Beginners Guide to DreadBall

by paet the pagan-gerbil2. March 2014 10:15

DreadBall as a game has grown rapidly, and now has a violent younger sister – DreadBall Xtreme. If you’ve seen the game, tried the game, and want to know where to go next, this page is for you.

This is intended to be a guide to new players, to plan their progression through the DreadBall universe. If you love the Z’zor and want to play Xtreme, what do you need to buy?

Important note: As Xtreme doesn’t actually exist yet, some of this information is speculation and subject to change as more information is released from Mantic. To get it on the Xtreme Kickstarter, or pick up DreadBall components at an excellent discount, go to the DreadBall Xtreme Kickstarter!

What Are All These Boxes?

  • DreadBall Deluxe
    This is the recommended starting point for the original DreadBall. It is identical to the original box that Kickstarter backers got, apart from the name ‘Deluxe’ on the front.
  • DreadBall Kick-Off
    This is just like Deluxe, except with no ref-bot model and no cards. The rulebook is half-sized, and doesn’t have the rules for leagues, MVPs, cards or fouls.
    • Extra Time
      This is a pack with a ref-bot, cards, and code for a digital version of the full rulebook. It upgrades a Kick-Off box to be the same as Deluxe.
  • DreadBall Ultimate – Season Three
    This is an expansion for DreadBall, and adds rules for multiplayer games and giants. It cannot be used on it’s own, and needs either DreadBall Deluxe or Kick-Off to play. It’s available as both the Season Three rulebook separately, or the DreadBall Ultimate box.
  • DreadBall Xtreme
    This is an entirely separate game that shares many of the core rules. It does not require any of the other boxes to play, and it is not required for those.
  • Galactic Tour Series
    These are small expansions that modify the way that the game is played. They absolutely need the base game to play.

So what do I need to start?

There are two flavours of DreadBall – ‘Original’ and Xtreme. Original represents the official, licenced, major league sport. Xtreme represents the ‘illegal boxing’ version, played without the same regulations as the mainstream game.

  • To get started with DreadBall, you’ll need either the Deluxe or Kick-Off box – not both!
  • To get started with Xtreme, you’ll need the Xtreme box.

Why do you recommend Deluxe over Kick-Off?

Kick-Off and Extra Time together will give you practically the same as Deluxe, for £5 less. The Deluxe set will give you a few extra models and hex bases for all of them (these are really useful). It will also give you a full-size physical copy of the rules – Kick-Off gives you a half-sized basic rulebook, with a digital version of the Deluxe rules. I prefer proper rulebooks that I can carry with me, and I don’t have a tablet to refer to things digitally.

Original DreadBall – Where are the rules for…?

You need Deluxe or Kick-Off to play the game, as a bare minimum.

  • Cards – you need Deluxe or Extra Time
  • Ref/Fouls/Ref Checks – Deluxe or Extra Time
    • Ball Hog Foul and errata to Stall – Season Three
  • Leagues – Deluxe or Extra Time
    • Advancement Tables – Deluxe or Extra Time, and an alternative set in Season Two
  • Coaches - Season Two
  • Cheerleaders – Season Two
    • There are also expanded Cheerleader rules in Galactic Tour: Azure Forest
  • Multiplayer games – Season Three
  • Giants – Season Three
  • Weather – Galactic Tour: Azure Forest
    • These also require the cards in Deluxe or Extra Time
  • Jungle Blessings – Galactic Tour: Azure Forest
  • Errata

What do I need to play Team X?

This is very dependant on what version of the game (Original or Xtreme) you want to play. I’ve included everything that you’ll need, to avoid confusion. Season Three contains a summary in the back (also available in the free rules on Mantic’s website) which will ‘get you by’ for Z’zor and S2 Corporation, but you will need the Season Two book for the new skills for the Robots and Judwan.

Quick key:

  • Kick-Off = You need Kick-Off or Deluxe.
  • Deluxe = You need Deluxe, or Kick-Off with Extra Time.
  • Grey and italic = The rules haven't been released yet, information here is speculative.
TeamDreadBall OriginalDreadBall Xtreme
S1 CorporationKick-OffXtreme, Xtreme Xpansion
MaraudersKick-OffXtreme, Xtreme Xpansion
Veer-mynKick-OffXtreme, Xtreme Xpansion
Forge FathersKick-OffXtreme, Xtreme Xpansion
JudwanKick-Off, Season TwoXtreme, Xtreme Xpansion
S2 CorporationDeluxe, Season Two/Season Three*Xtreme, Xtreme Xpansion
RobotsKick-Off, Season TwoXtreme, Xtreme Xpansion
Z’zorDeluxe, Season Two/Season Three*Xtreme, Xtreme Xpansion
ZeesKick-Off***, Season ThreeXtreme, Xtreme Xpansion
AsteriansKick-Off***, Season Two, Season Three**Xtreme, Xtreme Xpansion
NamelessDeluxe, Season ThreeXtreme, Xtreme Xpansion
TeratonsKickOff, Season ThreeXtreme, Xtreme Xpansion
MartiansKickOff/DeluxeXtreme
ConvictsKickOff/Deluxe, Season FourXtreme
Kalyshi AsteriansKickOff/Deluxe, Season FourXtreme
Plague MutantsKickOff/Deluxe, Season FourXtreme, Xtreme Xpansion
MechanitesKickOff/Deluxe, Season FourXtreme, Xtreme Xpansion
BrokkrKickOff/Deluxe, Season FiveXtreme, Xtreme Xpansion
CrystellansKickOff/Deluxe, Season FiveXtreme, Xtreme Xpansion
SphyrKickOff/Deluxe, Season FiveXtreme, Xtreme Xpansion
RebsKickOff/Deluxe, Season FiveXtreme, Xtreme Xpansion
KorisKickOff/Deluxe, Season SixXtreme, Xtreme Xpansion
HobgoblinsKickOff/Deluxe, Season SixXtreme, Xtreme Xpansion
Ada-LorenaKickOff/Deluxe, Season SixXtreme, Xtreme Xpansion
TsudochanKickOff/Deluxe, Season SixXtreme, Xtreme Xpansion

* S2 Corporation have a summary in Season Three (and in the free rules on Mantic’s website), and no skills that aren’t in the main rulebook.
** Asterians start with a Defensive Coach, the rules for which are in the Season Two book.
*** Asterians and Zees both have special rules that depend heavily on Ref Checks/Fouls - these require either the Deluxe rulebook or the digital version of that rulebook in the Extra Time pack. The small one in Kick-Off doesn't cover Fouls or Ref Checks. It's possible to play the teams without them, but the full experience will be missing!

What do I need to play this MVP?

Like teams, MVPs are dependant on which variant of the game that you want to play.

