I’ve Been a Bit Naughty

I have a confession to make.

I’ve been playing Devil’s Advocate a bit with regard to Jacks, to try and glean your opinions. I’ve prodded the comments only a little, letting you run off and debate/argue rather more vociferously than normal. But this deception has had an important purpose.

Jacks are a slightly problem child for me. On the one hand they do a sterling job of allowing me to define a range of teams in ways I simply could not do without them. I think that they are worth including for this alone because I value this spread and variety of game experiences that they bring. I am, overall, very happy with the way that DreadBall has turned out, but I am a perfectionist and there has been this niggle at the back of my mind that Jacks are just not quite where they should be.

Buhallin has a point when he says that they are a bit underpowered for teams where specialists are available too. I think that he’s overstating the problem a touch, but there is a core of truth there and in the long run it needs to be addressed.

Truth be told, I’ve known this for a long time, long before DreadBall was finalised. So why didn’t I “fix” it before? Well, it’s a very subtle problem, and one that will cause critical damage if the pendulum swings too far the other way, so I’ve erred on the side of caution.

“Critical damage”? I think so. If Jacks are too powerful, then the specialists get marginalised by a team of über-powerful all-rounders. This harks back to the bland and tedious team structures I was trying to avoid in the first place, so you can see why I am not keen. But it’s even worse than that as it endangers the whole structure of the team balance, and though that may sound overly dramatic I don’t think it is. In my view, if Jacks are too powerful then they make a mess of the whole game.

If we say that Guards and Strikers are 10 out of 10 at their specialist role, and 0 out of 10 at the other one, then what are Jacks? Perhaps they are 6 out of 10 at both at present. Well how good should they be able to get? 7? 8? That’s the absolute limit I’d say, and maybe even that is pushing it. If they become 9/10 and retain their ability to do the other specialism too, then why ever take the specialist? The problem that Buhallin et al have been railing against simply presents itself the other way round and we’re back to square 1, if not back in the box and on the shelf.

The real problem here is one of balance, and the tipping point here is very narrow. It’s further muddied by being predicated on Coach skill a great deal, which makes the mechanical solution tricker to gauge and the whole process of fixing it like doing brain surgery in the dark with mittens on. Running stats is all very well, but doesn’t hold the whole answer. So what can we do?

My plan has been to feel my way slowly with this and make any changes in small steps. For most people, Jacks are fine as they are, and are certainly not an issue in one off games and friendlies. In teams like the Greenmoon Smackers they are fine too, and don’t need any changes because they work exactly as intended. This is part of the problem. How do I not break the bits that work (by far the majority) whilst trying to improve the few sections that need slightly enhancing? Remember that the core of what allows DB to play quickly is simple, universal rules. If we’re changing Jacks it’s not just human ones, but goblins too. We need to fix one without breaking the other.

Remember also that we’re not talking about a broken game here, or even a broken player type, but a fairly subtle detail which most people never seem to notice. I don’t like niggles though, and the Jack is not quite sat perfectly where they should be. I want to correct that slight imperfection.

What I’ve been working on is a handful of additional abilities that Jacks can gain through experience. This seems to address the issue without breaking what already works and also without making them unduly potent and therefore causing a much, much bigger problem than the marginal issue we’re trying to fix.

The core two abilities are to allow the Jack to make a Run when they Slam or Throw, like the specialist. This would be 2 abilities, one for each type of action, and the Slam one would also apply to Running Interference, boosting the potency of that unique Jack ability. Breaking it down like this also enforces what I have envisaged all along which is that Jacks have the most to gain by experience of all the player types, and reward the Coaches that groom these players carefully.

Apologies again for the deception, and thank you all for the comments. I’m sure you’ll let me know what you think below 🙂

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36 Responses to I’ve Been a Bit Naughty

  1. moocifer says:

    More unique JACK abilities might help but an improvement to the RUNNING INTERFERENCE ability definitely would.

    As we discussed back at the Open Day I understand your reason for removing “interceptions” but I still feel that something like this is required. Perhaps if RUNNING INTERFERENCE not only allowed JACKS to perform their “weaker” SLAM but also their “weaker” STEAL too.

    Essentially the ability is all about disrupting the target player and for those without the ball tackling & attempting to damage makes sense but against a ball carrier you primarily are trying to dislodge the ball from their control, which can be the drawn out result of a SLAM, so why not instead just skip to stripping the ball by way of using STEAL instead ??

