Picture the scene.

It’s a crisp December morning. Frost shimmers at the window-pane, gentle clouds line the heavens, and not a creature is stirring. You’re roused from your peaceful slumber by a swift rapping at your door. Could it be? You leap from your bed, race down the stairs, fling open the latch, and – yes! – it’s what you’ve been waiting for since September! The rosy-cheeked postman stands before you, wreathed in silver mist, bearing your copy of DreadBall. Snatching it from his hands graciously you scramble to the nearest table, clearing it with the enthusiastic sweep of an arm before slowly, reverently peeling back the cellophane and taking in the heady new-game aroma. You rummage through the contents, gradually setting up the board for your first game with one hand while sending a summons to your gaming group with the other. Hold on, though. You’ve never played this before. How on earth are you going to trounce them if you don’t have a few tricks up your sleeve?

DreadBall – The Futuristic Sports Game

Thankfully, the Mantic folk are a kind and generous bunch (in case you hadn’t noticed!), and they’ve enlisted me to write a short series of articles on DreadBall tactics. After all, I’ve played just about more games of DreadBall than anyone else out there, so I must know a thing or two, right? Well, I wasn’t entirely sure about it myself. Sure, I’ve been on-board with the project from the very start, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that tactics might not be my strong point. I tried to work out why, and I came up with three key reasons:

1. Being involved with a game from the start means you play an awful lot of different versions of it. It’s a chicken-and-egg scenario, with each playtest honing and shaping the game, making each iteration subtly different from the last and introducing new challenges and opportunities. This means that I’ve been known to get something massively wrong because I’ve got all excited and remembered something that never made it past playtesting. I wish I could say this was a rare occurrence.

2. As a fluffy creative type, I tend to focus on the cinematic element of the game. I like DreadBall matches to have a shape, a climax, an exciting build to the kind of ending where both players are standing up out of their seats, holding their breath and grinning like maniacs as the last die of the game is rolled. (I’m pleased to say that this happens all the time in DreadBall!) This sometimes gets in the way of serious tactical play – after all, why should I be boring and pull off an inch-perfect passing play with a trio of Strikers when there’s a outnumbered Jack who could do the same thing by himself in an audacious display of luck, skill and showboating?

3. Here’s the biggie: the only reason I’m more experienced than anyone else is that the game’s only been out for a short period of time! As such, no matter how many games I’ve played, my knowledge will pale into insignificance the moment DreadBall hits the real world and thousands upon thousands of gamers get their hands on it. The forums will fill up with thoughts, strategies and ideas, and anything I write now will probably seem naïve in comparison.

When I realised that these were the only things stopping me from being a tactical genius, I knew that I had to write these guides. Okay, I might slip up when playing a game, but now I’ve got the chance to stop and think, and check the rules! I might get excited and use outlandish plays, but that’s because I choose to, not because I don’t know any better. And finally, even though my experience will be overtaken when the game gets released, that won’t happen for a couple of months yet! I should capitalise on my advantage while it still exists.

And so, with a bit of careful thought, I’ve put together the Five Golden Rules of DreadBall, one of which will be posted every day this week! These are things that always take rookie players by surprise, so they’re the most important things to think about when you start playing games. Comments are welcome!

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s Golden Rules 1 and 2!

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