Blood Bowl Part 2 : When Doves Cry

Online play is pretty spectacular in Blood Bowl. No, not the interface or lobby (needs a lot of work) or the random connection errors (before starting matches – I haven’t had it happen during a match) and the matchfinding needs work too. It updates slow. After a little nudge from Syncaine from Hardcore Casual (the only other blogger I read lately who is playing BB) in the online space, I learned a few lessons.

A few neat things happened when I started playing online. I’ll share them with you after the bump.

I started off my rookie online career in the public league, with a spectacular 0-1-7 record before realizing how wrong I was playing my chosen team (the agile, pass happy Wood Elves). I had a few players die, a few injured, and although I was getting destroyed I was having fun – but most importantly – learning how to play the game. Since the dreadful start, I have had a couple great things happen to me, some good roll of the dice, some strategy improvement, and hey, some wins! My record after tonights match is now 4-2-8. Still nothing to write home about but I am really finding a comfort level.

I ran with one Wardancer (one of the best Elf players in the game)- great movement allowance and great starting skills – Leap, Block, and Dodge. The way characters work in BB is based on 4 stats: MA (Movement allowance, how many squares you can move in a turn), ST (Strength, guaged for blocking (attacking) and defence against blocks), AG (Agility, used for dodge rolls) and AV (Armor Value: Used to see if you get injured or killed when blocked (attacked)). Wood Elves have high MA, Average STR, Good AG, but low AV. In a straight up fight-em-up match you don’t only lose, you get maimed. Besides the core stats that every player has, there are skill sets as well. For the Wardancer the base three (as mentioned) allow you to leap over players (Against a wall or cage, you have to go through your opponent typically), Block saves you from going prone on a “both down” roll, and Dodge allows you a reroll on a failed dodge as well as a pushback instead of a ‘defender stumbles’ roll. All of that basically means they can get around the field very well, and are hard to knock down. A player down is a useless player.

Doing things in matches gets you SPP (I don’t know the acronym – Stat Purchase Points? Star Player Points?) which can then be spent. The dice rolls, and if you are lucky you can increase one of your 4 main stats by one (which is huge). If you are unlucky you get to add other skills (which are still huge) – such as Pro (50% reroll chance on a failed roll), Sure Hands, Frenzy, etc. There is a long list and you can tailor your players to your style or team needs.

Back to my Wardancer, the first one I had was injured the first match and lost a point in her AV. That is bad news, meaning she is more likely to get reinjured or die. Regardless, because of how much that player costs I kept playing with her, and I became really lucky. I received a +1 in Agility (already very high), and a +1 in Movement Allowance (she can cover more ground on the field than any other player in the game that I have seen – besides the Wood Elf/Skaven Catcher who is base 9 MA). I also took Pro with her. I ended up saving up and bought another Wardancer, and on her first skillup she got +1MA as well. Now my team has 3 players who cover more ground than anyone else in the game. Needless to say (and Syn will confirm) that is pretty sweet for a 1400 rated team. (Teams are rated by the value of its players.)

I dare EA to put a lust contest on this asskicker. Double dare.
I dare EA to put a lust contest on this asskicker. Double dare.

The main reason why I am writing this tonight is I just had a crazy fun match. I played against a Chaos team (they have horns – and hurt). I kicked off first and it was shallow – on the kickoff event was a Blitz! That means I get to move before the receiving team does. I was able to position myself under the ball I just kicked, dodged a couple rolls and got a quick score. Bad news is, the Chaos guy managed to injure one of my players. Injury roll was “Badly Hurt – no long term damage” which is good – what is bad is that I couldn’t afford any subs. For the rest of the match – 2 turns into 16, I would be down a player (He has 11, I have 10).

Since I scored I kickoff again. It was a decent kick, and his front line injured 2 more players (both no long term damage – but out for game) before he even picked up the ball. He then positioned his players next to mine that were in range (forcing me to either block them, or a dodge roll success to move away from them) and then the rediculous happened. He failed a pickup roll. I ran in my 9 MA Wardancer – she failed a pickup roll. He failed his next pickup roll. I failed my next pickup roll. Finally, he picked the ball up and threw it accross the field to a lone runner, and it was caught – ran it in, Touchdown – but not before he injured ANOTHER one of my players (broken shin, -1MA, miss next match). And then it was my turn to receive a kick.

