I love Blood Bowl, and I think that Goonhammer could do with gaining some Blood Bowl content. While I love the game, I’m hardly a wizard at it. I’ve been playing a couple of years, and not achieved much in the way of tournament wins or league trophies, but I’m learning and adapting and looking for ways to involve myself in the community. There are plenty of highly detailed and advanced “How To” guides for playing every Blood Bowl team; check out BBTactics.com or Plasmoids Playbook Library for some good ones. I tend to glance at these any time I pick up a new team and try to remember some key points. These guides are brilliant, and I can’t possibly hope to improve on them. Instead, what I want to do is a newer coach’s review – looking at the teams and giving the thoughts of a middling player about what the team is and could be.
I also want to take the opportunity to showcase some of the incredible teams painted by my friends in Blood Bowl communities both online and where I play, in London and the South-East of England. Some of these are very good players… some of them are pretty bad players. In each case, I want to hear a bit from them about their experiences playing with the featured team.
First up: The Elven Union
“Elf Bullshit.” This is one of the first phrases likely to enter the lexicon of a new Blood Bowl player. The Elven Union team (or Pro Elf as previously and commonly still known) is perhaps unsurprisingly the team with the most capacity for Elf Bullshit baked into its starting team lineup and play style.
In today’s edition, we’re featuring the Alqualonde Falcons, competitors in the 2018 Dragon Bowl League as well as numerous tournaments in the UK, painted by Jackal – who is ranked by the NAF as 19th in the world with the Elven Union.
Jackal: They are a really fun team to play as they start with really interesting skills like sidestep and NoS, both of these help keep your opponent guessing. They are also interesting because they have the cheapest Ag4 player going. The rules fit the fluff nicely in that you have old pros mixed with fresh recruits. You can do explosive passing plays but they also make a decent running team once you have enough catchers. These guys can be built in a number of ways and more often than not I build one as a ball hawk/safety. More fun than High Elves, but more fragile. The Blitzers are not as good as Wardancers but Pro catchers are better than woodies. Dark Elves trump them in terms of armour and bash but are slower and less good at playing the ball. Pro Elves certainly have a niche.
My first thoughts looking at this bunch: The team dynamic is set with some interesting early skill/stat combos that are rarely seen elsewhere. This, combined with some cheap players (for Elves at least) makes them the most min/max-ed team out of the gate. If looking to summarise the team, it’s probably best to list their weaknesses first, as their strengths make for a pretty long list.
– Low Armour: Only one positional (Blitzer) has Armour Value 8. The rest have Armour Value 7 which puts them among the more vulnerable players in the game. This, combined with having expensive players (see below), makes for a team that is brittle and ill-equipped to recover from shocks.
– Expensive Positionals: The Union positionals are all among the more expensive. Pro Elf Catchers come in at a hefty 100,000GP price tag and the Blitzers even higher at 110,000GP. These are near the top of all the elf player costs and makes any losses incurred due to bad luck or ill-judged risky play really difficult to recover from.
– Low Speed: Yes, the Movement Allowances of 7 and 8 for Pro Elf Blitzers and Catchers is fast, but the remainder of the team is bound by the very average Movement Allowance of 6. This means that the expensive and fragile players are no faster than a Human Lineman (or any of the manifold other players with Movement 6.)
– Skill Access: Another self-contradictory set of characteristics, the complete lack of normal roll access to Strength skills makes for a challenge when planning how to develop an elf team. Lacking easy access to Guard and Mighty Blow can really hinder Elf teams as they start to face other teams in a league.
The Elven Union Strengths, however, make for a tempting array:
– Agility 4: As with all elves, these players are all Agility 4. This means that each and every player is a credible passing, catching, or dodging (and therefore scoring) piece. Some are more suited than others due to their inherent skills, but even the most humble elf line player cannot be discounted by the opposition as a potential scoring threat.
– Cheap Linemen: This seems like a contradiction considering the expense of the positional players listed above, but with Pro Elf linemen being 60,000GP the Elven Union team is able to spare 10,000GP in unexpected places. This may enable the hiring of some coaching staff, an apothecary, a team reroll or simply more players. Over the course of a league, this 14% discount on line players compared to other elf teams can have a larger effect than it seems.
– Skill Access: All elves have access to Agility skills on normal rolls. This enables access to some very powerful skills, like Sprint/Sure Feet, or the ever useful Dodge.
– Specialised Players: The key Pro Elf positionals start with a great selection of specialised skills and stats. Some other players, like the High Elf Thrower and the Wood Elf Catcher and Wardancer start with pretty classic sets of skills for their role, which makes them highly competent out of the gate. In the case of the Pro Elf Blitzers and Catchers, they instead start with unusual skills, which combined with some development can result in truly exceptional players.
Those are some of the overall strengths and weaknesses of the team. Next, let’s look at the players on offer:
Not only is the Pro Elf Blitzer a very credible scoring threat with Movement Allowance 7, they should be a bloody nuisance for the opposition to deal with. Their Armour Value 8 makes them the most resilient players on the Union team, but their real strength comes in starting with Side Step. This is a clutch skill that is often chosen second after Dodge for elf players. Having it built in to the Union Blitzers means that they are a full 10SPP ahead of other elf aggressive pieces in terms of being able to stack a fourth skill on top of the Block/Side Step/Dodge combo. These three skills are a total nightmare to deal with, and provide an incredibly solid grounding for a Pro Elf Blitzer to develop from.
