Ultimate DreadBall

This gets increasingly Blue Sky, but what the heck. Might as well talk about it now, right? Once DreadBall is out, and assuming that we’ve sailed through the Kickstarter levels to get Season 2 out as well, we’ll have a fully developed game with 8 nicely balanced teams and, let’s say, 20-30 MVPs. We’ve got coaching staff, cheerleaders and a slick league system. What else could we possibly need? Well, remember I said yesterday that games have a natural size? This one ain’t done yet.

Ultimate DreadBall is the end of the first cycle of DreadBall – the clean and shiny DreadBall in its official and sanctioned format. This is the one you see on the tri-vids and is where the big name players strut their stuff. What we haven’t touched on yet is three main areas: really big players, variant pitches, and multi-team games.

Of course, while I’m about it I might as well include 4 more teams and a bunch more MVPs. It’d be rude not to. Exactly who these might be is a little fuzzy still, but some candidates include Asterians and a team of John Doe-like aliens (and their friends). These and other teams will probably be closely related to the new rules.


My, You’re Tall!

The larger models in DreadBall already make the hexes squeak at the edges, and I have a hankering for some really big players. I mean, it’s science fiction, and if I can’t have rampaging giant robots then, when can I? I’d also like to do some enormous alien monstrosities because they’d be fun too. All of these mean multi-hex models, and that causes all manner of problems with rules and rule clarity. That’s why they come at the end – more playtest time.

In a practical sense, I think that 3 hex beasties is about the biggest you could have without making all the 1 hex players completely redundant (which would be another, different game entirely). They would still be a pretty imposing sight on the pitch, and would be very dangerous for their opponents. Getting this to balance into a fun game, plus keeping the rules simple, is going to be tricky and will need a lot of testing. By the time I’m done it will be clean and slick and you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about, I’m sure πŸ™‚

Anyway, huge monsters, giant robots and all manner of bigness will appear in Ultimate.

Actually, I’ve just had a thought. I wonder how many hexes a Forge Father Iron Ancestor takes up. He’d need new arms, and is possibly a tiny bit too big to be practical, but it gives you an idea where I’m heading here.




Variant Pitches

The pitch you will be familiar with is the standard format for league matches. However, there are other types of pitch with different patterns of Strike Zones and different overall shapes. Most of these have not yet been playtested as we’ve been concentrating on making the core game as solid as possible. However, I keep all these ideas in notebooks, so if everyone is as keen as I am then I can roll them out πŸ™‚

Would they be posters, mounted boards, acrylic or MDF? I don’t know. That level of detail is getting ahead of ourselves. I’m just letting you know that arenas come in more than one shape and size. Multi-hex players may also need a size and shape arena all their own.


Multi-Team Games

Two player games are great, but once things get all crazy with Ultimate DreadBall I’d like to introduce bigger arenas with giant robots, monstrous aliens and, of course, more than two teams at a time. This is the sort of thing for grand finales of leagues, spectacular demonstration games and other grand events. It’s also loads of fun. It is Ultimate DreadBall.

Mechanically, it’s another headache because one of the central features of DreadBall is its speed of play. More players means more downtime between Rushes, so this requires some serious tinkering with to retain the frantic atmosphere. I have some options in mind, and I’m confident it can be done. But again, it’s more fiddling and a load more bespoke playtesting, which is why it comes at the end of the cycle.

Still, it’s an exciting development


Ultimate DeadBall

So in summary, UDB will add more teams and more MVPs, many of which will be playable in your normal games. It will also add rules for the events after which it is named: Ultimate DreadBall – bigger arenas, multiple teams, giantΒ players!



And while this is the pinnacle of the neat and clean DreadBall, we’re still not done with the sport yet. I have a niggle at the back of my brain that tells me there is one final twist in the tale.

Tune in tomorrow and I’ll tell you all about my ideas for DreadBall Xtreme.

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

55 Responses to Ultimate DreadBall

  1. Kiwamu says:

    … and here I hope we will reach Ultimate! I

  2. moocifer ( also in Nottingham ) says:

    Not sure I like the sounds of 3-hex players -AND- its disappointing to read that interceptions were removed as they slowed the game down (seems like a key element of any team passing game to me) .. 😦

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I thought it was a key element too, but it just didn’t turn out that way at all in practice. As I said, the game is so fast that the blocking players were too easily avoided. After a couple of dozen playtest games in which nobody used the interception rules I just took them out. No point in having useless clutter.

