Archive for the ‘Game Preview’ Category

RDCL Battle on the Bank VII Preview

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As roller derby rolls through the spring and summer, anticipation builds as fall approaches. The autumn months are when the roller derby championship season begins in earnest, and is when all eyes are on flat tracks around the country (and world!) to see what teams are the best of the best.

For the impatient lot, the Roller Derby Coalition of Leagues has plopped its national get-together smack-dab in the middle of the year. Thanks to them, we don’t need to wait to see some bracket-busting action. We can have it right now!

This weekend, June 6-8, Battle on the Bank VII takes place in San Diego. The five founding member leagues of the RDCL, along with two guest leagues, a host of juniors, and for the first time a pair of men’s teams fill out the three-day national banked track tournament.

Banked track derby has been through a rough stretch as of late. Over the past several months, a handful of leagues have been forced to seek out or move to a new location, forced to mothball or sell their track, or forced to shut down altogether. There aren’t many banked leagues to begin with, so when things like this happen to a few, it affects the many. Even so, the spectacle of banked track roller derby is hearty, and even during trying times it continues to succeed in many places.

There is much good news to report on in this year’s battle. A team new to the tournament is getting a third chance to make a second impression. A team still-new to RDCL play is getting a second chance to get their first win. Two teams no strangers to each other are getting ready to mark a roller derby first for the second time. While victory seems inevitable for the coalition’s powerhouse, the middle placings may all be in play among the teams returning to the tournament.

That’s good news for fans, since the roller derby played in the RDCL can be downright incredible when the wheels hit the Masonite in a game between level participants. Though tournament participation is down this year, there is a still a healthy number of teams ready to duke it out in downtown San Diego across 17 half-length and full-length games.

Live streaming coverage is being provided by hosts San Diego Derby Dolls for free through the live stream page on the Battle on the Bank website. The full game schedule and adult brackets are available below, followed by a comprehensive preview of who’s who in the tournament, the kind of gameplay to expect on the banked track, and the current state of RDCL in general.

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USARS Regionals 2013 Diary: More or Less

usars-roller-derby-logoIt’s a good news, bad news situation for USA Roller Sports Roller Derby.

The good news: More teams are interested in playing games under USARS roller derby rules, both interleague and locally. Those that are are almost universally glowing about them. Overall, games are more competitive than last year. USARS is starting to have more of a presence at major derby events like RollerCon. Well known, championship-caliber teams are ready to compete for recognized national titles.

The bad news: A lot of people do not yet understand (or flat-out dislike) the type of roller derby USARS wants to promote. USARS itself still has some major kinks to work out of its rule set, particularly those that help make for boring games. USARS is still is looked upon with animosity within the greater roller derby community. Oh, and in only its second year, regional tournament participation is down.

Whether the positive or the negatives will win out, USARS is still plugging away at building up and offering its version of roller derby to the masses. Realistically, it is too early to say how it is doing either way, as it is still early days for the governing body. But that does not mean we can’t review what it has done lately, during its regional tournament season in August and what is in store for its second national championship tournament this weekend.

So let’s look back to how USARS roller derby has been going along, with its ups and its and downs. But before the playoff season officially began, USARS managed to land an invite to the biggest roller derby party there is on the eve of its first regional tournament.

The RollerCon Game

Since it started its roller derby program in earnest, USARS wanted more of a presence at RollerCon than just a dinky booth that gave away free water bottles and the occasional informational pamphlet. It wanted to feature a game played under its rule set.

Ultimately, USARS got one for RollerCon 2013—barely. The group was not able to secure a spot initially, but it lucked-out when a previously scheduled full-length game was cancelled. USARS swooped in and picked up the time slot.

Never mind it was the slot opposite the Vagine Regime-Caulksuckers showcase in the main challenge hall, the most popular game of the weekend. That didn’t prevent around 300 derbyfolk from filtering in and out of the USARS room during the hour-long bout…including some that might have had more than a passing interest in the proceedings.

But What people saw at RollerCon was something not unlike a lot of early USARS-rules games: A complete and utter mess.

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2013 WFTDA Bracketology #2: Division 1 and the High Cost of Inflexibilty

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With WFTDA rankings locked-in and the participating teams seeded into four cities across the United States, the first-ever WFTDA Division 1 playoff tournaments are set to kick-off this September.

As the growth of the modern game continues to seek a clear direction, the WFTDA is heading into new territory this postseason. Besides overhauling the ranking system to eliminate biases inherent in an opinion poll, the governing body has also made a significant change to its playoff format.

