I’ve always been drawn to sports games and to be honest, I really enjoy playing them whether I win or lose. I used to play 2nd Edition Blood Bowl and Strat-O-Matic Baseball back in the day and my friends and I loved creating our own teams and drafting players probably just as much as playing. Today, I try to find any excuse to get in as many games of Blitz Bowl, Break Away Football, Flamme Rouge, or Rallyman GT as I can. I love cooperative games but something about sports games where I crave competition and just simply have a great time with this genre.
This brings us to today’s review of Overdrive from Mantic Games. Set in the Dreadball universe, this arena sports game pits 2 players against each other’s in various game modes to see who can win. Overdrive is a 2-player game that takes about 45-60 minutes depending on the game mode.
Overdrive’s set-up is variable for each of the 6 game modes but I’m going to highlight the standard game mode in this overview. Set-up is straight forward with the score track starting on 0 and the rush track starting on 1. Each player is given 1 overdrive token and 4 action tokens. One team is determined to be the home team and that coach drafts their first player and then the away coach drafts theirs. The draft selection alternates until both teams have 3 players.
After set-up coaches will begin play by alternating placing action tokens and activating their players starting with the home coach. After the first rush, the coach with the lower score will place their action token first.
Players can only be activated a maximum of 2 times during a rush and their action options are as follows: Run (movement), Slam (combination run and melee attack), Ranged Attack, Special Ability (listed on the player card), and Overdrive Ability (a powerful ability that is only available if that coach has an Overdrive token but same power cannot be used more than once during a rush). Success and failure of attacks and abilities are determined by rolling dice for the attacker and opposed dice for the defender.
Players will score points for their team by knocking out opponents and having their entire base inside an Active Scoring Zone (ASZ). For the first rush there will be no ASZ but for every subsequent rush before any players activate—a player will roll a die and determine which of the 6 zones will be the ASZ for that rush. Players will score 1 point for any opponent who was knocked out, 1 point for every player whose base is entirely in an ASZ, and a bonus point if a player is standing any Bonus Hexes in the ASZ.
At the end of the 8th rush—the coach with the most points will win or if during any rush a coach’s score track reaches 8 then they will immediately win in a landslide. Note: the score track is communal and begins at 0 and you will track the difference of the coach’s scores to a maximum of 8 instead of an overall total score.
I have never heard of Overdrive before and I’m not familiar with Dreadball so didn’t know what to expect. I played the standard game to get used to the rule but really had a blast with the 5 additional game modes. These are awesome and give players a wide variety of modes to choose from. The other game modes are: Pass the Bomb, Capture the Flag, Killing Streak, Invade, & Dodgebrawl. What’s great about each different game mode is that the base mechanics are the same so each is not a new game to learn. Each mode rather introduces a new rule and/or different scoring options for players to knock out opposing players or score points. Overall, this gives Overdrive a great amount of variety.
Now even with the different game modes, there is one constant in every game—knocking out opposing players. While that should not be surprising since this is marketed as a sports arena game—it can lead to the gameplay feeling somewhat repetitive. Players will be using Slam or an offensive Special Ability during most or all activations. Using the same actions over and over tends to become repetitive and unfun. So, be aware when you’re drafting players not to pick a team that relies on only Slam or Special Abilities for offensive attacks.
The League rules are cool because it introduces a unique concept that you tend not to find in most sports games: coach credits. Coaches can gain credit dice depending on the outcome and actions during the game. A coach will roll their dice and multiply that by 10 to see what they gained. They’re then able to purchase abilities, additional dice, and/or rerolls during a game, or a new player. And if a coach won they can pick a new sponsorship that gives them a bonus credit if their player completes the requirement in the game. This really makes league play more engaging and interesting than the one-off stand-alone games.
The last two things I had issues with Overdrive were tied to the players. First, there are not enough—the base game comes with 6 and there are 2 expansions that add 4 more players for a total of 10. For League play, you need 6 and can purchase an alternate. So, that means league teams must reuse players and they will face each other which seems odd since all seemed designed to be unique in the league. The other issue was that each player has special abilities but some can be specific to 1 game mode. While I love all the different game modes having a player whose special ability can only be used in 1 out of the 6 seems like oversight in design.
I did have fun with Overdrive. The 6 different game modes give Overdrive a huge amount of variety in stand-alone games or in League play as well. The League rules that focus on coach growth and credit generation are cool. The idea of purchased abilities and advantages for games is unique and adding sponsors as an additional revenue generator is a slick gameplay option.
Now what really holds Overdrive back from scoring higher is the gameplay can at times feel repetitive, the limited number of players, and abilities that can be used in 1 of the 6 games modes. Possibly with some additional attack actions, additional players, and some abilities changes through reprint or errata help should elevate my issues.
Final Score: 3 Stars – A fun and fast paced sports game with excellent variety of play modes but needs more players and limited special abilities make some players less appealing.
• Multiple game modes
• League play
• Gameplay can feel repetitive
• Need more player options
• Some player powers are game mode specific