Monday, 3 February 2014

Dreadball Battle Report: Alpha Sigma Squeakers vs The Daft Punks

How appropriate we should play this again on Superbowl night.
Another Dreadball game, another attempt to beat The Streak.  Ailsa and I have played six times now, using various combinations of five teams and yet I can't seem to get a win over her.  I've beaten Aaron and Charles - but Ailsa remains the hurdle. Can I win today?

In Sunday's game she's used the same Skaven Veer-Myn team as last time, though the team rating isn't actually that high - only 111 as much of her victory cash was lost regaining a player I killed last time.  My team are the Daft Punks, an Orx & Goblins team with a match under their belts but no advancements beyond the starting layout.  This gives me a team rating of 100, so I get a free random player to balance this out: Human Jack in hand, we dished out cards, tokens & dice before setting up.

Deployment with some hi-tech notes.
We set up as we pretty typically do: goal scorers up front, guards at the rear to cause trouble.  I kept the Human Jack of the table: I wasn't convinced it added much.  (My main issue is ball handling: a human or Veer-Myn Striker would have seen play without a second thought.)  The ball shot out, and the whistle was blown.

As home team Ailsa had the opening move and she took the initiative quickly, slipping through my line to take an easy 1 point shot. 
A turn one 1 pointer.
Her Guards aren't great on paper - they can't outpunch mine, and my Goblin Jacks are pretty nimble - but they worked pretty well, purshing people out the way to clear a path for her to score through.  However, her Strikers are pretty vulnerable - they can dodge very well, but any injury is likely to see them off the table.  And when I made some particularly good rolling....

I started with the 5 red dice on which I rolled 4 sixes.  As they explode the blue dice represent my additional roles - it works out as eight successes.
....well, poor ol Striker #4 didn't stand a chance.  Worst of all, this Rat-Man was the teams only advance - after last game she managed to roll a Skill increase so it's her best ball handler.  With lucky rolling she got 4 successes on her armour which would normally be great, but it's not enough to make this anything other than a fatality.

Unfortunately, this was about as good as my luck went.  I couldn't hold the ball for any length of time, including two incidents of ending my turn with a failed attempt to pick up the ball.  This felt particularly frustrating because the odds weren't especially against me: roll three dice, get at least one 4+.  With my limited grasp of statistics I reckon I should manage this 88% of the time, yet in game I had a 50% failure rate and when the first dice roll of a turn gets you a...'s pretty frustrating.  I've seen this on the other side, of course: Ailsa's Veer-Myn are really nimble but with Skill 5+ they fail more goal shots than they make.  Still, it's hard not to be frustrated that she was at least getting to make those goal shots.

A reminder not to underestimate Veer-Myn Guards
The game mostly went Ailsa's way.  I snuck a little one pointer in, but her guards managed to prevent me from making much more of it by being surprisingly good at knocking down my team-mates.  Worse, I took two three-point goals in a row - split up by, you guessed it, the second of my "fail to pick up the ball at first move" efforts. The same Striker logged in some good experience points and pushed the score to 7-1, just one point of a landslide.

The man of the match
Try as I might I just couldn't get anything done.  I did eventually get the ball in the second half and had an attempt on goal, but things were pretty poor and having already blown my one coaching dice I had little protection from the buffeting weather of fickle fate.  Both times I rolled 1,2,3 as if the random number god was just messing with me.

Still, in the end I did manage to get my hands on the ball one last time and in the final turns made a dash up table, passing the ball to a fellow player.  (This is a far less likely event than in Blood Bowl, since passes are harder to catch and don't have the experience reward for completing them which made short passes a great XP grind for Throwers.)

Finally holding the ball and able to do something with it without rolling 1s.
I managed to get the ball to a Jack who made a desperate attempt on goal and netted 3 points.  The end result was a score of 7-4, which is still a loss but makes it seem a bit more manageable.   The Streak remains unbroken and Ailsa.... well, she maybe lorded it over me a little.

From  Which it says on the picture, admittedly.
 We got our cash - a very good 6 megacreds for me, 8 for Ailsa.  She used her savings to attempt bargain basement resurrection of her dead player (as per Dreadball: Season 2) and was successful  with no drawbacks - win for her!  We each bought a new coaching dice and then rolled our advancements - her two-strike-scoring player got a "choose any advancement" which she used to get another Skill 4+ ball carrier, whereas I got the foul-improving "Does This Hurt?" which I found a bit of a disappointment but I'll try to find a use for it.

What my Orx guard will hopefully be up to next time he gets his hands on a Veer-Myn.
I mentioned last time my frustration with the savage circle that advancement, if you lose a match, is so much slower than if you win compared to Blood Bowl. What I might add here is that I don't think the random extra players to balance out team ratings are a huge factor, though that may just be I didn't appreciate the value a Human Jack could add to the table.  I just had some bad luck on dice rolling, which of course happens in any game - Ailsa and I can both talk of Blood Bowl games where two turns in a row we turned over on our first dice roll, making the whole thing feel a bit pointless. 

In theory the game is less random than Blood Bowl since a standard roll of 3 or 4 dice looking for 1 success should add a bell curve in that removes the weirdness 1d6 causes.  Weird stuff just happens sometimes.  If this had happened on my first game then.... honestly, I'd probably be pretty frustrated with the game and wouldn't be interested in playing.  However Dreadball got me with my first few games and I will continue to play, even though The Streak seems unbeatable.  :-)

I dunno if, as a house rule, giving every team an extra Coaching Dice or two would help.  When bad luck strikes, most teams start with just 1 and that's only really replaceable when you start scoring.  Since every team buys them at the same rate (unlike Blood Bowl's team rerolls) I think adding an extra one or two to every team would be an easy increase that wouldn't affect balance a huge amount.  Removing the fixed starting team rosters and letting players spend 100 mega credits would be a bit more of an issue - since you would open up the possibility for weird team builds - but since I very rarely find a use for all 8 players, I'd be lying if I said it isn't crossing my mind.

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