Sunday, 22 November 2015

Game Three

So, I just finished the third game on my Undead journey against a very sweary Spaniard. In fairness to him, I did catch some luck, but I think the game was actually very balanced. Although I was playing against Amazons, there were no injuries all game and, until the final turn, we were pretty well balanced in knock outs. 

It began with a blitz, which saw a ghoul catching the ball. He was blitzed, but a mummy caught the scatter. After some silly shenanigans, the ghouls ran off with it and scored. Those guys really are essential; their speed and dodge skill really brings them to the party and gives you a freedom other teams lack. Mainly, they let you get out of trouble when things are going wrong, which I love. 

So, lesson one was that I need to practice my grind. With my Orcs, I think I got pretty good at it, but they have spoiled me. With all that high strength and armour, it's so easy to go up in numbers and control the blocking game. I, finding this a lot harder with Undead. The mummies and wights are great, but the ghouls and zombies keep leaving the pitch. I think I need to work on patience and a good grind. 

On the other hand, I think I managed the team well. With twelve players and four ghouls, I didn't go overboard. Instead I only took three at a time (until the final drive). This meant that I always had a spare, and some extra zombies that I was happy to sacrifice to Nuffle (also Muffle, but that's another story). Three ghouls is enough mobility to be going on with, and the spare was great. This game was so much easier when I started to take a couple of KOs as I had spares. 

Ok, so back to the game. I scored in about turn four, and he scored back in the last turn of the half. I got a little unlucky, as he had hugged the side lines. I'm not sure I did a lot wrong here on defence, as I surfed his ball carrier off a chain push. Unfortunately, my positioning was off, as I didn't have anyone covering the throw in, which was very Amazon favourable. He had an easy two dice block and pick up to score. 

Receiving in the second half, I scored in about five turns, but not through choice. Once again, I failed on my grind and e cage was too open; I had to make go for its on no rerolls to score. This was a bit tight. 

On defence, my opponent chose to go for a classic two turner (even though he had four turns to play with). I also used an illegal substitution to bring on my twelfth player, with he thought unfair. I, on the other hand, liked it. Using a bit of luck, and capitalising on failed pass, I was able to run the ball to safety. 

The team continued its silly skill ups, for a total of 6+4 on a mummy, 3+3 on a ghoul and 6+5 on a ghoul. I took guard, guard and +AG. 

This is my goal for next game: a long grind. This is my biggest weakness; I feel confident in defence, but weak in attack. 

I also want to try a different set up to the standard ziggurat. Depending on what I face, this might happen too. 

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Seeking Undeath

So, I've decided that I want to improve my Blood Bowl and this means practice. Seeing as I haven't got a local league, that only leaves online play. Now, I'm not going anywhere near Cyanide any time soon and as I have a newly repaired netbook, it was off to Fumbbl.

However, as any coach will say, it's not enough to play games. You need to train. SO, I'm going to use this blog as a space for reflection. I want to pick out what is going right and what is going wrong with my games, with the hope to improve.

I'm painting a new Undead team (pictures will arrive, at some point), and so I thought I would start with them. I give you the Drakenwald Dirge. They're a standard build with three re-rolls, two mummies, two wights, 3 ghouls and a horde of zombies. OK, a small horde.

I entered the Black Box yesterday for my first game and found Pro Elves. The first half was a perfect Undead drive. Eight turns, lots of elves off the pitch and a nice tasy score at the end. THat said, my biggest mistake of the game came in about turn seven; I fouled a catcher. Now, the previous turn, I had fouled out a Blitzer, and I got trigger happy and got sent of. This meant that at the start of the second half, it was 10 on 10 (good KO rolls), which really confused me. Apparantly, I don't know how to set up with only 10 players. He drove up the middle and scored quick.

I then fumbled the pick up, and he got a second. I then had only two turns to equalise. Now, I ask you, how do you score from this position, in your last turn, without a re-roll?

You chain push the wight towards the side lines, blitz him free and stand him in the end zone, hoping with all of your little necrotic heart that the ghoul can make the long bomb. Which he did.