      Of course, you could design a game that centred on that kind of passing play, but that would be a different game. I actually did start something like that for my own amusement when I took the rules out of DB, because I quite liked the rules I’d done, but that’s another story…

      Oh, and 3 hex models – part of the challenge is making them balanced so that you can play without them if you want to. It would be easy to have them dominate the game, but I don’t think that would be as much fun.

  3. Monkey's Blood says:

    I’ll admit I’m not as stoked about this one as DB itself and DB season 2. The extra teams and MVPs would of course be welcome but the variant pitch, multiplayer stuff and big monsters don’t really excite me as much as I thought. Of course as soon as I see some lovely huge alien models and funky board designs I’ll probably change my mind in a heartbeat!

    • Quirkworthy says:

      It’s harder to visualise because there isn’t much meat on the bones yet. What I find exciting is the ability to add (1) cool new big models – mainly for visual effect, but also for subtle game play changes, (2) force a rethink of tactics with different pitches without having to change any rules, and (3) get the whole club involved with big multi-player games. If you think you can do some mean and underhand moves against one player, what happens when you get 4 or 6 on a pitch?

  4. Monkey's Blood says:

    I think you’re right- it’s such a big step that it’s tricky to really get one’s head round it but the visuals will really, really help. My having some horrible experiences in multiplayer games in the past is likely souring my views too – my main recollection is of them taking ages and being not much fun with the other three players realise you are in a bad spot then destroy you jackal-like. You can be as clever as you like but it many games if you’ve got three opponents focused on you you are just going to get smacked down.

    So, my whining aside, good luck to you on this one. There are some big design issues to grapple with, from multi-hex monsters to balancing the multiple player scenario. But then I suppose that’s why companies hire such skilled, knowledgable and handsome games designers to solve these tricky issues*

    *Does obvious, crawling flattery increase the chances of the fishy team making this supplement?

      • Monkey's Blood says:

        In that case can I say I thought you were looking particulary good in the kickstarter video? Have you been working out?

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I think I’m looking particularly pallid and lardy in the video, but I may be biased. They do say that the camera adds a few pounds though – must be that.

    • I just had an idea regarding the issue of multiplayer games taking ages: have multiplayer games be several 1v1 matches on an overlapping pitch with limited interaction between them (for example evades could still be triggered but slams might only push players or not be allowed (while the refs watching anyway)). If you look at the acrylic pitch it splits into the two “end zones” and a central strip, just swap the strip for a square (4 teams) or hex (six teams) section and add end zones from the other players season 1 kits.

      Of course I’m sure there are much more fun and violent ways to do this that our host has already started planning!

      Also with mention of the ref and the inclusion of the ref bot; is there a way to bend/break/smash the rules and then check to see if you got away with it, or is it just an aesthetic thing?

      • Quirkworthy says:

        I’ve played a number of large multi-player tabletop games as you suggest, with pairs of players facing off and running their game at their own pace.I have to say it never felt very satisfactory to me (it’s just playing a normal game at the same time as other folk, not a true multi-player), though it does avoid the downtime angle, as you suggest.

        Fouls in game take one of several defined forms, and are all potentially spottable and punishable by the Ref.

        • Ben Neff says:

          Sorry if this has been addressed already. I find the acrylic board to be tempting, but will it work with DB Ultiamte in the future? It’d be a bummer to spend $80US on a nice board to have to not be compatable with expansions for larger games, etc.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          We had a meeting last night, so this is hot off the press as it were.

          I think that we’re going to end up with 3 variants of the game, each with their own playing area:

          1) 2 player DB as you see. The classic game.
          2) a 4 player variant called Ultimate DB that uses the multi-hex models and has 4 teams playing at once. Played on a bigger board to fit everything on.
          3) DB Xtreme played on a different board that represents the many and varied temporary arenas by allowing a more variable set up and mutable “scenery”.

          The teams and MVPs from Ultimate (and Season 2) will be playable on the normal DB board, so that you’ll end up with 12 teams and loads of MVPs to choose from. I expect that this will always be the core way to play with the other formats being cool variations.

