Thursday, 26 December 2013

Arkham Horror, A Call of Cthulhu Board Game, Part 1: Box Contents

Over the last few months we've had the opportunity to play a few of Fantasy Flight's big box games, but they've always seemed like such a colossal undertaking that we've yet to send any of them to review stage.  Well we've decided it's about time to do something about this, so we're turning our attentions to Arkham Horror, a co-operative game for 1-8 players by Richard Launius and Kevin Wilson.

I do hope they remembered to take out wiffle-monster insurance.

Arkham Horror is a Lovecraftian game, so inside you can expect to find Cthulhu and other such wiffley terrors (or "Ancient Ones", as they're more eloquently known).  Players form a team of investigators, working their way around the city of Arkham as portals to other worlds open up in various locations, spewing monsters onto the city streets.  The aim of the game is to close up these portals before one of the Ancient Ones awakens, or, if that fails, to defeat the Ancient One in combat before they can go on to destroy the world.  The Ancient Ones are unspeakably tough though, and containment is usually preferable to a face-to-face showdown.

"Don't worry, lads. I've got me a bottle of whisky and a shotgun, I got this..."

This is a game which has been out for quite some time and is a staple of many gamers' personal collections, so let's push on and see what we thought of it, starting with the rather colossal box contents.

Welcome to Arkham Adventure Land, kids! You are here.
As is typical with a Fantasy Flight big box offering, the gaming board is something to behold.  It's glorious to look at, with a street map of Arkham itself, and the various other worlds which players will be traversing during the game.  It's very nicely presented and there's a lot going on, leaving you in absolutely no doubt that you're in for something rather epic.  However, the flipside of this is that Arkham Horror needs a lot of space to play.  On top of the game board there are also several decks of cards, the Ancient One's character card, and the individual players' character cards which must all be set up around the table.  As a result Arkham Horror has become a game which we're unable to play at Games & Tea HQ, and instead must make a trip to the 6'x4' gaming tables of our FLGS whenever we fancy a go.

There are 8 Ancient Ones altogether in Arkham Horror, all presenting various challenges to the investigators as they try to prevent their incursion into our world.  As well as being incredibly tough adversaries in their own right, each has an effect on the overall gameplay as they "stir in their slumber".  None present a particularly easy challenge, but some are noticeably tougher than others, which allows a bit of catering for either new or highly experienced players.

The great Dexter Drake - with a top hat this fine, how can victory elude us?
The other oversized cards come in the form of the 16 investigators' character cards.  The front side of these cards shows the name and a portrait of the investigator, as well as their base statistics, starting point on the board, inventory, and any special abilities they may have.  The rear of each card contains a short back story, giving a little more information about each character and their reasons for being in Arkham at the time of this otherworldly incursion.  This background information is in no way vital to the gameplay, but it's a nice little touch to give players more of a connection to their investigator.

Each investigator card comes with a matching token, featuring the artwork shown on the character card.  Again the artwork on these is very nice, but we have had occasions where one player has moved another's investigator due to the similar nature of some of the characters.

Pick a card, any card...
We mentioned earlier that Arkham Horror features several decks of cards, and here they are in all of their glory!  The standard sized cards shown on the left half of the picture dictate the course of events around Arkham and in the Other Worlds, setting up encounters for the investigators, determining the locations of new portals, the movement habits of monsters, and ongoing effects which take place across the city.  The smaller cards on the right are those which affect the investigators directly - being items, spells, skills and so forth.  As with the game board itself, the sheer scale of Arkham Horror is amply demonstrated in this card selection, and players must be prepared for a highly in-depth gaming session when they sit down to play.

There are a lot of tokens contained within the Arkham Horror box.  This can look intimidating at first glance, but on closer inspection there are actually mercifully few types - just a lot of them!  There are a handful which are used to track events throughout the course of the game, and so must be separated beforehand, whereas most of the tokens are expendable items such as money, stamina and sanity (anyone familiar with H.P. Lovecraft will know that sanity is expendable!).  The fact that there is nothing to separate the tokens once they're all in the box is a slight annoyance, and the set up for our first few games was slowed when we had to fish out the 14 setup tokens from the other 196 expendables!  We would highly recommend getting hold of a couple of resealable polythene bags early on, allowing separation of these tokens between games.

