Welcome, sports fans, to another competitive Blood Bowl rundown. Hardyroach attended the London-based Dragon Bowl League’s own NAF-approved tournament, the Backbreaker. This was the fourth tourney of its kind, and was held in the 7 Dials club, near Covent Garden. Let’s get to the action!
The Dragon Bowl League is my main source of Blood Bowl these days, and an awfully good source at that. The current league season has a full 54 teams, with no dropouts as of yet, making it one of the biggest in the country. The Backbreaker was organised by the commissioner, who also happens to be an excellent writer for Goonhammer, our very own King_Ghidra! The event was four games, swiss pairing, with prizes up for grabs for the winner, runner-up, best stunty, best rookie and best painted. Without further ado, let’s get to it.
So there may be some among you who read my Road to the Endzone article, and have good memories to boot. In that article I talked about trying to get my Halflings ready for the Backbreaker. Well, after much work and stress I…failed to do this. Alas. I blame starting a new day job this week. Anyway! With no painted Halflings to take, I decided to take an already painted team, my Bretonnian themed Imperial Nobles, Le Breton Blue Bloods.
The tournament pack called for a 1150k roster, with only tier 3 teams (Goblins, Halflings, Ogres, Snotlings) allowed to take a single star player. Imperial Nobles land squarely in tier 2, giving them access to 5 Primary Skills and 1 Secondary Skill. Now, I really like Imperial Nobles as a team, they have a unique playstyle and can often swing above their weight, but building a roster with them is a pain in the arse. With 1150k, you basically have two options (assuming you want the ogre, which I definitely do): take both throwers, and three linemen (one on the bench); or take one thrower, and five linemen (two on the bench). As I find the linemen to be the massive glowing weak spot on this team, I went for the former option. Taking both Throwers gives you one more player with armour 9+ and Agi 3+, and that can make all the difference. So my roster was:
- 1 Ogre
- 2 Blitzers
- 4 Bodyguards
- 2 Throwers
- 3 Linemen
- 2 Rerolls
- 1 Assistant Coach
- Total: 1145k gp
As for skills, we have even more pain to go through. Despite starting with a lot of Block and Wrestle, Nobles need a surprising amount of skills to be viable, especially as you can only start with 2 Rerolls due to how expensive everything is. The Throwers are the main skill sink, needing Sure Hands, Block, Leader, and Accurate, depending on your build. This makes it all the more frustrating that you need both of them. Here’s what I went with in the end:
- 1 Ogre (with Block)
- 2 Blitzers (one with Dodge, the other with Tackle)
- 4 Bodyguards (two with Guard)
- 2 Throwers (one with Leader)
- 3 Linemen (no skills)
Now I tend to like putting Guard on big guys, as I’d rather just activate them once to move them where they need to go, then not touch them again. But in this case the team desperately needs more punching power, so Block gives me a better chance of scoring removals. The Dodge Blitzer gives me a good scoring threat, and the Tackle Blitzer gives me something to smash stunties/elves with. Taking Guard on two of the Bodyguards is a no-brainer – this team’s main weakness is high strength teams, and Guard helps to equalise things a bit, as well as making Bodyguard screens difficult to penetrate. Finally taking Leader on the Thrower is an unfortunate necessity, as two rerolls is a little slim for a very averagely stat’d team with no Sure Hands.
Let’s Break some Backs
After scarfing down some Weetabix I headed over to 7 Dials, arriving at 9:00am, bright-eyed and bushy tailed. My fellow competitors blearily surveyed the competition over cups of takeaway coffee. After a short intro, the pairings went up, and the Blood Bowl commenced.
Game 1: Le Breton Blue Bloods vs. Unnamed (Lizardmen)
- 1 Kroxigor (Guard)
- 6 Saurus (four with Block)
- 4 Skinks
- 3 Rerolls
Oh boy. Rob’s a great coach, and Lizardmen are a nasty matchup for Nobles. With so much strength on the pitch, Nobles find it hard to control the pitch effectively. My game plan was the fairly standard anti-lizards operation: kill the skinks. With a Tackle Blitzer, I had what I needed to do that, but no plan survives contact with the enemy.
The Lizards receive to start, and things quickly go pear shaped when one of the Guard Bodyguards is cas’d in the very first Blitz! Oof. The Lizards push hard on their right flank, while the Nobs try their best to pin the cage against the side. Things get spicy when my other Guard piece gets KO’d and my Dodge Blitzer gets knocked down, freeing up the Lizards to form a side-cage against the left side. The Lizards stall along the endzone, but a Nob Thrower successfully Both-Downs the ball carrier after multiple dodges not once, but twice. Sadly no armour is broken, so each time the skink just hops up again and picks up the ball. Lizards finally score on T7. For the final two turns, the Nobles line up in position for a two-turn touchdown, but the ball is kicked deep, and the thrower fumbles the pickup. D’oh (my kingdom for Sure Hands). For the final turn, the Ogre boneheads, so no final punches. Ah, big guys.
