Welcome back, Sports Fans! The thralls down in the Goonhammer Blood Bowl crypt were slightly less torporous than normal this week, as they seem to have gotten their grubby little hands on an advance copy of the newly-released Vampire Blood Bowl team. We’re rather loathe to let the thralls out of their cages, but perhaps this time we can make an exception. Hear that fellas? This better not SUCK!
In this roundtable:
- Dan “dittka” Boyd
Dan: Of all the Teams of Legend, no team is as-anticipated as Vampires. I can’t tell you how many times I read a tweet or a discord post from some poor sap incorrectly guessing that a rumor-mill picture was, in fact, proof that the Vampire team was here. And while I’ve proudly held myself apart from the undead bandwagon thus far, I have fallen under the spell of the hype, and you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be spending mine on Blood Bowl Vampires this afternoon!
We’ve all seen the models, and they’re amazing, but this post is all about those sweet new rules, so let’s dive in and take a look!
King_Ghidra: Pre-BB20 I had played a fair amount of Vamps. 75 games on FUMBBL, and a couple of NAF tournaments. They were absolutely one of my favourite teams from a mechanical perspective. I loved how Hypnotic Gaze allowed opportunities for completely unique plays, and actually enjoyed the mini-game of managing their negatrait. In tournaments I played them with Wilhelm Chaney, and it doesn’t need explaining why a team that could negate cage corners and screens liked having a ST4 Wrestle/Frenzy guy on the team.
When the Teams Of Legend doc came in BB20 I was sure that the Bloodlust to Animal Savagery change would be a disaster for the kind of Vampire play I enjoyed, and probably for the team’s performance in general (even with the buff to Hypno Gaze). So I was excited and somewhat scared about what Vamps would look like mechanically after their inevitable rework, but had my fingers crossed for a return to the more elegant ways of old. The preview had me extremely hyped and hopeful, so I can’t wait to jump in and look at what has arrived!
The Vampire Roster
King_Ghidra: I think the most important thing to talk about is Bloodlust (X+). Quite rightly this is the defining characteristic of the Vampire team, and with this new roster we have (thankfully) returned to having a version of this trait much like the pre-BB20 world.
This is probably one of the longest and most complicated trait descriptions in the game, so I’ll attempt to summarise:
- After a player with this trait declares their action they must make a Bloodlust roll, adding 1 to the roll if they declared a Block or Blitz.
- If a player fails a Bloodlust check it must bite an adjacent Thrall (Standing, Prone or Stunned) at the end of its action.
- If the player had declared an action that was not a Move it may change its action to Move.
- A Thrall that is bitten must make an injury roll, treating Casualty results automatically as Badly Hurt.
- Biting a Thrall does not cause a turnover unless the Thrall is holding the ball
- If the player does not bite a Thrall – this is a Turnover, the player loses their Tackle Zone until their next activation, and drops the ball if they are holding it.
- If the player declared a Pass action, Hand-Off, or intends to enter the endzone to score a Touchdown, they must bite a Thrall before the completion of that action.
Now, first things first, this is largely similar to the Bloodlust we knew before, with one very significant difference, which is that failing to bite a Thrall used to see the vampire removed from play. Obviously, this is a big buff.
One other thing to mention is that Bloodlust is no longer a standard 2+ roll for all Vampires. Our new roster features a couple of players now with 3+. This is where our bonus to the roll for blocking and blitzing comes in handy, because, appropriately, the 3+ players are the violent ones.
I think GW have done a great job with this trait. I think it is probably written almost exactly as Vampire fans would hope, largely keeping the restrictive and self-harming elements of gameplay, without being overly punitive when things go wrong. One of the key things it allows is for a Vampire that fails Bloodlust (X+) to still make a Hypno Gaze action that can potentially help the rest of the team.
There is one other important change in this new Vampire roster and that is that Team Re-roll costs went down from 70k to 60k. That is a big buff for a team that has historically been very re-roll hungry.
Oh and just as a cherry on top, Vampires now have a ‘raise dead opponent’ ability much like a Necromancer, that can give the team free Thralls. That doesn’t make any sense to me but hey ho.
HardyRoach: I’m actually a fan of it, and think it makes perfect sense! The vanquished bitten enemies become enthralled to the dark pact. Granted, it does mean that Orcs, Elves and Dwarves spontaneously become humans unless you want to be more creative with your proxies (which I do, personally).