Quick key:

  • Kick-Off = You need Kick-Off or Deluxe.
  • Deluxe = you need Deluxe, or Kick-Off with Extra Time.
MVPDreadBall OriginalDreadBall Xtreme
BuzzcutDeluxe 
Number 88Deluxe 
John DoeDeluxe 
Reek RolatDeluxe 
“Lucky” LoganDeluxe 
Slippery JoeDeluxe 
Gorim IronstoneDeluxe 
The EnforcerDeluxe 
Anne-Marie HelderDeluxe, Season Two 
DBR7 – “Firewall”Deluxe, Season Two 
LudwigDeluxe, Season Two 
Mee-kel JudwanDeluxe, Season Two 
NightshadeDeluxe, Season Two 
Rico van DienDeluxe, Season Two 
WildcardDeluxe, Season Two 
Wyn Greth’zkiDeluxe, Season Two 
Yurik YuriksonDeluxe, Season Two 
MellisandraDeluxe, Season Two*, Season Three 
The PraetorianDeluxe, Season Three 
RillerDeluxe, Season Two*, Season Three 
Big MechDeluxe, Season Two*, Season Three 
Alpha SimianDeluxe, Season Two*, Season Three 
Nameless SpawnDeluxe, Season Three 
BarricadeDeluxe, Season Two*, Season Three 
DozerDeluxe, Season Three 
The VeteranDeluxe, Free rules (also printed in Azure Forest), Season Two* 
Thunder ChrisDeluxe, Free rules (also printed in Azure Forest), Season Two* 
DrakeDeluxe, Free rules (also printed in Azure Forest), Season Two* 
Jonathon “Gabe” GabrielDeluxe, Free rules 
BlaineDeluxe, Free rules 
A’teo AdysiDeluxe, Azure Forest, Season Two*
BrickbatXtreme
Deadman DavitzXtreme
KailasaXtreme
AsylumXtreme
Chovar PsychozoanXtreme
Brute ForceXtreme
Lyra the FixerXtreme
WeissXtreme
Iron AncestorXtreme
CryptXtreme
Blitz the Great DrakeDeluxe, Xtreme Challenge CupXtreme, Xtreme Challenge Cup
IrsalaXtreme
GaldoXtreme
Sann-garXtreme
HexanDeluxe, Xtreme Challenge CupXtreme, Xtreme Challenge Cup
Alo-KhanDeluxe, Xtreme Challenge CupXtreme, Xtreme Challenge Cup
Eko'oDeluxe, Xtreme Challenge CupXtreme, Xtreme Challenge Cup
Shnorkel the AvengerXtreme
The ExcavatorXtreme
MediBotXtreme
KryphosXtreme
TychoXtreme
GrakXtreme, Furon Arena
PhantasmXtreme
GeminiXtreme
M'zei KeinXtreme
Slalaran VeshXtreme
Creed Xtreme

* Some of these MVPs have rules printed in the Season Two rulebook. There is a short, one-line summary in the back of the Season Three rules (and in the free rules on Mantic’s website) but for the full background and rules descriptions, it’s recommended to use the Season Two book.

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Cardiff League – Weeks Five to Nine

by paet the pagan-gerbil26. February 2014 08:00

I was missing playing DreadBall regularly – tournament season appears to be in the Spring, and it’s been difficult to play against people other than Jen for a while. I eventually approached the Cardiff League guys to see if they would allow me to join, given that I could only attend in person every fortnight (at best) and would have to play most of my games remotely via Vassal. They seem to be more organised than the last couple of leagues in Bristol – the first one followed the rules from the book and people failed to challenge or complete their assigned games in the fortnight provided each round, the second was a more open double-round-robin but I had a couple of people stand me up and found it difficult to attend on the busiest club nights, no-one else was able to attend the same nights that I was and many didn’t try to arrange games on the forums (or reply to my calls for the same).

The Cardiff League has a very disciplined organiser sorting out the match-ups for each week, rounding up the results and making sure it all keeps ticking along. I’ve jumped in to replace one of his teams, with the team ranking and league points that they had accrued so far – 2 losses and a draw.

I decided to take my Zee team along for this league, since I think a developed Zee team could be interesting to play with, and I’d like the practice to try and perfect their tactics. Since I was replacing a Zee team, I only got 17 credits to boost my team rating – I bought an offensive coach and saved the rest for later. As I’m starting in week five, I’m hoping to organise some friendly games via Vassal so I can get some experience on the monkeys and make them better for the league games.

Game 1 – Home vs The Cylon Conspiracy (Robots)

The Cylon Conspiracy had a huge lead on me, having a few landslide victories behind them and on top of the league table. Being the underdog that I am, I got a bunch of free agents here. I got an Asterian Guard, a Sticky Nameless Guard, and two more Zees.

I swarmed the pitch and managed to get a few good scores, but couldn’t keep the three-point strike zone defended well enough and ended up six points down when I had to concede the game early and run to catch a train. I made enough cash after the game to buy two cards, and replace a dead Zee. Two of them managed to get experience, but not enough to gain a rank.

Game 2 – Away vs Squad Sonny (Robots)

I was hoping to squeeze this in on the same day as against the Cylon Conspiracy but the schedule was against me. Instead, we arranged this game by Vassal. It’s not as hard as I thought it would be to play via Vassal, and doesn’t get in the way too much.

Squad Sonny had a huge team rating, 250 against my 134. This meant my underdog bonus was more than I could possibly use. I bought Buzzcut for the game, and got a few free agents – Asterian Guard and Jack, and a Teraton Jack. The Teraton spent the whole game on the bench because I’ve not played with them yet, and I’m not sure how best to use their abilities. Buzzcut I used for some muscle, but wanted to keep the scoring to the Zees (as poor as they are) to try and get some experience. This worked well, with my two experienced monkeys scoring early on and getting me a six point lead before half-time.

Unfortunately, good luck doesn’t last and I wasn’t able to score again – Squad Sonny managed to push enough models around to get a four-pointer, and ended up winning by two. However, with the underdog bonus I had enough to max out my cards for the next game, and still have plenty left over to buy something else. I don’t know if I’ll buy more Zees, since there is a limit of fourteen and I would like the space for MVPs if I am the underdog again. I could buy some Cheerleaders to try and capitalise on scoring, so the cards can get me easier scores, the scores can get me fan checks, the fan checks get me the coaching dice that I’ll need to help guarantee the score for next time.

My two happy scorers both got Skill increases after the game, so given how close I was to a win this time (landslide, even!) I could actually get it to work next time!

Game 3 – Home vs Yutani Predators (S1 Corporation)

This was another Vassal game, but a little trickier without voice communication. I worry enough that I might be misunderstood with my voice, let alone in plain and emotionless text. The first half of the game was a frantic score-fest, with my two ‘striker’ Zees running and scoring three-pointers every rush, but having them negated instantly by a three-pointer from the Corporation Strikers. After a couple of fumbles from the humans, and a break in the scoring, I finally managed to pull ahead and started to get a lasting lead, and the game ended as a win five points up to me.

Because of all the scoring, I got man monkey of the match, and another ability on one of my ‘striker’ Zees – who got Misdirect.

After this game, I’d maxed out on cards and had oodles of cash left. Looking at team rankings, I can’t expect to get too many more free agents so I bought a couple more Zees (never a bad thing) and a pair of cheerleaders, just in case.

Game 4 – Away vs the Tannhauser Kaiju (Teratons)

Yet another Vassal game – I will be trying to make it to the store at some point, as I need to get some paints and I think I’ve earned the leave at home. This was my first experience with Teratons, on either side of the pitch and they were formidable. Lots of upgrades (two Keepers) and the Teleport ability is incredibly useful! Why ever Evade again?

First score went to the Teratons, and they kept the pressure up high throughout the game. Even with my new hires, there were times I only had 5 on the pitch and no subs to bring on! While not quite so back-and-forth as the previous game, the tit-for-tat was a spread out a lot more and the score didn’t come near my cheerleader till near the end. My Monkey Business dice only gave me a little luck near the beginning, and I realised that Teleport can’t stop a determined Zee from Stealing the ball from a Teraton – but rolling low will scupper that.