What's that coming over the hill?  Is it a Cthonian?  Is it a Cthonian?  ...oh wait, it's a Gug.  We're all screwed.

And last, but not least, come the monsters.  While the chosen Ancient One stirs in its slumber, these lesser creatures take to the streets (and skies) of Arkham to hamper the investigators' efforts.  There are 60 monsters altogether in Arkham Horror, some of which are a walkover and some of which are formidable in their own right.  These monsters move around the city, leaving investigators with the choice of either sneaking past them or engaging them in combat.  Sneaking past may seem like the smarter option, but as the number of monsters in the streets of Arkham increases, the difficulty of the task in hand goes up exponentially.  As an extra incentive there are also bonuses available for those brave enough to take these beasts down.

So that's the Arkham Horror box contents, and boy there's a lot of content!  This is certainly a game which leaves you feeling as though you've got your money's worth right off the bat, but it also seems more than a little intimidating at first glance.  Before we leave this article to move on to the gameplay side of things, there is one more item we'd like to cast a critical eye on: the rulebook.

Anarchy rules!

Obviously every game needs a rulebook, and there's nothing wrong with the layout of Arkham Horror's offering, but the issue we had here was one universal to Fantasy Flight's big box games: it's too damn big!  It certainly looks nice when you take the lid off the box of your new game and are greeted by a full colour rulebook the size of the box itself, but when it comes to needing to make quick references back to said rulebook then the size becomes impractical.  With the game itself taking up so much space already, having a rulebook that opens up larger than a sheet of A3 paper is more of an annoyance than anything else.  The rulebook clocks in at a mere 24 pages anyway, so we can't help but feel that halving the size and doubling it to a 48 page book would be a much more sensible option.  But perhaps that's just us.

So with that final rulebook-based note we're ready to move on to gameplay!  How do all of these elements come together?  Just how long does this game take to learn?  How does it work with varying numbers of investigators?  And just what happens when Cthulhu himself wakes from his slumber?  For answers to all of these exciting questions (and more!) check back in a few days for our overall verdict.

Cards Against Humanity: Some Of Our Favourite Card Combinations

This review features subjects which may cause offence.  If you are easily offended by ANYTHING then for the love of God stop reading now!!!

A few weeks ago we posted our review of the long-awaited UK Edition of Cards Against Humanity. Now CAH was a popular game in its own right before the UK release, but since reaching us on this side of the Atlantic it's well and truly taken off, and it seems that right now it's impossible to spend more than a few minutes on the internet without someone making reference to it.  Indeed, it's probably the most frequently played game here in our collection.

Well we're not too proud to jump on a bandwagon when we see one rolling past, so we're going to follow on with the currently popular trend of posting some of our favourite CAH card combinations.  Some of these will be offensive, but we're falling back on the same old disclaimer we used in the review, and we hope that if you're still with us by this point that you're not the easily offended type.  Enjoy!

Yeah we know we used this one in the review, but it's still one of our favourites!

Kids, it's perfectly normal to touch yourself...

Okay this was dark even by our standards.  It won the sought-after Awesome Point though...

It's all part of growing up, Tracy.

Because he will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger...

Sometimes you get a white card which just works with too many black cards!

Again this is so, so dark.  Another Awesome Point in the bag then.

Wow.  Sean Penn's a dick to survivors.

Sorry, Maureen, but it was 25 years ago.

Sorry, God, but you just don't cut it.

It's all good fun until you need to get out.

But which drop are we talking about?

Because every cloud has an AWESOME lining.

Sometimes the winner is just too hard to choose.

Jimmy Savile continues to disturb even now.

Well the social elite need something to pass the time. 

She does keep them locked in her trophy cabinet after all... 

Now now, Mr Grylls, I think that's called "cheating".

