Greeting sports fans!

Once again I have taken up cyber pen and paper to bring you what should
_become_ the definitive guide to strategy and tactics (with addendum and
revision)  _whatever_ team you play.  This document is designed to
supplement the advice given for a specific team.

...but I need your comments and advice added to it - other wise - it's
hardly definitive is it?

- lots of the comments made will be of a generalisation style and may not
hold true to some teams - if this is the case - let me know!

I'd value any comments etc.
 

=-) Babs.


What is Blood Bowl?

Well, the best thing is to read the FAQ for new players.

So, you want to play Blood Bowl?

Great choice - I couldn't recommend it more highly.  The first step you
should be taking is to read the rulebooks. There are two of them, Blood Bowl
and Death Zone.  I would in fact recommend reading them both twice.  Don't
skip the rules parts as they are very important.  Once this has been done
(or even while this is being done) I would take the time to watch at least
one entire game - and hopefully have people playing for who you can ask
questions about what is going on.  These two steps are vital parts of
understanding the game.  Before reading much further I recommend you doing
this now.  If you can't get your hands on a rulebook - buy the game!  It is
an excellent choice.

    After this, I would recommend playing at least one full "practice" game
against an experienced coach - with you both playing teams of similar value.
Expect to lose, but take the opportunity to watch how the other coach plays.
Blood Bowl is a game of strategy - and developing good Blood Bowl strategy
takes a lot of experience and thinking.  Coaches play better Blood Bowl if
they play good opponents.

    I myself recently joined an online league (Blood Bowl over the
internet - see the FAQ for more inormation) and was beaten soundly by
coaches better than I using tactics I had not seen before.

Once this has been done then you are ready to choose a team.

Choosing a team

There are 13 official types of teams available to play and many other teams
which are not official (i.e. not sanctioned by Games Workshop - the producer
of Blood Bowl) but are being allowed by the league you are playing in.
Without
going through each type of team one by one there are differing styles of
play which are suited to different types of team.  For example a "pass and
run" style play involving lots of dodging is not the kind of play which
dwarves are naturally suited.  If this is your thing I would recommend
against playing a dwarven team, and would recommend an elven team or a
skaven team.
    You must remember that a team is not perfect.  None of them are - they
develop as time goes by (with the Death Zone rules) and become a 'custom'
team to suit the way you play.  If you have nt played Blood Bowl before, I
would recommend one of two types of team.

1. Humans.  They have fast players and players which can throw the ball.
The blitzers can also develop into people who can hit fairly hard, as well
as move quickly.  Their star player range is also excellent - but some
leagues do not allow star players - so make sure you understand what your
league allows and what it doesn't _before_ choosing a team.

2. Orcs.  They are not as fast as humans - but have higher armour - meaning
they are injured less often, and have more strength on their side (with the
Bloack Orc Blockers).  They also can throw the ball as well as humans, but
they do not have anyone who is specifically designed to _catch_ it (unlike
the humans).

    These two teams are good to begin with for a number of reasons, but one
of the main ones is that they are less resistant to technical 'blunders'
when building your team.  Another good point is that if you buy the basic
set, you get both orc and human miniatures with the game!

That being said, a team that you choose should reflect how you want to play
the game.  If you aren't aiming to hurt other people's players as an active
part of your game plan, you should either be playing another game, or
playing a team which does not specialise in hitting other people down.
(Actually, you should plan to hurt other people's players no matter which
team you play - it's part of why it is called Blood Bowl.)  Each of the
teams descriptions give a brief description of what the team is good and or
bad at.  Look  carefully at the statistics for the players and see whether
they match what you intend to do with your team.

<do I need to change this to put a brief description of each team type and
where it 'specialises'?>

Choosing a starting team setup.

o.k. so you've chosen a team! Great.  If you need to purchase miniatures,
any hobby store who sells Games Workshop products should be able to get them
for you, or alternatively you can ring your local Games Workshop Mail Order
and they will send them to you.  Some more models will need to be purchased
, and it may be financialy advisable to purchase those individual models at
the same time as you buy your team if you are buying through mail order (you
save on postage).   Many Warhammer models (another game by Games Workshop)
can also be purchased and modified slightly to make a great Blood Bowl
player miniature.  This is explained in the Blood bowl rule book - so you
should know this right?