    • Quirkworthy says:

      The Running Interference version of Steal has been slated for Season 2 for ages. In fact, pretty much as son as I came up with that way of dealing with interruptions I was thinking of it as both slam and steal. However, there was only room for so much in the first book, and I’ve got lots more that I wanted to put in. Also, it is very characterful for a certain tall, slender race of pacifists…

      And yes, I know that they don’t have Jacks.

  2. James says:

    I feel like Obi Wan at the end of episode 3

    “You were the chosen one! It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them. You were to bring balance to the force, not leave it in darkness.”


    Seriously though, i think those new abilities would go a long way (if not the whole way) to solving the problem. Making them abilities you gain also helps as its not guaranteed that you will get them and still doesnt force you to use jacks if you dont want them. as it still means your specialists have the upper hand (+1 on their abilities).

    Well played Sir

  3. Lee says:

    Certainly the new abilities would help increase their utility. Would there be any benefit to having them only be able to get one or the other, as regards to increasing their slam or throw movement? I mean they will always be able to do both slam and throw as actions, but perhaps the more offense minded jacks throw a touch better and more defense minded ones slam a bit better? Oh, and real interested in the Judwan ability, sounds cool! Since you are talking about “fixes”, what are your thoughts on the FF strikers that some have been complaining about lately as being too fragile?

  4. Lex says:

    This goes along a question I have had for a while about Jacks: Why disallow Dashing with their ability to “move 1 hex before doing X”? Did it “break” another mechanic somehow? I would have thought it would allow them to be a bit more flexible, at the expense of taking additional risks (Dashing does get very risky at the 2nd and 3rd extra hex!). I’d see that “bumping them to a 7”.

    Aside from that, a few other guys and me toyed around ideas for skills, and if you look at some propositions go along what you’re putting forward with the “free run” and the like.


    I have to say I’m particuarly proud of “Spearing”, as it’s a nod to my love for Ice Hockey. For those not “in the know”, it refers to using the butt end of your hockey stick to drive 6 inches of solid wood in your opponent’s ribs. Very painful, very effective. It also outlines the Jacks’ uniqueness as they are the only ones with both Gloves and the ability to Slam.

    • Buhallin says:

      We’ve also discussed allowing Jacks to dash as part of their 1-hex move, and think it would be a big boost. The dice effectiveness issue really hasn’t been a concern for any of us locally, it’s more the movement restrictions.

  5. mattadlard says:

    Reply Jacks

    The idea of special abilities works fine and if you a cost/points system in place then players can start to customize teams to personal preference, with universal Specials and race specific ones. This would team nicely with your robots concept and Transforming ones with the Jack filling this role and having the ability.

  6. Buhallin says:

    Wow, I get a direct mention in a post… Not sure if that’s a good thing or not 😉

    FWIW, Jake, I think abilities are a great way to solve the issue. In that in-between time when we had the sample rules but not the full book, when we were all trying to predict what abilities would be, we all honestly expected there to be abilities which would allow the Jacks to include a full run in an action. We also originally misread Running Interference, and thought it allowed a full run at first. Both ideas went a long way towards making Jacks more appealing, and once we got the full rules led to a “Uhm, that’s it?” moment. Abilities that give Jacks unique tricks on the board are a great idea.

    Most of the issues I’ve been complaining (as James so helpfully calls it) about don’t really have anything to do with game balance as a whole, but how the game FEELS. Losing my rush because of a bad bounce after I knock the ball away from my opponent FEELS wrong. The classically-hardy dwarves being some of the most fragile players in the game while the classically-fragile ratmen are far more difficult to hurt FEELS wrong. Having 1/3 of the player positions fall into a “I’d never voluntarily use this” was the same way.

    The only thing I’m still concerned about balance-wise is whether the difficulty spread between teams is extreme enough to count as a balance problem.

    • James says:

      “Most of the issues I’ve been complaining (as James so helpfully calls it) about”

      Wasn’t meant as a dig at you buddy. I just feel the general feeling out there goes beyond simple concern.

      But i will say this now, i haven’t used the FF’s yet and so i have no input on them except to say that as Jake put it, “Not all strikers are created equal”.

      Can we be friends now?


    • Quirkworthy says:

      @ Buhallin – Let’s call it a good thing 🙂

      How the game feels is a very tricky one as it feels different to different people. As it happens I had a long conversation with someone about Forge Fathers this afternoon, and while I find them tricky to play well he is very happy with them and sees no problem. Not what you feel, but that’s the view of someone who is a dyed in the wool Dwarf player of many years. He thought the issues people were having were down to a lack of experience in things Dwarfy, but what would I know? I’m too tall for a Dwarf.