My favourite points of the game were having more than half of my team in the Sin Bin thanks to injuries and fouls, and using a Running Interference card to snatch the ball before a Teraton Jack could pick it up… then doubling and running off with it! That Zee eventually sprinted off to a far corner of the pitch, where a Teraton Keeper attempted to teach him the error of his ways. It worked, but the ball scattered off the wall and straight back into the Keeper, who flubbed the catch, and a weird bounce dropped the ball into the almost undefended three-point Strike zone. That was the rush lost, and my final rush for one of the new Zees to sprint up, grab the ball (doubling with 5+ skill), and score (doubling with 5+ skill) to end the game on a 5 point win.

Monkey of the Match was mine again, same Zee as before (both times, he’d done nothing) and that meant a rank increase. He got Running Interference. Another Zee got a Skill increase, and three more are close to advances.

I’d love to play these Teratons again, it was a real challenge – but after the game they did buy a new Guard, so maybe I’d best save some cash for resurrection bills…

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“I said ham hock! Ham HOCK!”

by paet the pagan-gerbil8. February 2014 08:00

We’ve had a couple more sessions of our Four Islands Runequest game. After making a safe camp last time, we carried on looking for the rebel city.

On the way, we discovered a field of sheep which my elf companion decided to butcher. No XP earned. While butchering, he fell down a hole in the ground, and met a hermit in a cave who gave us directions to the rebel city, as we had gotten lost (again).

Leaving (some of) the sheep alone, we made our way along a cliff edge to the city. Dangling off the edge of the cliff were two iron cages, occupied. One contained a thief who’d been caught by the ogres and the other contained the rigger on the SS Shagnasty (our ship). The rigger is played by a new member of our group (fresh blood…). We (and by we I mean mostly the Dwarf) managed to pull the cages up, smash them open with a rock, and rescue the prisoners. Any enemy of the ogres is an ally, we say. We also salvaged some of the iron to take to the city with us.

Arriving in the city clad in furs, carrying savage weapons, we made our way to the guy in charge. We were shown to the regent who gave us a brief overview of the situation – these are the rebels, the rebel king is away on the frontier fighting against the ogres, and we were pointed to a blacksmith who can give us some better equipment. The Ogres had captured Captain Rengrave and the young king of the Bretons and although no-one knew where the boy was, the captain (my character’s father) was being forced to help build ships for the Ogres. We were also given a guide (human, a returning player) to help us get to the ogre capital and find our way around there.

The blacksmith was almost entirely incompetent, and managed to flub a lot of the iron that we gave him to fashion into better weapons. For this reason, I had to a work for a day in the fields to try and pay off the longsword I requested but the first attempts gave me a war boomerang instead. The other guys got similarly rotten luck producing simple weapons and arrowheads.

While I worked, the other guys went to a pub, where they started (inadvertently) a brawl. The Dwarf took the part of Vin Diesel, kicking arse and not spilling a drop. Our elf ended up more like Benny Hill, being slid across the bar, hitting his head at the end and upsetting an Ogre eating a ham hock. Which we misheard to tragically comical effect. Our GM is the greatest, and this became a part of the story now and battered pig penis is apparently an Ogre delicacy. The Ogre and his wife attacked the elf, while our rigger was distracted trying to pick up a barstool as an improvised weapon (it was bolted to the floor) and the guide picked up a table and threw it across the room. Thinking that it might get out of hand (fighting is one thing but murder is another), I figured out that my day in the fields must be almost over and started my way back. When I finally got there, I passed a few lucky Orate rolls and got everything moved on (with the help of the new, slightly greenish longsword I picked up on the way home).

A quick pint and a rest, then back to the Regent to secure a boat to go and see the rebel king on our way to the Ogre capital. We were given a serviceable yacht, and ended the session having safely landed near the rebel encampment.

When we rejoined the game after Christmas, we were met at the camp by Lord Jubrox – a Breton regent who advised us of the current political situation. The ‘rebel’ king, King Rulf, was an Ogre and the rightful king of the Ogres. He’s not very Ogrish, however – too short, too weak, not a martial person at all. And he’s quite sensitive about it. It was decided by the ruling court to pass over him for succession and instead crown his younger brother, who exemplified the physical properties and attitudes of the Ogres. Hence, the rebel king and the war. We were then allowed to see the King. We were also told about the rebel Ogre General Gabrax.

We explained the situation – we want to recover my father and the Breton boy king. During this audience, we noted that Lord Jubrox doesn’t appear to be happy about the Breton king being a boy. We asked the king for any supplies to try and accomplish our goals, since freeing the captain would deprive the enemy of shipbuilding skills and freeing the boy would get some goodwill with the Bretons. He was unable to spare anything; most of the fighters we saw were human, not Ogre, and they were a raised militia rather than trained soldiers. The King indicated that we can keep anything that we find in a cave nearby being used by bandits, who both the ruling king and the rebel king were too busy to deal with. He also had a plan for us to get into the capital, possibly assassinate his brother and rescue the prisoners.

We struck out for the bandit camp, and I attempted to snipe them from afar with my long bow. I kept missing, and missing, and missing, and when they came closer to find me they were jumped by the rigger and the Dwarf (the only others who could attend this session). We finished them off easily, and I learned that the ‘greenish tinge’ on my long sword was an acid effect which grants disruption – a Runequest term for immediately and permanently destroying armour. If I don’t get through it the first time, it’ll be easier to get through the second time.

Time pressures meant that we had to leave it there for the evening. Next time, we’ll be attempting to assault the cave and hopefully have more players to help!

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Room 101

by paet the pagan-gerbil25. January 2014 08:00

So, this blog has been going a while. Starting on the first of January last year, I have been updating the blog every two weeks. A couple of times I was late, a couple of times I was early (usually to be excited about tournament write-ups), but as it adds up I am still three days ahead of where I should be.

This post will be the one-hundred and first since the blog was started, back in October 2009. I managed seventy-two posts before 2013, and twenty-seven in 2013. That’s roughly 27% of all posts being in 2013, so about a quarter of posts being in a quarter of the time. If I keep this up, I expect to be at post two hundred in 2017 sometime. Of course, if I get a few early posts in, I should be able to bring that forward a bit.

This year, I intend to continue posting regularly every two weeks. I also intend to continue posting about DreadBall, hopefully getting more pictures of my painted models up this year. I’d better step up the game, with DreadBall Extreme scheduled to Kickstart in late February/early March and the ‘Galactic Tour’ series that might introduce more teams and MVPs. I’d better start selling some organs too, unless Mantic slow down.

I also intend to continue posting the Star Trek episode autopsies. The overall plan, in case you haven’t guessed, is to slog my way through The Next Generation and make my way to Deep Space Nine and Voyager (although obviously, I already started with Voyager) and maybe, just maybe, one day I’ll get to Enterprise. At the rate of one episode a month, I think that means I can expect to get to DS9 in roughly 2028? And since I only blog twice a month and will want to drop game reviews, tournament write-ups, DreadBall stuff, I think I’ll have to throw in some bonus blogging to be able to make it in anything like sensible time. If we’re lucky we’ll even see another series before I’ve finished (something of the same quality as DS9, perhaps).

This is going to be short and sweet, because I think I’ve earned a little break over the last year. And if I don’t get away to paint models, I won’t have any pictures to put up here!