    Painting the miniatures is a great start.  Not only will they look a lot
better, but you can put numbers on them so that they can be told apart and
you can see (as well as your opponent) who has which skills and statistics
once they start improving.  Painting models takes a lot less time and is a
lot less of a pain that a lot of people think - although if you really do
not like that kind fo thing, there are people who will paint minitures for
you for a fee.  At least that way you end up with fantastic looking models.
I always paint the miniatures myself.  It's actually the way I got into
Blood Bowl (by painting miniatures as a hobby of its own) but that's another
story.

You actually have choice about which type of people start on your team and
which ones don't.  This is explained in the Blood Bowl handbook.  There are
several teactics to advise on this matter - and this is part of the overall
strategy of developing a good Blood Bowl team.  Developing a team which you
like and is customised to your play is all part of the strategy and fun of
the game.  A starting lineup is the beginning of this.

Pointers: Spend your money wisely.  Think carefully about how you are going
to use each of the players you buy.  If you can't justify why you want that
player, put the money elsewhere (at least for now).

Starting with a high Fan Factor is always a good idea.  Fan factor (as you
should know) influences not only the kickoff table (which can give
significant advantage in a game)  but also the amount of money which you get
at the end of the game.  The more money, the more you can buy for your team!
Once you start a team you can't buy more fan factor - so stock up now!

Rerolls cost double once you have begun (unless you get a special play card
called Extra Training) so again it is a good idea to buy a few now while
they are cheap!  I would recommend a minumum of two for any team, but the
number of rerolls I would recommend depends on the cost of them for the team
and the agility of your players.  three is a good number to start with if
you can afford them.

Many people would rather put their money into fan factor and rerolls and
buying an  aopthecary from the first gaem -as the cost of an apothecary is
such that it does not increase after the team starts and is likely
affordable after the first game (particularly if starting with a high Fan
Factor).  So a sound strategy is to play one game without an apothecary and
to purchase one after the first game.  Whether you are confident to do this,
or decide an apothecary is a commodity you can't do without for even one
match, either way - get one soon.  The apothecary will save you 'money'
(blood bowl gold crowns  - not real money) over the price of the
investment - sometimes even the first match you have one on your team!  I
tend to have one in my starting lineup - as I inevitably have an expensive
player dies in my first match - but if you are playing a team with a high
armour value then there is not much to fear from one match without an
apothecary.
Note: Poor Undead coaches can't purchase an apothecary.  Buy an extra reroll
instead as commiseration.

Buy eleven players.  I would probably recommend only starting with eleven
players and spending the rest on fan factor and rerolls on most teams (note:
Halflings and goblins are the obvious exception to this - there may be
others). New players can be purchased later for little expense, both rerolls
and fan factor cannot.

Think very carefully about star players.  These guys are great - they can
win a match for you - however they can also be a big liability.  If you
start without an apothecary - and the star player dies -then that is a large
amount of money lost.  Also the star player will do things your players
would ordinarily do.  Some of this earns Star Player points (read:
experience).  Star players don't develop to be any better than they already
are - and hence tend to waste the experience a non-star player would have
used to develop new skills.  Some teams I would recommend to begin with a
star player - but if you do an apothecary is probably also a necessity (poor
undead coaches, luckily their star players come with regenerate).  Most I
would recommend picking up star players as you develop (if your league allows).

Expectations

Expect to lose your first few games.  Obviously play to win and try your
hardest, but new teams with new coaches tend to lose their first games.  If
you lose your first six games, don't be disheartened.  Meanwhile your team
should be getting better.  There are reasons for this which will be
explained soon.  I myself lost my first five games of BloodBowl - and this
is not an uncommon occurance.  If you are joining a league, then many of the
teams you are playing wil be more developed than you - and although you will
receive a 'handicap' (which includes more cards) this is not to even things
up, rather to give you a slim chance of winning.

