DreadBall Season 2 Design Theory: Mr Roboto

One of the main features of Season 2 is the four new teams, and the one I get asked about most is the Robots. What are they like? What style do they play? Are they a strong or a fast team? Well, let me start at the beginning.

Robot playerThe DreadBall game includes four teams which gives you a selection of different playing styles to choose from. These were always intended to be just the opening wave, and I’d planned in a number of options for waves 2 or 3 so that we’d end up with perhaps 12 or so to choose from eventually.

The first wave of teams were all pretty simple to use and have clear tactics. Only one player type in all four teams had any abilities to start with and so the rules “footprint” for each team was kept to a minimum. This helps you to get to grips with the game, its rules and core tactics. Once you’ve got that basic grasp then practice will give you an ever deeper understanding of the more subtle tactics. But you’re gamers, so you’ll want more. It’s inevitable.

So what the second batch of four teams aims to do is up the challenge somewhat. Not in the sense of making them all better than the first four, but in the sense of making them more involved and complex to understand and get the most out of. More challenging, if you will. More to get your teeth into. Many of these new teams have abilities on their starting stat line, and these have major impacts on the way the team plays and is played against.

We’d been tinkering with the idea of Robots as a team since very early on, and they always sounded like a good idea. However, as I always want a little something special for each team/army/faction in my games I’d been mulling over what that could be for the Robots. What would make them different from everyone else?

The idea came to me in a moment of half-joking silliness. What if they transformed during the match? That would certainly be different. I had no idea whether it would be possible to make it work on the pitch, and I was also a little worried about what Mantic would say about the models. Despite this, it was such a fun idea that I had to run with it, and sure enough everyone else thought it was cool as well so we all pitched in and made it work. The models are outstanding and are a faithful rendition of the style shown by the Jack pictured at the top of this page. Painted in those colours too 🙂

DB-Season-2On the pitch the key to understanding the Robot team is understanding their ability to morph from one player role to another. In rules terms this has always cost an action, but in my original version it was automatic: you paid the action, you changed to another role. During playtesting this worked fine, but working fine doesn’t have to be the end of the development process. After a while we decided that it would be even more fun if it was a roll, just like Throws, Slams and so on. In this way you are likely to make the change, but could also fail to do it or get a double change (if you chose to). What do I mean by a double change? Well Robots are carefully programmed and change in a set sequence from Striker to Jack to Guard/Keeper and back again in reverse. You can’t change from Striker to Guard or vice versa in one step – you have to go through Jack first. However, if you get a double change then you can go directly from one end of this process to the other as it is only two steps long. In this way you spend an action for a likely change, but it’s always a risk.

In every match a Robot team starts out with 6 Jacks on the pitch. During the game the Coach decides what changes to buy (with actions), with which player and when. This becomes a major part of the team’s tactics. However, as a change costs an action the question is always do you really need to change or can you make the play work with what you’ve got? Changing means a better selection of roles, but fewer actions to do it in. Decisions, decisions.

From the point of view of an opponent you’ve got a team which might change at any moment. You think that you’ve got them cornered, but they might change into Guards and fight their way out. Is the ball loose? It’s OK, they’ve only got a Guard nearby. Wait…

The ability to change between roles is the defining ability of the Robot team and I think you’ll find it both exciting and at times a deliciously frustrating experience. Couple this morphing ability with varying stats for each role and you have a simple recipe for a complex tactical soup. My favourite.

Bon appétit!

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23 Responses to DreadBall Season 2 Design Theory: Mr Roboto

  1. Plus they have some very nice looking models, which along with the complex tactical soup has got me quite interested in these chaps.

  2. James 'Maz' Marsden says:

    Awesome write up, thanks Jake.

    Can’t wait to get a game with these guys.

  3. Lex says:

    How do you keep track of which “state” the robots currently are?

    • Minitrol says:

      Ha! That was gonna be my question!

    • Quirkworthy says:

      A couple of options here.

      Firstly, Mantic have done miniatures of all 3 roles, and they’re great. We even worked out how the robots really change from one role to the next and once you get a close look you can tell which ones are which really easily. So, the first option is to get a model for each player in each role.

      Gosh, you say. Isn’t that a boatload more models than for every other team? Well if you do it that way then it would be some more, yes. However, there are other options.

      Essentially your other choices involve using a marker on the base to do one of two things. Either you have one numbered model per player and use markers to differentiate which role they are in, OR you get half a dozen models of each role (at most) and have a player number marker that you can use to mark the appropriate model when they change.

      This last format is what I use personally. When a model changes you simply leave the player number marker where it was and swap the model for the appropriate role model (as it were). Because you have a max of 6 models on the pitch at once (legally) you don’t need more than 6 of each. In reality you’re never likely to need 6 Strikers at once, and probably not want 6 Guards either so you can get along quite happily with about the same number of models as any other full team.

      The player number markers need to be small to fit on the bases, and I’d suggest modelling them on the size of the disk that each player has on their backs. That way you can use the set of DreadBall transfers to easily number them 🙂

      • Minitrol says:

        Gosh that was long but thank you! I can’t really justify spending enough for 6* each but the marker option seems perfectly reasonable. I did end up buying a team on the strength of the models alone!

      • Quirkworthy says:

        When I first saw the models they were in a translucent resin so it was hard to tell their quality. Now I’ve seen them painted up I’m really impressed with them.