So, on to game two (don't worry, there will be reflection, bu the games are linked). I just got this one finished, and it was against another rookie Pro Elf team, and I was down to two ghouls due to injury.

The ultimate lesson? Don't go players down against elves. I played 24 turns over the two games down on players; this is a real challenge for the slow movers. I think I need to realise that my Chicago Black Orcs have the advantage in this department; armour 9 is amazing, and I miss it.

In this game, I won the toss, but didn't do any damage. I then continued to stall beyond the point where it was reasonable, giving him a turnover. Well, I say gave. My ghoul helped, but he timed his attack just right.

Regardless, numbers mattered, and I lost one nil. On the bright side, I think I defended better with only 9 players in this game. Downside, I still lost and need to practice my stalling.

Next game though I have a guarding mummy and four ghouls.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Is the world ending?

So, in case anyone missed it, GW made an announcement. They have committed in the vaguest terms possible, to bringing back the Specialist Games line. It's far too early to speculate on precisely why sis will entail, but I think that the smart money is going to be on one off box sets. But that is not why I write. 

Games Workshop have had mixed success when it comes to Blood Bowl. They created a great game and some wonderful models, before later submitting confused and inadequate rule sets; instead, the current rule pack is based on the work of the community lead rules committee. Over the last few years, they have stopped supporting the game, while newer independent manufactures have come to the fore. Overall, I think that the game has never been stronger. 


Last weekend (and I will complete the write up as soon as I can), I was one of 912 playing coaches in Italy for the Blood Bowl World Cup. That tournament was a perfect example of all that makes our hobby great; the community, the standard of play and painting and the amazing people who run everything. We have a phenomenal international organisation, a superb rankings system and a cohesive rule set that functions excellently. 

What we also have is a captive audience. The vast majority of players have been playing for years; over a decade in many cases. At 29, I am one of the younger players on the scene, and I had a background in GW before I found the NAF. 

We do not advertise the game. Sure, there are a certain number of new players that join through word of mouth but their number is comparatively small. Once, Warhammer players would be lured across by the glossy adverts in White Dwarf (I know that I was). Nowadays, we simply don't have this level of support. Organic growth is all well and good, but once you reach saturation, support is needed to spread your market. 

Now, Cyanide is a good example of what can be achieved with a big budget. They have sold thousands of copies of their new game. For the purists, it isn't great. Rules have been changed and there have been, as always, issues with switching from cardboard to computer. That said, they are getting the numbers. Even better, new coaches are appearing on the forums and on social media. They have no knowledge of miniature game, but they are passionate about the game and are eager to take part. 

Games Workshop, for all of their faults, know how to advertise a product. We all know that they are a merciless, profit driven organisation. This means marketing. This means sales. This means a whole new generation of Blood Bowlers. This means new players and an enhanced subscription to the NAF. Sure, they might not all join up or become regular players; most of them won't. But, every one that does is breathing new life into our hobby. 

So is the world ending? Not yet. But, to hear many people speak, it could. They are concerned about GW's penchant for litigation, their sometimes confused approach to support and strategy and, most importantly, the rules. You can play the game anywhere. You can play the game with any models or against anyone. What you can't do is play the game without a rule set and, at this point, you have to mention the elephant in the room. 

Unless you've been under a rock, you'll have come across Age of Sigmar. It was a great marketing strategy and a great way to alienate your players; GW blew up the Warhammer world, wiped the rules and races and started again from fresh. New models sold, more profit made. Strangely enough, there is a fear that this could happen again, but I have to ask: will this really happen?

I believe that we have already seen the likely changes to the rule set. As I have perviously said, Games Workshop is a merciless profit driven organisation. Can anyone really see them developing and play testing enormous rules changes? I'm pretty certain that they would prefer to use something that is proven to work and ready to use. 

The newest Cyanide Blood Bowl game has emerged with some distinct differences to the CRP rule set. Some of these changes are down to the difficulty of transitioning a board game to a computer (or lazy programming, depending on your view). Others, though, are actual alterations. Additional armour to some positions, an enhanced cost for others. I know already that these changes are not popular with many within the community, but I have to ask the question: why?