Because they're an inspiration to us all.
Nothing more needs be said really.
Those childrens tears again.
"Hope" is actually Bear Grylls' nickname.
If only Wendy could say the same thing.
And I might not even get it back afterwards...

These are just some of our favourite combos (and we can't help but suspect there may be further Cards Against Humanity galleries in the future!), but if you've seen better then why not post your favourites in the comments section below and give us all a good laugh?

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas From Games & Tea

Well seeing as this is our first year, we thought we'd send out Christmas wishes to all of our readers around the world!  We hope you have a great festive holiday and enjoy many and varied games with your friends and family!
We'll be off for a few days over Christmas, but will be playing a lot of Arkham Horror and Small World, so hope to be able to squeeze in a review for one of them before the new year!  Also stay tuned for a fun little Cards Against Humanity article, where we'll be showcasing some of our favourite card combinations.

For now though, we're off to make a pot of tea and spend time with the family!  So have a very


Thursday, 19 December 2013

DreadBall Deluxe, Part 2: Gameplay & Verdict

Last week we stepped back into the world of board game/tabletop system hybrids as we took a look at the box contents for DreadBall; the futuristic sports game from Mantic Games.  Today we're going to run our two teams out onto the pitch and find out just how well it fares as a standalone board game, or if it should be confined to the collections of tabletop hobbyists.

The DreadBall starter box comes with two teams: The Trontek 29ers and The Greenmoon Smackers.  Of course players can paint their miniatures up in the default colour schemes and use these exact teams, but it's always good fun to come up with your own ideas, giving a little more personal investment in the 8 brave warriors of the sport who are being pummelled for your own amusement.  With this in mind our DreadBall Deluxe boxset has given rise to two new giants: The Cybertron Sentinels and The Arkham Outcasts!

The Cybertron Sentinels!

The Arkham Outcasts!  Okay we've only painted one so far, but orange is time-consuming, okay?
Both teams have a very different set of attributes which result in very different gaming experiences (which we'll come to in more detail later), so once players have decided which team they'll be fielding, it's time to set up the board.

Board set-up in DreadBall takes mere seconds, which is very refreshing when you look at many specialist board games on the market.  Once the board is opened up the score marker needs to be placed on the '0' point of the score track (shown along the bottom side of the board above), and the turn marker needs to be placed on '01' on the turn track (shown along the top side).  This concludes board setup!  Doesn't that make a lovely change?

Players must then decide who will be fielding the home team, and who will be the visitors.  This is decided randomly, so can be done either by dice-rolling or by one player randomly selecting the Home Fans or Away Fans card.  The home team will set their team up on the blue side of the board and use the blue dice from the set, with the away team following suit on the red side and with the red dice.  You may notice that the turn track is coloured to match these sides - this is because the home team always takes the first turn in DreadBall, after which play alternates until the final turn is played by the away team (unless one team has romped home with a 7 point clear victory before then).  Both teams also start with one coaching dice (a white dice), and one randomly-dealt card from the deck.  The remaining deck is placed face-down at the side of the board, and the remaining white dice placed to one side as well - these will be used to determine the referee's rolls when she's called upon to settle a dispute!  The number of starting cards and coaching dice varies from one team to the next across the DreadBall hobby, but the two teams in the balanced starter box begin with one of each.  Fair's fair after all!

The two teams each consist of 8 players, but the Deluxe box comes with an added bonus: two more players for each side.  This basically gives the players the options of customising their lineups a little, tailoring to more aggressive gameplay or allowing for speedier hit-and-run style strikes.  For new players though it's best to start with the basic lineup, and the rulebook contains the starting player lists for both of the featured teams.