Part two:  The game!

Before you start you should think carefully about who your opponent is and
how you should beat them.  Many a Blood Bowl coach as gone into a game
thinking about the strengths of their team only and has lost as the team
used counter tactics to defeat them.
    I would recommend coming up with a game objective.  Norally my game
objective will have seveal minor points... things to cover should include:
* taking out key players of the opponent.  Look for who scores all their
TD's.  Can they be eliminated easily?  If so - then they should be a target
for you to make sure they are off the pitch. I often, rather than target the
scorer, targe the person who gets the ball to the scorer.  Is there a
thrower who would hamper the teams style were they not on the pitch?
    With taking out key players it is important to set realistic
expectations.  I have seen many people lose to a local halfling coach as
they try to target the teams treemen.  Although the team would not be very
good without it, the treemen are a very difficult target to get down, and
then again to injure.  Indeed they are almost designed to take that kind of
punishment instead of the teams who they play for (wood elves and halflings
both have very low armour).  So I would recommand against targetting a star
player with high armour value, for example.  Of course, this may be a valid
strategy, depending upon your opponent.
    When playing elves, I often try to target players wjho are also a threat
to my own players. Players with Mighty Blow, for example, tend to carve my
elves up on a regular basis, and hence will become a target simply out of
self defence.

* don't get 'sucked' into playing the opponents game.  If the opponent grabs
the ball and forms a 'cage' of players around the player with the ball,
think carefully before sending all your players careering into it to stop
them.  If you do send all your players to the fray, the opponent has forced
you to play a very block oriented game.  Conversely, if your opponent has
spread their players all over the pitch and has scored twice on you early in
the first half - don't get rushed into trying to score in two turns.  Doing
so has made you play the 'elven passing' game, which you may not be suited
to.
    Remember your own teams strengths, and think about the opponents
weaknesses.  What can you play to (their weaknesses) and exploit?  If they
have low armour value, block them often.  If they have low movement, run
around them.  I would never play a passing game against skaven, for example,
unless I was also playing a pass oriented team (like wood elves).  I would
prefer to run with the ball and block them often.

* choose a team strategy.  When are you planning to score?  If you aren't a
pass oriented team, maybe scoring on the last turn of the half is the best
for you - as it gives you plenty of time to whittle down your opponents.
Don't then rush for those 3 Star player points at the end zone early - as it
will only compromise your strategy and give the opponent plenty of time to
equalise.  Of course, a valid strategy may be 'score as often as possible'
with evles for example.  this would entail having one player always in
scoring range if the ball happens to pop loose into one of your hands.  Then
a pass to them would ensure one more on the scoreboard.  Think about how
best to defeat the team, and when playing, place the players accordingly.

* Look at your special play cards when you get them. Can you set up a play
which will use this card? If so - then put that in your team strategy.  Some
cards are best used when you set the situation up careefully before playing
it.  A special play card can make the difference between a win and a loss.
..of course, some special play cards are best used spontaneously. Whatever
happens, remember you have them.  Forgetting them is a big mistake.

During the Game!

* Receive if you win the toss.  I think the only time I know of experienced
coaches choosing to kick is if they are teaching a new player or if there is
a special play card they have and are planning to use it first turn of their
opponent, effectively getting first turn of the game anyway :)  Not only do
you get the first turn (and hence first hit!) but you also get the chance to
score first - hence owning the psychological advantage! (they receive second
half - but frankly by then hopefully you'll have an advantage anyway).

* Stick to your game strategy and objective.  Even if it doesn't seem to be
working,  changing game strategy mid game normally means you will have lost
the game.  I know this all too well from experience.

Each turn:

- I would always move players who can be moved without any rolls and are not
a critical part of the turn strategy (see later) first. This inlcudes
rolling players over and standing them up.  Then if something fails, at
least you have those players about and wehre you wanted them.