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2013

by paet the pagan-gerbil11. January 2014 08:00

It’s that time of year again! I try to do this every year on the first day of the New Year. This year, I couldn’t be bothered, I felt like a bit of a rest before it’s gone up.

Did you enjoy this year?
On the whole, yes. Did a fair few new things.

What did you do in 2013 you'd never done before?
Been to a games tournament, won a games tournament, driven to Cardiff (almost one whole year after starting work there!), gone to a Roller Derby game, kept the blog updated regularly.

Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I didn’t make any resolutions this year, but I did have a secret resolution to update the blog regularly. I’ve managed to put up a new post every two weeks all year long, only being late by a day or two a few times, normally due to illness. And I have managed to be early on at least two occasions, by more than five days, so overall I’m still ahead.

In 2014, I’m going to try and keep that up – blogging is fun. I’m also going to try and get my painting table cleared, and get running (again). If I put my updates on the blog, I’ll be more motivated to actually keep it all going. Watch this space.

Did anyone close to you give birth?
Some of our friends did, yes!

Did anyone close to you die?
What a morbid question this is. Thankfully, no.

What countries did you visit?
I visited Wales – I normally just work there. I also visited Nottingham, and while it’s not another country I’ll count it. I am not a globetrotter.

What would you like to have in 2014 you lacked in 2013?
Some calm.

What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
June 8th – I won the Cardiff Regional Championship! September 3rd – Freddy started school!

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Today’s meme is brought to you by the ‘winning the Cardiff DreadBall Regional’ dead horse, pre-flogged for your convenience.

What was your biggest failure?
Not being able to play in the Ultimate Regional. Not running.

Did you suffer illness or injury?
A few times, normal minor illness things. Nothing horrific.

Did you have to go to the hospital?
Nope, I am a healthy person. We went to hospital for Fred to have grommets put in, and again not long after for a biopsy.

What was the best thing you bought?
I didn’t buy anything this year, I think. Certainly nothing too big. I suppose the new printer will have to count by default.

Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Freddy’s behaviour improved a lot over the first two terms in school. His reading is shooting ahead, writing is catching up, and his silliness and outbursts are getting rarer and milder.

Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Freddy’s behaviour in the first term in school. It felt like there was no reason for it, and nothing we could do while he was at school to calm him down. About the only explanations we can think of is hospital visits or end-of-term tiredness. He sorted himself out though.

Where did most of your money go?
Into the mortgage, we didn’t really put anything anywhere else.

What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Freddy starting school. The Welsh Regional, and both of the Mantic Open Days. Getting my last DreadBall Kickstarter package.

What song will always remind you of 2013?
Lithuania’s awesome Eurovision entry, ‘We are the winners’.

Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. Happier or sadder? About the same.

ii. richer or poorer? About the same.

What do you wish you'd done more of?
More games! More games nights!

What do you wish you'd done less of?
I can’t really think of anything.

How did you spend Christmas?
Visiting family in Portsmouth.

Where did you ring in 2013?
At home, in bed, sleeping. We have two young kids and had to get to work after the new year!

What was your favourite TV programme?
We mostly watched Stargate SG-1 this year. Xena took a back seat because it was getting a little bit annoying with the Mongolian Amazons (and we had to sit around the computer, and the chairs aren’t good for Jen’s back).

Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Nope. Well, Chris Grayling confounds me completely but I wouldn’t say I hate him.

What was the best book you read?
I don’t think I read a single book all year. It’s been a hard year to find time to read.

What was your greatest musical discovery?
I just don’t get any new music this year. My friends started a band, their last one was awesome, but I haven’t heard any of it yet. Check them out and tell me what you think, they are called The Disfavoured Party.

What did you want and get?
A tournament win!

What did you want and not get?
A proper National tournament, as was planned for the middle of November. The venue flubbed and we didn’t get it.

How did you earn your keep?
Writing software for a law firm.

What was your favourite film of this year?
The World’s End. Hands down the best.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I spent the day before at the Welsh Regional, and the day of my birthday just chilling out at home with my mum visiting. I was twenty-nine.

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Winning another tournament. I’m getting to be a bit of a junkie… Never being late with the blog, not even the once.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
Too many holes, best buy something new. Get the same as what I just threw out.

What kept you sane?
As in previous years, this question makes an assumption.

What political issue stirred you the most?
Privatisation of the probation service. When the keynote address at a conference discussing it declares that it’s a terrible idea, and the minister in charge hides an MOJ report about it while repeating “I believe it will work so I’m going to do it” (a direct quote) and the companies trying to get the government contracts are already being investigated for fraud while carrying out other government contracts in the same area… You have to wonder, is this really a good idea?

Who was the best new person you met?
I met a lot of new people at tournaments, and in the Vanguard club leagues. All of them are awesome people. Some of these people I expect I’ll only see in Nottingham at Mantic Open Days!

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013:
Stay cool.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
WEEEEEEEE are the CHAMpyuns, my freeeeeeeeeeeee-ends……

What is the best thing that you were given?
My awesome metal pitch. It’s so pretty…

What is the best thing you have given someone?
I am not a generous person. I don’t think I gave anyone anything. I gave a bit to charity this year… but nothing personal that I remember. Ah well.

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Star Trek Episode Autopsy – The Last Outpost

by paet the pagan-gerbil28. December 2013 08:00

The first appearance of the Ferengi! Wow! Oh, how they’ve changed since this episode. Their characterisation as (in Data’s words) “traders, mercantile… caveat emptor” has remained, with their aggressively capitalist nature transformed from a ‘violent thief’ to a ‘sneaky thief’. Their stooping, clawing, twisted movements disappeared over time too. One of the poor Ferengi on the planet acted like a cross between a monkey and the Wicked Witch of the West.

A nice part of the episode was the senior staff going through their options – not least because Troi, who I always found annoying with the confused face and ‘I am sensing… frustration?’ nonsense, provided the solution to their dilemma. Even if that solution wasn’t the one that they wanted, or after being given new information, the one that they needed.

Children

Once, I accidentally broke a Thunderbirds model belonging to a guy called Angel who played the Admiral in the Admiral Insurance adverts. I wonder if these kids feel the same?

One of the most confusing parts of the episode was that upon entering the conference room, Riker had to shoo out two children. Maybe it’s because I’d forgotten how much the children are hanging around on the first season (reminding us that it’s a bigger ship than the original, that things are different?) or maybe it’s that certain areas – for example the conference room attached to the bridge – should probably be off-limits to civilians. Cruise ships today manage it, DS9 managed it, Babylon 5 managed it. Why can’t the Enterprise keep it’s children under control? Did the children leave the finger puzzle behind for Data to find? Or did they actually have no purpose at all for this episode?

I’ll have to try and remember the families on board the Enterprise when they are given a dangerous mission. So far, they’ve been on a routine negotiation (and kidnapped by Q), an investigation (and all contracted a dangerous virus), another routine negotiation (and Tasha was kidnapped) and this, chasing a thief. This is probably the most dangerous mission given so far, since the Ferengi are known to be vicious and their technology is unfamiliar to the Federation.

Viewscreens and Computers

Ugh, hew-mons.

I liked the way that the Ferengi used the viewscreens. Either they are trying to intimidate by having it so close-cropped to the face, or they are so unaccustomed to visual communication (as they say in the episode) that they don’t have it displayed on the main screen (as I would presume that they have) but instead on a small screen by the captain’s chair somewhere. The way that the Ferengi in their first communication always seems to be looking down and to one side, I’m inclined to believe the second. Maybe they only have visual communication for showing off merchandise for trade.

