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Orc Strategy

Orcs are da best! The doo bashin an runnin an bashin... yoo can't rong wiv sum orcz!

Summary:

Orcs are the original basher team of Blood Bowl, yet can play with an element of finesse, too. They usually bash and run, employing 'the Cage', but with developed Throwers and skilled Blitzers and Goblins, can pass with reasonable success too. They even have the option of going for a Throw Team Mate one-turn touchdown in an emergency, using a Troll to hurl a Goblin teammate towards the endzone, and the Goblin runs the rest of the way.

Strengths:

Orcs have many; cheap, highly armoured Linemen, under-priced Blitzers who are the core of the team, up to four Black Orc Blockers to provide considerable muscle to the roster, a Troll and even some Goblins to use as catchers or to make up the numbers. It is tempting to frontload an Orc team at the start, and watch the rookie opposition team futilely try to find a two-dice block to make a hole through the wall of greenskins.

Weaknesses:

Orcs don't have many, possibly the biggest one is the difficulty in developing the Black Orcs, as they rarely score and cause only the odd casualty. Some coaches start with all four Black Orcs, hoping that they will snag more of the MVP awards early on. Orcs are not particularly quick, so careful positioning is required.

Tips:

Always have one goblin on hand if you got a troll. Even if it's very unlikely you can score in a single turn, it's still better then no chance at all in desperate situations.

Utilize your Guard Blitzers for the running game. If you play to win with the orcs, they can outscore any team on a good day. Your Black Orcs are not called linemen for a reason, it is a smart thing to have a couple deeper down in your defence, allowing them to reach your opponent despite their limited range.

Common Orc Pitfalls

Well, this strategy section has remained very bare and minimal for a long time. This is understandable. Many coaches are of the opinion that all you need to do with Orcs is get the basics right and the team will do the rest just by virtue of being Orcs.

Yet things can't be that simple. Orcs do not have as high a win rate as quite a few other, less highly rated, rosters (and this can't all be down to inexperienced coaches running them). There are certainly things that the good Orc coaches do that the average Orc coach does not.

In addition, Orcs are such a common and powerful roster that many coaches have anti-Orc tactics that they hone and regularly deploy (whereas most don't have specific anti-Rotter tactics, for example). An Orc coach needs to be aware of these tactics so that he can prepare for them and counter them.

Development and Skill Selection

This should have been covered on this page ages ago - but better late than never! The following skill suggestions are based on the skill survey information; the commentary is my own.

Orc Linemen are not popular players. If you're fielding 4 Black Orcs, 4 Blitzers, a Troll and a Thrower, that only leaves room for one Lineman. However, all Orc teams should have at least a few, as they have a very important role: LoS duty. Since their only job is to get hit, foul stuff and serve as (rarely needed) replacements, Linemen should not be developed too much as this will tend to be wasted TR/TS.

Normal skills: Dirty Player is a very popular normal skill on Orc Linemen. It's not even a problem to put these DPs on the LoS since a foul to remove them means a foul not used on a positional (and Orcs do not need fouling to outbash their opponents). Block and Tackle are natural choices but after three normal skills you may have to ask if an Orc Lineman is really pulling his weight.

Here, in fact, we hit the first of our common pitfalls: team bloat. Due to excesses of cash, Orc teams often build up large squads with overskilled players who do not actually contribute in proportion to their TR/TS weight. Such teams can then find themselves matched against sleeker, more efficient squads at the same TS.

To avoid this, get rid of injured players. Also, monitor developed uninjured players (especially Goblins, Trolls, Linemen and Throwers) to see if they're really worth their TR/TS - and if they aren't, sack them too. Don't buy excess players (beyond about 13, or more at higher TR) and don't develop your replacements too much - it's generally better to have one-skill or rookie Linemen on the bench and for defensive LoS duty rather than highly-skilled ones you may well never use. Use excess money on Stars and Wizards (since doing this will make it harder to get games, join Smacks and other tournaments) or just save it for a rainy day. Lastly, try to get SPPs on the right players (eg, by scoring with Black Orcs).

An Orc Lineman is also the natural player to take Kick on. However, some Orc coaches will ask, where does this Kicker go? On defence, the standard Orc set-up sees the Troll and two Linemen on the LoS and 4 Blitzers and 4 Black Orcs behind them. This leaves no room for a Kick Lineman (unless one of the first choice players is unavailable). Owing to this (and the fact that slow-moving Orcs gain relatively little from even the best kick) many Orc coaches forego Kick entirely.

