Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hawt Dwarf-On-Dwarf Action: "Blood Bowl"

Since my last Blood Bowl match back in January, there've only been two new games.  One match saw Andrew's All-Star Skaven team the "Hairy Lightning" run circles around his own, Dean-controlled Ogre n' Snotling Team the "Mourn Behemoths".  That one resulted in a final score of 5 to nil.

Andrew and I played the other match a few Wednesday nights ago: my noob Dwarf Team, the "Immovable Oddjects" versus Andrew's newly-minted Chaos Dwarves, the "Darkland Berserkers".

Here was my roster going into this match:

And here's Andrew's:

Since this was the inaugural contest for both teams, the matchup promised to be pretty even.  At least in theory.  

The last game I played was a completely different story.  Knowing full well that my virginal Necro squad was at serious risk of being humbled Iron Sheik-style by Dean's veteran Chaos team, I actually did a fair amount of training for that match.  And by training I mean I played a few solo matches against the nigh-vacant A.I. of the Blood Bowl: Chaos Edition PC game.  In the end, it didn't do me much good since I still got beat like a red-headed stepchild.     

Knowing that Andrew and I would be fielding comparably similar teams I must have gotten lulled into a false sense of security.  As a result, I did very little preparation for this match.  In fact, the only thing I did was set up a new Chaos Edition Dwarf campaign and play through one game, which I handily won.  In fact, I didn't even bother to look at Andrew's roster before sitting down to play this game.  In Greek tragedy, this is known as hubris.        


Immovable Oddjects (My Dwarves) vs. Darkland Berserkers (Andrew's Chaos Dwarves)



I rolled a 3: "Very Sunny" ("A glorious day, but the blinding sunshine cases a –1 modifier on all attempts to pass the ball").  Compared to last game's "Sweltering Heat" this was a relief.  Especially considering that Dwarves huck the ball as often as Snotlings Blitz.  

Fame Roll

Andrew: 9
Me:  6

Andrew got Fame +1.  What does winning this roll feel like, I wonder?  Sometimes I just sit back and dream.  Anyway, I scored $6,000 for my Gate Earnings and Andrew snagged $9,000.

Coin Toss

I won the toss, so I decided to kick.  After setting up my team Andrew quickly followed suit.  That's when I caught the first glimpse of my opponent's secret weapon.   

"What the fuck is that?!?" I demanded.

"Bull centaurs," Andrew calmly replied.  "Two of 'em.  They've got 'Sprint' and 'Sure-Feet'.  I'm hoping to use them in more then a defensive capacity."

It was then that I began to suspect that I was woefully unprepared for this game.  With my morale already starting to unravel we moved on to the next setup step.

Kick/Receiving Roll

I placed the ball deep in Andrew's territory, as far back as I could dare.

Unfortunately, on a roll of 7 and 3, the ball scattered back towards the line of scrimmage.

I then diced up an "11" on the Kick-Off Table, signaling that some lunatic in the crowd was itching to "Throw a Rock" ("An enraged fan hurls a large rock at one of the player son the opposing team").  Andrew rolled a 5 and added his +1 Fan Factor for a total of 6.  I rolled a measly "2" and one of my two Runners, # 7, Ulfgar the Swift(ish), got beaned in the melon with a well-hurled chunk of masonry.

Fortunately Ulfgar's thick cranium kept him safe from any permanent harm and he was just temporarily "Stunned" by the attack.  In other words, if he'd been hit anywhere else but the head he might have been hurt.

Andrew wasted no time putting together a flawless rush.  Keldor the Hobgoblin (# 8) picked up the ball, cut back across the field and attempted a hand-off to # 15, Bull Dozer the Centaur.  After spending a  necessary Re-Roll, the play was ruled complete and Andrew was free to ponder his next move.

For starters, this involved the elimination of #12 Dwarf Blitzer Oscar Orcbane, who'd been left to loiter alone amidst a mosh pit of Chaos Dwarf Blockers and Bull Centaurs.  This was the last photo taken of him before he was carried off the pitch.  He's the jobber with the winged helm toward the top of the snap who's about the tsunamied by a gray wave of nine enemy players.  

Accompanied by some stellar interference, Monsieur Dozer cut laterally across the pitch, hell-bent for my right flank.  Immediately I was blown away by the speed and agility of the Centaur's rush.