On the other hand, Data’s console flashed rapidly when someone accessed the Enterprise computers. I still don’t remember if it was confirmed that it was the Ferengi or the T’kon, but either way – why Data? Why not every computer console on the Enterprise? Why should a screen flash at all, who is looking at it? This really winds me up in film and television. It gets a bit of a pass in this episode because writers in the 1980's are not necessarily as computer-literate as they are today.

I also noticed that the conference room had a table hologram in it to show what was going on with the planet and the power drain. I know that in Voyager, everyone was huddled around a relatively small monitor. Did the Enterprise crew break their table hologram? I’ll have to watch out and see when it was used again.

When was this hologram ever used again?

Power Drain

So power was draining out of the ship, and they prioritise life support. That makes sense. But life support appears to include artificial gravity and exclude heat. I would posit that regardless of relative energy consumption, people would last longer with the radiators on and floating around than they would sitting on the floor at minus 100 degrees. I would have guessed that artificial gravity would have taken much more energy than a bit of heating – especially if they were able to shut down levels of the ship to concentrate the life support on a fraction of inhabited decks to conserve power.

Other Captains

It’s a little hard to imagine how Sisko would deal with this situation, since he has so much more experience with the Ferengi – dealing with Quark, working with Rom and the whole spectrum from strong disapproval to mentor and sponsor for Nog. It’s a little unfair to Picard since the Federation at this point was only just encountering the Ferengi and preparing for some major friction. Janeway would probably have done the same as Picard. I can imagine Neelix, Kes, Paris or even Tuvok to provide Troi’s insight into first communication with the Ferengi. I would expect them to try and capitalise on the bluff with some impressive light shows, however doubt it would be too effective.

I think both Sisko and Janeway would have tried to go to the planet to investigate and regardless of whether the Ferengi joined them, encountered the Portal Guardian.

It all comes down to whether or not the Guardian mentioned Sun Tzu accidentally, dredged it up from deep in Riker’s memory (implying he scanned a lifetime in seconds) or read it off of the top of Riker’s mind, since the crew had only just been discussing Sun Tzu.

If Jadzia had been on the planet, I expect her long history and wisdom would have helped get past the Portal Guardian. Maybe he would even see some of the Emissary in Sisko? Tuvok might have provided the calm and wisdom for Janeway’s away team – she has a far younger crew than Sisko.

Conclusion

So this episode is noteworthy for the first appearance of the Ferengi, even though they will change a little over the course of The Next Generation before we end up with Quark on Deep Space Nine. The Ferengi were clearly never intended as an ‘alien of the week’, they were teased in the first TNG episode (Encounter at Farpoint) but this is the first appearance (Picard even notes that they don’t know what the Ferengi look like).

There’s a couple more things to add to my episode tracking...

  • Number of almost complete power drains: 1
  • Hackers advertising themselves: 1
  • Number of surrenders: 1

There’s a couple of things that I hope to keep a track of over the series – whether or not the table hologram in the conference room ever comes up again, for instance. The Ferengi are surprisingly strong in this episode, although possibly that’s unique to the ‘marauder’ culture of Ferengi. Also, the Ferengi are keen on gold. As a big DS9 fan, that surprises me because the key currency there is gold-pressed latinum – “the valuable and unreplicable latinum encased in worthless gold”. Possibly increased contact with the Federation and other ‘post-scarcity’ cultures with replicator technology instigated this change in Ferengi values. Gold coating adorns all of the indicators of wealth we see later in Ferengi culture, it can’t be merely a container for the latinum that is the real prize.

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Mantic Open Day November 2013 & Gamers For Life Tournament

by paet the pagan-gerbil14. December 2013 08:00

I wasn’t too sure about going to the second open day, until both a DreadBall tournament was scheduled and the Nationals were postponed as the venue couldn’t host it anymore. It looked a little shaky, but we got babysitters sorted so both Jen and I could make it. Then we dragged Oli into it too…

Jen decided quickly – Season One Corporation. That’s her favourite, and they’re almost ready. Oli has his favourite too, the Season Two Corporation. He told me that he couldn’t get his team painted in time though, so I offered to paint my second Corp team for him and finished it just two weeks before (not including highlighting, which is going to make a big difference). I took a long time to decide – I had four teams to choose from that were ready to take. The Veer-myn, Marauders and Z’zor are all finished or nearly finished, and the Judwan (while basic) are ready to take at least. I heard that there might be painting prizes, so I would rather take the Z’zor (my best painted team) but given that I still don’t think that my best will be good enough I settled with the Veer-myn. I’ve only taken them to one tournament (the Welsh Regional) but I really enjoy the fast teams over the bashy teams. I definitely need more practice before I take a bashy team to a tournament again.

While getting ready to go, and ordering our breakfast, we found out that as well as ourselves, our hotel was also hosting a couple of tournament players, a pathfinder and both the Scottish and Irish regional winners – what are the odds, three regional winners under the same roof! If we’d known, we’d have shared our three-player Ultimate game with them (as well as the vodka, beer and prawn crackers). Next year, there was a suggestion of getting in touch with the hotel and trying to book as a group to get a discount.

Game One – Craig Johnson’s Vanaheim Vixens (S2 Corporation)

My first game went very well – a landslide win! It wasn’t easy, and Craig was an expert with Running Interference. He used a couple of tricks I’d never seen before – if you run interference on someone when they move into the ball space and win, you can attempt to pick up the ball yourself. He even managed to kill a rat, which is pretty good going for humans.

Apologies for the picture, camera phones and poor lighting...

Craig went on to get second place and win best painted, and his models were so clean and clear I’m not surprised!

Game Two – Adam Cooper’s Marauders

I played Adam at the previous Mantic Open Day in May and it was good to see him again – it was also good to see his dice were on his team this time. Last time, he played Judwan while I took Marauders with an Offensive Coach. This time, he had Marauders with an Offensive Coach. The cards I picked up were almost useless, and the game devolved into a massive ruck behind my three point Strike Zone. For a fair portion of the game, there were no models on the opposite side of the pitch – including the ref and the ball!

Both of us used the referee to try and block avenues of escape – me to stop him getting to the three-point zone, and him to stop me getting the ball back to his half. A couple of times I did manage to break away and score to get a win.

Game Three – Matt Willis’s Marauders

After lunch, I played Matt and his Marauders. He bought an extra Orx, and lined up all four on the starting line. It didn’t look easy to break through. Luckily, they scattered fairly quickly and opened up the pitch. He played a heavy slamming game, and kept so many rats off of the pitch I had a tough time getting to the ball and scoring. For a couple of rushes, his Goblin held on to the ball and didn’t move at all, while the rats were being pummelled! In the end though, I managed to scrape enough points to get a win.

It was after this game, on table two, that I realised I might be in with a chance…

Game Four – Dan Porter’s Asterians

Table one, baby! This was the hardest game by far, and Dan had got here with three landslide wins. I got a bit of a pep talk going into the game, since of all 12 teams I’d not played with or against the Asterians before. Before taking any actions, he used Dirty Tricks and got my guard sent out of the game. That’s an incredible ability, and there is absolutely no defence against it (unless you are Zees).

Apologies to Dan, who wanted to arrange them nicely. I know the limits of my photography!