There are three types of players in DreadBall: Guards, Strikers and Jacks.  All three of these feature in the 29ers, but the Smackers only contain Guards and Jacks.  A Guard is a big bruiser of a player, unable to pick up the ball themselves but good for Slamming (the DreadBall equivalent of a tackle) opposing players and causing some serious injuries.  Strikers are the nimble players who score most of the points.  They can't Slam, but can throw like demons and are great at dodging those hard tackles.  Jacks don't specialise in any one area, being able to Slam and take possession of the ball.  They're not as good as Guards or Strikers in their respective fields, but an all-rounder can be helpful when the time is right!
The Trontek 29ers team is quite Striker-heavy, meaning that it's a good team for making swift runs into the opponent's half to score those vital points.  The Greenmoon Smackers, on the other hand, have much tougher Guards and in greater number, which makes them a team best suited to knocking down your opponent's players, leaving an empty pitch for the Jacks to work their scoring magic on.

Of the 8 players in each team, only 6 are allowed on the pitch at any one time.  These 6 must be set up inside their respective halves before the game begins, with the 2 remaining players starting on the substitutes' bench.  DreadBall is a very physical game, so don't worry, they'll be on the pitch with their chance to shine before you know it!

Steve Batman of The Arkham Outcasts shakes a threatening fist at Megatron and the rest of The Cybertron Sentinels!
Once players have set up their teams and the ref-bot has been placed on her starting space, it's time to launch the ball and begin the game!

Each turn in DreadBall is referred to as a "Rush", and Rushes alternate between players.  This means that you don't have to worry about your opponent messing with your best laid plans during your turn, but it also means that by the end of your turn you need to have your players positioned and prepared for anything your opponent may throw at you during their Rush.
In a player's Rush they may take up to a total of 5 actions, and they can keep track of these using their player tokens.  In addition to this 5 action limit, each individual player on the team may only take up to 2 actions, which is a good way of preventing a player from heaping actions onto a single member of their team and dashing across the field to score easy points!  That said, lucky dice-rolling can reward players with free actions which do not count towards either of these limits, which can allow moments of sporting heroism to creep into the game.  Indeed, in one of our review games we had a player jump off the subs bench and sprint the full length of the pitch to score the game-winning points in a move worthy of any inspirational sporting film!
On top of these, cards can be played to give players further free actions, or can even put an ongoing effect into play which can affect the entire flow of the game.
A player's Rush ends when they have no further action points to spend, or when they lose possession of the ball, either from a missed shot, a failed attempt to pick up the ball, or a fumbled catch.  When this happens the turn immediately moves along to the other player, regardless of how many action points the active player had remaining.

Actions can include the likes of movement, Slamming, picking up the ball, and throwing it as either a pass or attempt to score.  DreadBall mostly operates on an easy-to-remember 3D6 system, so to find out if your action has been a success then you must roll 3 dice against your player's relevant stat (speed/skill/strength) and add up the number of successes.  If you do especially well at that action then it often leads to a free action and the chance to capitalise on your success, whereas a failure at an action can put you on the back foot and leave you having to rethink your entire turn.   This does let the random element play a large role in DreadBall, but both players are in the same boat on this front, and victory will usually go to the player who can best adapt their plans when the dice gods heap them with misfortune!
Whilst the system is usually 3D6, there are various modifiers which can increase or decrease the dice total.  For example a Guard excels at smashing their opponents, so they roll one extra dice when Slamming.  Strikers, on the other hand, are nimble, so they gain an extra dice when throwing, catching, or dodging a Slam.  If the throwing player is adjacent to one of the front 3 sides of an opponent's base then that throw becomes trickier to pull off, so they roll one less dice.  Then there are the coaching dice, mentioned earlier, which are earned through exciting and crowd-pleasing behaviour, and can be added to any dice roll to improve the odds off success.
These modifiers may seem hard to keep track of at first glance, but they do make logical sense when picturing DreadBall as the energetic sport it's meant to be, and after a couple of games the dice-rolling becomes second nature, and the gameplay quickly becomes very fluid.