When I go to a tournament, I know at the are a few static builds. Wood Elves should come with a treeman and Undead come with everything. You put Block on a big guy and build up your blodgers. Guard is essential for Dwarves. Worse still, you know that at the top tables, there will always be certain races; if you want to win, you'd better be bringing a Tier 1 team. 

The changes made by Cyanide are not massive, but even big ones would not break the game. Let's say that Human Ogres could start with Block, one of the most powerful skills in the game. They still wouldn't win tournaments; most races are simply better than even this improved Human team. 

Now, if you make a series of small changes to each team, I'm sure that you would see changes. Maybe Humans would become stronger than Orcs; maybe Undead would cease to be so dominant. Regardless, you would see some changes on the tournament scene and maybe, you'd see different players winning to reflect the newer rules. 

Games Workshop have a tried and tested formula; in fact, when you look at it, so does every other company in existence. Every few years, GW bring out new rules and, as a result, keep the attention of their players. Similarly other games, like the WarmaHordes universe from Privateer Press get regular injections of new models and rules. Each addition changes the environment and forces players to learn the game anew, refreshing their enjoyment of the game. Formula 1 changes its rules to keep the races fresh in spite of repeated use of the same tracks; ice hockey has altered its overtime rules repeatedly to build fresh excitement. 

I want to be playing this game in 20 years, but I do not want to be playing the same game. I want it to evolve, to change. Blood Bowl and its community should embrace change, new rules, new races, new players. Without those changes, it will wither. With them, I believe that it can continue to grow strong, so that I can be sat in a room with over 1000 coaches in twenty year's time, enjoying another World Cup. 

Friday, 6 November 2015

2015 NAF World Cup - Day 1

So, four years ago I assiduously updated this place with details of my winnings and losings each night. Last night, whiskey happened, so I'm now playing a little catch up. 

So, after finding the hotel at Lucca (beautiful medieval walled city), we enjoyed some socialising on the Thursday evening, before hitting the tournament. 

The hall was huge. I remember tweeting a picture of a horde of Blood Bowlers outside the venue in Amsterdam. They took up most of the street, and it looked awesome. Now I know I was wrong. The sheer scale of this World Cup is overwhelming. At night, you can not turn a corner without finding Blood Bowlers. During the day, the hall is packed with sellers, cosplayers and gamers (the Cyanide booth was a little quiet though). 

For the first round, Team Chaos had drawn the French team Azes Tech. Now, we were a member down (one could not travel due to an operation), but the Italian ringer Quercio joined the team. For my first game I'd drawn Wood Elves. It was a really cagey start for both of us as I kicked, but four turns in, the Wardancer hit the floor. Permanently. From there, the clock ticked by and I was force to use a major chai push to score. The other KO'd Wardancer was a nice benefit. In the second half, I ground out a second touchdown to win two nil. 

In th cond game,  found ourselves against the Americans. Stars and Spite were headed up by Gaixo, who proved a great opponent. He was using Necromantic and received - to say that it was a massive scrum would be an understatement. 

The two teams beat the hell out of each other and although I turned him over, quad skulls presented me from pushing for the score. They also gifted him with an easy block and recovery, which took me to one nil down. In the second half, I spent four turns trying to push the Flesh Golems, before realising that this was a fruitless exercise. Unfortunately, it was a little late by then and I couldn't make the score; I lost one nil. 

In the third game (last one of the first day) I played Iappo and his Dwarves; I think it says something that my notes on this game read "receive, grind, scrum, break throug centre". This was a true grind fest, in which my orcs found their can openers. I caused four casualties and won two nil. 

And so ended day one. I had two wins and a draw, Team Chaos were 150 out of 152 and one of its members were 912 pit of 912. A good day all around. 

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

A little bookshop, just around the corner

I like writing. In fact, I have spent a large proportion of my life writing in one form or another (I'm pretty sure that there is a 23 year old Doctor Who fanfic somewhere at my parents). The majority of my writing is factual, either here on my blog, or reports for work. It is extremely rare that I attempt to write a piece of original fiction and I have never shown that work to a wide audience. 