On the very same play, Kramaug the Hobgoblin (# 7) and Sledge Hammer the Dwarf Blocker (# 5) sent my second Blitzer, Taklinn Skullcrusher sailing back into the pitch.  Imagine...dwarves and hobgoblins commiserating together against other dwarves!  Inconceivable!

As predicted, the combination of "Sure Feet""Sure Hoof" plus "Sprint" proved to be deadly.  My momentary excitement over Andrew rolling a "1" while "Going For It" was quickly dashed with his myriad of second chances and Re-Rolls.  As you might expect, the concept of overtaking these guys was an impossible task for my stunty-legged Dwarf defenders.

And although # 10 Tordek Trollslayer managed to knock Freight Train down...

I couldn't prevent Bull from breaking tackle and hauling ass down into my end zone for Andrew's first Touchdown.

We quickly set the teams back up to facilitate my drive.  Already one man down, I wasn't looking forward to charging head-first into this intimidating phalanx:


We rolled "Changing Weather" which turned out to be "Perfect Blood Bowl Weather"!  Yay, just in time for my drive!   I was gonna need all the help I could get...

Kick/Receiving Roll

Andrew's punt was a tad better.  Although the subsequent Scatter Roll saw the ball bounce three spaces back towards the Line of Scrimmage, it was still too far away for me to pull off a simple hand off.  It was time to get dangerous.   

Thanks to a fruitful charge by Blocker Eberk Bulwark (# 5) and Blitzer Taklinn Skullcrusher (#14), I started to lay the foundations for a stout cage in which to house a hypothetical ball carrier.  Just after I got finished telling you that Dwarves never throw the ball, a successful short pass by Ulfgar the Swift(ish) allowed Einkil Offenruns to surge into Andrew's territory.

In the process, I managed to en-prone-ify a pair of Andrew's key defenders.  Since Dwarven Blood Bowl teams live or die by their ability to eliminate the opposition, I quickly became disgusted by my woefully low Injury rolls.     

To make matters worse, I'd since become acclimated to the relatively rich Movement Allowance and dexterity of the Humans and Necros.  To compensate for this, I probably should have flooded one of the two Wide Zones but I really didn't want Andrew to bury the ball so deep that I couldn't breach the line in one turn.  

By the end of my drive, the "cage" I'd constructed around Einkil was about as impregnable as a rain-soaked shoebox.  This allowed Andrew to hop up, Blitz my rusher and pop the ball loose.

Painfully aware of their complete and utter lack of Agility, I didn't want to risk sending a Dwarf into the scrum to pick the ball back up.  So I just let it sit there, hoping that Andrew might go for it and then busied myself with decking a few more of his players.  I couldn't help but chuckle as I tossed one laughably impotent Injury Roll after another.

Instead of venturing in the scrum, Andrew tried to push #10 Tordek Trollslayer back onto the ball to try and score a lucky scatter.  Since catching the ball for a Dwarf is a challenge at the best of times, the ol' boarskin rattled around like a pinball and eventually settled in a spot two spaces to my left.  Unfortunately this was also directly in front of Andrew's two Bull Centaurs.

Mercifully my Frenzy-fueled Troll Slayers managed to eke out a bit of space.  Rurik the Relentless drove Freight Train back while Tordek upended # 9 Keenig the, Hobgoblin.  Again, I failed to roll so much as a measly knockout.

Andrew's retaliation was swift, using Señor Dozer to bowl over # 14, Blitzer Taklinn Skullcrusher.  Before he could do any more damage  #7 Kramaug the Hobgoblin hit a brick wall in the form of # 4 Brottor Barrelhouse and went down on his boil-covered ass.

And with that the first half came to an end!

Darkland Berserkers       Immovable Oddjects  
1                     -                    0


To maximize my drive, I really needed to get #12 Dwarf Blitzer Oscar Orcbane back out onto the field, but alas, t'was not to be.  Here's how things looked after both teams were set up:


We managed to retain our "Perfect Blood Bowl Weather", thank Nurgle!  

Kick/Receiving Roll

Andrew served up a pretty decent little punt, rolling direction "8" straight back and then three spaces towards my end zone.  The bad news continued to pile up as a "10" was rolled on the Kick-Off Table, signaling an impending "Blitz".  