The Cybertron Sentinels' No.8 Striker - Rumble - goes for a 2 point strike!
In spite of its violent nature, DreadBall is ultimately a sports game, and so victory lies in scoring more points than your opponent.  Each side of the pitch has 3 highlighted scoring zones.  The two zones closest to the half-way line are worth 1 or 2 points each (the higher score for the longer-distance throws), and the zone furthest into each player's half is worth 3 or 4 points.  The scoring system in DreadBall works on a slider, so if your opponent is 2 points ahead and you score a 3 pointer, you go into the lead by 1 point.  If your opponent then scores 1, the score resets to 0.  If one side reaches 7 points then they win the game outright, otherwise the team in the lead by the end of the 14th Rush is declared the victor!

This covers the basics of DreadBall fairly neatly.  There are more subtle nuances and additional rules which we haven't gone into here in order to keep this article at a readable length, so to experience them first hand you'll just have to take a trip to your FLGS and find out what all the fuss is about!

So just how does DreadBall Deluxe work as a board game, rather than an introduction to a gaming system?
Well obviously there is the building and painting element to the game, so this may put off potential players who don't have the tabletop feather in their hobby cap.  However, construction only takes a couple of hours and with a simple colour scheme a fully painted team can be quickly accomplished - whilst we are labouring slowly over Arkham Outcasts, the Cybertron Sentinels took us just one night to paint the entire team.
Unlike some board game/tabletop crossovers, DreadBall does come with everything needed to play the game in the box, although this is where the Kick-Off and Deluxe boxes differ.  Kick-Off contains the two teams of 8 players, the pitch, a basic rulebook, a single ball and two sets of dice.  Deluxe contains those two extra players for each team to add a bit of variety, and a spare ball just in case the first one falls foul of a vacuum cleaner or some similar menace.  It also includes the full rulebook, including rules for running leagues, the ref-bot, the DreadBall cards, and the extra set of dice.  These differing box contents both allow DreadBall to be played as a stand-alone board game straight out of the box, but obviously Deluxe gives a more complete experience, as well as being the better starting point for players wishing to take up DreadBall as a system rather than just a board game.  Mantic have released an expansion kit, however, so if players wish to upgrade from Kick-Off to Deluxe then they can buy this pack to add all of those additional parts to their collection.
As a game, DreadBall is quick to learn and smooth to play, with the 3D6 system taking very little time to get used to.  The different nature of the two teams allows for a bit of variety in gameplay - the speed and scoring prowess of the human team versus the brutal nature of the hard-hitting orcs - which is further added to with the Deluxe sets extra players, giving a degree of customisation to the starting lineups.  The fact that DreadBall is based on dice rolling does mean that random chance plays a role in events, but spread across 14 turns this usually balances out, and with some tactical adjustment and on-the-spot thinking the unluckier moments can be turned around fairly effectively.

One slight criticism of the set is directed firmly at the rulebook.  During the learning process for any game, referring to the rulebook is a frequent occurrence, and so most games come with a quick reference guide, or at the very least an index.  DreadBall comes with neither of these, and so any rules queries during those first couple of games do require some furious flicking back and forth between pages.  Mantic have spotted this shortfall to their credit, and the Season 3 rulebook contains a quick reference card at the back of the book, outlining the modifiers for each dice roll, and the outcome.  Unfortunately we're looking at DreadBall as a standalone game, and so this counts against them in the grand scheme of things.
The other downside to the game is that it's firmly for 2 players, so doesn't work as a group game on large games nights.  Again, Mantic have addressed this with the release of the chaotic DreadBall Ultimate expansion, which allows for up to 6 teams at once, but as a standalone board game Kick-Off/Ultimate doesn't benefit from this.

The Good Points
  • DreadBall features a fairly simple mechanic, but which is offset by enough modifiers to allow for a tactical element to the game.
  • The starter box comes with everything needed to get going with the game, rather than "almost everything" as some board/tabletop hybrids favour.
  • The two featured teams are different enough to create differing tactical challenges, and the additional players in the Deluxe box allow for a nice variety in the team listings.
  • Assembly time on the miniatures is mercifully short, and once built it's always fun to come up with names and themes for your very own teams.
The Bad Points
  • The DreadBall rulebook really could use a quick reference card, and beginners' games will be slowed considerably by the number of return visits to the rulebook.
  • Without investing in the additional Ultimate expansion, DreadBall is for 2 players only, preventing it from being a large, social game.
  • The idea of having to build and paint the miniatures may put some potential players off.
Recommended Number of Players: 2
As mentioned, DreadBall can only be played by 2 players, so this is a requirement rather than a recommendation.

