With the fearsome new vampires and their stars recently arriving on the Blood Bowl scene, the Hypnotic Gaze skill will be seeing increased action on pitches across the world. Whether you’re a user or a victim, there are many possible plays and nuances to this skill that it is worth being aware of. So just look into my eyes, relax, and let me explain all…
Mechanics and Rule Clarifications
Hypnotic Gaze is a Special Action. That means it cannot be performed in the same activation as other actions such as Blocking or Passing. The player can move before the attempt, but cannot move afterwards. The target of the attempt must be declared before the player moves (this means skills like Foul Appearance trigger at this point).
Any standing opposition player with a Tackle Zone can be hypnotised, and it requires a straight Agility test, modified by -1 for any opponents Marking the player making the attempt. If the test is successful, the opposing player loses their Tackle Zone until they are next activated. If they are carrying the ball this does not cause them to drop it, but it may open them to a number of other consequences, as described below.
Losing Tackle Zones
This is one point worth going into more detail on. Most people are familiar with the obvious results of losing Tackle Zones: that the affected player no longer provides assists, and opposition players can now wander past them without requiring dodges. But there is another huge consequence that is often forgotten, and that is that many of the unfortunate player’s skills cannot be used either.
Coaches will need to use a combo of the rulebook and the GW FAQ and Errata to get the full list of (un)affected skills, but unless a skill explicitly says it can be used without tackle zones then it cannot. By way of example, some powerful defensive tools such as Block, Dodge, Guard, Sidestep, and others cannot be used by Hypno’ed players. That means Hypno’ing an enemy blodger before trying to take it down is a very legitimate tactic. It can also be used to escape things like Tentacles, or players marked by Diving Tackle.
Finally, hypnotised players cannot interfere with passes on your turn, or catch the ball in their turn without activating first. This can make hypno a very simple method of safeguarding your own scoring attempts or thwarting the opponent’s.
Cage- and screen-breaking
This is probably the most powerful use of the skill, so let’s look at some practical examples and the kind of dice rolls and positioning needed. Against a typical cage, the first hypno attempt will normally be against one of the cage corners, like so:
This immediately opens up the ball carrier for a potential hit, but if the coach has further hypno options available, then other players can be taken away in order to remove any remaining opposing assists. The hypno’ing team can also move their own assists or Guard into the cage to prepare for a hit on the ball carrier.
An easy follow up is to have another player move into the cage and hypno the back corner. This test will be at -1 because of the ball-carrier, but if it succeeds, we will now have an assist against them. With Vampires’ high strength this is often not even necessary, but assuming the ball is knocked free, then, as we touched on earlier, any hypnotised players who might otherwise have caught that bouncing ball can no longer do so, making this a prudent move for the defensive team.
Before we move on, it is worth understanding the odds on these kind of plays. Without Rerolls, a 2+ hypnotise attempt with a Vampire player with Bloodlust (2+) has a 69.4% chance of success. If they follow up with another Vampire player making a 2D block on the ball carrier, with no other skills involved on either side, there’s a 38.6% chance to take the ball down, rising to 68.6% with a Reroll. There are of course many ways for the hypno team to make this even more likely; not least, guaranteeing activations by biting a Thrall after the gaze. In short, as long as Vampires have Thralls and/or Rerolls, you are in considerable danger.
Hypno Gaze can be very useful in making one-turn TD attempts, by taking away Tackle Zones on both the chain push attempts and the process of getting the ball into the intended scorer’s hands. It also has utility, as we touched on earlier, in preventing the use of certain skills that might otherwise shut down a one-turn – skills like Sidestep and Stand Firm. Teams like Snotlings and Necromantic can often field combos of these kinds of players on the LOS to make one-turning all but impossible, but with the ability to turn these skills off through hypno, and with players with Juggernaut and Frenzy on the roster, Vampires have an extremely strong one-turn game against all defenses.
The break-away down a flank is a common tactic in Blood Bowl, and these often involve using screens or half-cages. Against opponents with Hypno these become incredibly risky prospects, as stripping these light layers and creating opportunities for crowd surfs is so easy. Also, as touched upon above, many of the most common skills that normally come into their own in these situations, like Stand Firm and Sidestep, can be easily removed by Hypno, and again, with Vamps having Juggernaut and Frenzy in their midst, they are well-poised to take advantage of opponents who stray too close to the sidelines.
Defending against Hypnotic Gaze
One of the simplest ways to make things harder for potential hypnotisers is to add layers of screens and bodies. Screens give them an additional layer to hypno away before they can get to your really valuable pieces. Bodies can both make it harder for them to make their hypno attempts by applying negative modifiers, or make it harder for blocks on the ball by continuing to provide assists. Let’s look at a couple of examples:
The layers and width in front of the cage here give the Vampires many obstacles to clear to get to the cage itself. Both the depth and width of the screens severely limit what is possible. Another option is to enlarge the cage itself.
This kind of super-cage has been around as a tactical concept for a while, with affectionate names like the Mega-bunker or Vengabus. In the old days this was a great strategy for thwarting one of the big meta threats, leaping Wood Elf Wardancers, but it is also effective against Hypno, by forcing extra actions or players to remove the additional assist helping the ball-carrier. By placing additional defenders in front or at the sides of this cage you can make things extremely difficult for pesky hypno’ers.
Not an option for many teams, but certainly worth pointing out that Foul Appearance can put a nasty kink in hypnotisers’ plans. As mentioned earlier, just like on a Blitz action, this skill has to be rolled for at the point that the target is declared, and if it is failed, the action fails and ends immediately. Vampires really don’t like rolling extra dice, and while I wouldn’t recommend leaning into this skill for most teams, those that already have it (Necromantic and Nurgle) are likely to cause some major frustration for Vampire players.
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