After bowling over Rurik the Relentless, Andrew sent Bull Dozer and #10 Koren the Hobgoblin hurtling down my relatively-unguarded right flank.  This photo does a great job showing the final position of the ball and the extent of Andrew's incursion into my turf, just before the start of my drive.  

Even with these crazed lunatics bearing down on my Runners, I Kept Calm and Caged On.  With a handy assist from Tordek Trollslayer, Blitzer Taklinn Skullcrusher (# 14)  and Blocker Eberk Bulwark (# 5) conspired to put Kramaug the Hobgoblin (# 7) and Back Breaker (#3) in the dirt.  Once again I could be heard lamenting the sad state of my Injury Rolls.    

With the path now reasonably clear, Einkil Offenruns (# 9) backtracked one space, snatched up the ball, ran forward four spaces and completed the hand-off to counterpart Ulfgar the Swift(ish) (# 7).  With the plucky little devil now trailing Tordek, I tried to drop a few of Andrew's defenders to safeguard my position.

After moving Rurik the Relentless into flanking position next to Bull Dozer, I went to work.  Unfortunately, in my very first hit, Barendd Bronzepate (# 2) got decked by his evil, goatee-wearin' rival Anvil (#2).  

Taking note of my already anemic-looking right flank, Andrew proceeded to eliminate the final few tackle zones that remained there.  Sledge Hammer the Dwarf Blocker (# 5) and Keenig the Hobgoblin (#9) double-teamed my Blocker Veit of Deepdelve (# 3) and sent him sprawling to the ground.  Taking advantage of my botched hit, Anvil (#2) stepped around Barendd's prone carcass and pinned Brottor Barrelhouse (# 4) while Nailz (#4) proceeded to "give him the 'bidness".

With my right flank shattered, Koren the Hobgoblin (#10) rushed in to cover Einkil Offenruns (# 9).  To make matters worse, Bull Dozer the Centaur (# 15) was now free to gallop unhindered across the full width of the pitch to put heat on Ulfgar the ball carrier.

Barendd Bronzepate (# 2) jumped back up and returned the favor on Anvil (#2).  Rurik and Tordek teamed up to wrestle Bull Dozer to the ground.  Irked by the invasion of his personal space, Einkil Offenruns (#9) shoved interloper Koren the Hobgoblin (#10) back in a westerly direction.  And although Blitzer Taklinn Skullcrusher (# 14) managed to push Keldor the Slave Hobgoblin (# 8) back a space, it did little for Ulfgar's advancement.

Backtracking to take out Bull Dozer may have seemed like a no-brainer but it left Ulfgar completely exposed.  After inviting Eberk Bulwark (# 5) to take a seat, Freight Train leant an assist to Sledge Hammer the Dwarf Blocker (# 5) who then proceeded to annihilate Ulfgar.  Grinder the Dwarf Blocker (#1) was quick to rush in and collect the now-loose ball.

To make way for a potential lateral sweep, Anvil the Dwarf Blocker (#2) sent Veit of Deepdelve (# 3) airborne.  To complete the rout on the far side of the pitch, Dwarf Blocker Tag Team Nailz (#4) and Sledge Hammer (# 5) beat ass on Brottor Barrelhouse (#4) unhindered for a little while.

My strategy for striking back was reasonably sound.  First off, Brottor Barrelhouse (# 4) swayed to his feet and Veit of Deepdelve (# 3) followed suit.  Then Rurik the Relentless (# 16) doubled back to assist Einkil Offenruns (# 9) in his successful strike on Keenig the Hobgoblin (#9).  The hit that I really needed to pull off, however, completely fizzled.  After Eberk (# 5) and Ulfgar (# 7) stood up to flank Freight Train, Tordek Trollslayer (# 10) charged at the Bull Centaur.  The effect was akin to running head down into a brick wall.

This left a gaping hole in my defense which Andrew was quick to exploit.  After Ulfgar went down again, Back Breaker (#3) leveraged an assist from Nailz (#4) and Sledge Hammer (# 5) to side-swipe Rolf of the Underdark (#1) in a vicious Blitz.  BB then joined Grinder (#1) in his mad rush downfield.  Surrounded by no less then five defenders I was certainly hard pressed to double back and prevent the inevitable.