          So if you get the shiny acrylic board you won’t have any shortage of games to play on it πŸ™‚

  5. Monkey's Blood says:

    Yep, blame the camera. If it gets us John Doe’s Fishy Minions you can blame whatever you like.

  6. Lee says:

    Yes for fishy-minions, and now, perhaps a 3 hex cyber lobster to help JD and the sharks!

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Cyber lobsters? Hmmm…

      • Lee says:

        Of course! Regular ginormous lobsters (though I suppose they could be crab like, dont want to discriminate) just wouldnt be scifi enough! Oh, and would one of the different shaped arenas possibly be round? For some reason, when I realized DreadBall had multiple scoring zones with differ values and no restarts, I imagined a round arena with the ball shooting in from some random location on the outside ring with the scoring zones scattered about the middle. I am sure you have already came up with multiple entertaining configurations! Also, what is this Ronnie mentioned about a world series? Looking forward to more updates!

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Yes, perhaps a giant cyber crustacean would be a more politically correct term.

          Hexes don’t tessellated nicely into circles, but they do make bigger hexes well, which is similar. That was one of the variants I had in mind.

          And a World Series? Sounds cool, doesn’t it? I was thinking about something more world than the baseball “world series” which I think only includes American teams. That’s a ways away yet though and I don’t want to make promises this far out. It is indicative of the sort of long term thinking we have been doing though. Both Mantic and myself see DreadBall as something that will be around for a long while….

        • Lee says:

          Actually, when I heard world series, I immediately started thinking of something akin to the IRB Sevens series!

        • Lee says:

          Oh, the giant hex sounds cool! If the different arena layouts work out as planned, will it be possible for each team to choose which represents their home arena in league play? Would definitely bring in an element of home field advantage that doesn’t get represented in other games!

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I like that idea. It might be more of a configuration rather than shape you pick (as the different shapes lend themselves best to unusual or multi-player games) – the principle is much the same though. By configuration I mean where and how many Strike Zones there are.

        • Monkey's Blood says:

          Ginormous lobsters? Cyber crustaceans of doom? This guy gets it. Bravo, sir. Bravo.

  7. Talarius says:

    The world series DOES include teams from Canada. πŸ˜‰ (still part of North America, of course). Better choice would be the World Cup, which really is quite a bit more global. Call it the Galactic Cup and I think it conveys the right panache.

    There is a BB club in Vancouver, BC that plays their games on 40mm square pitches (rather than the normal 29mm squares) to accommodate Big Guys. They host the Spike! Magazine Major each year. I believe you can find them if you Google Thunderbowl; I’ll check in a sec. Anyway, the larger squares make for a much bigger footprint, but make it easy to field Big Guys without them bulging out of their own squares.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Canada, eh? Gosh, all that way over the border.

      As you say, I’m more used to the World Cup, which is actually a genuine Worldwide event.

      • Lee says:

        Out of curiosity, how does the in-universe DreadBall season work? Is it some sort of massive World Cup type tournament with a sort of pool play style season before the tournament finals? Is their a tier system with promotion/relegation too? Again, curious to how it is in universe as we all know gamers will come up with their own system to accommodate the needs of their groups. Thanks!

        • Quirkworthy says:

          There are several DreadBall leagues, not all of which use the same format. The Corporation is, after all, a big place, and each sponsoring corp wants to stamp their own character on “their” game. This has led to some pool, some fixed, some ladder, and some other league structures.

  8. Talarius says:

    Here’s the link to the club:

    • Quirkworthy says:


      Whilst interesting, it obviously creates an issue with 2 scales. It’s only necessary because Blood Bowl tries to squeeze every model into a single square (because that makes life oh so much easier in rules terms). Assuming I can stand the pain of working out a multi-hex set of mechanics, then I prefer that as a way to incorporate bigger models. Everyone can share the same arena(s) and we don’t end up with 2 parallel formats. That would be like supporting VHS and Betamax (the youngsters can Google that).

      It’s an interesting idea, and I am impressed by their dedication. I just think that it shouldn’t be necessary.

  9. Chris says:

    Hey don’t forget the edition after the last edition – Dreadball Deluxe – where all the versions are combined into one giant box πŸ™‚

    One interesting side effect of DB is it has made me check out dwarf kings hold and project pandora and a set is in the post!

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Hey Chris,

      Xtreme is something rather different from that, and much more interesting. I’ve already written a post which will go up tomorrow afternoon.

