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Subject: Review of Nuthin' But Net: It scores! rss

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Mike Sagliano
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Nuthin’ But Net (NBN) is Two Hour Wargames’ new fantasy basketball game that should appeal to fantasy sports gamers, basketball fans, and anyone interested in a fine strategy (and luck) game.

It’s natural to liken NBN to Blood Bowl. Inspiration for NBN surely originated from the classic, Blood Bowl. After all, both feature violent-minded races-elves, orcs, and the like-engaged in a fantasy version of a popular sport, but there are important differences.

NBN is very interactive for two players due to the simultaneous throwing of dice (usually 2d6) by the offensive and defensive players. There’s a chance for the defender to intercept a pass or to steal the ball when the ball handler enters his hex or an adjacent one. It’s fast because of the fewer players (3) on court and the smaller playing area, a half court (13 x 8 hexes). A choice in game length can also speed up play. The movement of the players and actions is smooth due to NBN’s reaction system.

The heart of the reaction system is the so-called passing dice (2d6). Basically when attempting an action, one player throws two dice and compares each one rolled to his relevant player skill, like Block when trying to block a shot. If his roll is equal or less than the skill, he passes the dice. The other player rolls 2d6 at the same time. Then, comparing the number of passes made by one player to those of the other, there are usually five different resulting outcomes. This procedure is used to gauge the degree of success or failure of the action.

There’s lot of strategy in game play too. The teams of five players each play differently due to the unique composition of the seven skills the players of a particular race possess. Game plans will need to be altered to deal with individual races. How will you contend with the ratmen outracing their slower foes, the dwarves? Will you pull back your dwarf team from the check line to defend the basket and hope to steal or intercept, or try to batter them with blocks and deliberate injuries right from the start? How will you handle the slick ball handling of an elf team or the three point capability of the reptilians? Since there is decline and improvement of some player skills over time, you will always be faced with teams that have a new look each game. There is a simple season-long campaign setup provided too.

The game itself can be played by two players and even solo.

The rules are presented in the 29 page spiral-bound rulebook; this includes 18 pages of rules, an example of play, a roster, design notes, and all the tables needed to resolve the dice throws. The rules are clearly presented and mostly easy to follow. Despite that, players will inevitably run into a complicated situation that may require some interpretation of the rules. Unsure? Check with Two Hour Wargames (see my comments on support below).

There are three double-sided cards that contain a set of 19 tables which the offensive and defensive players refer to during play and cover all the actions, such as setting a pick, dunking and even one for possibly humiliating yourself due to a muffed dunk. They are easy to follow. At first, there seems to be a need for constant shuffling through the cards to find the exact table to use, but this speeds up with practice or ends with memorization of the content. I would have preferred two cards with abbreviated description of the dice outcomes since the separate cards just duplicate the ones compiled at the end of the spiral rulebook anyway. There is also a full color half court provided.

The art in the rule booklet shows menacing, wild-looking b-ball players of various races including beastmen and reptilians which inspires immediate play; however, the color counters representing full teams of nine races seem cartoonish and a disappointment. The player art in the rule booklet is reminiscent of the atmosphere of Blood Bowl while the counters remind me of Sesame Street. Fortunately the avid NBN owner will quickly convert his fantasy figures. In my case, I just substituted the cardstock figures with plastic stands from the original Blood Bowl. Hopefully if the demand is there from fans, actual basketball player figs will be developed someday. It’s possible since Two Hour Wargames is selling boxers for its boxing game, Friday Night Fights.

The background to this basketball world is brief. That could be a blessing or a curse depending on your taste. Some would prefer a more extensive description of the game’s origin, player greats, famous teams, etc. like that contained in the original version of Blood Bowl and its later editions. I have to admit; that’s what initially made me a Blood Bowl advocate; that is until my excitement dwindled when trying to contend with the mechanics and the slow pace of the original game. Others like to create their own game universe and do not want to replay the teams, players and leagues of the designer. Either way the basis for an exciting sports world is there. You just have to be creative and expend some effort to build the atmosphere you desire. Which you will, I’m sure.

The first free (yes, free) expansion booklet has already been released with special skills, legendary players and deliberate injuries! There is no magic or gadgets, fan involvement and coaches yet. But new teams and other add-ons are in testing and I wouldn’t be surprised if some or all of these aspects appear eventually.

A word about support for NBN. It’s great! The Two Hour Wargames Yahoo Groups’ site is an active resource for sharing information and asking questions. You can post game-related questions online there and the designer and other game owners reply, or you can email the game designer directly. I have asked a few questions by email myself and clear answers were given within 24 hours, by the designer no less. Can’t beat that.

Oh, and the price is a bargain - $15 for the bound rulebook or $12 for the PDF file. Mail service is fast.

Game Play: 9
Components: 8
Organization of Rules: 9
Replay Value: 9
Complexity: 6
Price: 9
Recommendation: Buy it!

"The pre-game warm-up is almost over. The beastmen on the Sportland Dale Grazers team jump up and claw the backboard as is their custom. Their opponents, the dwarves of the Goldiggin State Quarriers jeer and moon them. The fans are getting restless having just finished their first bottles of Killer Low-Life Beer and begin to throw the empties over the net onto the court."

Let the game begin!

Mike
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Yoki Erdtman
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Nice first review Mike. I look forward to seeing what other games you like and more reviews in the future.
 
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