Barendd Bronzepate (# 2) and Veit of Deepdelve (# 3) rushed back as fast as their stunty little legs would carry them.  Ulfgar (# 7) jumped up to help Taklinn Skullcrusher (# 14) deliver a haymaker on Keldor the Hobgoblin (# 8).  This liberated Eberk (# 5) from his Tackle Zone chains and he quickly scrambled to flank Grinder.  Desperate for more coverage I tried to break Rurik the Relentless (# 16) out of a tackle zone.

Yeah, that didn't work out too good.

So unopposed was Andrew that he actually risked handing the ball off to Bull Dozer the Centaur (# 15) for the touchdown!

We set up for what would likely be my last drive of the game.  Despite stuffing a handful of smelling salts up his bulbous nose, Oscar Orcbane (# 12) was still out of the game for me.  But at least I had the satisfaction of knocking Anvil the Dwarf Blocker (#2) out of commission during that last play.

Kick/Receiving Roll

We diced up "Brilliant Coaching" on the Kick-Off Table.  Mirroring Andrew's efforts thus far he scored an additional Re-Roll.  

I was rather proud of my efforts during this drive.  The kick was fairly shallow, so Ulfgar the Swift(ish) (# 7) had no problem scooping the ball up and handing it off to Einkil Offenruns (# 9).  Flanked by Eberk Bulwark (# 5), Taklinn Skullcrusher (# 14) and Rurik the Relentless (# 16), Einkil managed to make it across the threshold.    

I then set my sights on a few choice smacks.  Blocker Veit of Deepdelve (# 3) boldly surged up the line, snaring Keldor the Hobgoblin (# 8) in his zone of control.  In addition to tying up Keenig the Hobgoblin (#9), Tordek Trollslayer (# 10) provided support for a pretty effective chain of hits.  Thanks to a co-ordinated effort from Rolf of the Underdark (#1), Barendd Bronzepate (# 2) and Brottor Barrelhouse (# 4), Andrew's entire front line was soon splayed out all over the pitch.

Despite this, Andrew was completely unflappable.  After getting everyone back on their feet, he infiltrated my flawed cage with Back Breaker the Dwarf Blocker (#3), Koren the Hobgoblin (#10) and his two accursed Bull Centaurs.  Extricating myself from this mire of murderous marauders was no easy task.    

But my plucky little Dwarves were up to the task.  Thanks to a late-arriving assist from Ulfgar the Swift(ish) (# 7), Eberk Bulwark (# 5),Taklinn Skullcrusher (# 14) and Rurik the Relentless managed to paste their respective dance partners Back Breaker (#3), Freight Train and Koren the Hobgoblin (#10).  This gave Einkil Offenruns (# 9) a desperate breakout opportunity.

I really needed Bull Dozer the Centaur (# 15) to trip while extricating himself from my double coverage, but the "Sure Feet" skill made for a pretty vain hope.  Needless to say, Einkil was soon staring skyward, thinking that a particular cloud drifting overhead looked just like a refreshing, frosty mug of dwarven ale.  

Anxious to follow up on the successful hit, Kramaug (# 7) rushed in to retrieve the loose ball.  Mercifully the Hobgoblin exhibited hands of stone and the ball scattered back towards center field.  

Keen to exploit the fumble, I went to work.  On the far side of the pitch, Tordek Trollslayer (# 10) and Veit of Deepdelve (# 3) roughed up Keldor the Hobgoblin (# 8).  Closer to the action, Einkil Offenruns (# 9) jumped up to oppose Bull Dozer the Centaur (# 15), Rurik the Relentless (# 16) laid out Koren the Hobgoblin (#10) like a cheap rug and Eberk Bulwark (# 5) rushed up to guard the ball.  

Since Re-Rolls were scarcer then hen's teeth at that stage the game began to degenerate into a comedy of errors.  Keldor the Hobgoblin (# 8) charged in to aid the now-upright Keenig (#9), resulting in a stalemate with Tordek Trollslayer (# 10) and Veit of Deepdelve (# 3).  Grinder the Dwarf Blocker (#1) served up a knuckle sandwich for Rolf of the Underdark (#1).  Outnumbered by Nailz (#4) and Sledge Hammer (#5), Brottor Barrelhouse (# 4) was dropped on a two-die Block.

In his last, fairly innocuous play, Andrew propped up Koren the Hobgoblin (#10) to assist Back Breaker (#3) in pummeling Rurik the Relentless (# 16).  The Toll Slayer had no time fo' that shit, dropping BB like a bad habit.  

Things didn't go much better on my own turn.  Both Brottor Barrelhouse (# 4) and Rolf of the Underdark (#1) both jumped up to prevent Andrew from dispatching re-enforcements.  Now in the throes of a berserk fury, Rurik the Relentless (# 16) cleaned house, plastering Koren the Hobgoblin (#10) with a mailed fist right in the mush.

This left Ulfgar the (not so) Swift(ish) (# 7) a chance to be the hero.  He charged up the right Wide Zone to retrieve the unguarded ball.  Unfortunately the dumb fuck boggled it and I had absolutely no Re-Rolls left.

With the game about to end, Andrew threw a couple of last-minute hits just for shits and giggles.  Continuing their eternal rivalry, Nailz the Dwarf Blocker (#4) knocked down Brottor Barrelhouse (# 4).  Bull Dozer the Centaur (# 15) shoved Einkil Offenruns (# 9) back into the ball which sent it scattering back midfield.  Keldor the Hobgoblin (# 8) had plenty of movement left to reach the ball but not nearly enough manual dexterity.  With this failure to snatch up the ball, the game to an end.  



Darkland Berserkers       Immovable Oddjects  
2                     -                    0


MVP Award / Level Ups   

In an effort to have the MVP Awards make more thematically sense, we usually allow for one re-roll.  Even after this, Andrew ended up giving it to #8 Keldor the Hobgoblin.  My MVP wasn't quite as  inexplicable.  With his one completed pass, Ulfgar the Swift(ish) (# 7) got the duke.

With his two touchdowns, Bull Dozer Leveled Up.  Andrew picked "Break Tackle", making the Bull Centaur even more unstoppable!  Ulfgar Leveled Up for me so I was pretty quick to give him the Block skill.    

Fan Factor  

Both of us saw our Fan Factor increase by one point!


Post-Game Observations

In spite of my woefully poor Blood Bowl record, I'm constantly amazed by this incredibly deep and tactical game.  Easy to learn but hard to master, I can see why so many people make this their one and only tabletop gaming hobby.  Why Games Workshop continues to treat it like the red headed stepchild of their product line is beyond me.  

Unfortunately, as a player of limited means and interest who ends up losing a lot, I tend to focus exclusively on my mistakes and not on what I've managed to do right.  Given the limited mobility of the Dwarves I should have positioned them further back in my own zone and doubled them up to create more resilient tackle zones and greater chances for a successful swarm.  I'm hoping to explore this "scorched earth" policy a bit more in future games.

Although I wouldn't describe my luck as horrendous two misfortunes certainly played a part.  The early loss of my second Blitzer definitely impacted my game.  With him gone, I had to leave one flank relatively unguarded and I always seemed to missing a key post in my cages.  I suppose I could have spread my defense out bit more or committed an offensive flood in one of the two Wide Zones but it always felt too much of a risk to me. 

To Andrew's credit he played another great game.  Like a proficient chess master, he's got enough Blood Bowl matches under his belt now to maximize the power of every positional.  That goes double for the Bull Centaurs who served double duty as offensive and defensive star players.  Having said that, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Andrew had digested a five page "Bull Centaur" strategy guide or listened to a forty minute Chaos Dwarf-themed podcast in order to learn how to use this team so effectively.  Honestly, that doesn't really bother me because the more passionate and informed player should usually be the one to triumph.    

In addition to his encyclopedic knowledge of Blood Bowl strategy and his boundless enthusiasm for the game, this match really exemplified Andrew's other strengths as an opponent.  His action timing was flawless, he prioritized key plays by weighing the odds and his luck with the dice was strong.  Indeed, Andrew's ability to bend a game to his will is and no more apparent then in a match of Blood Bowl.  

And let's face it, this match wasn't optimal for either of us.  Granted my Block and Injury rolls were pretty toothless, but Dwarf teams have high Armor Values and are notoriously difficult to maim.  

Hopefully next time out the "Immovable Oddjects" get a nice, squishy Elf or Human team to beat up on instead of an entire squad of impregnable, evil doppelgangers controlled by a learned, passionate and infinitely more experienced coach.

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