Must admit when I first saw the game advertised I gave it a miss as I had Guild Ball sitting there and was fully into gridiron for my sports fix. Then as more info came out I got sort of drawn into looking at it due to the fact the fantasy animal and human teams seemed to be the old rivals of my youngster hood - Derby County and Nottingham Forest. Interest was peeked...
Obviously it has a fantasy slant but it did seem to want to stay more like footy than it did rugby or gridiron. I read that the designer said it was aimed to be more of a passing line game than a game of skills of an individual player (like Guild Ball tends to be). Pitch wise it wasn't a footy pitch:
BUT it was obviously based on one and once the rules were available to look through it was easy to see the first 2 semi circles as the penalty box and the outermost like the line on a Subbuteo pitch for shooting. SO with no more ado I set about sabot basing some minis I had lying about with the different size bases (which is important) and having a few test games. In fact the first test game was using my Guild Ball kit which worked fine. But as I had a football pitch which was the perfect size (once a bit was chopped off the sides) I decided to go with footy players.
Draft rules can be found on the games Face Book page and are the bare bones. Enough to play with two vanilla teams without any special skills etc. We were using two human teams consisting of a goalie, two defenders, a midfielder and two strikers. The models are on different size bases and each player has a zone extending 1" from the base edge. Defenders and the goalie have big bases which make them hard to pass/run past etc but not so good as weaving through and breaking away (strikers have the smallest base). All the humans move 6" standard with strikers able to sprint further and defenders able to move and foul as one action.
Each manager gets three base actions to try and move up and score. The actions are as you would expect in soccer: move, pass, shoot, cross, tackle, foul etc and most are automatic unless someone is in the way or marking the player - at which point you make a roll to see if you succeed. A nice touch is that in all of the roll tables involving opposing players there is a result which makes the managers roll off against each other... Thus keeping you involved even when it isn't your turn. In fact for a basic IGO-UGO mechanism it feels very interactive and the phases (three actions) before it's your go are very quick to pass. The twerk in this mechanism is what brings the game alive - WARBALLING.
Every action phase both managers mark one player as their Warballer for the next phase. Basically you can think of this as being the playmaker for that move. This player can make extra actions, but to enable them to do this they have to make a Warballing roll. This starts at 3+ but increases by one each time it is attempted/used and if you fail your action phase ENDS. One would imagine this might just mean the old Bloodbowl, 'do everything important first' type affair, which can be fairly dull. But it doesn't seem to, firstly you only have 3 actions so every one better count and secondly you may want to risk the Warball actions first so you still have 3 actions with other players left and then risk some more flashy git stuff with your young stud of a wallballer after that. Never said being a manager was going to be easy!
Let's have a closer look at this in action. Kick off time and the blue team wallballer (marked with the token) moved to take the pass. Deciding to move past the opposing player rather than passing the ball through the opposition's 'skill zone' he had to make a skill check or let the opposition make a marking test and follow him. He decided to make the skill test and passed it. The second action was an easy pass.
Third action was spent moving the striker up. Out of actions but with the ball on the wallballer the manager could let the yellow team start (risk being tackled) or try and warball it for another action. The striker was already in shot range (albeit as crap shot with him rolling 3 dice and the opposition choosing the one to use on the shot table) or he could risk trying for 2 more actions - moving in and then shooting.
Shooting has to have a line of travel to the goal area (black dots on the field as my goals were at school) and if it passes through an opposition skill zone they can try and intercept it, if it goes through an outfielders actual base it may be blocked or intercepted.
Mute point as he failed his Warball roll (although by even attempting it it makes it harder next time this phase) and the defender pounced with an excellent tackle and sent the yellow team on a good break. All this action took probably less than a minute and suddenly it was end to end.
Yellow's break ended in another brilliant tackle and the blues broke - it was like watching Liverpool and City play!
Quick break down the wing and a nicely slotted pass to the striker... (the defender missed the intercept roll of 3+)
A pass on the Warballing roll meant the striker lived up to his name and STRUCK. The goalie was slightly slow getting down to the shot (as in they failed their intercept roll which they could make as the shot had to go within an inch of their base). The crowd roared (really they did as I had footy on in the background) and a shoot roll was made.
Again this action was really quick and even 10 minutes into our first real game the rules, rolls and action were getting intuitive...
In the end my yellow team won 3-1 (game is up to 3 goals) and we had been playing less than an hour and this included working through the rules for some very dirty fouling by my opponent and a few corners etc. As you hardly ever reset the players (think playground footy real life wise - Dreadball board game wise) the game is very, very fast paced. The rules are easy to pick up and very intuitive (caveat being I have no idea what difference skills are going to make - hopefully it will be just the odd reroll and +1 here and there) and feels like football, albeit playground or Sunday kick around style rather than Champions League. In fact I would love to get some figures of 1970s playground kids to use...
The fantasy version teams have a few different stats here and there with the humans being the normal 'middle ground', 'jack of all trades' type team.
Below you will find some other shots from our game but first the burning issue... How does it stack up to Guild Ball and is it worth shelling out the 65 quid on the kickstarter (which is basic - you are pre-buying the game really - there are a number of stretch goals mentioned - star players etc but no real different pledge levels apart from getting your kit painted or getting a figure of you in the game. Wish I had the money lol).
It is a very different beast than Guild Ball, not as complex and fiddly and doesn't rely on you buffing up a super player. In fact the ease of play makes you have to rely on setting up passing patterns and hoping you can make a break. Not saying this necessarily makes it better the GB obviously and many people would miss the chance to micro manage and build up the momentum for your stars etc. But the fact I can get an exciting end to end game with no book-keeping and tokens everywhere and play it in way less than an hour (it seems) means I will end up playing Wall Ball A LOT, as where I have played Guild Ball twice in the last year I think. I can see it being great for a quick club tournament - games being played at the end of the normal night perhaps. I am already planning having a league for my class at school...
Sports games (even fantasy versions) often feel slow and clunky having a lot less action than in real life (obviously the same about any game really I suppose but sports games always seem to feel worse - perhaps as we are used to watching them or playing full speed on the PS4) but somehow WB feels good and fast. May be an individual thing perhaps but I can only suggest you give it a go... Click the link below:
After surviving a couple of corners...
My striker hit on a quick break and showed them how it was done..... GOOOOOOAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL