


Scoring Strikes in the Board Game

This works exactly the same way as in the real game, with the board being a faithful representation of the moderately high-tech professional arena.

The action required to score is called a Throw. I’ll cover this in more detail in the actions article. Basically though, it does what you’d expect – longer throws are harder as is making accurate Throws when an opposing player is in your face. You can pass the ball to friends, and you can also use it as a weapon to throw at opposition players if you really want to.

Losing control of the ball ends your Rush unless you are flukey enough to catch the scattering ball. Scoring a Strike always ends your Rush.

The rules give you a nice clear distinction between different player roles, which all helps to form a clear plan in your head. Guards cannot score, so they (and you) can focus on their job of damaging people. Strikers are the best at it, so when you can you’ll be wanting to get the ball to them. Of course, your opponent knows this too, so they’ll be breaking the legs of the Strikers first, just as you will be to them. For those teams that do not have Strikers, they need to use their Jacks to score, and their inherently lower skill means that they need to adapt their team’s tactics to suit.

Having a number of Strike Zones, and making them worth different points depending on which one you use and where you throw from, all gives the pitch far more tactical “texture” than a field where you can only score at either end. You constantly have to balance risk against reward, working out how many actions a plan will cost and how likely its success.

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

24 Responses to DreadBall Design Notes – How Do You Score?

  1. moocifer (also from Nottingham) says:

    Is there some colour confusion at Mantic ??
    I’ve seen you say that the Home & Visitor colours are white & red respectively (see Dice) yet the Acrylic Strike Hexes (on Kickstarter) are Home/blue & Vistors/red .. so which is it please ??

    • Mantic Games says:

      @ moocifer – etching on white acrylic does not show up well at all so we’ve coloured them blue to make it more visible (they have a white hex grid and white markings etched into them)

    • Quirkworthy says:

      What he said.

      As far as the box contents is concerned though, the counters, strike zones, rush and score tracks, dice, cards and so on are all in red/white. If you only ever played with the box then there is no conflict.

      Plus, the red/white is not set in stone – it’s just a place to start if you only play with the box.

      If your team plays in green then they could have green markers. One of the nice things about both the HDF and acrylic boards is that the Strike Zones and centre section are separate, so they can make different coloured inserts to match team strips 🙂

  2. Kiwamu (from Kickstarter) says:

    Do you listen Orx, just break the legs of these strikers and jacks and protect these little goblins. To make things easy for you:

    1.) Don’t eat the Goblins
    2.) Do eat the Humans

    I don’t want to see any mix up on the field, or you are going to be the next stew!

  3. Nick P says:

    Would it be reasonable for us to assume that – just as trying a Strike from the Bonux Hex (4 hexs away) is a harder Throw – “passing” Throws between team-mates will be receive modifiers based on the same distances (i.e. pass it 3 hexes without modifier, 4+ with modifier)? Is there a maximum throw distance (or will a continuum of sixes lead to potential “Hail Mary” opportunities?)

    • Quirkworthy says:

      The number of dice you start with when Throwing the ball is based on range and is the same whether the Throw is at an opponent, to a teammate or for a Strike. 1-3 hexes = 3 dice, 4-6 = 2 dice, 7-9 = 1 dice. Strikers get +1 dice regardless.

      So the maximum Throw distance is 9 hexes – intentionally restricted to control the type of game. In “reality” the ball contains anti-grav repulsors which give it a slightly unpredictable “wobble” and makes accurate throws very hard. All this adds to the required skill and the resulting spectacle.

      Keepers have the ability to Punt the ball downfield, but this is a clearance not an accurate pass.

      • Talarius says:

        The ball has internal anti-grav repulsors? If I were a cheating type of player (say, a Goblin) on a bruiser team, I might be tempted to sneak an EMP device onto the field so that the suddenly far heavier “hypertanium” ball would drop to the pitch, making it hard for the opposition to pick up or throw. Then my Guard team-mates could proceed to Slam the living daylights out of them. (btw, I love the story on the website where all these indestructible hypertanium balls aren’t used in the game anymore… the implication is that they all got destroyed somehow as DreadBall is such a roug game. Loved that bit.

        P.S. please give us an article on how Keepers and Defense in general works? Thanks. 🙂

        • Quirkworthy says:

          “The ball has internal anti-grav repulsors?”

          Yeah, well it’s the far future ™, so why wouldn’t you?


          There are fouls in the game already, but I’ve got a bunch more lurking just offstage and you’re on the right track here.

          Article on Keepers and defence? I’ll see what I can do.

  4. Stew (from Mantic) says:

    @moocifer – It’s both! :-P. We originally asked for white acrylic, but you can’t see the etched lines on white, hence we chose blue for the acrylic pitch 🙂

    @Nick P – that’s a reasonable (and correct) assumption. The maximum throw is 9 hexes.

