Game Review: Dungeon Ball


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Number of Players: 2

Time: 1-2 Hours

Age: 8+

Game Type: Football Variant

Gamer Type: Causal

Complexity: 4

Sport games are always hit or miss. Sports are naturally designed to be ‘skill-based,’ while games are usually luck-based. Some games in this field favor one side or the other too much, resulting in either something unplayable or something where the outcome is already determined. Dungeon Ball bucks this trend with a fun skill/luck based game which is great for some one-on-one game play.

Story

Let’s face it, when you have a game between orcs and humans, there is a danger to just limit the story to “orcs hate humans, let’s fight.” Dungeon Ball took a different stance on the classic Tolkenite view on racism: it’s orcs v. orcs here. The story is that since orcs have some down time between campaigns harassing humans, they take that downtime to play games. One of the games they learned (from an accosted human bard) was a variant of football. While it doesn’t really play into the game, the story is still better than a ‘hate based sport game’ and it really gives it that little bit of kitsch that makes it fun. 6.5 of 10.

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Artwork

Artwork is another area where sport games can run into problems. Most games either go with the blurry still images of real players (kind of difficult with orcs) or they go with overly cartoony pictures. Gameland split the difference for the cards and ended up with something magical – the cards have realism and fantasy built into one. The game board is well-sized for the game and every element of the boards goes into the game play.

The main moving piece is the football token, which is a football-shaped dice (pretty cool). Your play selection is a combination of cards and a board to pick the plays, both of which are well drawn out. The box is a thin medium box, so it fits well on your shelf with your other medium boxes. Overall, the artwork adds to the game earning a touchdown (with extra point). 7 out of 10.

Mechanics

How does one replicate the chaos that happens on the field? With multiple randomizers, of course. This game uses dice, cards, and a skill-based field goal system to ensure plenty of chaos. This is well-balanced, however, with the play selection process which would make a Eurogamer drool. To start, the defense picks a play color (blue for long pass, yellow for short pass, and red for run), then they put the card facedown on their board. The offensive player then chooses a play (which is regulated by the last play they selected). If the colors match, they lose the number of dice on the card; if not; then they gain two dice.

The dice are then rolled to see if they accomplished the play. If they get enough footballs or cleats, the play is a success. If not, the defense wins. The offense can even have a big play if they get extra (double or triple or more) the number of symbols. The long, short, and run plays are based off of color, which allows for different tracks down the field.

Additionally, each team has a set of cards (there are six teams) which they can play to affect the game. The teams have unique cards, so they change it up each play. Finally, in one of the coolest features. there is a ‘field goal in a box’ mechanism for a field goal or an extra point. You throw the dice from a distance into the box, and if it lands inside the uprights you get the points!!! There is also a dice rolling mechanism for those who are not cool enough to kick their own field goals. 8.5 of 10.

Strategy

One of the big lies of the real world is that strategy plays a big part in real football. Honestly, it is the lowest level strategy game of any of the major sports (even basketball). Generally, the better team will win, regardless of the tricks the other team plays. If trick plays worked often, they would not be trick plays; they would be regular plays. Offense and defense are dictated by the use of your momentum points. It adds some strategy to the game, but you can guess a lot based on the amount of points your opponent has what they are going to do. Likewise, the team cards give you some options, but they are limited to five cards. Rush is present – literally by rushing down the field running hoping for as many cleats as possible – but it is a viable strategy. There is no engine building. 5 of 10.

Novelty

This game is unique. When I first looked at it, I was worried it might be a Blood Bowl clone or a clone of the 1990s Blood Bowl clone. It is not. Its play style revolves around winning the game, not killing (or injuring) the other team. Additionally, the rules are not convoluted. The rules are easy to pick up, and people can learn to play quickly. It is simple enough to learn, but fun enough that it is not just repetitive. The idea of ‘orc v. orc’ is a breath of fresh air in a fantasy realm where orcs just kill humans. This gives a nice score of 8 of 10.

Overall

One of the key drawbacks of sports games is that you need to understand the underlying sport to understand the game. Gameland and Barrett Publishing moved past this with a simple joke in the story: the orcs did not really understand the rules either. This means that the play resembles football but is a game of its own. With a score of 35 out of 50, this is a very solid game. Not all games need to be massive multiplayer games – sometimes you just want to sit down with a friend and play some orcish football. This is a fun game for one on one match ups, a definite recommendation for the holidays.

Christopher W Smithmyer
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