Doubles skills: Doubles on a Lineman can be used to contribute more Guard - but most developed Orc teams will have such a surfeit of Guard that this is not really necessary. A popular alternative is Diving Tackle, since developed Orc teams often have the most trouble against elves. The key when marking with a DT Lineman is to support him with Guard players, preventing him from simply being pushed away. On a later normal roll, Pass Block can be a useful addition to a DT Orc, strengthening his anti-elf role.

Stats: +ST or +AG on an Orc Lineman can cause all the above comments to be thrown out the window. With a good stat up, a Lineman can even become good enough to displace one of the Blitzers or Black Orcs from the line-up. +MA is also generally worth taking too (on non-doubles, at least) as Orcs can always find a use for a bit more pace.


Black Orcs have fairly straight-forward skill choices. The trick tends to be getting the skills on them in the first place. Like other ST 4 Blockers (such as Saurus and Flesh Golems), they are notoriously slow to skill. Some coaches elect to give them Mighty Blow ahead of Block to speed up their development - but the most effective way of doing this is just to score with them (just always remember that whenever you try to give the ball to a Black Orc you are putting victory in jeopardy).

The importance of skilling Black Orcs can hardly be overstated. There are two kinds of high TR Orc team: those with developed Black Orcs and those without. Whatever the qualities of the rest of your players, if the Black Orcs are poor your team will struggle at the highest levels.

Normal skills: Block, then Guard or Mighty Blow. Depending on the Guard/Mighty Blow mix the team currently has, Guard tends to be the best choice for the team as a whole. However, if the rest of your team is sufficiently developed that you want a three-skill Black Orc, not a two-skill, MB will get him there faster. Tackle rounds things out nicely as the fourth skill.

Note that Break Tackle is only worth taking on unusual, specialist Black Orcs. It's the Blitzers who should generally be doing any dodging, running and chasing. The average Black Orc should stay put and block rather than dodging away.

Doubles skills: The choices here are Frenzy, Stand Firm, Side Step and Dodge. Before looking at these, let's consider what would happen if you ignored them all. Look back at normal skills. A four-skill Black Orc is Block, Guard, Mighty Blow, Tackle. That's efficiently doing everything a Blocker needs to, right? So, before you even use your double, you need to have a plan which will allow you to get something extra out of it which the above won't do.

Frenzy is powerful, but only really comes into its own with Block and Mighty Blow. It can also draw the Black Orc into trouble and has limited crowdpushing utility owing to low MA. If you do take Frenzy, a later double needs to be Stand Firm or Side Step to avoid being crowdpushed yourself.

Stand Firm is a good skill for standing in the cage (generally slightly better than Side Step). It is also sometimes useful for repositioning a Black Orc (but most of the time you'd rather just block!). Its weakness is that its use is not optional, which can leave the player vulnerable to a foul. Side Step, on the other hand, helps the player evade fouls and is a good disruptive skill (especially with Guard), allowing the player to reach places no other Black Orc could. Its main disadvantage (other than no dodging ability) is that the player does still get moved somewhere, which is sometimes all that the opponent needs. (Note again that both SF and SS want Block, and preferably Guard too, to be useful to their fullest extent.)

Dodge is a rare and somewhat negative choice on a Black Orc. Again, its dodging re-roll just isn't that relevant to the role of a Black Orc. It will be much harder to knock down (especially since it's often necessary to block a Black Orc with whoever happens to be in the right place - who may well not have Tackle), but this is not exactly a great fear for Black Orcs in the first place. (Also note that Orcs tend to spend a lot of time duking it out with dwarves of one kind or another, in games where Dodge is much less useful.) A good choice after Side Step if you don't want to go the Frenzy route, perhaps.

Stats: +ST is an obvious pick. On the other hand, +MA and +AG really do not add very much to a Black Orc's natural role. In the case of +AG, MA 4 is too slow for ball-play and Break Tackle would be a better choice for dodging. +MA is better, but a Black Orc should spend most of its time just blocking, so skills are generally more attractive. With some unusual stats and skill choices, you could make a very interesting specialist Black Orc (how about an MA 6 Break Tackle one? :D), but is this worth the cost of not having a dependable nuts-and-bolts blocker? Only the coach on the spot can decide - but he should at least be aware of the question.