The second half starts with the Nobles receiving, and a Time Out on the kick off table, giving me one less turn to score in. In turn 10 the Nobs take a severe blow with both a lineman and a thrower getting KO’d, and with a person disadvantage I find it very difficult to defend the ball carrier. I make a last ditch hand off to the second Blitzer, and attempt to break out of the encirclement, but with no defences the Lizards easily POW down the ball carrier, pick up with a skink, and score again on T15. With one turn left to score some casualties, the Ogre boneheads. With 1 reroll left, and nothing else to do, I reroll it. Loner passed. Reroll…Bonehead again. Honestly, I wouldn’t have had it any other way!
Result: 0-2 Loss
A challenging game against an excellent opponent, a well earned victory for Rob. Nobles really rely on being able to form a line, using Guard to deny two-dice blocks and Stand Firm to halt forward progress. Unfortunately, with high strength teams they get pushed around more easily, and if your armour doesn’t hold out the injury spiral ramps up quickly. My plan to focus down the Skinks didn’t pan out for two reasons – firstly, Rob was very, very good at protecting them, I rarely had a clean shot. Secondly, being at a person disadvantage all game, I needed every hand on deck to just hold my line.
With some fellow coaches, I crossed the road to 7 Dials Market. I recommend the masala dosa and samosas from the Indian street food place in the food court!
Game 2: Le Breton Blue Bloods vs. Da Rorcs ov Revelation (Orcs)
- 1 Untrained Troll
- 4 Big Un Blockers (two with Block)
- 4 Blitzers (one with Frenzy, one with Guard)
- 1 Thrower (with Block)
- 1 Lineman
- 1 Goblin
- 3 Rerolls
I’ve met Da Rorcs before, they (and Matt) are in my league conference! Matt’s a lovely guy and a great coach, so I knew I had my work cut out. With yet another high strength team, I was feeling pessimistic going in, but with more of a speed advantage than with Lizards and slightly less of a strength disadvantage, there was definitely some hope there.
First half kicks off with the Nobles receiving. They immediately fail to pick up the ball (my kingdom for Sure Hands!), but very little happens on the line, giving the Nobs the space they need to secure the ball and cage up. Play continues with a long stretch of punching and counter punching, with no armour getting broken either way – it’s the Green Wall vs. the Beige Wall. Things start to heat up when the Nobs break through the line and create some space in turn 5, followed by a BuB getting cas’d in turn 6. The Nobles breakout, make the handoff to a Blitzer ready for the score. With most of their players marked by pesky Stand Firm lads, the Orcs manage to mark the Blitzer, but can’t secure the knock-down, allowing Nobs to dodge out for the T8 score. In the Orcs’ final turn, they set-up for a TTM which I had stupidly not anticipated. Thankfully for me and my idiocy, the kick-off shows a Perfect Defence, so I hurriedly re-setup to protect. The thrower picks up…hands off to the goblin…the troll isn’t stupid, the troll isn’t hungry…perfect 6 on the throw! But then the scatter happens, placing the goblin right next to my ogre. The extra interference prevents the gobbo from landing, no rerolls left, splat.
Second half starts off with the Orcs on offence. Little notable action – an orc cage gets formed, a Noble screen lines up in front of it. After a few turns of back-and-forth, the Nobles manage to knock the ball loose. In the ensuing scrum, a couple of Nobs get KO’d, but an Orc Blitzer takes a cas. The Nobs manage to pick up, but a BuB blitz knocks them down. With only one turn left to play due to our time limit approaching, Matt needs the ball to do anything but get caught by the BuB. Guess what happens.
Result: 1-0 Win
This was a really enjoyable game. With very few removals on either side, this was as close to a classic game of Blood Bowl as you’re likely to get – all positioning, all planning. Great stuff. I definitely got lucky with the dearth of armour breaks Matt was getting – for such a bashy game it was frankly astonishing how little blood was spilled.
Game 3: Le Breton Blue Bloods vs. Veggie Patch (Dark Elves)
- 4 Blitzers (all with Dodge)
- 2 Runners (one with Leader)
- ? Linemen
- 1 Reroll
Apologies for the inaccurate roster, but you get the gist. Jake was a very polite young man of 10 years, so I made an effort not to be too try-hard! Dark Elves received to begin with and swiftly caged up. For the next few turns play was a sequence of the Nobs heavily marking the cage, while the Delves dodged out and reformed on the other flank. Eventually, I managed to get two Stand Firm lads on the ball carrier, which couldn’t be shifted. Sadly, the casualties started coming, and when it rains, it pours. Turn 3 saw both the Ogre get KO’d and one of the Guard Bodyguards get cas’d. Regardless, the Delf ball carrier got knocked down, and the Nob Dodge blitzer picked up the ball. The next few turns saw the Nobles try to clear space and break away with the ball, while taking another couple of casualties. Nobs finally made the touchdown in T7.
