If Blood Bowl is the fantasy American football of miniatures sports games, DreadBall could be considered its sci-fi basketball – a shorter, faster-moving alternative with a distinctly different flow of play that will appeal to those after a particular type of tabletop experience.
This, its second edition, can be a very fun game. But it’ll take you a bit of work to get there.
The rules, though straightforward once you’ve decoded them, are initially confusing to learn (tip: skip the ironically unhelpful tutorial booklet and go straight to the main rulebook) and the rapid pace of play, one of DreadBall’s best elements, is often slowed by the miniatures representing each side’s strikers, jacks and guards, as unpainted they’re just not visually distinct enough to make things easy to identify – especially when areas of the pitch get crowded. The pitch itself may be a little bland – a Blockbusters grid of neon hexes on plain black – but it’s at least easy to read at a glance.
Fortunately, when it all clicks, it does so with a bang. Turns are fast and furious as players slam enemies out of the way, grab the ball and go for a shot on goal, either sinking a safe yet low-scoring closer or going for a riskier long-distance attempt for extra glory and the chance to swing the match.
Chaining together the specialisms of each unit type – fast, heavy and all-rounder – to get the ball across the pitch and into the goal in a turn or two is as fluid and rewarding as it should be, helped by a deck of event cards that present plenty of opportunities for one-off abilities and memorable moments to spring up. The deck doubles as a way of moving around a referee, with a new foul system presenting more options to undermine and outplay your opponent.
Like any sport, DreadBall will reward those that put in the time with plenty of depth and hours of entertainment. Separately, its parts aren’t always as great as they could be; together, they can be brilliant.
Buy your copy here
Designer: Jake Thornton
Time: 90 minutes
This review originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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