But yes, the changes to Bloodlust are very interesting indeed, and make for a very strong looking team. An important note is that the change that allows Vampires to stay on the pitch after a failure to bite does have the knock on effect of increasing the number of Vamps it’s sensible to field in a lineup. Frequently, under the pre-2020 rules, people limited themselves to 3-4 Vamps. Here, I don’t think that’s nearly as necessary.
Dan: Fellas, don’t forget that Vamps can also take an apothecary, so those extra vamps have a good chance to get right back into the game even if they don’t make their Regeneration roll!
King_Ghidra: The humble Thrall has actually been slightly buffed from its original BB20 incarnation by being given a boost to PA4+, and at no extra cost! But in every other respect they are the same terrible, but essential, mobile blood bags. Their best asset is they are still extremely cheap. This means in time you can fill the roster with them to ensure you always have plenty available (a good idea, because they will still die in droves).
Dan: At least they’re still cheap!
King_Ghidra: This was the big surprise of the new roster for me. I did not think I would ever see an MA8 piece on a Vampire team. Thank Nuffle it only has ST3 or GW might just have broken the game completely. Still, the possibilities and potential of this piece are huge. Ag2+, Bloodlust (2+), and Hypno Gaze mean this can fairly reliably go anywhere and take a Tackle Zone away from anything. And it can be built in loads of different ways, be it as a straight-up scorer with Dodge, Sidestep, Sprint, Catch, etc.; or a primary ball carrier, with Sure Hands; or even a long-range ball-hawk with Wrestle/Tackle/Strip Ball.
Clearly it is vulnerable, with only AV8+, but the sky’s the limit for what they can add to Vamp teams.
HardyRoach: Yeah this is a crazy flexible piece, and is sure to be the playmaker of this roster. Like Ghidra said, there’s so many build options, and despite having lower strength and armour than its teammates, it’s no more vulnerable than any number of Elf positionals.
Dan: Many of you readers will remember that I am a dyed-in-the-wool Pro Elf Sicko, and let me tell you how great having multiple MA8+/ST3/AG2+ players is: it’s pretty dang great! Even with the paltry AV8+, a player with this kind of statline has almost unlimited utility. As Ghidra mentioned above, the ability to delete a tackle zone from pretty much anywhere on the field is hugely powerful. It’s going to be very difficult to pin this team down!
King_Ghidra: The Thrower is effectively the vanilla Vamp from previous iterations. With a number of exciting new team-mates they may look less interesting than before, but I think they’re still the most important players on the team.
Firstly, they still have the absurd ST4/AG2+ do-it-all statline, now with a correspondingly great PA2+ to boot, that means that if Throwing to a Runner is a viable offensive option (it will be) then these guys are going to be doing it. Secondly, they have Bloodlust 2+, which means they will still be one of your workhorse reliable Hypno Gaze users. Thirdly, they have Passing access on Primary, which means Leader is within easy reach for a team that traditionally burns re-rolls.
HardyRoach: I’m of the opinion that the passing changes in BB2020 should have also included most running and hybrid teams getting a 2+ thrower, whereas in practice only Humans and Skaven got that added. So Vamps getting a 2+ thrower with Pass is a big thumbs up here. For me the most boring teams to play are the ones with few back-up plans. You play them this way, and if it fails, well I guess you’re done. Adding in the Thrower and Runner adds a whole lot of offensive and defensive options to the team, and just makes them more dynamic and fun. And if you still hate passing, well, just ditch the throwers, they’re not necessary to make the team work.
Dan: At first I thought the Vampire Thrower wasn’t necessary, much like the Amazon Thrower. Since then I’ve come around. The Vamp thrower isn’t a fragile little baby like any of the human, skaven, or elf throwers are. He’s a ST4, AV9+ bruiser that can go anywhere and do anything. With Bloodlust (2+), this makes him the irreplaceable tech piece in the Vampire lineup. He can throw, block, run, hypnotize and take hits, all with one of the most impressive skill suites we’ve ever seen. The Vampire Thrower opens up this team to a whole new dimension on offense, and serves as a mean blocker on defense. He really is this team’s Swiss Army knife, and he’ll likely be an auto-include on every Vampire team.
HardyRoach: We’re seeing a trend with the more recent teams that GW tends to leave Block off the Blitzer positionals – here they instead have Juggernaut. I’m generally in favour of this shift, and would be interested to see it more widely implemented in the next full version of the rules. Block is great, but I love it when teams all have wildly different skills and therefore strengths. I’m happy for Block to become something you only get when you’ve levelled a player!