Dan used ‘Taking a Dive’ really well, and I soon had a Striker out of the game too. I did get a hold of the ball fairly often, and had five strike attempts – four at three points, and one at one point. Guess which one actually worked. Dan had four successful attempts at two-pointers, and one failed at a three-pointer. Despite losing by a landslide, I felt at every point in the game that I could have brought it back – at first, I felt I could get a win, then a loss, and finally in rush 11 it was all over, although Dan had to Sneak to be able to do so. I think I played well, and if my dice had just behaved once I could have got something like a 5 point loss, or possibly even better.

Results

So Dan obviously took first place, with four landslide wins. Craig took second place and best painted, Oli got fourth, and I came fifth. Jen did fantastically – after getting Wooden Spoon in every tournament she’s been to, she had a perfectly even day with two wins (one being a landslide) and two losses (one being a landslide), putting her exactly halfway out of 27 players – fourteenth place. She managed to play two Nameless teams and a Teraton, as well as Marauders.

This time around, everyone had to provide their own pitch. This mean that I got to see a couple of Tesla Domes and the Mighty Dorx stadium, but unfortunately didn’t get to play on any of them. The Tesla pitches are especially nice, with a much better resolution than I expected – they are really clear and beautiful. If I didn’t already have three pitches, I’d be tempted!

There was a surprising mix of teams here – I expected more Asterians, like the Judwan flooded out in May, but there were only two teams. Void Sirens seemed strong again, and Nameless and Marauders were out a lot – which I honestly didn’t think that I’d see. I heard of one Forge Father player, but never saw them, and spotted Judwan and Robot players. There were also a couple of Teraton players. I was the only Veer-myn team. No Z’zor, no Zees – are people just picking teams alphabetically? The top five were a good mix of teams, with Asterians, two S2 Corporation, a Marauder team and my Veer-myn.

She asked if there was going to be a prize for 'most improvement'!

Open Day

The Open Day itself was pretty amazing. Enough time was left between games that if you finished early, you could get to a seminar. Oli got to one in the lunch break, but I was hanging around for the Regional Ultimate so I missed it myself. There’s been mention of an online seminar for those that missed it though, so I think I might get in on it anyway. Jen’s game went on a bit too long for her to be able to reach it too.

After the first game, we walked around the halls. Mantic had invited other companies to show off their toys – Dropzone Commander and Bolt Action were both in attendance. Deadzone had a big presence, and I was extremely jealous of the Kickstarters who were picking up massive, massive boxes of plastic. There were literally hundreds of wide-eyed gamers hauling massive boxes, with a slightly disbelieving grin on their faces. It’s hard not to want to buy the lot there and then.

Loka was a surprise to me. As we passed their table, Oli took a look. I’d not cared too much for it when it was released because I’ve never liked Chess that much. But Alessio invited us for a game and being a long time Warhammer fan I couldn’t pass up the chance to play a game on the same team as him! The rules were surprisingly simple, the game is really quick to play, and it nearly swayed me. Oli was heard through the rest of the day saying “I love Loka. I want to buy Loka. I can’t get Loka. Should I get Loka? Loka is amazing. What will my wife say if I buy Loka? I can’t buy Loka. I won’t buy Loka. I just bought Loka.” I have to admit, it’s a really nice game. I was told that they sold out a couple of times through the day, it was just flying off the shelves.

WP_000671

Before the final game, I asked James Hewitt (Mantic’s Community Manager) if there would be time to see the shiny new models at least after the last game. He made a quick phone call, then told us he’d come get us later. True to his word, he brought us to the main room where Silvain, Mantic’s sculptor, had just brought over some of what everyone else was drooling over for us to take a look at. I even got to hold the Zombie Troll Shaman, and I want that model so bad it hurts. I don’t even care what game it is for. We got close up to the resin masters for the DreadBall Convicts and Brokkrs too, and they look absolutely amazing. When the next round of Kickstarter comes around, I am going to be so out of pocket. So for that, unseen internet thanks to James and Silvain! Sorry to everyone else for not taking a picture. But not that sorry.

James clearly takes his role as Community Manager extremely seriously. When he was explaining how to get to the pub for post-Open Day chill-out, I asked “Is it walkable?” For the second time that day, he didn’t answer the question. He said “Hang about, and I’ll give you a lift.” He ended up making two trips to take happy gamers to beer! There’s a man who cares about the gamer community, and makes Mantic fans very happy.

Other people have already got their Open Day news up – I suggest you read the Daily Punter (who won second place in the DreadBall tournament), Tiny Tactics and Afternoon Tea, GMort’s Chaotica, see the Facebook event pictures, the new UK & Ireland Ultimate DreadBall Champion’s blog (and another one here) and read Mantic’s blog about the day. Beasts of War covered the day too, mostly interested in the new Deadzone stuff, and in the background of their video you can see the three of us many times (many, many times).

Regional Ultimate

I found out more about the Regional Ultimate on the day, although only from another regional winner. It didn’t seem terribly well planned or publicised, and started 25 minutes late – meaning instead of leaving halfway through to get to my next tournament game, I wouldn’t even be able to start. I was told that it wouldn’t clash, but I preferred to go for the standard games than the big one.

The Regional Ultimate was a multiplayer game between the Midlands, Scottish, Irish and another English Regional Winners and in the end, Ireland won!

Better pictures when I get it back to my place - I sent it home with Oli while we went to the pub

I did get the opportunity to pick up my metal pitch – it is awesome! I have made two rash promises that I don’t know if I’ll keep yet – first, that only painted models can go on it; second, that it will not cross the border into Wales. Hopefully that will convince some Welsh people to come out to win it next year!

What’s Next?

Mantic are apparently moving into the abandoned hospital, hopefully they’ll get plumbing, lighting and heating in there throughout next year. With the offices in the same space getting a studio tour should be easier for us hardcore DreadBallers, and the lighting in some of the rooms was only barely adequate. It was clearly only temporary, and will be better next time. They have a rough plan to hold an Open Day in May again, and maybe next November too. If they make it a DreadBall tournament too, we’ll be there!

It was an improvement on the last Open Day in that there was time for the tournament players to see some of the other stuff, it looks like Mantic are definitely listening to feedback. It’s a shame that the DreadBall tournament was off in a side room this time but after the first game, I didn’t notice it.

I met so many lovely, amazing people. It never ceases to amaze me how friendly and welcoming gamers are, and how I never see any of the real horror stories of tournaments. Even the top tables of the DreadBall tournament were, in my opponent’s words, just like club games. Jen found people giving her advice during and after games, and gave some herself, and we all learned a lot from our games. I cannot stress enough to anyone on the fence that they should drag themselves to a Mantic Open Day tournament – whether or not they have been to a local tournament or not, and whether or not they liked it. They’re such fun, and everyone is wonderful. Don’t worry about being new, I played a guy in his seventh game ever and a couple of the players had only played once or twice before. They had a blast!

This is two Warpath art prints, four Dropzone Commander buildings, two packs of Mars Attacks cards, four Orx Trikes, four Mantic dice, four Loka pawns (for Oli). And all the lollipops we wanted!

Next time, I’m going to have to either convince a real photographer to let me borrow their camera, or to come along themselves. A camera phone really doesn’t do justice to some of the awesome stuff on display.