  5. Talarius says:

    This article has me wondering about the Keeper. I have read somewhere that a Defender standing in the Strike hex cannot prevent a Strike from being scored, so how does the Keeper work, then?

    Miniatures q: As a Keeper will be able to pick up the ball, should these be different models from Keepers? Alternate arms, maybe?

    Also, it sounds like the only player type you’d want to throw the ball AT would be a Guard, as you’re not taking the risk that they’ll just pick it up immediately after your Rush ends and theirs starts.

  6. Monkey's Blood says:

    I’m interested to hear about the keepers too… I’m hoping for extra miniatures to add variety to the teams. Maybe in metal? I take it the rules for keepers are in the mainbook?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      @Talarius and MB – to start with you’ll probably end up using Guard models as Keepers as that’s what they start out life as. Mantic will do specific models for them eventually. I’m not sure if they’ll just be variant arms. For myself, I’d like them to be completely new.

  7. Lee says:

    Was curious, thought that it was mentioned somewhere that the original game design had d10s as the primary dice, why the change? Wouldnt that have allowed for more subtle variations between teams as opposed to the d6? Are the number of statistically different and viable team options more limited with the d6? Just curious, was interested in what you saw the pros/cons of the situation to be!

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I think this is a confusion from one of Chris’ posts.

      Mantic asked some other people to have a go at designing something while I was working on Pandora. I’ve never played it, but obviously it didn’t make the cut because we’re talking about my design and not theirs. I’m told that their version used D10s.

      None of that abandoned game appears in DreadBall. My version is entirely new and based on my old ice hockey game (which used D6s) rather than anything else. I considered using special D6s, but they were expensive to produce and didn’t add much so they were dropped before the game was actually played. DreadBall proper has always used D6s.

      The confusion probably lies in the fact that the chap who designed the initial (unsuccessful) version also took part in the development of DreadBall as a playtester. Chris wasn’t involved in the detail (as he says, he’s not really a gamer), and so may not have known the distinction or the details of the process.

      DreadBall has one designer (me), and a lot of playtesters. Playtesters are invaluable and give all manner of useful input, but at the end of the day it’s my responsibility for the rules being right and producing a cool game that’s fun and challenging to play. I’ll stop there before I spin off into an article about the proper care and feeding of playtesters. Another time, perhaps.

      D6 vs D10. Well, this is another article really, with numbers and odds in. In brief though, whilst the number of sides makes an obvious difference to the odds of a single side appearing, there are so many ways to combine and manipulate the odds with two or more dice that there is seldom a need to use D10s for anything. They aren’t a bad thing, as such, but the increased options are entirely illusory. The other suggestion D10 proponents sometimes make, and one which made me fall off my chair with giggles when I first heard it, was that D10s were more realistic. If that were true (which it’s not) then why stop there? D12s would surely be even better, and what about D20s, D30s, D100, etc?

  8. Lee says:

    Oh, and one more. I know it was mentioned in the BGG thread that interceptions were dumped from the rules and I understand the rational for it. However, are there any plans for a future ability that may create a similar effect? Maybe something more like a Keeper ability to Shot Block or something?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      There is a related ability called Running Interference. This is a Jack only ability and has to be learned. Alternatively it comes on a few Special Move cards, so can be done by Jacks in a normal (non-league) game too.

      The ability is a once-per-game interruption of the other player’s Rush to make a Slam.

      The reason I removed interceptions was (a) that nobody ever used them in playtesting and (b) they slowed the game down and were entirely negative in their effect. It was much more exciting to not have them, to be honest. Running Interference is a nod in that direction, but a very cut back and restricted one so that the game can continue at its normal brisk pace.

  9. Dereck says:

    Is there much defence to this game? Do guards get a free hit when the opposing striker moves through his front 3 hexes or are you just positioning your players to make the shot more difficult?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Defence is hard in DreadBall. This is intentional as it stops people turtling up and holding onto the ball to stall the game. That’s a boring tactic to play with and against (even if it is sometimes sensible in context) so I wanted to make it less viable. Here you find defence hard because of the number of players you have compared to the size of pitch and area you need to defend. You can still defend in a number of ways, though the difficulty in protecting a ball carrier gives a constant pressure to try and score (which is what I wanted).

      I tried giving free strikes to Guards in a very early version, but found that it was fiddly and slowed things down. In the end it was abandoned for a passive sort of grab and trip effect called Threat Hexes, which the opponent’s must roll dice to Evade out of without falling over, and which tend to modify down an opponent’s chances to do stuff. The effect is there, but it’s quicker to play.

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