Other players on an Orc team hold things together, but it's the Blitzers who actually go out and win games! It is easy to skill them up and they develop very nicely when they do. It's hard to go wrong with Orc Blitzers, but just to make sure you don't:

Normal skills: Guard, Tackle, Mighty Blow. But not necessarily in that order. Which you pick will always depend on what the team currently has. Early on, getting lots of Guard is important, but so is having at least one Tackle-MB Blitzer.

Strip Ball is okay as a fourth normal skill, but not earlier: it is fairly marginal on most Orc Blitzers. Unless you have rolled up an AG 5, you will generally only get to use it when a ball-carrier has just run off by himself (it may be useful when this happens but this won't happen often).

Sure Hands is worth mentioning here, since on a very developed Orc team a specialist Blitzer (ideally one with Dodge, Sure Hands and +AG and/or +ST) may be a preferable ball-carrier over a Thrower (not least because of higher MA). As always, it is important to consider whether this specialist role is more important than having another player with all the standard Blitzer skills.

Doubles skills: Stand Firm suits Blitzers very nicely as they have the AG and MA to exploit its dodging ability and can make pretty good use of its other effect too.

Dodge is a nice second doubles choice (for some, maybe even the first). It combines nicely with Stand Firm and - although most opponents will have plenty of Tackle to deal with this rare dodger - the problem against an Orc team can often be getting that Tackle to the right place at the right time.

Stats: All stat ups are great on an Orc Blitzer. +MA might even be considered over a doubles skill on a double-5 ... Or maybe not, but the +MA certainly wouldn't be a bad choice.


Their Linemen are cost effective fodder and their Blitzers and Black Orcs are cheap at the price. It's Orc Throwers who represent doubtful value for money. Compare them with Human or Skaven Throwers, and you will see that both of those gain Pass and Sure Hands on top of the respective Lineman profiles for 20K. Orc Throwers get the same two skills for 20K, but lose a point of AV! This makes them a weak link, and thus unattractive on defence, whereas Skaven and Humans tend to field their Throwers all the time.

I would argue that an Orc team needs to make a decision on Throwers: either use them heavily (getting and using passing skills to get you out of stuck-in-the-backfield situations) or dispense with them entirely (carry with a Blitzer, don't pass, and cage as deep as you need to). (Early in an Orc team's development, having at least one Thrower can be vital for Sure Hands against Strip Ball. Later a specialist Blitzer can take this skill as noted above.)

The worst position an Orc team can put itself in is where it puts all responsibility on the shoulders of one or two unskilled or poorly skilled Throwers in the backfield while the rest of the team stands on the LoS glaring at the opposition. Time and again those Throwers will fail something, and the other team will bypass all the heavies, mug the Throwers and score. This is not the Throwers' fault. They are not very good players. Either make them good, or adopt a different approach. The following skill suggestions assume you will be using Throwers. (If you won't, you don't need any suggestions at all.)

Normal skills: Accurate first (if you're going to use Orc Throwers for anything beyond early Strip Ball access, you should be using them to pass). Then Block. Safe Throw can be useful since Orc Throwers are often too slow to run round potential interceptors. Tackle is handy for knocking down pesky harrying Blodgers yourself rather than waiting for a Blitzer to do it.

Doubles skills: Strong Arm (see Accurate above), Dodge.

Stats: All very useful. (+MA maybe even ahead of Strong Arm on double-5.)


Does an Orc team need a Troll? They have an awful lot of toughness and bashing power without one. Against some opposition it may be more useful to field even a rookie Lineman (who you at least know will remember to move!) than the Troll. Against other heavy bashers though, the Troll's ability to soak damage and tie up players is very useful even if it is not essential.

Normal skills: Guard. None of the rest are very useful, but Break Tackle is the best of them.

Doubles skills: Block. If you roll more you can get all kinds of cool stuff like Stand Firm or Side Step, Dodge, Pro. But Block is the main thing (don't let it fool you into thinking your Troll is actually reliable though!).

Stats: +ST is better than Block (see this thread on the question). +AG offers very little (it makes negligible difference to TTM). +MA is good, but not on doubles.