- immediately afer moving your turn marker on (unless you play with the
'four minute rule' - and I recommend all novice players play without it for
a while) think what exactly you are doing _this_ turn.  where are you going
to hit to get to the ball?  Where are your targets and can they be hit this
turn?  Where is the best place for my thrower with the ball to be during my
opponents next turn? Develop a strategy and stick to it with all the players
available.

-Work with the following two adages, which work in opposition to each other
upon occasion.  Follow both wherever possible, and judge between them where
necessary.

  1.  . Do the things which are least risk first. (movement is 'no risk', hence comes first (see above))
  2. . Do the things which are most important first.  Note there is also a third:
  1. . Do the things in the right order so as to maximise your turn's performance and chances of success.


...this will need some explaining.

I would, for example use 1 when blocking. I would always do a three die
block (my choice) before a two die block (my choice) and again do a two die
block (my favour) over a one die block.  And I normally wouldn't do a two
die block (opponent's favour) unless I was hitting the ball carrier or
another important player near the end of my turn.  If so, I would try to do
so with a player with block (see later).  If passing, I would normally first
move player to near where my thrower and catcher will be in case te
pass/catch fail (if this involves a dodge I wouldn't normally bother, unless
that player has the dodge skill).  I would then move the thrower as close to
the catcher as possible, and maybe take an extra step if the passer does not
have the pass skill and I think it might improve the range band.  Then I
would pass to the catcher.  Once the catch is caught, I would clear the path
for the catcher (who at the moment has friends around him/her) and then
finally move the catcher.  So by this strategy - the play is minimised for
failure.  The pass isas short as possible, the chances for failure are
minimised and the chances of the play succeeding are more.  If I moved the
catcher first, this makes the pass longer, although this may be necessary as
the catcher may be in tackle zones where they are and would be free of them
(making the catch easier) if they are moved first.

So make the most important rolls first, but make sure that if the rols fail,
you aren't totally out of control for the rest of the drive.

This same principle can apply just as well to blocking, moving a cage down
the pitch or pretty well anything you are doing that turn.

- Remember your game objective.

-  Do the things you wish to do with the players who do that best.  If it's
dodging - can you do it with a player with dodge?  If it's passing - do you
have a player with pass?  I have seen players play very well, but fail while
trying to dodge with Black orcs and longbeards!  (They do fine if they get
stand firm!)  Of course some teams do well with almost anybody - but if you
fail that pass with a player with pass - then you get a 'free' reroll.  So
block with the guys with high strength first - or the guy with block over
the guy who doesn't.  Horses for courses.

Set ups and rules to remember while playing:

* If something goes wrong - you should have team rerolls.  I've forgotten
these - use them if it is important.  However - don't use your rerolls for
things which are not critical.  If noone can get to your catcher and he
bobbles the catch, (he/she shouldn't be going for extra steps if nooone from
the opposition can reach him unless it's something like the last turn of the
game etc.) then just pick up the ball next turn - don't use a reroll for it.
Save the rerolls for really important things which go wrong.  They are
valuable assets - don't waste them on trivial things.  If you follow the
three adages above, then using rerolls should be a matter of simple
judgement on how important the situation or how dire it would be if the roll
stands as it is.  If you have team rerolls left at the half - then who cares
as long as you're doing o.k. You don't _have_ to spend them every half - and
in the second half they can be useful if going into overtime!

* Use the apothecary only on 'worthwhile' injuries.  I think apothecarising
even most serious injuries is foolish - leave them to miss a match - save
the apothecary in case a valuable player dies.  I would even think twice
about using an apothecary early in a game if a lineman type of player dies
as they can be replaced without much cost.  O focurse- if it the second last
turn of the gaem then I can understand using the apoth on a serious injury -
but unless that player is dead without the apoth I'd think very long and
hard about apothecarising the player.  This is why Star players can be a
headache.  If Morg'th goes and seriously injures himself on the second turn
of the gaem - do you play on without him or use the apothecary and play
without the safety net of an apothecary? Tough choice.