Tackle, Strip Ball, Leap, Sure Hands, Sure Feet, Fend, Diving Tackle, Shadowing, Frenzy, Dauntless can all be tempting selections for building onto the ‘BlodgeStep‘ combo. Even unusual skills like Pass Block could find a place in a Pro Elf Blitzer build, thanks to the extra opportunities to get yourself into a position where Side Step can be devilishly annoying. Jump Up is always handy but this player will hopefully not spend much time on the floor, although if you wanted a brutal sacking piece you could take it along with Wrestle and Tackle – although a player this annoying will have a short lifespan if they make much use of Wrestle, as they will be an obvious and immediate fouling target.
And that’s just the Normal skills! For doubles, Guard is an obvious and immediate winner because it synergises so well with Side Step and all elf teams desperately need as much Guard as they can get; Mighty Blow is always nice to have on an attacking player; Nerves of Steel could make for a very versatile ball handling option – it’s already there on all of your catchers, but the Blitzer’s other skills could complement this choice nicely; Leader could be a nice choice on a player who has your highest armour value and has the survivability afforded by Block (or preferably Blodge) and Side Step.
I would never run an Elven Union roster without taking both Blitzers. These players have so much flexibility and look like so much fun to use that you’d be crazy not to take them.
The other standout player on the Elven Union team is the Catcher. Having up to four of these players available gives the team an edge over most in terms of speed with their Movement 8, and being Strength 3 makes them a tougher challenge to take down than the zippier Wood Elf catchers. Their primary strength however is starting with the Passing skill Nerves of Steel. This is a really unusual feature as it’s a double skill for most elf catching players, so cannot be relied on as being available in a player’s development. Having Nerves of Steel in the bag therefore opens up some interesting strategies. Defending against other elf catchers isn’t exactly easy, but having that magic tackle zone on a deep receiver to make their catch more tricky is an important feature of anti-elf defence. Not so in the case of the Pro Elf catchers, as they never suffer this penalty.
Many coaches might see their excellent set of skills and stats for scoring and be tempted to take Sprint and Sure Feet, and hope for +Movement to create a one-turn scoring monster. This can be rewarding, and the existence of a player like this on a roster can force an opponent to play differently. But you’ll also want to guard this player jealously and rarely, if ever, give the opposition a chance to knock them down and end their infuriating career for every. This means that you could get so much more in terms of a team resource from these players by tweaking their development to be strong defensive assets as well. They are already very dangerous scoring threats from the start, and won’t lose this if you develop them with a more rounded set of skills.
Block and Dodge are almost always going to be your most tempting first picks as they are so important for keeping the players on their feet, but once you have those (or only one, if you’re feeling like breaking the mould, in which case it should probably be Dodge) Side Step, Fend, Tackle, Diving Tackle, Leap and Shadowing are great normal skill picks for this positional. Due to their speed, these guys are also great candidates for being developed into Ball Hawks, with Wrestle and Strip Ball, because their aggressive team mates might not want these skills.
Moving onto double skills, I won’t waste more space talking about Guard on these players: obviously it’s excellent. I think Dump-Off works brilliantly with Nerves of Steel, especially when there are up to three other NoS Catchers in the vicinity to receive the emergency pass! You could get mileage out of Stand Firm on a player with Shadowing, Tackle, Diving Tackle although it’s an expensive choice in terms of Team Value when Side Step will allow you to have a similar effect most of the time.
I won’t go into as much detail looking at the Throwers and Linemen for this team. They are perfectly competent and able to develop well because, well, they are elves, and their superstar colleagues will do work in creating opportunities. It’s worth pointing out that you need to deliberately cultivate these players by giving them touchdowns and passing completions, because the stars will sweep up all the points otherwise. BlodgeStep Linemen, especially if you get a double and can give them Guard, will earn their team value many times over. If you can get some of these players behind your defensive line of scrimmage, you’ll have a really difficult bunch to deal with. Speaking of defence, you’ll always want one of your first Line skill picks to be Kick, as it allows you to dictate the flow of a half so effectively, with deep or shallow kicks depending on your opposition and the state of the game, and immediate pressure as a result.
One piece of advice I often see is not to bother fouling as an elf coach, and therefore eschewing the Dirty Player that is so often a must have for other teams. This tends to be due to the high cost of each elven player and the difficulty of making back its value in a trade where your player might be sent off… considering that the Pro Elf linemen are the cheapest elves around, you might find that sharpening the boot-spikes on one of these guys will pay off for you when there’s a Wardancer or Gutter Runner on the floor just begging for a shoeing.
A final tactic which I’ll shamelessly crib from Youtuber The Sage’s High Elf series, selecting Catch on a Thrower has potential as a really solid team development tactic. By using your other players to pick up the ball and chuck it to him for those completion points, the thrower can be a real force multiplier.
All of this advice may be rendered moot, however, when your delicious, fragile elves come up against the fists of a fired up Orc or Dwarf team. Or Human. Or Bretonnian. Or Chaos. Or really anybody who is more bashy than they are. Which is everyone. For this reason, I feel that Pro Elves are not for the faint of heart!