Second half had the Nobles on offence – with a severely depleted team, I had to rely on the Bodyguards to hold the line and protect the ball carrier, which they did with aplomb, for a while at least. The weight of numbers caused the ball to get knocked loose, and in the ensuing scrum it changed hands three or four times. In T15 the Nobles finally get a solid hold on the ball, and run in for the T16 touchdown. As a goodbye present, the final kick-off table result sends off a Noble thrower, making a total of five casualties, one send off, and one KO (the Ogre never did wake up).
Result: 2-0 Win
Definitely got away with this one. This game really showed off the potential strength of the Noble roster. Despite having a numerical disadvantage for the whole game, the combination of Stand Firm, Fend and Catch gives the team the ability to punch well above their weight, holding down multiple players and granting unexpected flexibility and mobility. Jake was a very solid player, and indeed I’ve played people many times his age with a worse grasp of the rules!
Game 4: Le Breton Blue Bloods vs. Battersea Rammers (Chaos Chosen)
- 4 Chosen Blockers (two with Guard)
- 8 Beastman Runners (one with Block, one with Tackle, one with Frenzy, one with Sneaky Git)
- 4 Rerolls
Another game, another charming opponent! Luck wise, this was a bit of a horror show, with both of us using up our rerolls quite early in each half. The Nobles receive to start, and fail to pick up the ball (MY KINGDOM FOR etc.). The Rammers got a Perfect Defence, completely scuppering my opening blocks thanks to all that strength 4 Guard! On Chaos’ first turn, a blitz from the Tackle beastman cas’d my Dodge Blitzer, and the Ogre gets knocked down and then fouled by a veritable horde of beasties. The nobles push up their right flank, taking advantage of how many beastmen are grouped up around the ogre on the left, though without any support the Ogre gets fouled once again, and KO’d this time – thankfully for me, the Sneaky Git lineman gets sent off. A failed GFI gives the beasts the space they need to Frenzy blitz the ball carrier, who gets knocked down. The Nobles then double skull, with no rerolls left, injuring a lineman! Things are getting dicey now, pun intended. Chaos immediately Both Down, allowing the Nobles to scoop up the ball and make a break for the endzone. Chaos manages to Blitz out to mark the ball carrier, but fails a dodge, allowing the Nobles to Blitz the marker off and score.
In the final two turns, Chaos goes for a heroic two-turned touchdown. In their final turn, the Nobles push to mark the ball carrier, but fail a Bodyguard GFI. The beastman carrier successfully passes, but the receiver fumbles the catch, ending the half.
Second half starts with Chaos receiving, and they push hard on their left flank, KO-ing a lineman in the process. In the counter-attack, the Block beastman gets cas’d, and then the Frenzy beastman fails a GFI to surf the Tackle Blitzer. The Chaos offensive is stopped short by a screen of Stand Firm, and a successful Chaos blitz gets nullified by another failed dodge. The Frenzy beastman successfully surfs my Tackle Blitzer, but immediately gets counter-surfed. With only a couple of turns left, Chaos pushes very hard, but leaves a hole for the Noble Thrower to dodge out and blitz the ball carrier. The ball is knocked loose, and the potential scorers heavily marked, but with no rerolls left the beasts pull of a sequence of blocks, pick-ups, hand-offs and dodges that end with a cas’d Bodyguard and a successful equalising touchdown in the final turn!
Result: 1-1 Draw
This was easily my favourite game of the tourney. Dom’s a great coach and a lovely chap, and the game was a nail-biting back-and-forth wherein neither coach got the definitive advantage. It was very bashy, with constant thrust and parry counterattacks, and removals on both sides. I remain convinced of my belief that Beastmen are among the best linemen in the game – the combination of Horns and Strength access means they always have a good shot at a break-out play. In the end it could have gone either way, had I failed my T7 blitz, or had Dom failed his T16 pick-up or hand-off. An excellent end to an excellent day of competition.
With a final record of 2W/1D/1L, I was very satisfied with my performance. I rarely set out to win these things, but if I can get through with at least a 50% win rate, I’m happy. To boot, the DBL is such a positive, welcoming and inclusive community that I came away at the end feeling a bit emotional.
My match-ups were really challenging, definitely in a good way. Nobles excel at shutting down average strength running teams, like Skaven, so to have three out of my four games be against high-strength bruiser teams definitely taxed my abilities, not to mention the quality of the coaches running those teams! Having played Nobles at quite a few events, I must say I really like them overall, but my god, I really wish that either their players/rerolls were a little cheaper, or their linemen were a little better. That armour 8+ really hurts, and helps to start off the casualty spiral.
The event was excellently run, with our own Ghidra doing the rounds to make sure all the games were wrapped up in time. I’ve got no complaints at all about the tournament pack – limiting Star Players to Tier 3 teams is a good call that curtails the otherwise affluence of Stars you tend to get at BB2020 tournaments. I can’t wait for Backbreaker V!
That’s all folks. Remember to pick up your trash, personal property and souvenir teeth that flew into the stands on your way out. HardyRoach will be back with another Road to the Endzone sometime soon. Thanks for reading, may none of your skulls be double! As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, drop us a line at Contact@Goonhammer.com.