Blood Bowl is such an accessible, manageable hobby pursuit. No giant units to batch paint, no gigantic centrepiece models to painstakingly prepare, no reams of sourcebooks or hours of list building. At least, that’s what we tell newbies, it helps get them in the door. In reality it’s only a matter of time before every Bowler is sitting on a pile of unpainted teams, star players, team markers, and sideline staff. Hell, those with the shed space are probably working on their own elaborate stadium. When you only have 11-20 models to paint, it’s easy to justify getting just “one more” team.
Anyway, all of that preamble is the short way of saying I have like a dozen teams I need to finish, and a tournament coming up in a few weeks (The Backbreaker Cup, organised with the help of our very own King_Ghidra). Which of my highly competitive teams will I be taking, you may be wondering? Will it be the rock solid Chaos Dwarfs, new kids on the block Imperial Nobles, or maybe even the bouncy yet sub-optimal fun of Slann? Nope, Halflings.
Let’s talk about stunty teams. My first ever BB league, I played Goblins. I got absolutely smashed, as expected. Lost every game, including one against Skaven where I lost 0-5, except for one solitary game where I played against an Orc coach who was somehow even less knowledgeable than I was. But I don’t regret my masochistic team choice at all, in fact I think I learned more in that one season playing Gobbos than I would have had I picked Elves or Dwarfs. Playing Gobbos, or any stunty team, teaches you a lot of basic information about good play – learning how to screen and cage, how to prioritise targets, weigh risks, avoid basing up, and to play for the ball rather than the kill.
This began my love affair with stunty teams, and I now have at least one of each of them. There’s something freeing about playing a team where many plays are equally unlikely to work, so you might as well just do the silly but hilarious thing. Each stunty team has their strengths and weaknesses. Personally, my least favourite is Ogres. They have all the same drawbacks as Snotling teams, but none of the fun tricks and special rules. My favourite? Why, it’s Halflings of course.
No, seriously, why the hell are you taking Halflings?
If there’s such a thing as an entry-level Stunty team, it’s Halflings. While certainly not the highest performing (that’d probably be Snotlings), it’s probably the most reliable of the bunch, especially in its current incarnation – lacking the self-destructive capacity of Goblin secret weapons, or the excessive nega-traits of Ogres. Treemen can reliably do 3-dice blocks, and don’t have loner, making them less likely to turnover then trolls. They can also throw teammates on a 2+, provided there are no tackle zones to deal with. Halflings are flimsy, but can all dodge anywhere on a 3+, and the catcher positionals improve their throw teammate odds further. They’re also cheap as chips, so it’s not hard to keep a big bench. Halflings also have access to some of the best Stars around, with Deeproot Strongbranch a particular highlight.
So to actually answer the question – I’m taking Halflings because they’re a reliable laugh, and because I’m eyeing up the “Best Stunty” award for the tournament. The worst that can happen is I get completely stomped, but have some fun throwing some flings around.
The rulespack for the Backbreaker puts Halflings firmly in Tier 3 (of 3), which means I’ll have the usual 1150k gold to spend, plus 5 primary skills, 2 secondary skills, and space for a single star. With that in mind, here’s my roster:
Taking Block on both trees is a no-brainer. 3–dice blocks with the Block skill are very good, and I’m going to be relying on those guys to do some damage in the early turns before they inevitably get rooted. It also makes them more of a defensive threat too, which is no bad thing. The Hefties are often not taken at all by Halfling coaches – they’re more expensive and can’t be thrown, so despite their better armour and Fend skill, most prefer to just spend the extra cash on another regular Fling. I’m gonna take both solely because of their Passing skill access. This allows me to take Leader as a Primary skill on one, which ensures I start with 2 rerolls even before the Cookpot, and On The Ball on the other. With Flings boasting a pathetic 5 movement across the board, an unlucky deep or wide kick can often lose you the whole drive, so taking On The Ball makes you that little bit more likely to retrieve the ball, especially if you’re hoping for a TTM one-turn touchdown. Otherwise, we’re taking both Catchers, as they actually give the team something close to a reliable scorer, and we’re banging Sure Feet on both. With Sprint already on them, that’s movement 8 Halflings, and we all know that Sure Feet never messes up. We’re also taking Sneaky Git on a single Fling linemen. Ideally I’d like another, or possibly one with Dirty Player, but in practice you often don’t get as many chances for good fouls as you would like. Finally, a batch of seven more unskilled linemen to give me a solid bench.