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DreadBall Kickstarter Season Three

by paet the pagan-gerbil28. November 2013 08:00

The DreadBall Kickstarter is nearly over… I’ve received my final parcel, I have a big pile of plastic to clean, assemble and paint and all that is left is the ‘Creating DreadBall’ digital book and the backer MVP rules.

I’ve really enjoyed getting involved in the tournament ‘scene’ – I’ve taken part in four tournaments this year, winning one and doing acceptably in all of them. The National tournament has been postponed, but a second Open Day this year has been planned for the end of November. Oli, Jen and I are going to rock up there en masse and see what we can do. It’ll give me a little more time to practice for the Nationals too.

So far, I’ve played one game of Ultimate (my Veer-myn, Jen’s S1 Corp and Oli’s S2 Corp) – it’s a real blast, you’ve got to focus much more on scoring with the lack of actions but it’s a real shift from the familiar two player game. Having two players gang up to put threat hexes on a model with the ball is an interesting new tactic, as well as nearly having sudden death on us. I intend to break it out for our DreadBall day in January, I think our casual players will pick it up relatively quickly and enjoy it.

I’ve also played a couple of games with the Zees – one win and one loss. I haven’t got a clue how to play them, they are absolutely insane. They can’t score, they can’t slam, and they definitely can’t pass, but they can move around a lot and they can put out a lot of threat hexes. A few times, I managed to get all ten of my players on the pitch at once. The foul rules are neat and don’t feel like the game slows down at all, and the Zees do stand a chance of being sent off. The only thing is that while concentrating so much on fouling myself and trying to find an edge for the unpredictable primates, I didn’t notice that Jen had snuck on a extra player right at the beginning and was Sneaking for most of the game. My summary – no idea how to play them, but loads of fun. Can’t see them being competitive but they should be an awesome team for a laugh, maybe in a game of Ultimate…

After that, I tried a game with the Nameless against Oli’s Corporation. Just for a laugh, we upgraded our teams with 20mc and I chose to bring Dozer in, to see how giants work. It’s the first time I’ve played a game involving MVPs of any kind. The basic plan was to run in with a Sticky Guard, then slam with Dozer. Six dice slam with a 3 dice penalty on the target should have made it pretty lethal, right? Nope. I’ll have to try again to be sure but the luck was definitely not with me that game.

Then there’s the Mars Attacks Kickstarter. I wasn’t planning on backing, and on the morning that I wrote all of this out ready to queue up for the next scheduled update Mantic went and put up the rumoured Martian DreadBall team. I had a whole thing ready about how I think the cross-over is OK in my eyes but I could see myself getting disappointed if they appeared in Warpath if I were a Warpath player. However, Mantic beat me to it and explained that they don’t fit in Warpath or DeadZone, but that Mars Attacks love cross-overs and DreadBall is a suitable target for it. The renders don’t look particularly exciting, and they may never be legal outside of Mantic tournaments, but I like a bit of a laugh and they look pretty cool with the clear dome helmets. Should be a bit of fun to paint. Well done Mantic, you have my money – now give me a Martian team!

With so many models to assemble and paint, I’ve got to be organised about it. I’m planning on building the bare minimum Season Three teams and prone markers for the teams I have finished. Then I’ll be painting the Season One Corporation for Oli to take to the Open Day (with an extra Jack, because he prefers the Season Two team…) and hopefully, if there’s time, paint the prone markers for our three teams.

Next up, I think I’ll finish assembling everything I have. That way if a good weather day appears over the winter to undercoat them, I’ll be able to get out and hit those ready. Otherwise, I’ll be working on painting the Forge Fathers and finishing off the Season One teams highlights. Then I can put Season One to rest – finished. After that, I’ve nearly finished two Season Two teams (I just need to paint the last Z’zor Jack to make them legal) and have started the Judwan and Robots, so they’ll be a good place to go next. Based on my current painting habits (‘wait for a tournament, pick an unpainted team, make sure they’re done enough on time’) I’ll probably be in the same place next year!

In the dim and distant future when all teams are painted I’d like to do the Keepers and prone markers next, followed by the Giants, Cheerleaders and MVPs. I’ve never used MVPs so I’m not in a great hurry to get them painted but I know that they’ll have to be eventually! I intend to paint the team-specific MVPs to match their teams, but the less restrictive ones in unique colour schemes. It’s going to cost me a fortune in paint.

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Star Trek Episode Autopsy – Code of Honour

by paet the pagan-gerbil14. November 2013 08:00

I find it incredibly difficult to write ‘honour’ incorrectly, like the actual title of the episode is. So I won’t.

This was an interesting episode. It was quite obviously an Original Series episode, in the way that it was shot, dressed, the aliens are ‘really humanoid’ (meaning entirely human with no latex). If you swapped out Kirk and Picard, almost nothing would be different. On the other hand, quite a few of these early episodes were in the mould of the Original Series – more omnipotent, wondrous, unknowable aliens whereas later on, it seems that they transitioned throughout TNG to weirder looking aliens but whose godlike powers were limited or explained by technology somehow.

I noticed on the two named male aliens, they appeared to have scars on their faces – is that to show that they’re aliens, or something to do with their culture and tradition?

I'm going to be so embarassed if that turns out to be his normal face and not makeup...

Honour and Culture

I’m not sure what the point of the episode was – or whether it was designed that way deliberately. The main thrust of the episode seems to be that we must respect this other culture if we want to deal with them, but their notions of ‘honour’ are weird and backwards to me.

The idea that counting coup in a form of ritual kidnap and return can be reconciled – in the end, no harm, no foul. It’ll be something to be more wary of next time. But not returning Tasha Yar after the kidnap seems to be breaking that ritual – it’s clear that the aliens don’t get it, they think that they are doing Picard a favour by allowing him to request her back.

Nor does it seem honourable to me to declare “I’ll take her as my wife” without giving her the chance to break your leg, entirely reasonably. You can’t kidnap someone and then force them to marry you, unless both cultures allow such a thing.

And as much as I understand the bias and highly subjective nature of it, I don’t think that culture or tradition is an acceptable excuse for doing something wrong. Any suppression of a person’s rights, be that because of gender, race, sexuality, health, is just plain wrong and it doesn’t matter if ‘that’s just their culture’. They’re wrong, and their culture is wrong. That doesn’t need to be respected, even if for the greater good it must be tolerated.

Equality of the Sexes

I feel like in some ways this was a more important part of the episode than the ‘honour’ point. I think it was dealt with well – the only people making a big deal out of Tasha Yar being head of security were the aliens, whereas the Starfleet crew didn’t really make a big deal out of it. Maybe they’re so used to dealing with sexist cultures that they can take others actions in their stride, but they didn’t go to great lengths to make their point of equality to the aliens.

Cultural Research

While some points in the episode show a great deal of research about the alien culture has been done, they seem to have completely missed the ‘ritual kidnap’ custom there. That seems like the sort of thing people should be aware of… on the other hand, the one most likely to be aware of it is Tasha Yar and if Starfleet in general has such a culture of equality, why would she suspect that she would be kidnapped? Surely the Captain or First Officer would be better prizes. Perhaps ritual kidnap isn’t that popular, and there’s a lot of more likely things that need to be researched – for instance, how to convince these guys to give up their vaccine.

I loved the fact that this is a race that has customs associated with their transporters – rolling out a red carpet before their leader beams aboard! It reminds me that Stargate SG-1, so much closer to our own time, lines the ramp to the Stargate with a ceremonial guard when they have visiting leaders and adapts some of the tradition and respect of the US military to a completely new context. It’s a shame that this isn’t used so much, and that everyone, from high to low, uses the transporter the same way.