Average Game Time: 60 minutes
Whilst some games of DreadBall can flash past in the blink of an eye due to some lucky dice rolls and top-notch player placement, most games run for the better part of an hour.  The 14 Rush cap on the game generally prevents play from going on much longer than this, so DreadBall is one of the games on the market which mercifully does not drag.

Replay Value: High
DreadBall is a fast and furious game, and does leave players wanting more.  Whether it's a desire for revenge against a crushing defeat, or the hope to recreate a dazzling victory, the DreadBall pitch does generally call players back.  The ability to vary the lineup and surprise opponents with cards in the Deluxe set add to the replay factor, and the chance to switch between teams for different tactical challenges help to keep the game from stagnating.

The Future: Bright
Being a tabletop system as well as a board game, there is a lot of DreadBall on the market for players wishing to expand their playing options.  In addition to the two featured in the box, there are 10 other teams which can be purchased seperately, as well as star players which can be used to boost existing teams.  On top of these there's also the DreadBall Ultimate expansion, turning the game into a group event for up to 6 players.

Price: £50 Deluxe (£30 Kick-Off)
The DreadBall Deluxe boxset will set you back roughly £50, which is starting to get towards the top end range as far as board games go.  Kick-Off, on the other hand, is a more pocket-friendly £30.  It should be noted that both sets give good value for money, so it really boils down to how far players want to take the plunge into the world of DreadBall.  Most gaming stores should stock it as a standard item, being a main system from one of the big names in tabletop gaming, but even if they don't keep it on the shelves it should be easy to order in.


Tea consumed during this review: None! Douwe Egberts caramel coffee with milk and 2 sweeteners. Brew rating 9.5/10

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Friday, 13 December 2013

DreadBall Deluxe, Part 1: Box Contents

On a couple of occasions this year we've taken a look at games which cross the threshold between board games and tabletop systems.  First we threw in our two cents worth on Wyrd Miniatures Puppet Wars Unstitched, then we picked up the currently-on-hiatus Sedition Wars from Studio McVey and Deadzone from Mantic Games.  Continuing with this trend we're now turning our spotlight onto another one of Mantic's offerings, but this time of a very different nature, as we look at DreadBall; the futuristic sports game by Jake Thornton.
DreadBall is a game for 2 players, and is set in the universe of Mantic's tabletop system Warpath.  There are two different starter boxes which can be purchased for this game: DreadBall Kick-Off and DreadBall Deluxe.  For the purposes of this review we're going to be taking a look at Deluxe, as it gives players the complete DreadBall experience, whereas Kick-Off gives something of a stripped-down version, still playable in its own right, but lacking some of the finer points of the whole game.  At the end of this review we'll point out the elements which only come with the Deluxe set, allowing you lovely folk to decide which version better suits your gaming habits and pockets.
The initial appeal (after seeing how many people at our FLGS were enjoying the system) of DreadBall to us was its nature as a sports game.  We're not exactly the biggest sports fans in the world, but when most tabletop/board game hybrids are about two opposing forces trying to shoot eachother to death, it was a breath of fresh air to see something a little different.  In our Christmas gift guide we mentioned that our first impression of DreadBall was a combination of American Football and the assorted games of the Tron universe.  Having now played the game we can confirm that this is fairly accurate, although with the brawling element of ice hockey thrown in for good measure!  Let's have a run through of the box contents, and you can see exactly what the Deluxe box gives you to run rings around your opposition!

