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For a more indepth Skaven guide click here for Garion's Skaven playbook
Skaven are the undoubted speed merchants of the Bloodbowl arena; their play revolves around scoring fast, and using their speed to pressure the opponent when defending; their low Av generally doesn't allow them to get into a protracted fight.
Although the Wood Elves are technically a faster team, in terms of possible Ma on all possible players, Skaven can start with most or all of their positional players, due to their very much cheaper players, and cheap rerolls. The Gutter Runners are the backbone of any successful Skaven team, not only because of their scoring ability, but also because their extremely high Ma allows them to catch up with opposition players virtually anywhere on the pitch.
Skaven also have access to mutations, which can be used to increase their hitting power, turn a Gutter Runner into a ball-winner with Horns and Wrestle, or defend passing play using Disturbing Presence.
Skaven suffer from low Av, no Dodge on their linemen, and average agility; the linemen get injured and die in droves - high Fan Factor is vital to keep the money coming in for replacements. The Rat Ogre, formerly one of the most fearsome Big Guys, has become a rather incidental addition to the team, with the much-revised Wild Animal rules. Disregarding the Rat Ogre, only the two Blitzers can have Guard (or any other of the Strength skills), so making the initial break in the opposition line can be tricky.
Similar to Wood Elves in particular, the focus must be on the ball. You will often find that a team you force to worry about possession will be less concerned with mincing your team! Try to prevent cages from forming; once the ball is in one, it's a lot harder to get at. Kick is priceless for this against muscle teams- kicking deep into a corner will force good coaches to start their cages deep, and bad ones to require a difficult pass to make the ball safe as your players rush forward.
I find that using Gutter Runners, especially those developed as safeties, to pressure the ball retriever on defense is effective this way. Safeties often start out wide, to avoid getting caught up in mid-pitch brawls, but close enough to the LoS so that they can advance into the opposition half to apply pressure. Don't waste team rerolls on GFIs unless your players can apply a tackle zone on the ball carrier, or better yet, blitz them. Gutter Runners also make good sweepers; I like to keep one deep in my own half on defense, should the opposition make a break for the endzone. Sometimes this player will have to advance towards the play, in which case I try to drop back another player.
With Av 7, a Skaven team cannot usually afford to employ man-marking in defense; however, the Linemen aren't great at dodging away - if you must dodge them, do it for a good reason, and keep a Re-roll handy. Leaving players prone can be a valid tactic - standing them up only to get hit again should be reserved only when you want to hold up certain opposition players, or to prevent assists elsewhere.
Against cages, the best defense is to stay one square away from it, allowing only one blitz on a player per turn to minimise casualties and cage advancement, until the opposition makes a mistake, either a handling error or leaving a gap for blitz - Strip Ball is priceless for this. Disturbing Presence is great for causing handling errors, and the chance of no block can cause all sorts of frustration. Try to pick off players with your Blitzers or a Claw-equipped Lineman to weaken the cage.
Always try to keep one player in scoring range when defending; if the ball pops free, you can get the ball to him and score before the other team can recover. The exception would be in last-ditch defending late in the second half, especially if you have a 1 TD lead, in which case scoring again is not as important as preventing the equaliser.
Gutter Runners will attract a lot of attention from the other team, especially their Dirty Players! Keep them out of harm's way until they do something important - beware of Tackle+MB+PO players.
Some Skaven teams revolve around a Rat Ogre spearhead, while others don't risk them - they can cause a lot of damage on a good day, and give the team some muscle.
Some words about Rat-Ogres: many rookie coaches think that they need some extra firepower to have a chance to stand against non-agile teams. The obvious – and only – solution seems to include a Rat-Ogre in your team. In reality it is different: - Skaven don't need a Rat-Ogre to win, the Rat-Ogre can't be incorporated easily into normal Skaven game-play, - you can't use a Rat-Ogre to counter the opponent’s Big Guy or his ST4 LoS, - the Rat-Ogre provides a skilled opponent the chance to rob you of your turns by forced turn-overs. If you want to play with a Rat-Ogre, get him as late as your 14th+ player. Don't use him to mob up crowds of opposing players until he has Bock AND Pro, and even then play him with caution. Always have a Linerat or your Thrower in vicinity to help him out if he's surrounded by 3+ opponents. Rather use him as a Defence Sweeper to crush single opponents foolish enough to set foot on your deep half. A Rat-Ogre can be great for pushing nasty dodgers out of bonds or at least mark them with his Prehensile Tail.
Throwers are not as important for Skaven as they are for some other teams. They pick up and throw the ball worse than your Gutter Runner, but they have passing skills and can be build to a great thrower to support your running game with some nasty passing. He will spare you Team Re-Rolls due to his ball-handling skills in contrast to a Gutter Runner who has a higher Agility but no automatic Re-roll if he fails picking up the ball or when passing. Keep him at the back most of the time and master the PMHMPS move ("pick up-move-hand over-move-pass-score"). If you can stop the opponent from scoring when he’s in your half, his lines will be most probably overstretched. Make a cold blooded counter touchdown with your Thrower picking up the ball, moving, handing over to a Gutter Runner, who moves and makes a quick pass to the Gutter Runner who is waiting somewhere in the opponents half. Remember, you can transport the ball roughly 25+ squares within your normal movement just with several 2+ rolls (more if you sprint or/and pass to a longer distance). Of course, you can pull this stunt with 3 Gutter Runners or pass first and hand over second.
Well, most of the time you won't have the time or players left for fouling systematically. All your players are busy scoring, putting pressure, sneaking into the opponents half or tying down players, so there are rarely enough players around for a painful foul. I don't do it except for really annoying key players who are better off-pitch (like Wardancers, the Sure-Hand/Pass Hobgoblin, anyone with Pile On or opponent’s Dirty Players). The problem is, your Linerats need Kick and Block/Wrestle more than Dirty Player. I prefer pinning down nasty players with my mutated Claw players.
Linerats with skills greatly improve your game play, especially Kick Wrestle and Block. If you have Linerats with 5 SPPs don't place them on the LoS and try to make a quick pass to give them their first skill. Also try to develop your Gutter Runners in pairs. One of each type is never enough. Also try to evenly skill-up your Gutter Runners. It's no good to have 2 Gutter Runners with 1 Skill and one with 5 Skills. Imagine how your team will perform when that AV7 star gets injured or dies? Furthermore, on the very long term (25+ matches) your Gutter Runners won't improve any further. Build up your Gutter Runners in waves (for example if you have two 3-4 Skill Gutter Runners, try pushing two rookies as well).
It's essential to score with your Blitzers and Linerats as well from time to time. Your aim should be not to lose automatically when your Gutter Runners aren't on the pitch, so do not focus on your Gutter Runners only. That will improve your overall play, make you more flexible and giving your opponent a hard time guessing your game moves.
First of all get your Rat-Ogre off the pitch. He is not needed on offence. And if you play well your offence should last only 2-3 turns anyway. Also try not to field your Kicker Linerat. If you have to set-up your Rat-Ogre (bc. you have less than 11 other players), then place him also on the backfield. The best start is to mark the ball at once with your Rat-Ogre if you play against fast, agile teams. Put your Thrower backfield to pick up the ball. Field 2-3 Gutter Runners. Put one of them on each side/wide zones and into the midfield, several squares behind the LoS. So you can try to attack on both sides. The middle Gutter Runner is for linking both flanks, to start a surprise change of flanks or as an emergency ball handler if something odd happens. Place three 0-SPPs Linerats on the LoS, they are cannon fodder. Expendable is the word. Also consider putting Linerats with Nigglings, –AG or –MA etc... on the LoS. If you have several Linerats with Wrestle you can also put them on the LoS instead, but one with Wrestle won't do it. Place the Blitzers on the wide zones. If you have Blitzers with Guard you may consider putting him on the LoS but only if the opponent has a non-ST4, non-Block/Guard LoS.
A solid, good working offence strategy is to: 1. Blitz a hole into the opposing defence on the side of the pitch where the ball has landed with a Blitzer (assisted by a Linerat) and continue moving. Then use this hole to get 1 Gutter Runner and 2 Linerats into his half. Now you will have 4 Players in his half, enough to scare him of a fast touchdown. 2. Use the midfield Linerats to mark any opponents within his wide zone who are in moving range to your players who squeezed through the hole. 3. Move the Gutter Runner (and maybe 1 Linerat) of the non-attack wide zone slightly to the middle. 4. Move the midfield Gutter Runner into the triangle that forms of the attacking GR, the remaining GR and the Thrower. 5. Remain with the second Blitzer and a Linerat in the non-attack wide zone. 6. Try to pick up the ball with your Thrower. 7. Keep the LoS!
In the second turn you have two options, depending on the move of your opponent: a) if your attack squad hasn't been bogged down, you can pass to the attacking Gutter Runner or give the ball to the middle Gutter Runner who follows the path of the initial attack to passes/hands over to the attacking Gutter Runner, who in turn should be in scoring distance, or b) If the opponent has moved most of his players to the attacking side and/or LoS to get a breakthrough, blitz with the remaining Blitzers on the other side, give/pass the ball to the middle Gutter Runner, who runs towards the last Gutter Runner gives/passes him the ball. This Gutter Runner follows the Blitzers who just made a Blitz and enters with a remaining Linerat the opposing half. Now you should have 3 players on the opposite wide zone of where the initial attack was launched. Normally the opponent hasn't got much chances to stop you now, unless he plays Wood Elfs or Skaven.
Set-up Place your Thrower and your Rat-Ogre Backfield. Never ever place your Rat-Ogre on the LoS or near to it. Set-up for Blitzers and Linerats as above. Place 1-2 Gutter Runners on the wide zones, but behind the Blitzers/Linerats. A clever opponent will try to Blitz you Gutter Runners first to annihilate their threat for the rest of the match. If the opponent has Frenzy players, set-up your players 2 Squares away from the sidelines.
Don't play a wall defence, don't play last man standing. Actually, Skaven must play "shock defence" that interrupts the offence of the opponent. If you play your Skaven well, your opponent will have the feeling to be chased all the time and that he has to score as fast as possible to avoid a touchdown against him in his own offence: - Always put pressure on his ball-handler and park one Gutter Runner in scoring distance. - Don't let yourself dragged into a war of attrition/blockfest - Use your speed to outmove him, a whole Skaven Team can change flanks in one turn if required. - Use Kick to make it harder for him to pull off his attack, and to make it easier to attack his ball-handler
Well, there are tons of advices of how to break a cage, so I won't repeat them here, but the best advice is to strike before the cage forms. Kick is essential for this. See how the opponent begins to sweat when your Blitzer puts a tackle zone on his lone Thrower deep in his half. Mix in a Gutter Runner and a fast touchdown isn't so far anymore. Don't forget to mark all his fast players and prevent them to gang up your "shock troopers". If the cage has formed, surround him and strike from behind with a Strip Ball Blitzer, then collect the ball with a Gutter Runner and try to score fast before your opponent gets mad and tries to bash you into oblivion.
You need Kick and Strip Ball (Tackle) else you'll have a hard time while defending. The best Skaven defence is to hit fast and hard with precision and score in the opponents turn, without getting much into his war of attrition. When you're leading 2:0 in the 5th turn he may lose his nerves and you can outmaneuver him even more easily. You need short drives/fast touchdowns to get back all your KO'ed players as well.
Be prepared that your Gutter Runners will most probably die not of Blocks/Blitzes thrown at them but due to a failed 2+ Dodge.
Submitted by Brownrob