Review: DreadBall / Designer: Jake Thornton / Publisher: Mantic Games / Format: Board Game / Release Date: Out Now
DreadBall is the latest game from a relatively new miniatures company, Mantic, and plays very heavily to that publisher’s strengths, combining the familiar with a fresh perspective to give gamers something new and exciting. Drawing its inspiration from futuristic and hyper-violent sports science-fiction such as Rollerball, 2000AD’s Harlem Heroes or even the classic Amiga game, Speedball, it’s a sports game with violence, and this means it will inevitably get compared to the veteran of that particular subgenre, Blood Bowl.
This isn’t surprising. After all, Mantic are very focused on producing high quality miniatures for the hobbyist to paint, as well as pushing a series of extremely playable and easy-to-pick-up games, so it’s natural to compare its output to that of Games Workshop. However, DreadBall is a faster, smoother game that takes its cue from high-speed and vicious dystopian fiction, rather than being a parody of real world sports. It’s clearly been created with modern innovations in games design in mind and is much better than a 25-year-old game that is barely supported. The only similarity it really has with Blood Bowl is that they’re both violent sports games set in fictional worlds.
Play is fast and smooth, and as this is a sports simulation, the aim of the game is simple: score more points than your foe by slamming the ball into your opponent’s goal (this move is called a strike). Once the strike is made, the ball is shot out onto the board again and the chaos continues. In addition to scoring goals, you can also attempt to flatten your opponent. The game mechanics are quick and simple, and require buckets of six-sided dice. This makes conflict-resolution transparent and straightforward, and the game tends to pick up pace as it continues toward the end. Event cards are used to spice things up, and these help to make each game distinctive and re-playable.
The pieces are nice, if a little samey. We get a referee model and enough miniatures to create two teams, one of regular humans in padded armour and another of orc-like mutants kitted in crude yet practical gear (no clichéd spiky bits to be found here). The board is well made, with an unambiguous, clear and futuristic design. The rulebook is straightforward and fun, with plenty of scope for long-term play. All in all, DreadBall is a great choice for miniature gamers looking for something new that isn’t another skirmish game, and a great way of getting younger gamers into the hobby. Recommended.