If on defence, set up to preent the other player from scoring. That means
exerting tackle zones where opposing players might get through.  If they
have fast players - expect them to skirt though into your backfield.  Make
sure they regret it for doing so, or never get there!  If they wil form a
cage - plan for it! Bolster the front line team to withstand it - or - even
better -set up so that you can get to the ball carrier before the cage
really forms!  Remember to play to your strengths and his weaknesses.
Never let the opposition score.  Scoring TD's wins games - but as the old
NFL saying goes "Offence draws crowds - defence wins games".  If they never
score they can never win!  Take every opportunity to spoil their plans for
scoring and if possible, score when they receive - tha'ts the way the game
of Blood Bowl is won.  In fact, when setting up make sure this is part of
the strategy for defence - scoring without compromising your position of
defending!

On offence, don't be afraid to set up so even a moron could see where your
players are going.  A 'strong side' offence can simply outman a balanced
defence and that weight of numbers will guarantee the score.  On the other
hand - keep your options open - sometimes a balanced offence will be able
best for the game strategy you have in mind.  Make sure that either way, you
are sticking to your game strategy.  Play to your team's strengths on
offence and rememebr that as long as you have the ball you are dictating the
style of blood bowl game.  Don't forget to minimise risks with your
offensive plays - don't throw over an opposing player unless you have to -
as there is a chance they will intercept you (or you have safe throw).

On both offence and defence I try to preempt the players moves and
counteract.  If you are thinking two turns ahead of your opponent -then you
have the edge (think chess here!)  protecting where a player can get to may
be a valuable option, whereas if nooone can get there -then put your players
somewhere else!

Developing players and teams!

  Once you have played a few games and earnt some money, experience and
hopefully a few more fans (Fan Factor) you can start developing.  Depending
on how your team is faring, you can replace already killed players, or buy
new ones!  I recommend not simply buying more of the basic line type - but
rather to purchse players of superior standard (unless yuu simply are
replacing players, and sometimes even then).  Start investing in those
lovely position players you drooled over but couldn't afford with the
rerolls and fan factor you chose instead.  I would try to fill up the
position players you can choose from before investing in Wizards and other
neat stuff.  The position players will be able to do things that your
standard player cannot do as well - which only helps your game.

..Choose things to buy which close your weaknesses.  Choose strength players
on a team which has few and choose players which can pick up the ball if you
cannot do so very well.  But only do this if it fits in with your style of
play.  Choosing players should be like this too.

Although it can be a huge advantage to have a wizard before other teams
afford them (sorry Dwarf, Halfling and Undead coaches),  they do cost a
significant amount and I would think about whether your defence needs that
advantage (as the wizard is almost always used as a defensive play).  As a
chaos dwarf coach it was a great advantage to have a wizard before any other
coaches could afford one, but a star player or 'big guy' (if your league has
those as an alternative) could be of more value to your team.
 

With skills, think carfully about that players role in your games and what
you would wish that player to do.  Then choose skills which fit that role.
Simple?  Well, unless the player does simething extreme - and gets more
agile or faster on you.  Choose then what to do carefully.  Some coaches
prefer firing the player and starting again - I tend to fit the player into
a new niche and play to that players strengths.  A chaos warrior with AG 4
for instance can be a great asset as a dodger and ball carrier - although it
is most certainly not what most coaches would be wanting to develop with
their chaos warriors.  Extra strength is very rarely not taken - but it is
also a double roll, so there should be no problem if people decline it.  I
honestly am hard pressed to think of a situation of when I would, but it
depends on the coach.

...well that's about it! Have I missed anything???

Don't forget to check out!

The Blood Bowl Newbie FAQ:

as this has many good points and clarifications and links for new coaches.

If you reached the bottom of this and read it all - well done! I'd love some
comments.

=-) Babs.
 
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