Weapons

Hit 'em with the pointy bits!

I don’t get the impression that these women really have been training with the dangerous spiked gauntlet weapons – if they have, then their trainers are absolutely rubbish. They’ve forgotten everything they ever knew about using them. I’m not even sure that they’re made correctly. There’s so much apparent weight on them, sitting on the end of the arm, that ideally you wouldn’t be swinging like they do in the episode – you’re far too likely to miss, and end up striking yourself at the end of the arc. If anything, you’d be better off in a sort of fencing pose to keep your killing fist as far from the rest of your body as possible and use jabbing actions to reduce the chance of hitting yourself. It seems much too easy to avoid a swing, then use your own weapon to push your opponent’s weapon back into them. The momentum of their swing will add to your own push, and the humanoid arm is hinged to go back to it’s own body very easily. Could be a short match if you had your timing right.

Other Captains

How would the other captains have dealt with this? I think Sisko would have been much less diplomatic about things. He wouldn’t have chatted to draw out information, he would have followed the letter of his obligation with obvious distaste, and once they’d got the vaccine, I expect he would have told them where to shove their culture. I can’t see him finding a way out of the fight to the death though. I expect that Kira would have been abducted, as the second in command and liberator of her world – Dax, while a more competent fighter (if she could use a bat’leth), was only a science officer. Would she have been such a desirable prize? I can’t see Kira giving in at all. She would be willing to scrap the vaccine to get herself, or anyone else, out. Sisko or the Bajoran government would have to convince her otherwise. Of everyone on DS9 I can see that she would suggest a rescue operation and steal the vaccine – she’s not a long-term planner or a diplomat, and she is used to guerrilla operations to uphold her inflexible principles.

Janeway’s crew is another matter. If the aliens were aware of the Klingon reputation, then maybe they’d have abducted B’elanna. Kes, being a child and not a crewmember, would not be a prize and Seven of Nine would likely have broken his nose before Janeway returned. Janeway herself would be a valuable prize too, possibly the most valuable. Regardless of who is abducted, I can’t see Janeway allowing the fight to go ahead. In the Delta Quadrant, there’s less Starfleet interference so the vaccine mission would be one that they took on themselves and they’d be in the unfavourable position of choosing between appeasing the aliens or giving up on someone they’ve promised to help. If she was abducted, I can see her telling the crew to leave without her rather than acquiesce.

Being in the unique position of not having to maintain diplomatic relations, I expect the Voyager crew would mount a raid and steal the vaccine they wanted (as well as rescue the captive) – as a payback for stealing their crew member. It can all be justified as being for the greater good.

Conclusion

I just wasn’t certain of the point of this episode. Are we supposed to respect other cultures regardless of their customs? Their giving Picard the opportunity to request Yar back, and the last thing we hear from the aliens ("You may excel in technology, but not in civilised behaviour.") both suggest that they are incredibly tolerant of Starfleet, and Starfleet need to be more polite. On the other hand, Picard and company don’t seem to care too much. They certainly don’t act like they’ve been chastised and they make it clear that their only priority is to acquire the vaccine legally. It isn’t said explicitly, but the impression is given that Tasha Yar would not be given a choice in the marriage. If she was, I doubt that she would have been returned, deathmatch or no deathmatch. “Well, I abducted you, I refuse to return you because I want to marry you, and my wife wants to challenge you to the death. If you survive, I’ll ask if you want to marry me and then respect your decision with grace and dignity.” It just doesn’t make much sense as a motivation.

I didn’t realise that Wesley was allowed onto the bridge so early – we’re only on the third episode! At least he didn’t screw anything up this time.

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Back to Roleplaying – The Four Islands, week one

by paet the pagan-gerbil30. October 2013 07:00

This summer our weekly roleplay became more of a monthly roleplay, at best. Most weeks, there weren’t enough people to get it going. That and our GM was getting a little tired of Dungeon World, we don’t think it was right for our group. After asking our questions on Google Plus, the designer told us that we were ruining the game. I don’t know about the other guys, but I see that as a sort of rebellious badge of honour.

Anyway, I finally got along to one – we’ve dropped the Dungeon World campaign and the GM has passed the mantle over to a more experienced GM. His chosen system is Runequest. We generated our characters and got introduced to the setting.

Basically, there are four islands – in the north are the Nord, a race of warrior Ogres. In the south are beasts, nature things that do not like people on their island. In the West are Elves, who experiment with magic. Arcane magic is forbidden in this world, so those Elves are seen as evil by everyone else. In the East are Dwarfs, who are experts at metallurgy. To the West and East of the four islands are two large continents with many separate human tribes and some non-magical (non-evil) Elves, Dwarfs, etc.

Our group are two Elves (non-magical) and a Dwarf. I have no combat skills, but the Dwarf has loads, so that should be alright.

The King of the Bretons (a human tribe) died, leaving his 12 year old son as ruler of the kingdom. We were on a boat transporting him to safety when the boat had trouble and sank. The three of us, and very little else, washed up on the shore of a cold island, covered in fir trees and snow. We succeeded in finding some driftwood and a turtle shell, started a small fire, and attracted a white wolf with our singing. We killed the wolf with flaming brands from the fire, completely failed at butchering it and creating warm clothes. As the one who killed it, I was able to keep the ‘shitty looking slightly scorched fur hat’ which provides one armour point to the head and loses one appearance (taking it down to the practically fatal 4 – I am so fugly). We got some meat off the bones and created a stew (using the turtle shell as a pot).

The Dwarf managed to get us some flint, which we have fashioned into a couple of knives and a spearhead. There’s apparently some smoke elsewhere on the island, so next time we might be heading towards that. I think we’ve done pretty well, we’ve found shelter, made fire, eaten and have a goal.

In our second session, we debated whether to investigate the smoke we saw or follow the horse tracks (roughly a dozen horses) that our elf discovered when taking a jog around the beach. We elected to go for the horses, but before long we saw a person. This turned out to be a Nordish fisherman, singing a simple song, who told us we didn’t want to go to the capital. Instead we should head towards ‘Grunchen’, a free human town, where we might be received better.

We promptly got extremely lost, inland and near a river, when we were attacked by a sabre-toothed tiger. It was going to be a crocodile (ah, random encounter tables…) but we are surrounded by snow. Our Dwarf used his divine spell Mind Blast in the first round, which we discovered was an instant kill against anything without a magic characteristic. Butchering the body gave us a few cloaks, a nicer hat than the one I had, and two knives made from it’s front teeth. As we stood around wondering quite what to do, three Ogres approached us with logs and an axe. We chatted, cautiously and friendly enough, then were asked to come with them to the capital. Then asked again a bit stronger, because Grunchen is a town of the rebel king, full of traitors. We stood our ground while his mates threw logs at us for sport, and when one of them fumbled the throw and he killed them out of warrior pride we realised we had to run or fight.

I voted to run, but we’ve never run in a roleplay before.

Instead, I fast-talked him while we got closer, the Dwarf distracted him so we could hit him from behind in a surprise round. We dropped both of the ogres before they knew what hit them. We stole their bank book (???), their donkey and their cart and we’ve found what we think is Grunchen. We’ve snuck past the guard towers and made a safe camp for the night. Let’s see how we do next time…

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