A simple question. The difference in logos is a clue. The real answer depends on what you mean by the question though. Are you asking about the difference in background, in the reality of the game for the players, or the way the board game plays on your kitchen table?
Within The Warpath Universe
In terms of background, DreadBall Xtreme (DBX) is the underground, illegal and much more violent version of the sport. It harks back to the origins of the game and is played with makeshift equipment in ad hoc arenas, again, just as the game was initially – back in drop hanger 91 on the warship Dread. So, the difference in background terms is a number of things. It is the distinction between the trillions of credits earned in advertising on the main arenas of the professional game, and mere millions earned by the shady sponsors who run the Xtreme game in the dark corners. It is the passionate love for a game which some devotees feels has got complacent and soft in its success and who wish to return to the sweat and blood honesty of its origins. It is major league political will and control versus small time gangsters who resent anything official interfering with their creaming off a little profit. It is all these things and more. Finally, it is the chance for the fans to see real carnage, and not the sanitised, medi-bot supported version broadcast live for your viewing pleasure every night (with only one commercial break).
DBX has been part of the background of the game since before the first Kickstarter campaign went live and forms, for me, a counterpoint to the shiny main arena games that makes both more interesting.
On The Pitch
DBX arenas are not the shiny, purpose-built affairs you will see in the major leagues. Being an illegal sport makes anything permanent a magnet for the police and so fixed venues are avoided. Instead, the organisers have grown efficient at quickly adapting any secluded space of sufficient size to their needs, using portable lower tech equipment to set up a pitch as and when needed.
The very nature of this temporary arrangement has some important game effects.
To start with, the pitch is not the same every time. Some venues will have concrete pillars in the playing area, others will be littered with barrels and crates or old machinery. Whatever the cause or type of obstacle, it is a rare DBX game that is without them.
With no awkward Health & Safety inspectors hovering around the sidelines, there is nothing to stop the organisers making things “interesting” for the players by booby-trapping some of the obstacles which inevitably litter the pitches in such hurriedly organised games. This makes the already dangerous lives of the players even more hazardous, though it does make the game more fun to watch. More fun translates to more people coming back, and so a better take for the sponsor who’s organised the match. And if a few players die? Well, no harm done. There are always more to replace them for the next game.
The lack of real barrier between players and fans makes it more dangerous for both. While the board game ignores the casualties among the crowd, the Nasty Surprise cards are, in part, a representation of the dangers that the crowd can inflict on the players by throwing bottles, weapons and more.
In The Game
When it comes to representing this on the tabletop, the challenge was to show the exciting variance of the game without throwing out too much of what we know is a good system.
For those that haven’t played DreadBall, the new DreadBall Xtreme is a complete game in its own right. However, there is also the option to cross over between games with the players you’ve already got in your teams. More on that another day.
If you’ve played DB you will be familiar with the core mechanics of DBX. However, some of the gameplay is very different. There is a mixture of large, obvious changes and small, subtle changes. All impact the way things work on the pitch.
A few examples will serve. If you want to know more of the detail, have a look at the beta rules.
The pitch is mutable. Different positions of obstacles and different positions of live strike zones makes each pitch a different challenge. tactics need to be adaptive, not static.
There is no referee. This means that things which were fouls in the main sport are no longer illegal.
There are no medical robots to remove and repair injured players. This means that the injured lie on the pitch till they get better or die. These injured can be slammed by opposing players or given support and aid by their team mates. Even if left alone they need to make recovery rolls and will either get better or worse. They won’t stay the same.
A Different World
In many ways DreadBall Xtreme is a very recognisable iteration of DreadBall itself and the fact that players can move between them underlines this. However, as soon as you start to scratch the surface the differences begin to show. And, once you add up these differences and get your team on the pitch, you’ll find that it’s a very different experience indeed.