King_Ghidra: Agreed on that front. I think this is a positional that really dovetails with the aforementioned ‘hypno the cage and hit the ball’ play. Strip Ball is an amazing first skill for these guys that synergises with Juggernaut. Frenzy is another great option. With Strength access on Primary there are going to be many ways to build them, and you might ultimately end up with one as a traditional Block/Mighty Blow (+1)/Tackle blitzer and the other as a Wrestle/Tackle/Strip Ball/Frenzy ball hawk.
Dan: A Vamp statline plus Juggernaut? What’s not to love? Well, sports fans, MA6, for one. Generally Blitzers get +1 MA over “regular” players of the same type, but this convention has been conspicuously forgotten in the Vampire Blitzer. Also, Juggernaut is a blitzing skill, and if you’re taking a Vargheist (which is virtually guaranteed), the Blitzer suddenly has competition for the blitz each turn. Combine that with the Bloodlust (3+) on this guy, and, honestly, I’m not that impressed.
Now, before I get excoriated in the comments, I’m not over here saying the Blitzer is a bad player. He’s good! Really good, even! But he just doesn’t live up to the promise shown in the other positionals. What he is good for, though, is having access to Strength skills as a primary skill set. With the right skill choice, the Blitzer can become an effective removal piece or ST4 ballhawk. I like Tackle and Strip Ball on this guy the most as it will play to his strengths. I just wish he had MA7.
King_Ghidra: Yes the lack of additional MA was a surprise, to the extent that when I first started writing this piece I somehow assumed they did have it. I think many in the community did too, and though that is obviously not great, it also means these pieces stay in the realms of affordability, where they might otherwise have been 130k+ and given some team-building headaches.
King_Ghidra: I am so, so hyped for this player. One of my disappointments with the Amazon roster rework was that they didn’t find a way to fit a Big Guy in, because I think they can bring so much flavour and variety to team builds. And certainly the Vargheist delivers it in spades. A brilliant model, and I think it is going to be a very valuable piece for Vampires.
Much like the Blitzer, this piece is just about perfect for delivering the hit on the ball carrier after hypno opens the way. With ST5 he doesn’t care about any lingering cage or screen pieces that might provide assists, and while Frenzy can be a double-edged sword, more often than not this is going to work in your favour to give you even more chances to take the opponent down.
Having high AV is another great boon for a team that is traditionally rather fragile, and probably his only negative is his relatively low MA, which is not great for a blitzing piece. But overall this is just a brilliant addition.
HardyRoach: Yeah this dude rules. Potentially the safest big guy blitzer around? All the assurances of Rat Ogres with less risk of self inflicted serious injury (albeit with a higher risk of other injuries), and with higher armour and claw? Sign me up, sailor!
Dan: Frankly, this is a ridiculously good Big Guy. Awesome statline, great skills, and immediately obvious utility. Claw is such a great skill for evening the odds against a high-AV team. Mighty Blow (+1) is the obvious choice for the first skill-up here as it turns the Vargheist into an undead removal machine! And with ST5 and Frenzy, this guy will probably end up as your primary blitzer, so I’m a big fan of Juggernaut here, too. I expect that pretty much everyone will be bringing a Vargheist along, and for good reason: this guy’s a killer!
Starting League Rosters
King_Ghidra: Between the RR price reduction, the low cost of Thralls, and the fact that the new vamps also stayed in a very reasonable price range, there are quite a few ways to build a starting roster. I’m going to present a suggestion for one including the Vargheist because this is the most fun new toy.
- 1 x Vargheist
- 2 x Thrower
- 1 x Blitzer
- 1 x Runner
- 6 x Thralls
- 3 x Team Re-Rolls
I think this is a nice rounded roster that supports the Vargheist without giving up too much. With the Big Guy on board the need for a second Blitzer is reduced, and gives us one less Bloodlust 3+ to manage. The Throwers will do their all-rounder work and be our primary Hypno source to enable the Vargheist to do his thing. We take just one Runner, because I think these need to be used quite carefully in starting Vamp teams with their lower ST and AV. Sadly this only clocks in at 11 players and no Dedicated Fans, but that’s our Big Guy tax. Just kill something with the Varghiest to increase the squad for free!
HardyRoach: The above roster is what I would go with as well, because that Vargheist is just fun times, but for the sake of variety I’ll throw out an alternate:
- 2x Blitzers
- 2x Throwers
- 1x Runner
- 6x Thrall
- 3x Reroll
- 4x Dedicated Fans
I like to start off leagues with some Dedicated Fans in the bank, I’ve never regretted it. Otherwise we’re maximising our strength 4 pieces, and ensuring that we have a Thrall in the wings for when the blood starts flowing. Typical wisdom is you only need one Thrower, but honestly I view these guys more as beefy Hypno Gaze platforms that just happen to be able to throw if needed. If you prefer to play more Elf-y, you can just easily drop one of the Throwers for a second Catcher and another Dedicated Fan.