For those keeping track of players to this point, on the field it was 11 of his players against 7 of mine, at 5 of 16 turns. NOT a good sign, and with the score 1-1 with 3/4 of the match to go, I was starting to worry more about having a team left instead of winning the game. His players were pulverizing mine.

He kicks off to me, and leaves a hole on the left side while stacking the right side of the field (where my two Wardancers were – I had my Catcher (another MA:9) on the left hand side). A “hole” is when there is 3 movement spaces between two defenders. If you move within a “Tackle Zone” of a defender (the 8 squares surrounding him) he gets a free swing at you (Dodge roll to avoid). Because there was three spaces between two defenders I could sneak a player through without the chance of harm. I send my Catcher long, pickup the ball with a Wardancer, run my MA, hand it off to my Thrower, run until I have a clear passing lane (to avoid interception rolls), and Pass the ball to the Catcher. He catches it, but can’t make the endzone in 1 turn (no players can). With my remaining moves I stack a row of defenders around him, including my other Wardancer. If I can stave off his block/attack turn, I can make the endzone on my next turn.

He has a few players near where I am, and surrounds the ball carrier and the defender. The basic way group blocking works is this: if he has 3 players in the Tackle zone of my one player, he gets to roll three dice and choose the best result from the three (modified by Strength). Now, if I have defenders around my ball carrier, the surrounding players in adjacent tackle zones can cancel out the extra dice roll – giving him a much lower chance for success. If he has three blockers, and I have three attackers around the ball carrier and we have even Strength he only gets one dice to roll, and must take the result of that roll (be it good, bad, or ugly). There are skills that help you defend even if a player is in your tackle zone, but I will stick to basics here so it doesn’t get too confusing.

With his defenders around my ball carrier, he blitzes (you can only block ONE player per round from distance – the rest have to be in your tackle zone – so use that blitz wisely!) and knocks down the ball carrier – forcing a dropped ball. After bouncing around a bit, it ends up in the hands of my Wardancer. He has one player in her TZ (tackle zone) so gets another chance to knock her down – it fails, and pushes me back a square. No other player is in my TZ now besides the last attacker (who has the default option to “follow” a push to stay in the TZ – but since he has used up his action for the round cannot reattack). He gets the rest of his in range players to form a cage (Box) around my Wardancer – so next round he can pummel her good and force another fumble. Except, now it is my turn.

I use my Leap skill, hop out of the box, and bam, in for a touchdown. 2-1 for me. Yay. Except, I forgot to mention he Injured (no long term effect) another player. it’s now 11 Chaos, 6 WE on the match. He has double my players. My slim lead won’t hold. I manage to play out the half, 2-1 score and do not sustain any other injuries (yay). At halftime it’s just like football – if you received the kickoff at the start of the game, you kick off to begin the second half.

Without going into too much level of detail, with a lot of luck and some well skilled players I won the game 4-1. At the end of the game, I only had 2 players left on the field that weren’t Injured or KO’d (KO’s happen for temporary out of game injuries. After the ball changes hands they get to roll to see if they come back in or stay down for another drive). He had all 11. Goes to show what you can do against a frustrated player who wasn’t used to the Movement and Dodge ability of the Wood Elf team.

With a little lot of luck, some skill, I was able to beat all odds. Try doing that in your Raid team if 3 healers go down.

As a quick “prologue” here, I have had several matches go the complete opposite way – where I felt I did everything right but couldn’t buy good dice rolls for the life of me. I didn’t get frustrated though, because that is the magic in this game. ANYTHING can happen, and it does, and will, when you least expect it. While my gaming time is still very limited, I manage to squeeze in a quick 30 minute match or two a night when I need that break from work – it has been a great escape. I am curious how private league play works, and may start looking into it after I hit .500.