      So is there a difficulty spread between teams? Yes, I’d say so and so would most folk I’ve asked. But they all tell me different spreads, which makes me wonder if it’s really there or whether it’s illusory. It’s a similar thing in Dwarf King’s Hold. People tell me that scenario 1 is unwinnable as the Dwarfs. Other people tell me that scenario 1 is unwinnable with the Undead. Logically they can’t both be right, and the fact that I’ve heard both comments in equal measure makes me think I’m right in believing that the scenario is pretty well balanced overall.

      • Buhallin says:

        It really surprises me that anyone would feel the Forge Fathers felt dwarf-y. They certainly hit like dwarves should, and they’re certainly appropriately slow, but they are so fragile that it just feels very wrong to me. The fact that a dwarf-anything is the most fragile model in the game feels so off I’m not sure how anyone could think it was appropriately dwarf-y.

      • Lex says:

        “People tell me that scenario 1 is unwinnable as the Dwarfs. Other people tell me that scenario 1 is unwinnable with the Undead.”
        Have you tried pitting them one against the other? ;P

  7. Philip Waldron says:

    Give Jacks an extra two points of speed, they now become a third specilest player.

  8. mattadlard says:

    Which comes back to what one suggested about a cost/points buying system, that way you can specialize your jacks both to race, type, flavour and in future special players etc.

  9. lukas says:

    While playing serveral games, our playing-group had an idea:
    If Jacks get +1 dice for both, slaming and all the things stricker get the bonus dice, thex would be more exactly what you are searching for. They still only can move one square before slaming, or throwing, but they actually CAN handle the ball and it makes sense to slam with a jack. The greenmoon smackers also get a chance to win the game and not only stand there alone an look at the other team making point over point.
    The bonusdice also helps you to throw doubles for extra movement, which is the greatest problem with any sort of jacks (expect FF).

    I think this would make jacks a real option for every team with striker, guard und jacks as well for teams without strikers/guards.


    • Quirkworthy says:

      I think that giving them this bonus might well tip them over the edge into being the über players I’ve been trying to avoid.

      The Greenmoon Smackers win a game? That made me smile. They never have any problem competing in the games I’ve played and seen. Might not always win, but they’re in with a chance in the ones they lose. The (arguably) best Guards in the game does not make for a feeble team, and I’ve scored plenty of times with the Goblins. Obviously they aren’t as good as other team’s Strikers at scoring, but if they were then what’s the point of Strikers and how would that be balanced?

  10. E°r°i°c°k, alias Silence Indigo says:

    *On paper*, what seems to be the Jack’s weaker points amount IMHO to what’s been discussed before, e.g. not being able to run while Slamming/Throwing and the limited access (and maybe limited useability) of Running Interference, which seems like a good and original ability for them to be unique. Perhaps when “levelling up” they could have additional levels in R.I (like Lucky/V.L.) allowing them to use it more often, or to Slam and Run (albeit at half pace or somewhat), etc. Just my 2 cents but your ideas, Jake, seem to point in the same direction. At first glance, R.I. is what makes Jacks attractive.

  11. Lex says:

    I’ve got it. I really do 🙂 I’ve got the solution, and it’s so good it could also probably work for World Hunger, Peace on Earth and cure the common cold (not sure for the latter: those are hard to get rid of).

    Jacks Threat Zones impose a -2 penalty on rolls (instead of -1).Of course the maximum of -2 still applies (so a second player only serves as redundancy).

    Think about it: Jacks already are specialists: their specialty is screwing up the other player’s plans, and supporting their teammates. Case in point: Running interference. Referring to the original post, with this they don’t become a 9/10 at either Striking or Slamming, but really at their very own thing, which is sabotaging the opponent and helping clear that pesky Guard from the 4-points lane. It makes them both offensive and defensive players… it makes them…. Jacks of all Trades, really.

    Even in the overall scheme, I think it would be interesting.. First and foremost, no rule re-write. Then, it would re-shift a bit the game towards defensive play (as opposed to offensive play) and making tactical coverage much more important (this has been a common comment by me and my friends). I think it would make for exciting matches. Orx and FF would benefit, Human and Veer-Myn Strikers would be more manageable to at least slow down.

    Last but not least: would it steal John Doe’s Thunder? Don’t think so. After all, first he’s a Guard (and exceptionnally gets the -2), and he’s still got the “sticky” part. Gotcha still can’t be gained by players (yet!).

    So I plan on trying this aggressively, and report back when I’ll be awarded the next Nobel Prize for solving this important problem. Cheers.

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