As usual, we'll start things off with the board.  Unlike some of the previously mentioned tabletop/board game hybrids, DreadBall does actually feature a good old-fashioned gaming board.  Any sportsball game by its very nature is played within a clearly defined area (we're lead to believe that sports buffs know these as "pitches"), and so the DreadBall board lays out the pitch for this adrenaline-fuelled encounter.
The pitch is divided up into hexagonal spaces, which neatly fit the hexagonal bases of the miniatures.  Making sure your players face the right direction is an important part of a match, and by opting for hexagons Mantic have given a decent range of facing and movement options.  As you may have guessed, the aim of the game is to score more points than your opponent's team, and so the blue and red areas of the board are the scoring zones for the home and away teams.  Other areas of the board include both teams' substitute benches and sin bins/recovery areas (DreadBall is the very embodiment of a contact sport after all!), the scoring track, and the turn counter.
In order to play any sportsball game, teams are fairly essential.  The DreadBall boxset contains two teams: one of humans - The Trontek 29ers, and one of marauders (orcs, to you and me) - The Greenmoon Smackers.  As usual in tabletop/board game hybrids, these do require assembling and painting, but they do go together with very little hassle and we had both of our teams ready to go within 2 hours...
Obviously painted miniatures do look a lot nicer, but if you're anxious to take to the field then there's nothing to stop players from using unpainted models.  Just make sure you wait for the glue to dry so that you don't ruin your nice game board!
Of course a sportsball game wouldn't be a sportsball game without... well... a sportsball!  And it would quickly descend into chaos without some kind of official to keep watch over the proceedings...
Fortunately DreadBall hasn't overlooked these points, and the Deluxe boxset contains a pair of balls (stop sniggering in the back row) and a ref-bot.  The ref-bot is not just included for aesthetics, but actually follows the action around the board and officiates over disputes.  The ref-bot not only has the power to send players off or sin-bin them for a number of turns, but it can also be used sneakily to block your opponent's team from getting to the ball or stomping a downed player!
We've grown used to board games throwing a plethora of tokens our way, and so the stunning lack thereof in DreadBall was initially a cause for great confusion.  On reflection, however, there isn't really much in a sportsball game which would need to be marked out with tokens, and so the box contains just a small sheet.  Each player can take 5 actions during their turn, and so each team has 5 tokens used to keep track of these.  Aside from those, there are simply a pair of tokens to keep track of the score and turn number, and one card effect marker.
Also included in the box is a decent set of dice in three different colours - blue for the home team, red for the away team, and white for the ref and to be used as coaching dice, which can be earned with flamboyant gameplay and used to bolster other dice rolls during a match.
Once you've selected your team, you might want to keep a record of their achievements, and so a team roster pad is also provided.  This is really only relevant for ongoing league campaigns rather than one-off matches, but if (like us) you decide to give your chosen team a theme, then you might want to fill out the roster to keep track of your players' names just for fun.

A game of DreadBall is a fast-paced and dangerous thing, and even the best laid plans and tactics can fall apart in the face of the whimsical sportsball gods!  DreadBall comes with a single deck of cards which can turn the tide of the game and maintain the unpredictable nature of a match.  Some of these cards have ongoing effects which stay in play until replaced by another, whilst some are one-shot uses which can have a devastating effect if played at the right time - having the ball explode as your opponent is about to throw a winning strike is always cruel!  As well as these effects, the cards also serve two other purposes: determining the movement of the ref-bot, and tracking how happy your fans are!  Pleasing your fans earns coaching dice for your team, which can help to score all-important points, which in turn make your fans happier still!
And of course it's generally useful to have a rulebook, otherwise the box would just be a mass of confusing components!  The full-colour DreadBall rulebook is rather nice, and features the complete set of rules for the game (the smaller book in the Kick-Off box only contains a stripped-down version of the rules - this will be further explained in Part 2).  As well as a breakdown of the gameplay, the rulebook also contains the stats for the different races' teams (including some of the additional teams, available to buy separately), and guidelines on how to run a league campaign with friends.

All in all we certainly felt satisfied that we were holding a quality product when we cracked open our DreadBall Deluxe box, so come back next week to find out what we thought of the gameplay, how the Kick-Off box compares, and the themes we eventually chose for our two teams!