9 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Chris, when you multiplay online, it sounds like you’re playing the turn-by-turn style, but have you tried the real-time setting as well? I’ve heard you can apparently pause the real-time to issue orders to your players but am really curious how well this works. When the actual PC game comes out I’m considering buying two copies of this (if I need two copies) so my son and I can play off against each other so I’m really curious about the multiplayer side of Blood Bowl.

    I’ve been a huge fan of the table top game since the 2nd edition when the plastic models all looked the same and were distinguished solely by a colored disc around their base. But, IMO, this lack of creativity was more than compensated for by the awesomeness of a 3-piece molded polystyrene board. Yes, I have one of the 2nd edition polystyrene boards, still intact and almost in mint condition, and yes, it is awesome in its…polstyreneness 😛

  2. Hey Cap’n

    I am playing the turn by turn. I wanted to preserve the original game play as much as possible. I haven’t tried the RTS (but will check it out and let you know).

    There is a ‘HOT SEAT’ mode for two players on one PC, but it doesn’t allow for customized teams. So you both could play but just not enjoy the customization aspect (which is one of my favorite parts).

    I’m sure it will end up on sale sooner or later, but it is a great, fun game.

  3. As far as I know, you can’t play the RTS mode online, at least not in the public league. Maybe it can be done directly. (I’ve never actually played the RTS mode in single player either, just no interest)

    As for your team, a few things. It IS possible to have a player score in one turn on the kickoff, my Skaven team has a Gutter Runner with +1MA and Sprint, giving him 10MA and 3 squares of Go For It. Needless to say, unless I miss a block on a kickoff, I usually score on that turn. Since the WE catcher starts with 9MA, you could do the same build if you get a lucky +1MA upgrade, although it’s kinda tough since Sprint is somewhat pointless without the +1MA, and if you get +1MA on say the 3rd skill up, getting to the 4th for Sprint is real tough. I was lucky and got the +1MA on my Gutter Runner on first first upgrade (he now also has Sure Feet, allowing him a reroll of a failed GFI)

    As for the star wardancer, the 6AV is going to be a killer. It basically means more often than not, the WD is going to be KO’ed or injured on a failed block, and since WD are so key for WE, that’s very risky. The +1AG is nice since it gives you a +2 leap, and the ability to move through tackle zones easily. Elves overall are a tough team to play in BB, since one-two injuries ruin your team, and defense is more about forcing errors than bashing the other guy.

  4. I was tempted to give Blood Bowl a go, but I’ve got a small stack of games I haven’t gotten through yet (Demigod is sitting there, mocking me to play).

    It does scream fun a bit tho, I’ll have to try it sooner or later.

  5. @Syncaine: I am definitely learning the hard way. So far I have been very lucky with my WD (who just leveled up again..) but I have 4 player on my team with a negative stat now. I think I’ll just leave them on the front line with my treeman until they get killed. (Damn that 3 on the line rule)

    Defence is as you say it. I just try to slow them down, keeping a couple steps away but taking away any chance for a quick score. The more moves they have to make to get to the endzone, the more chance there is for that error. Sometimes they screw up and leave and opening and I’ll try the pounce. This has lead to big victories (as when they do screw up, I can turn around and score pretty easily and quickly if they don’t leave players back) but more often close losses (they methodically move down the field, taking out one of my players at a time). It is still a blast though. I rolled up a Dwarf team to try the bashing style. There is definitely something fun about the game just withering them down to nothing to win.

    @Liam: Let me know when you get it, its available for digital download. I’d love to match up with you and get practice in for both of us.

    @Rog: My stack is non-existant right now, so its been a great diversion. Let me know when you get to it, can make it fun – like any online game, I enjoy winning or losing against familiar faces (or names, in the terms of blogosphere)

  6. Sounds like online can be pretty fun. Ive been a Blood Bowl player since 3rd Edition (Sorry no polystyrene pitch for me!) and used to play a lot with friends.

    Now ive got this but not tried it in an online league yet, ive had fun trashing the PC and also played a hot seat game against my brother in law who also got smashed.

    May have a look at this online once I re-download it since I had to blitz my hardrive!

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