When listening to Ep3 of Tales from Spasming Hill, you may have been perplexed by the rules of the game. "Thudball?" you cried. "What the heck is this? This game makes no sense! What's going on?!"
Well, worry no more! Here at last are the rules of the noble sport of Thudball, a game so special that Nark "Narking" Bisby, notorious sports commentator, called it a 'blooming waste of everybody's time.'
Want to play a Thudball game of your own? Here's how!
Thudball is a curious game that evolved in the rolling hills of Spasming Hill, a town well-known for its particularly savage and frequent earthquakes. Two teams vie for supremacy in a huge, randomized labyrinth with ten foot high reinforced metal walls during an earthquake, seeking to capture flags and disable opposing players.
A game ends when the last major detectable tremor of the earthquake passes as determined by precision seismometers - overtime, if required, is played out during the aftershocks.
Each standard Thudball team consists of 12 players: 1 Runner, 1 Relay, 2 Scouts, 4 Deflectors, and 4 Ghosts. By convention, all players are outfitted with flimsy cardboard armor, but no one is sure how this tradition originated because the armor offers zero protection against the gigantic metal balls rolling through the arena with a terrible inertia.
- Runner: Arguably the most crucial member of any team, the Runner’s job is to secure the flags that are the major goal of the game. They are the only player on either team that can physically take a flag from a flag repository and pass it off to a Relay or a Scout. Furthermore, they are the only player apart from the Relay who can deposit a flag in the score zone to garner flag capture points. Generally, a Runner is chosen for pure physical speed and agility alone, since they should focus on avoiding thudballs and enemy Ghosts, especially when in possession of a flag.
- Relay: The Relay has the difficult job of being the go-between. A Relay’s role is basically to receive the flag from a Scout or the Runner directly, and carry it back to their score zone so the others can dash back out in pursuit of more flags.
- Scout: The Scout’s job is to do what their name implies: scout. They go ahead of the team - most particularly the Runner - and locate flag repositories as well as spot approaching or trickily-placed thudballs. They signal this information back through their team using pre-arranged hand signals - shouting doesn’t do much good in a typical Thudball match, where you have to contend with both a high-intensity earthquake and the ominous rumbling of deadly thudballs all around.
- Deflector: Deflectors are the only players equipped with anything approaching real protection - giant metal shields they use to shunt approaching thudballs down adjacent corridors. They serve a valuable role both offensively and defensively - zoning or eliminating opponents, and diverting oncoming thudballs from their team-mates’ path.
- Ghost: Ghosts play a similar role to what they do in Pacman - namely, running around the arena chanting waka waka waka in a weird voice. Their goal is to tag enemy players “out” with the sharpened copper scythes they wield, forcing the opponent to navigate their way back to their score zone or on-side flag repository before entering play again. A referee hovering in a helicopter above the arena helps keep the players honest - fouls by tagged players engaging in “game” actions are heavily disincentivized by the penalty system.
The team with the most total points scored - less any penalties incurred - when the earthquake dies off are declared the winners.
Points are awarded for the following:
+ 3 - tagging a non flag-bearing player (Ghost)
+ 3 - disabling an opponent with a deflected ball (Deflector)
+ 5 - depositing a captured flag in the score zone (Runner or Relay)
+ 18 - tagging a flag-bearing Runner, Relay or Scout (Ghost)
Penalties are awarded for the following:
- 3 - each disabled or eliminated player (i.e. each substitute injected into play)
- 5 - a player other than a Runner, Scout or Relay picking up a flag.
- 8 - players physically engaging an opponent purposefully (e.g. punching, kicking, shoving)
- 15 - a “tagged” player engaging in any action other than self-preservation (i.e. avoiding a thudball)
Thudball arenas are quite modest in size compared to a baseball field or even some larger football stadiums, but more than make up for their relative lack of acreage with their twisting, labyrinthine interior structure.
Thudball arenas are assembled from modular pieces of reinforced metal in a variety of standard configurations, such that no two games of Thudball take place in the same arena. Generally, Thudball arena designs for a particular game are decided by computer software and built so that only the arena manager (an independent appointee by whatever sports authority runs the relevant Thudball league) is cognisant of the layout until the game officially begins.
In certain special cases - most usually high-profile tournaments - an architect will be contracted to produce the arena design, instead. The most famous example of this was the 1996 World Thudleague Throwdown in Lourdes, in the Pyrenees, where Aimé Guibert produced an intricate, breath-taking layout incorporating the fleurs-de-lis of her native France.
- It is customary to employ a Dreadwizard of Hammelhorn in any high-level Thudball game, so that a spell of Strict Geometry might be cast, creating a powerful Euclidean field around the stadium which prevents any untoward hanky-panky with the space-time continuum. This is thought to prevent cheating through unconventional means.
- The EU Thudleague’s tagline is “Eight times the casualties - three times the score!”
- A dangerous tactic rarely employed is the Peruvian death waltz - a fiendishly hard maneuver popularized by the Peruvian Panthers Scout Gabriela Alejandra Ramos. This move involves syncopating one’s rhythm with an oncoming thudball down a narrow corridor in order to slip past it on the opposite side.
- Human residue of players squished against the wall is bottled up and sold to sports memorabilia collectors for a profit. Ronaldus the Great owns the remains of Hungarian Runner Mátyás Kóbor in a trunk in his basement.
And there you are! You're fully qualified to go and form your own neighborhood pick-up Thudball team - just make sure to bring plenty of substitutes.