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BATTLE BALL

Reviewed by Herb Levy

BATTLEBALL (Milton Bradley/Hasbro; 2 players, ages 8 and up, about 1 hour; $19.99)

 

At the annual Hasbro Game Day earlier this year, I saw some of the latest crop of games bearing the Milton Bradley, Parker Brothers and Hasbro logos. It was an eclectic and incomplete sampling (for example, the Mission Command Series was NOT on display). But one game there that made an impression was the Milton Bradley/Hasbro take on future football: Battleball.

Battleball comes packaged in a similar box to the Mission Command Series (featured this issue) which means it looks like a giant blister pack. This pack holds lots of interesting items including a large, 3 piece, 20″ by 44″ football field gameboard that fits together like a puzzle, 22 detailed “players” which look more like futuristic gladiators than Joe Montana, carnage (!) counters, a whopping 13 dice and other play aids.

In Battleball, each player is a coach of a hard hitting, future football team: the Black Harts or Iron Wolves. To begin, each coach takes his set of 11 players (color-coded red and blue) and dice (in varieties of six, eight, ten, twelve and 20 sided). All players are placed behind their respective 20 yard lines (no two players can share a square although “Heavy Tackles” take up two squares). The “ball”, represented by a zinc token, is placed on the 50 yard line. Both coaches roll a 20 sided die. High roller goes first.battleball

The first thing you do is choose a player to move. Movement is done by die roll. The different dice types come in different colors. A nice touch here is the base color of the player token matches the color of the dice that player can roll. This saves time in figuring out which die is called for. Players must move at least one space and can move up to the total number rolled. However, a player cannot end his move on his starting space or a space occupied by another player. Heavy Tackles (those behemoths that occupy two spaces) roll two six sided dice and can use the number on either die. When a player enters a space where a loose ball is (such as in the beginning of the game when the ball is placed on the 50 yard line), they place it onto the player base, denoting possession. If movement is still possible, that player may continue to move. If ANY player ends his movement next to an opposing player, a tackle must be attempted. (A difference here from regulation football: the player targeted to be tackled does NOT have to be in possession of the ball.)

To see if a tackle is successful, both coaches roll dice matching the color of the bases of the players involved. Low number rolled wins! The tackled player is considered injured and REMOVED from the field of play
out of the action for this half of the game. (If the injury occurs during the first half, he may re-enter play in the second half of the game.) If a tie roll, BOTH players are injured and removed! Should you be unlucky and roll a 1, that player is considered seriously injured and is removed from play and may not come back! Carnage tokens are placed on spaces where removed players used to be. These spaces are now impassable.

In attempting to move the ball downfield, players may hand-off, an option available when two players are in adjacent squares. Dice are rolled for each player. If the numbers rolled do NOT match, the hand-off is successful. However, there is always the danger of a fumble.

Fumbles occur when matching numbers are rolled. (For example, when a Heavy Tackle carrying the ball uses his two dice and rolls doubles or if, when attempting a hand-off, both numbers rolled are the same.) Whenever the ball is fumbled, the opposing coach places the ball onto any empty square within two spaces of the player who fumbled the ball.

Play continues until a touchdown is scored either by a player moving into the end zone with the ball OR the opposing team has been totally tackled and removed from the field. At that point, the game restarts with all players being placed on the field (minus any seriously injured players) behind the 20 yard line and all carnage tokens removed. The first team to score two touchdowns wins. If the score should be even (1 touchdown to 1 touchdown) at the end of the second half, a “sudden death” overtime is played. First team to score then, wins!

The Advanced Game adds passing to the game. If none of your players are next to an enemy player, you may pass the ball to a player in “throwing distance”. Throwing distance equals the number of squares from the passing player to the designated receiver. Now, the coach rolls the die of the receiver AND the six-sided passing die. If the total is equal to or greater than the throwing distance, the pass is complete. If not, the pass is incomplete. Should the numbers match, the pass is fumbled. Another difference from the pros: possession of the ball does not revert to the offense on an incomplete. Instead, the opposing coach places an incomplete pass ball on any space the EXACT distance rolled. If that means the ball lands on a space occupied by an opposing player, then that ball is intercepted! Otherwise, the ball is placed in an empty square and is “up for grabs”. (Should there not be an available square the exact distance, the ball has been “recovered” and is placed with a player from the passing side.)

Battleball is, without question, a dice rolling frenzy. Yet, there is some strategy involved in maneuvering your men and directing the play. The Advanced Game passing option is a recommended addition as it increases the options available, adding another strategic consideration for gridiron generals. Rules for team play (allowing each coach to add an additional rule to ratchet up the power – sort of like the Incredible Hulk plays football) are also provided. Battleball is the kind of football game that gives “Monsters of the Midway” a whole new meaning. Any resemblance to Sunday football is purely coincidental. But for wannabe football coaches of all ages who revel in dice rolling and hard-hitting, this muscles and mayhem mix will score lots of points.- – – – – – – – Herb Levy


 

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