I got this game for Christmas, and though I had built and undercoated the figures I hadn’t felt motivated enough to paint them, at least not until I saw what the game played like. The figures had quite a bit of flash and were made of a plastic/resin mix so the flash was not easy to remove, even with a sharp knife. Tom popped home for the night so we chose to give this a go – appropriate for the same weekend as Ireland v Scotland in the 6 Nations and the Superbowl game. Back in his Bloodbowl days Tom was a Skaven fan, so he took the Vermin team while I took the Humans. There are 3 types of basic players in the game – Guards, Strikers & Jacks. Guards can’t pick up the ball, but are mainly there to flatten the opposition while Strikers are the players who do most of the scoring – Jacks are in-between, they can flatten people or play the ball, but not as well as the specialists. Humans are OK at everything whereas the Vermin are really fast and don’t bother with Jacks, just loads of Strikers and 2 Guards – their Strikers need glasses though, as they are not as accurate at passing or throwing as the Humans. During their turn each team gets 5 actions, but can only play 2 actions on any one player in their turn (“rush”), however “free” actions from doubling success rolls and 1 card per player do not count towards this total, so given the right circumstances a single player might have 5 actions.
The Vermin were going to kick off, so I set up my Jacks defending the 3 scoring zones meaning the Vermin would have to shift the Jacks to get a clear shot at goal. That’s exactly what they did – or tried to – lousy rolls meant my Jacks were mostly unmoved. My Guards got mashed though, put off for 2 & 3 turns respectively – one Vermin Guard managed to score 7(!!!) hits against one of my Guards but my Guard excelled himself by managing to save 5 of the hits meaning he was only out of the game for 2 turns rather than being dead. In the other hit, a Rat Guard did manage to put the other one of my Guards out for 3 turns which allowed the Vermin to “showboat” – basically, the fans went wild, he drew a card and got 3 fan points which then turned into a coaching dice. This extra dice can be used to assist in any action and it enabled the Vermin to actually pick up the ball, but then they missed the resulting shot. This 1 point scoring opportunity came on the Vermin’s turn 2 needing one 5 or 6 on 3 dice – predictably he failed and the ball rebounded unkindly, allowing one of my Strikers to run down the other end and score a 4-pointer.
Unfortunately for the Vermin, I managed to score a 4-pointer on my 3rd rush as well, using cards to give me the game. I used a card to give me a free striker activation, rolled 2 successes on picking up ball (“doubled” in games terms), so got another free action to run into position and only had to use my activation counter for the actual shot. This gave me an 8 point auto-victory – Dreadball uses a scoring system where your score is either positive or negative and the first to +7 or over wins the game at that point no matter how many turns have been played. I’m not sure the Vermin had anticipated this sudden-death victory aspect of the game 🙂 or to quote the Vermin coach “you never told me that rule!”
There is a weakness in the Vermin Strikers which will probably take a few games to mitigate with tactics. Human Strikers are really good at picking up balls and shooting so in effect I ended up needing to roll 4+ on 2 dice for a shot needing 1 success to win the game – a Vermin Striker in the same situation would have needed a 5 or 6 on 2 dice to succeed – a lot longer odds. Even when picking up the ball, they need a 5 or 6, and this led to a couple of dropped balls which gave possession and scoring opportunities to me – because a failed pick-up means the end of your turn, sensibly the Vermin used most actions before attempting to pick up the ball. They are good at stealing the ball though, so I made sure I left it on the ground rather then holding it in hand at the end of my turn.
So did we enjoy the game? I did, but I thought it would go on a bit longer. Because we were unfamiliar with the teams, the Vermin tactics were probably a bit suspect as they can’t afford to make mistakes, whereas the Humans seem a lot more forgiving – hence I won. Rules-wise the game is fairly easy to pick up but the tactics for the non-Human teams aren’t immediately apparent. To balance up the game next time, I suspect I will be taking the Orcx (no Strikers) or the Dwarfs (can’t run to save their life) – I’ll leave it until after that to see if I paint up the figures 🙂