Out are the four distinct regional tournaments, which have been replaced by what is effectively one big championship playoff divided into four equally-seeded qualifiers. This method was selected by WFTDA member leagues to, according to them, allow for “more competitive play within and across” the whole of the playoffs, and ensure that “the best teams are eligible for Championships,” which this year will happen in Milwaukee the weekend of November 8.

In this installment of WFTDA Bracketology, it’s time to pick apart the Division 1 brackets and see how the WFTDA attempted to meet these and other goals, whether or not the methods it selected were the best way of meeting them, and if the concessions it made to do so were really in the best interests of its member leagues, and for roller derby as a whole.

In case you missed it, check out the first WFTDA Bracketology post wherein we discovered some issues with the Division 2 bracket and took observation at an alternate look at the Division 1 tournament, two things which will come in very handy for what you’re about to read here.

The 2013 WFTDA Division 1 Playoffs

The five events that make up the run for the Hydra championship trophy are no longer called “The Big 5” by the WFTDA, but the scale of the tournaments that now comprise the Division 1 playoffs are still pretty damn big. Forty teams are eligible regardless of what people are calling it these days, so let’s give “The Big 40” their due and see who is playing where this year.

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2013 WFTDA Bracketology #1: Division 2 and the D1 “Regional” Playoffs

Big news, flat-track followers: The WFTDA has released updated league standings and with it the seedings and brackets for the 2013 WFTDA playoffs. This has always been a major event on the roller derby calendar, but this year brings significant changes to the formula for determining who plays where.

The four-region system used in the past few years has been abolished in favor of one “global” region, one where all member leagues are lumped into the same system. The system itself has also gone under a major change, foregoing polled rankings for a math-derived rank based on strength of opponent and point spread of games. There is also the addition of a lower-tier divisional playoff, to give a few more teams exposure to a national tournament experience.

In this two-part “Bracketology” examination of the tournaments, we’ll take a look at who is (and isn’t) in the tournament, how the seeds and playoff sites match up, the methodology behind why the WFTDA dispersed teams the way that they did…and why a lot of trouble might have been avoided with a few simple changes.

Because now that the ranking sheets have hit the fans, it’s clear that there are few issues—a few big issues, actually—that need to be addressed for future playoff editions. One might even surmise that the WFTDA could have avoided some of these issues ahead of time with some forward thinking or careful consideration of their options.

But we’ll get to that in Part 2. First, let’s first take a look at the 20 teams in Division 2 competing for a special invite to the WFTDA Championships in November, and an alternate view on how the 2013 playoffs would have went down had they happened under last year’s regional format.

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Roller Derby 2013 Preview: The End of the Beginning

Happy new year, roller derby—it’s going to be a doozy.

That’s because 2013 will see a number of changes, additions, milestones, and opportunities across all five of the major roller derby organizations. On the track, off the track, in the rules, or in the pocketbook; everyone’s doing something of major significance this year, and many of these things could have long-lasting effects on the game.

Taken on the whole, it gives the impression that modern roller derby itself, soon to be 13 years young, is starting to get ready to move on to the next stage of growth…almost like a pre-teen not too far away from starting puberty. Since roller derby doesn’t have any parents to give them “The Talk” (thank goodness!), it will collectively have to figure out what that stage is going to look like and how it will effect to the greater health of the game. Even if that stage may ultimately be a few years off, we’re definitely starting to wind down the modern game’s childhood days.

If 2013 is to be the end of modern roller derby’s beginning, let’s take a pre-emptive trip down memory lane and see what major events and important news items derby needs to keep an eye on from the WFTDA, the MRDA, the RDCL, USARS, and even MADE. From new rules, new organizational structures, new opportunities, and even a $20,000 banked track tournament—this is not going to be a year that roller derby will ever want to forget.

WFTDA

wftda-logoOf all the changes in the WFTDA happening this year, the one that will have the biggest impact is the new 2013 WFTDA roller derby rules, which officially went into effect on January 1. As the de facto flat track roller derby ruleset, a significant number of leagues, including all those under WFTDA sanction, obviously, will be playing by the new rules in games from this point forward.

In addition to updating the text of the rules, the WFTDA has updated its rules revision process, too. After taking a lot of heat from many regarding what resulted from the update cycle of its 2010 rules, the WFTDA has already indicated that rules updates will be coming in at higher frequencies than in the past, stating that there may even be an update later in 2013. It’s also taking feedback of issues directly via a rules issues reporting database to help speed things along, which is great.

The number of derby events played using WFTDA rules is mind-boggling, and 2013 is likely to see that number increase. But if there’s ever been a bellwether for where teams are at—and how the rules are holding up—heading into playoff season, it’s the East Coast Derby Extravaganza (June 28-30). Traditionally the last major event before playoff rankings are locked-in for the fall tournament season, this year’s iteration may become even more significant considering… Continue reading

Into the Great Unknown, Part 2: USARS Regionals 2012

For Part 1 of WRDN’s roller derby tournament season preview, the 2012 WFTDA Playoffs, click here.