      And which did you get? DKH, Pandora or both. I think that they will appeal to the same sort of gamer who enjoys the tactical challenge you can see in DreadBall, but then I am probably biased ;p

  10. Monkey's Blood says:

    A thought just hit me – when you say the big guys will have 3 hex bases, is that three in a row or a sort of triangle-y arrangement? I’m having some trouble visualising it

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  12. Monkey's Blood says:

    Having read the DB Xtreme post I’ve been wondering what format the subsquent releases like season 2 and ultimate will take – it seems to me Xtreme would need to be a boxed game by itself, but what of the other two? I was kind of imagining them to be books rather than boxed games since they add to DB rather than making a whole new game.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I don’t know is the real answer. I would expect Season 2 to be a book and would like Ultimate and Xtreme to both be boxes, but that’s not entirely my call. It’s just a function of what you need to include in them, and both Ultimate and Xtreme would be nice with different boards (and models?). But we shall see.

  13. Pingback: Wow! DreadBall Season 2 is GO! |

  14. verythrax says:

    Hey, just dropping my 2 cents here – loving the DB posts!

    I hope DB became continues as a “live” game, with new stuff from time to time, not restrict to the basic box, but not too big to obsolete the basic box either. That said, I hope Mantic uses this game to vent unused ideas from WP and KoW. It will be a pity if it stay restricted to WP races. Some races and ideas cam be too much for a whole army, but can be a nice addtion to a board game πŸ™‚

  15. Kristian says:

    Thanks for the update on big guys. Had a feeling they’d be very big.

  16. Xynok says:

    I was having a think about things that could really bring Ultimate up to the next level. Big guys are awesome… very awesome… a robot taking someone’s head off with a ball shot from a cannon is a very exciting prospect. But on the other hand, they can marginalise “normal” players. I thought a way around this could be a malfunction mechanism (either mechanical failure or eating their friends etc.)… but perhaps if you could have a sideline hacker/disrupter/pile of meat which increases this chance or makes it worse if you don’t use big guys yourself could be an idea.
    It would be nice to see some more player roles, the main 3 are nice but I can see it becomming a bit predictable (particularly with low level teams). Abilities help with this of course and you would have a lot of variety from that. But what about a limit 1/2 specialist? An intercepting Judwan who can move before trying an interception? Something to icey-up the pitch (probably more applicable to DBX)?
    I’d love for some player teleportation in there somewhere, it’s a sci-fi game after all. You could even go nuts and have a field in 3 sections which you teleport between.
    It would also be nice (though more work obviously) to get some equipment purchase in. Run faster, hit harder, last longer sort of thing. I’m not sure about other games but I don’t know any which use something like this. Gives a sense of individuality to your team which is something I crave out of a game like this.

    Anyway, food for thought, or idle ramblings? You decide.
    As an aside, I’m really looking forward to your game and the blog posts are very interesting. It’s nice to see a company which is more open about its design than the big players. I’ve not bought into Mantic before but DB really gets me excited about what it is and what it will become.

  17. Pingback: DreadBall goes Ultimate – and you could get a free robot! | Mantic Games

  18. Thraug says:

    The new features sound nice but scare me. One of the main reasons we stopped playing Blood Bowl was how long games took and how many fiddly little rules bogged down the game, making league play almost impossible for most players that weren’t retired!

    Please, as you stated, make sure you don’t bog down Dreadball with rules and exceptions and more rules and options and …. bleh, just make sure it stays streamlined and fun and playable in a reasonable amount of time. Anything close to 2 hours brings back the horribly long BB games and league killing matches.

  19. crimsonsun says:

    I do not see ultimate for regular league games, but big one off finals. Obviously I could be wrong, but this seems perfect for those big one off events that you would give more time to than a regular league game. In such a case you would spend loads of cash hiring the best MVPs and Big Mechs/Aliens available to you in the hopes of the big winnings and claiming glory. As a long time BB player (20years ish) I am really hyped by this as this is that extra level that will add to those big occasions. So hyped about this, need to find extra funds to pay for these bits, this is the goal I have been hoping for the most.

  20. Monkey's Blood says:

    Just seen the concept sketches for The Nameless. Oh my giddy aunt. I may need to go for a lie down.

  21. Pingback: DreadBall Endgame and the Warpath Future?

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