Dan: For leagues, there’s really one question you want to be asking. The first is: Vargheist or no? There’s really only one reason not to bring a Vargheist along (you’re not done painting him) so I imagine that’s pretty easily answered. But if you do bring one along, that means you’re looking at 4 Vampires and 6 Thralls. And then all you have to do is figure out the correct mix of Vampires that suits your playstyle. For me, it’s 2 Runners, 1 Thrower, and 1 Blitzer, but I’m strongly tempted to cut our Blitzers completely at team creation and focus solely on the Vargheist Blitz to begin the league. If you don’t take a Vargheist, then you’re looking at 5 Vamps and you can once again mix and match to taste. Unlike Hardy, I think starting a league with one extra Thrall on the bench is more prudent than Dedicated Fans, but it’s probably a toss-up.
As far as league progression goes, if you’ve started with a Vargheist + 4 Vamps, then I’d want to try and grab an extra Thrall right off the bat to give you 12 players on the team. After that, you can grab an apothecary and start saving up for the Vampire positionals you don’t have.
If you didn’t start with a Vargheist, then the obvious route is to save up for a Vargheist. But if you’re resolutely refusing the big guy, then filling out your Vamp roster is probably the primary concern.
Tournaments are normally set somewhere between 1100 and 1200 TV, so we’ll provide examples for both.
King_Ghidra: So you could just take the 1K TV starting roster I suggest above and add an extra Runner to get to 1.1m GC. It’s twelve players, and though only six Thralls feels uncomfortably few, we have a Big Guy and a new world of Bloodlust to explore, and maybe we’ll just not bite anyone?
An alternative at 1.1m is to ditch the Vargheist and go with the the following:
- 2 x Throwers
- 2 x Blitzers
- 2 x Runners
- 7 x Thralls
- 3 x Team Re-Rolls
This is a nice rounded roster with loads of build potential, plenty of bodies, and is tournament-ready straight out of the GW box.
Dan: For 1200 TV, you’ve got a little more wiggle room (read: enough space for the Vargheist!). Here’s what I like:
- 2 Runners
- 2 Throwers
- 1 Blitzer
- 7 Thralls
- 3 Rerolls
I’m a fan of having a bench with a majority AV8+ team, so we’ve got 13 players on the roster here. Additionally, the Apothecary will allow for a little bit of recklessness with your Runners, allowing them to really stretch out with their Hypnotic Gaze.
King_Ghidra: As a Vamp ‘homer’ these changes are incredibly exciting. Everything looks very fun, and very good. As an occasional voice of reason, I find myself wondering if it might just be too good.
Adding MA8 players gives Vamps a potent range threat that they have never previously had. With Hypno Gaze being a very reliable 2+ and unrestrained by Bloodlust, no cage or screen is safe against them, and the potential for Elf-BS plays has never been higher. I think this is a team that despite its supposed restrictions has the potential to feel very consistent and occasionally leave opponents powerless to stop.
That said, I think that a combination of Bloodlust and the fragility and crapness of Thralls will always keep this team in check to a certain extent. I suspect this is a team that can still be easily deleted, especially in a BB world where teams like Snotlings and Underworld are common. And when you do bite your Thralls now, you will be removing them far more often than with Animal Savagery.
But Vamp players should certainly be thrilled with a team that has a wealth of great play options, build variety, and development potential, and some lovely models and accessories to evoke them on the tabletop
HardyRoach: I’ve played some games with Vamps, but never a full league, always viewed them as just a bit more painful than they are fun. But with this new roster, oh boy, I might just have to give them a spin in a full league environment, or even in some Tourneys. Bloodlust is more manageable, the positionals are interesting and powerful, the team still has a lot of its engaging puzzle-box downsides, and that Vargheist…I want to see it in action, post-haste.
Dan: This team is going to be really, really good. The Vampire positionals are nuts, and the Vargheist is easily one of the best Big Guys in the game. We haven’t even mentioned that GW has ranked them in Tier 2, which might be too low, though I guess we’ll see how it plays out. Personally, I’ll be splurging on this team ASAP. The sick new models and the excellent new rules make the decision to pick these guys up a true no-brainer.
Thanks for joining us, Sports Fans! We’ll be back next time with an in-depth look at the new Undead Star Players! Until then, try to stay away from any mysterious and handsome strangers stalking the night! Got any questions for us? Drop us a line at concact@Goonhammer.com.