As for inducements – Deeproot is one of my favourite star players, so he’s of course making the list. With strength 7, Block, and Mighty Blow+2 at the bargain price of 280k, he’s an easy pick for any Halfling team. I’m also partial to Rumblelow Sheepskin, who gives the team a reliable blitzer, or Griff Oberwald, who is a scoring machine, but you just can’t argue with that three tree LoS. If I were allowed two stars I would be tempted by taking Rumbelow and Akhorne the Squirrel for maximum silly animal flavour, but alas. The Cookpot is another easy choice, especially as in the 2020 edition of the rules you can gain rerolls with it even if your opponent doesn’t have any. Speaking of, we’re taking a single reroll, which should be more than enough after the Leader and Cookpot do their thing. After that, we’ve got 20k left to spend so we’re grabbing two Assistant Coaches just in case it gets us an extra reroll at some point.
Now that we’ve got our roster sorted, let’s take a look at the team itself. I’m one of those people that hates to do a project unless there’s some fun thematic spin on it. I don’t think I’ve ever bought a GW Blood Bowl team and just built and painted it, which has stopped me from taking up teams I’d otherwise be interested in, just because I can’t think of something stupid to do with them. Anyway, while browsing the excellent bits site Anvil Industry, I came across these spectacular Jack-O-Lantern heads.
Warhammer universe Halflings are essentially Tolkein Halflings with the “subtlety” slider turned down to the deep negatives, so they’re greedy, lazy, thieving, feckless little bastards. These heads made the team lore click into place. A band of Halfling vegetable thieves were caught by the local lord attempting to make off with his prize-winning marrow, and were summarily beheaded. The bodies were buried in his pumpkin patch to feed the plants, and the heads were put on spikes and left to rot. A roving Necromancer, hoping to make a quick buck with an inexpensive Blood Bowl team, raised them from the dead and replaced their lost craniums with the nearby pumpkins. Thus were The Pumpkin Patch Crew given (un)life.
The GW Halfling team are among my favourite sculpts from the company, so I didn’t want to change too much. Just a simple head-swap would do nicely. Bar needing to fill in some neck gaps with green stuff, it went off without a hitch. The Hefties have the larger hollow pumpkin heads, one of which is filled with candles, the other with delicious pumpkin pie (yum, even a spoon so you can dig in right away).
The Treemen were a bit more of a challenge. The new plastic Treemen kits fitted the goofy vibe I was going for perfectly, but I needed to Halloween-ify them up a bit. The first tree is a standard build, but with the squirrel on the arm replaced with some rats. I left the leaves on the branches, so they’ll likely be painted a gruesome autumnal red. For the second Treeman, I clipped off all the leafy branches and then stuffed his hollow interior with pumpkins, rats, and skulls – the logic being that this desiccated husk of a tree was used as a ritual site for all manner of haunted forest denizens.
For Deeproot himself I procured Greebo Games’ Dark Elf treeman, which I felt had a suitably spooky aesthetic. I also put together a model for Akhorne the Squirrel, using one of the squirrels from the treeman box as well as a mound of skulls for him to glory over; and for Rumblelow Sheepskin, which is again a Greebo sculpt, just with an Anvil pumpkin headswap. I added gravestones to the team markers, as this way the amazing fist-with-sausage markers look like they’re bursting out of the ground.
The Treemen are getting painted in two pieces, with the face separate so I can paint the hollow interior. Everything received a zenithal priming with the airbrush (Black > Vallejo French Mirage Blue > Vallejo Pale Sand > drybrush white > lowlight with nuln oil).
Wasn’t confident on what the colour scheme would be, so I tried some things out on a test model. Eventually landed on a turquoise-grey for the shirts, brown trousers, rusty metallic shoulder pads, and a sickly beige-grey-green for the skin. The pumpkin is orange (duh), and the jack-o-lantern faces are done with white ink, then white highlights, then finally thin glazes of fluorescent blue. I’m not entirely happy with how the glow effect looks around the actual holes themselves, so for future ones I’ll try using the airbrush for the white ink, just to get a more consistent transition. I’m still debating over whether to use the airbrush to block in the base coats for the halflings themselves, though I almost certainly will be doing so for the Treemen.
I always do basing last, but the plan is to use Vallejo Dark Earth, a dreary brown-grey texture paint, with some drybrushing and maybe some tufts. I was hoping to have space on the Halfling bases for the occasional gravestone, but I’ll have to settle for rats, skulls and pumpkins instead. Who knows, maybe I’ll make a display diorama for the team featuring all of the Halloweeny bits that wouldn’t fit on the bases themselves.
With fourteen more players to paint and only a couple of weeks left to do so, I’ll be pushing my usual sedentary hobby pace to untold speeds. Or alternatively I’ll drag my feet, run out of time, and end up taking Snotlings instead. Time will tell.
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