Now that the WFTDA playoff season is underway, it’s time to take a look at the playoff tournament for that “other” derby organization that, for better or worse, everyone is keeping an eye on: USA Roller Sports, and the group’s first-ever national roller derby championship.

In a playoff season filled with unknowns, how the USARS tournament will go is the greatest of them. Teams entering the competition have effectively volunteered to be guinea pigs for an unproven (but on paper, sound) ruleset in live competition, where most players, officials, and the greater roller derby community alike have little to no experience with them in practice.

In fact, just about all the participating leagues only started learning the USARS game a little more than a month ago, when USARS announced out of the blue that it would be accepting applications for the tournament. However, participating teams have been finding out that the new rules are relatively easy to pick up, as many of the contact rules and penalties in USARS derby are virtually identical in that of the WFTDA game. Most players and officials have had little trouble with the basics; after all, at the end of the day, roller derby is roller derby.

Still, USARS is giving the impression of coming off underprepared in organizing what is an altogether different beast for its first go at a team rollersport. When they announced that entry applications were open, they hadn’t yet figured out where the locations of the regionals would be, let alone who would host or officiate them. Plans were made for eight regional tournaments (of the nine USARS regions) with each capped at the first 16 to enter … but hosts were only found for six regions. Of those, only four had enough team entries to make an event worthwhile. None had gotten anywhere close to the entry cap limit.

So in the end, 16 total teams across four USARS regions will be taking part in the maiden voyage. (At least five more had shown interest but were not able to participate, including a league in New York that has gone all-in and switched exclusively to USARS rules for the foreseeable future.) Compared to the six-year old WFTDA, that’s a minuscule number … but on the other hand, that’s 20 more leagues than USARS had interested in its rules than there were three months ago, and you’ve got to start somewhere.

What USARS roller derby will look like next year is just as much of an unknown as how the first real games played under its ruleset will look like this year. Whether or not they can do a better job of being organized as they continue offering their roller derby option to leagues, players and fans is also an unknown. How they fare and how their success (or lack thereof) may or may not affect the greater community is also a big question mark.

But here and now, there is roller derby to be played, and there are more than 200 skaters ready to be pioneers in a different way to play, one that certainly has the potential to be fast, fair, and perhaps even more exciting than any form of derby before it. Or maybe, it’ll just be a big flop.

Though it’s unclear if we’ll see the game at its best in the regionals—the entrants are of the potluck variety when it comes to individual and team skill—one thing that is for certain is that if you think there ought to be just as much skating as there is blocking in roller derby, you’re going to see a lot of both in the USARS game. Not just because the rules mandate it, but because the style of game requires it in order to win.

With that, here are the 16 teams that are crazy enough to want to try and skate to play roller derby. For those who are only familiar with WFTDA rules and basic gameplay strategy, I’ll also touch on the hows and whys of the USARS game, its differences, its default strategies, and yes, even a loophole or two that might crop up during the course of gameplay.

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Into the Great Unknown, Part 1: WFTDA Playoffs 2012

For Part 2 of WRDN’s roller derby tournament season preview, the 2012 USARS Regionals, click here.

This month marks the beginning of the WFTDA Playoffs (neé The Big 5), where 40 qualifying teams from the four WFTDA regions all take their shot at advancing to the Championships in Atlanta this November.

Normally, this is something I’d be very, very enthusiastic about. However, the run up to this year’s playoff season, to me at least, feels different than the weeks preceding last year’s tournament run. That’s because there are a great deal of unknowns facing the run to the Hydra this year.

The biggest reason for that is because the new WFTDA rules update that was supposed to be released in May of this year … was not. Instead, they were delayed, to be released (likely) this November and to go into effect in January, well after this year’s playoffs are over and done with.

This of course means the playoff games played over the next several weeks will be done so under the rusty 2010 ruleset that began to pop rivets at ECDX 2011, finally cracking open during the west region playoffs last year when That Game happened. Later on we discovered that the there can be no-packs just as often as yes-packs, penalties were being committed at record rates, jammerless jams are still completely possible, and doing “whatever it takes to win” apparently includes taking numerous intentional penalties at the end of a game to guarantee victory.

So that this kind of non-skating, non-derby stuff can happen again during this year’s playoffs—potentially with a higher frequency now that teams understand why it is effective and know it may help them win—isn’t exactly getting my derby juices flowing as hard as last year, or (especially) the year before that.

Still, the optimist in me wants to be hopeful, and there are signs that despite everything there will be a lot of great games, and great stories to come from them.

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