Goblins on an Orc team are walking targets. Orc teams suffer when short on numbers on the pitch and to field a Goblin is to extend an invitation to an opponent to reduce those numbers. Except for the most extraordinarily skilled and statted examples, Goblins on an Orc team have one use only: emergency TTM.

Remember that Trolls are awful at TTM. They cannot use re-rolls and need to make three 2+ rolls (Really Stupid, Always Hungry and the throw itself) just to get the Goblin in the air (and that's assuming just a Quick Pass). That's almost a 50% chance of failure already and we haven't even started thinking about getting the Goblin the ball or landing, dodging, going for it, etc.

This should tell you that TTM is not a regular Orc tactic. If you're playing Orcs right, you won't need it to win in the first place, and any end of half one-turn drive is better spent blocking, fouling and getting a cheap completion. For regular play, therefore, it's doubtful whether it's worth hiring a Goblin at all. In tournament play, Stars (Ripper and Morg are much better at TTM than a Troll) come into play and being able to score in one-turn is suddenly much more important - it's at this point that Goblins become relevant, although you could consider hiring someone like Scrappa rather than having one on the roster.

Anyway, assuming you do want to have a Goblin on the roster, you're going to want to skill him for TTM:

Normal skills: Catch, Sure Feet, Sprint.

Doubles skills: Block. Once he has at least Block, your Goblin has the potential to be useful for purposes other than TTM. He'll still be the most fragile and vulnerable player on your team though. For further doubles, refer to some Goblin tactics for all the wide range of options.

Stats: All great. Take them (except +MA on doubles).


Skill selection summary

Linemen: Block, Dirty Player, Tackle (Diving Tackle, Guard)
Black Orcs: Block, Guard, Mighty Blow, Tackle (Frenzy, Side Step, Stand Firm)
Blitzers: Guard, Tackle, Mighty Blow (Stand Firm, Dodge)
Throwers: Accurate, Block (Strong Arm)
Troll: Guard, Break Tackle (Block)
Goblins: Catch, Sure Feet, Sprint (Block)


Orcs vs fast teams

Fast teams (especially Skaven and Wood Elves, but others too) are also soft teams. A common Orc pitfall against these teams is to chase their players aggressively to try and beat them off the pitch. This may work sometimes ... but more often they will just dodge away and pursue the ball. The worst thing an Orc team can do is, when receiving, set up everyone on the halfway line (because they're going to smash the weaklings, or something) except one hapless Thrower in the backfield. This rarely ends well.

The thing to remember is that, if you have the ball, if the fast team wants it they have to come to you. You don't have to mark them, you can 'mark' the ball. This means setting up deep. It's much easier to stop a fast team from getting to the ball by surrounding it wherever it's landed than by forming a wall across the pitch (they will blitz a hole, dodge through or leap over).

This doesn't just mean caging either. A developed fast team will have several tactics at their disposal for dealing with a simple five-man X cage. You need to have the right people in the cage (Guards on opposite corners). You also want a huge, multi-layered cage, so that one dodge (or even one Leap) is not enough to get at the ball-carrier.

The abilities of the ball-carrier himself are also very important. If you can develop an ST 4 AG 4 Blodge Sure Hands SS/SF guy (well, maybe just a few of those) it will put serious wrinkles in the fast team's plans.

When they have the ball, if they're good, there's a limit to how much you can do. Without 'freak' Orcs (ie, AG 5 ones), you don't have the pace and agility to really threaten the ball if they can keep it screened. Even if you do have a 'freak' Orc, if he pressures the ball-carrier by himself he might just end up in a position ripe to be fouled ... Generally the best you can do is try and force them to take a few slightly higher risks and to score quickly. Defence can be very frustrating though and should be avoided: whenever possible, try to play just one turn of defence and 15 turns of offence against fast teams.

One tip against a fast opponent that is really determined to run you ragged and string things out: try not to let your slowest players, the Black Orcs, find themselves out of the game. A common tactic on the part of fast teams is to try and draw some slower players across to one flank and then switch to the other. Those Black Orcs will then need two or three turns to get back into the game. Whenever possible, Black Orcs should remain reasonably central and able to respond when the real attack comes, while Blitzers fight fires. (Of course, sometimes you just need to put an ST 4 roadblock along the sideline - but be aware that such a move may be that Orc's last meaningful contribution to that drive.)


(More to come...?)

Link to Orc Starting Lineups

Last update: July 25, 2008