        • E r i c k B o u c h a r d says:

          A simple alternative option for the bases, which I plan to use, is to mark 3 faces of the hexagon with the letters J, S and G (for each of the 3 roles) and place a magnet on both the mini’s round base and the hexagon base, and place a marker on the front of the mini’s round base (to indicate facing) and simply turn the hexagon base by rotating the magnet to make the role’s letter fit with the marker. That way, no more minis than any other team are needed!

          4mm x 2mm circular magnets are about 10 cents each on ebay (or less) and it works just fine with Mantic bases. I’ve placed such magnets on all my Season 1 teams so far to help them stay in place.

          In addition, by magnetizing the ball with a smaller 3mm x 1mm round magnet (as I did), it fits well on top of the larger magnet on a mini’s round base, without risk of falling off the table. Works fine, just don’t forget the varnish to avoid paint leaving off when the magnets touch. (I use Citadel’s Imperial primer for brushing the magnets and it works quite fine with gentle use, without wear so far).

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I’m just not awake enough for this kind of cleverness.

          I had to read that twice, but I see where you’re going now. It is indeed rather clever. Another good option for the robots. These magnets get everywhere!

          Thanks Erick.

  4. Lee says:

    Thank you for this! Interesting read, can’t wait to hear about the other teams…..and the coaches….and….and….:)

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Tune in tomorrow then 🙂

      • Lee says:

        WILL DO! Thanks again! Also, any news on the Designing DreadBall PDF that was mentioned in the KickStarter? Maybe it sounds lame, but that was one of the tipping points that got me to pledge early on (before the value got pumped up later on!) as I saw it as something interesting that I would only be able to get through KS. Thanks Again!

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I last spoke to the Mantic crew about that just before the last bits of S2 went sort of mental (last week). I’m sure we’ll get back to sorting stuff out for that next week. I don’t know what the TOT is but it’s certainly not been forgotten.

  5. sho3box says:

    I cant wait to roll these guys out in the 30th anniversary year of a certain well known toy range ;). I am interested in how the ‘bots will gain skills: will they have a dedicated robot chart with a specific list of skills?

    My only concern about the playability of these guys (I have my numbering solution worked out) regards facing: when a robot transforms must it retain the same facing? I see that as potentially being a little fiddly and I thought that seeing as facing changes are allowed for free under most circumstances that any facing could be chosen while the ‘bot changes role.

    Lastly, you mentioned transforming to guard/keeper, but robot keepers have not been mentioned as part of the model range AFAIK. I am led to believe that the Firewall MVP is a robotic keeper, but that he is an older, non-valmorphanizing iteration of cyber technology, so he doesnt count. Will a robot keeper feature?

    Sorry to nag. Take it as enthusiasm.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Are the Smurfs 30 years old? Who knew?

      Bots gain experience just like any other player, based on the role they are in at that moment. They can choose to roll on any of the role advancement tables. During a game they can only use the skills of the role they are in at the time. So, if a Robot player had Run Interference they could only use it when they were a Jack. If the player changed to a Striker or a Guard/Keeper then the skill would not be accessible. It’s actually nice and simple: you just treat the model as the role it is at that moment and allow it to do the things that that role could do. The only odd thing is that it can change and have abilities in reserve (as it were) that apply to different roles.

      A player retains facing when they transform. I haven’t found this to be problematical in practice. After all, you know that you’re doing it and know that you need to keep the facing. Swapping models or markers is only the work of a couple of seconds. It’s not hard 🙂

      Robots can indeed turn into Keepers. Firewall is a dedicated Keeper, but others can morph into them if they have the ability. There isn’t a Robot Keeper model done yet, but it may be along later. I’ve not got the details of the release schedule. You do, however, have Guards and could just give them an identifying marking. Until the Keepers arrive for the other teams that’s what every team has to do. I have exactly that issue with my marauders at the moment 🙂

      • sho3box says:

        Gaining skills for the ‘bots sounds interesting. With updated skill charts mentioned in one of these updates I am interested to see what the optimal skill chart for the robots will turn out to be.

        I had assumed that a ‘bot keeper wouldnt exist because of how the keeper packages on the Kickstarter were arranged. Silly me, thats assumptions for you.

        Thanks for the in depth response. Im looking forward to more Season 2 previews/teasers..

  6. Riquende says:

    What will the varying positions’ stats be? Robots are my only team from S2, I’m looking forward to using them.

  7. mlhphotology says:

    see i would of thought limiting the team so if a jack transforms into a striker a striker elsewhere on the pitch has to transform into a jack. sort of like a teleportation of positions… with maybe the software moving with eh player type,,, so player 5 could effectively move from one area of the pitch to another. this would just basically means you swap players around, could present some very interesting tactical changes… .. and with a robot holding the ball being unable to transform or it will drop it, could prevent a few issues.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      That’s an interesting mechanic for another game, I think. In DB it would work though it might be problematic when playing against different teams. No–robot teams can change their balance of player roles to suit each opponent whilst this would restrict the robot team to one sort of team on the pitch. An interesting mechanic though.

      • mlhphotology says:

        what it would allow is a couch to have the player he wants where he wants, but a player with the ball is pretty much stuck in its role. would also cost an action to transform so its like a super move in effect, and still limits the player on what he can do next to one action plus cards. you could effectively bring their speed down to 5+ making them very easy to trip up and making it harder for them to dash as a balance.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Why don’t you try it out? No reason why I have to have all the fun making teams up and the best way of finding out if it works is to stick them on the pitch 🙂

  8. Pingback: Dreadball Season 2 – The Wargamers Forum Archive

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