I wrote a little something a couple of weeks ago that I was really rather pleased with. For some reason, this (very) short story is something I love writing and wanted to share. I paused for a while, looking for sanity, but as the days ticked slowly by, my mind went unchanged. Therefore, though still not sure it's a good idea, I present to you a little tale of a bookshop, just around the corner. 

"There's a forest in the cellar, a wizard on the stair; but be careful where you step, for this bookshop has a bear"

Except this one didn't. All it had was a lingering smell of mould and a geriatric cat with only three legs. In the book on his lap, Horace had been removed, carried into a literary world of manuscript and storytelling. To his left, there was a stack of seventies pornography slumping against yellowing reams of feminist prose. 

The shop had never been a busy place. It had a market that couldn't even be called niche; three regular customers, of whom one had been dead for twelve years. Irregular customers simply didn't enter the building, put off by its cracked window and peeling paintwork.

On the edge of awareness a phone rang, cutting a quiet that was normally tempered only by noises from the outside. He had become used to listening to a world through dulled by twenty five year old double glazing. Car horns were distanced and the quickstep of commuters faded to nothing. 

Shifting slightly, Horace slowly straightened his legs and reached for the telephone. He cursed quietly at the stab of pins and needles, but grabbed for it anyway. Somewhere, in an office, a suited man spoke words for Horace to hear. They were tinny, obsequious words, filled with officious phrases of calamity and finality. Horace's answers were short, the conversation brief. 

He replaced the handset on its cradle, shrugging. The cat, roused by the noise, ceased its feline snore and demanded attention. When none was forthcoming, it stretched and went to sulk amongst the Hardy. 

Horace pulled a fresh paperback from the pile to his right. All things were improved with a good book. 

Monday, 18 May 2015

Fencing and Batman

To my great pleasure, I recently discovered that the man responsible for my addiction to the cardboard crack lives in my village, no more than 200m from my house. We met last week and had a good time talking about music, films, hobbying and board games. And then, Batman. 

For those who are not aware, there is a game by Knight Miniatures called Batman. Strangely, it seems this is a game in which you can fight 35mm battles with all of the notables of Gotham City. We had a quick game and I can only say that it is well worth a look. I might write something with some more details another time, but it suffices to say that it is a lot of fun. 

I am currently hunting down some models to use as the GCPD. 

It seems that my modular board, first designed for Necromunda, might actually get a game.  Albeit, it might not fulfill the original concept, but I am sure that Batman will be right at home regardless.

In the meantime, I was in Poundland (for those Americans, a 99 cent store). They had these grill trays, Teflon mesh on which you are supposed to fry things. For the cost of one shiny pound I had an A4 sheet of mesh. 

With some snipping (easy to cut with scissors) and some playing, I discovered that I couple make some quick and easy fencing. Lollipop sticks formed the base and cocktails sticks the verticle supports. The bases had pilot holes drilled into them and the cocktail sticks were first woven into the mesh and then inserted. 

Actual wire mesh would be better, as this can not be bent or moulded into shape. That said, it was easy to manipulate and really cheap. It takes paint well, and I have already base coated it. Silvery paint will be next and then I will think about hanging some warning signs.  

And now, Batman Begins. Because, I can. 

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Home Improvements

Things that I hate. Blood Bowl Dwarves. Wasps. Spray painting in the rain. 

For most of these things, the is little that I can do. For the last one, however, I have a glorious solution. I give you the Deluxe Spray Painting Station (tm). 

Undercoating models with spray paint has never been my favourite occupation. That may be to do with one to many bad experiences (silver paint for varnish) but also has a lot to do with the rain. It's hard to get a good coverage when you rely on the natural weather systems of Somerset. 

Luckily I now have a garage. 

With some spare wood I knocked the station together. It has a very simple contraption, with three sides made of 6mm MDF, braced with some timber off cuts. The back is a single board of 2mm hardboard, as is the top (contrary to my earlier assumptions, a top is definitely necessary if you want to prevent the escape of poorly aimed bursts). The entire construction was then screwed to the wall. 

The centrepiece is an Ikea cheeseboard. It cost £5, spins on a central point and sits around a foot in diameter.

It works like a charm, but I should really learn to open the door and get some more ventilation into the place.