Leagues are the most fun way to experience the world of Blood Bowl. Seeing the development of your team over a season, enjoying the ups and downs of the season with other coaches, and perhaps even achieving some kind of glory at the end of it. Running a league is no small task. Even a league of friends with a fairly casual approach can involve a good amount of book-keeping and administration, and for anything larger it is absolutely essential that you have rules and processes in place to manage the inevitable contentious situations that arise in any kind of organised play. In this article I’m going to help you budding commissioners out by outlining some of the main areas of planning required when you look to run your very own league.
The most basic and important decision of all. The format of your league will play a big part in determining how many games everyone plays, whether everyone will have meaningful games throughout the season, and even what kind of teams might do well in it. Here are some considerations you will want to cover:
- Will you run a straight league format, or will you use conferences and divisions?
- What will the league’s scoring system be? How many points for a win/draw/loss?
- How many games will each team play?
- How will you decide who plays who each gameweek?
- Will teams play each other once or twice (or more?)
- How will tie-breakers be decided?
- Will there be playoffs? What will the format of these be?
There are many other possible decisions to make. Very often I see leagues reinventing the wheel with all kinds of esoteric organisational and points frameworks. But Blood Bowl is a sports game, and so I would suggest that commissioners look at some of the major real-life sporting leagues worldwide for inspiration and learn from their long history to see examples of how their structures and points scoring mechanisms keep teams involved and encourage positive play.
One of your most important tasks as a commissioner will be to decide what the rules are for your particular league. It is very important to think about and confirm your rules before anyone throws a block in anger. Here are a few examples of the kind of thing you need to consider:
- Will you place any restriction on team selection?
- Will you use any of the optional rules from publications like Death Zone, the Spike! Magazines, or White Dwarf?
- Will you use any house-rules?
There are many, many, more such rules and decisions you might need to consider before your league gets underway. Be careful not to overburden your league with custom rules that might confuse coaches or require heavy administrative effort on your part as commissioner.
Fees and Costs
If you are running a small casual league, then an entrance fee for the league may not be necessary or appropriate. For anything larger, there are a couple of reasons why you might want to charge a fee: one, to provide a prize fund for your winners, and two, to cover the costs of running the league. What kind of costs might you incur? Depending on where you play your games, you may need to pay out for venue or table hire. You might need to pay for website hosting, or pay a fee for a web-based league admin tool.
Regardless of the size of your league you will need some way of tracking the results and scores from the games played, and also some way of keeping track of your coaches developing rosters.
You can do this by pen and paper if it comes to it (though I wouldn’t recommend it) or equally cheaply by using online shared documents. You can also use a number of free and paid applications that support Blood Bowl specifically.
On the free side, the NAF website has a list of various league trackers that can be used in MS Office/Google Docs.
If you can afford to pay, Tourplay (TourPlay – Blood Bowl league and tournament manager) is becoming a very popular option and is an extremely slick application, but I advise checking out their fees (which scale with league numbers) before determining if this is the right solution for your league.
Seeing your team grow is one of the most fun parts of Blood Bowl, but it is one of the more complicated areas of league administration and it has arguably got more difficult in BB20. If you are using an automated league tracker, those systems may have mechanisms that calculate what skills players can take based on the amount of SPP’s they have gained. If not, you or your coaches will have to do this themselves.
In BB20 the varying price in SPP of different skill selections (Primary, Secondary, and the cheaper random versions of those) and the TV those add can vary considerably. You must also remember that SPP costs increase for subsequent skills. You will need some way of ensuring that all these calculations are done correctly by your coaches and recorded in your league or roster tracker. Equally, if coaches are going to take random skills you need a mechanism to manage how that happens. Will you let your coaches make those rolls themselves or will you ask that all rolls are done by a league admin? The latter might be necessary as coaches may need to make skill decisions sometime after having played the game.
Depending on your league location and structure, fixture arranging can be the simplest or one of the more challenging parts of running a league. If you have a dedicated gaming night at a specific venue, then your only challenge is to try and find all your available coaches a matchup each week. If you have a more open gaming environment and schedule then you may have to entrust more power to your coaches to arrange their own fixtures and venues.
In the best case scenario you need to be prepared to keep your league moving along with a few gentle reminders to those who are lagging behind. In the worst case scenario you may need to be prepared to take action to manage those who are struggling to play their games.
Winners and Prizes
Every league needs a champion, but there are many ways of rewarding varied play and participation in the league. Here are a few examples of other awards and prizes you might give out:
- Best Stunty team
- Most casualties
- Best painted team
- Most sporting opponent
These kinds of prizes can help ensure everyone feels their participation in the league is valuable and appreciated, even if they are not challenging for the title.
Bringing the Flavour
Blood Bowl is not just a boardgame. It has a rich world of lore and a relatively unique sports theme that really distinguishes it from many of the popular tabletop games. You can draw on these aspects to conjure a fun and immersive atmosphere for your coaches.One of the easier ways is to track and circulate some of the league stats and stars. Letting people know which players are the top touchdown scorers or casualty inflicters, or which teams have the meanest defenses or hi-octane offenses, can all really help to conjure the sense of competition and bring your coaches into the world of your league.
Encouraging your coaches to design team logos and name their players are simple steps that really add to the experience, and there are countless more examples. Many tabletop enthusiasts are also creative types and Blood Bowl has a particularly rich seam of possibility to mine. Many people like to write back stories for their players or teams, and as commissioner you can even do the same for your league so your players have something to base their lore around.
Another sports-themed way of creating immersion is with league and team merchandise. Branded dice, tokens, and even clothing are all great ways to get people to represent their teams and create a league identity.
Behaviour and Conduct
The reality of running any organised activity with human beings is that conflict and difficulty arises. That might be something as normal as real-life issues like work and sickness causing coaches to be unable to play their games or have to drop from the league. It might be something more challenging like a coach behaving in a way that is making other coaches uncomfortable or upset.
My experience is that many such issues can be mitigated or at least made easier by establishing a code of conduct and by having rules in place to account for those exceptional real-life issues.
Handling concessions and absences is one of the most common situations that arises. You may simply award one coach a win if their opponent cannot play, or you might find a stand-in or rearrange fixtures or similar. Be aware these kinds of things can result in coaches feeling aggrieved, no matter how good your intentions. But if your rules for such situations are clear in advance, this will lessen the impact.
Primarily you and your coaches need to remember that the league exists so that people can play Blood Bowl and have fun. If competitiveness or other factors are interfering with this goal then you as commissioner need to step in.
Over to you!
Creating and running your own BB League is a challenge that can be as big or small as you want it to to be. With a little forethought and enthusiasm, you can get a league of any size up and running, and what your league ultimately looks and feels like will then depend on the energy you and your fellow coaches bring. My experience is that BB leagues uniquely encourage a special combination of enthusiasm and competition, and I hope this guide helps you to realise your own worlds of fantasy football.
As always if you have any questions or suggestions about Blood Bowl, please drop us a line at Contact@Goonhammer.com.