Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are In My Neck
A Guide To Vampires
Vampires were actually the last of the LRB-races I tried to play, and what a mistake that was! The combination of dreamlike stats on positionals and the unique Hypnotic Gaze gives the team a great variety in play style and excellent opportunities to surprise even the tightest packed cage offence. That said let me stress that Vampires will give you some of the most frustrating moments of your Blood Bowl coaching career. Bloodlust is not just arguably the worst negatrait around; it’s also glued to all your key players. There are ways to minimise your frustration when “vamping” as I’ll get back to, but at the end of the day Vampires were build to be a challenge to play, and they certainly are.
This article is meant as an introduction and inspiration for coaches who are interested in trying this odd race. I got some really useful feedback when I originally posted my thoughts in the forum, and I’ve tried to mention the source of ideas I’ve incorporated in the text below.
Resist your lust from TR100 - building a new Vampire team
First thing to control when you start a Vampire crew is your urge to frontload it with too many Vampires. Their über skills will quickly fade when you run out of re-rolls in turn 2 and subsequently run out of Thralls. I’m not gonna propose one starting set-up as the ultimate package, but I prefer to start with two vamps to get some fun from match #1. For short term play some would pick three vamps, whereas many experienced Vampire coaches choose the hardcore 11 Thralls, 6 re-rolls, 1 Apothecary set up for long term team development. An advice on this line-up from veteran Vampire coach Uber: “The key to this [line-up] is patience. You have to wait for them to waste their re-roll and then move in at the most opportune time. With 6 re-rolls, you can afford riskier plays, even with Thralls. The re-roll is your safety net.”
So... you’re good to go, you’ve bought your players, you’ve stashed up on fan factor (yes, you will need the money) and re-rolls (even more). To the field, counts and countesses of the dark!
First moves on the dancefloor
Player positioning is the key to successful Blood Bowl play with any race. Because of Bloodlust this is even more vital for Vampires than for most other races in the LRB. The first basic advice is not to act with a Vampire before you’ve got a Thrall in position next to where you want to end your vamp-action. This will allow maximum mobility for your Vampire even if and when Bloodlust fails. The second advice is: Always have a backup plan. Since your Vampires are the natural stars of the team, you will often end up relying on their skills in decisive situations well knowing, that Bloodlust makes them unreliable. Especially when it comes to ball handling and the passing game, you always have to know what general course to take if/when your ball carrying Vamp fails his Bloodlust and is unable to do anything but move/bite.
Thralls are often viewed as mere LOS- and vampfodder. Try to use this to your advantage. In my experience people tend to underestimate Thralls causing them to forget to leave a deep cover/safety in defence if the endzone is threatened “only” by a single Thrall positioned near one of the sidelines. And whenever possible use Thralls rather than Vamps for your important blitzes and ball control. A vamp with guard can assist a block even after a failed Bloodlust, while your blitz action is lost for the turn, if a blitzing vamp gets hungry.
And now to the fun part: Hypnotic Gaze is the skill that makes all the frustrations worthwhile. If used with a bit of thought a gazing Vampire can make the game turn to your advantage in a single move action. In offence you can gaze a hole in the thickest wall of Dwarfs; in defence no cage is safe from your evil eyes. Again you need to have backup plans, since you need a 2+ (Bloodlust) 3+ (Gaze roll in no tacklezone) just to make one Gaze work, and chances are you’re already out of re-rolls for the turn. So eventually your Gaze-based game plan will always be a bit all-or-nothing, but when it succeeds... oh the joy of imagining the surprised face of your opponent. And remember that Hypnotic Gaze can also be used in less decisive moments: Gaze the Beast of Nurgle to get two covered Thralls free, remove assist and tacklezone from that stand firm, guard Blitzer... use your imagination and surprise your opponent.
Once you’ve developed your Vampire team to higher TR, you’ll often ponder on which players to field in a given drive. GalakStarscraper offers this advice: “... don't get greedy on the pitch. I only field 3 Vampires vs. ST 3 teams and 4 Vampires vs. ST 4+ teams. Even though I have 5 Vampires on my roster. I've found that once you get good with Hypnotic Gaze (and have picked up Pro to re-roll it) ... those are usually enough to make stuff happen on the pitch. More than that and you start asking to munch on your own team.”
Two steps forward, one and a half back - Vampire team development
If you thought your frustrations ended with Vampires unable to do anything you plan with them, you can think again. Bloodlust and the fragile nature of Thralls combined with relatively low AV on the Vampires make progressing your team a long journey. Nothing yells “foul me” like a prone AG4 ST4, AV8 player, and your consumption of new Thrall meat accelerate as you finally have saved money enough to buy that extra vamp you’ve been wanting to buy during the last 5 games. As a consolation Thrall meat has a pretty low price and new Vamps skill up easily. Here are a few guidelines to how you could spend your money and skill rolls:
Re-rolls are essential to control that aching Bloodlust - later on pro will help a bit, but still too risky to rely on in tight situations. So depending on your initial set-up, you should get an Apothecary asap, then 5-6 re-rolls. In shorter tournaments, you could choose a less conservative path, but for a team that’s gonna last I would only buy my third Vampire after 5 re-rolls and the fourth after re-roll number 6. Meanwhile you probably also have to stock up on Thralls just to be able to field 11 (preferably more) players for each game. So to sum it up: Hold the Vampire-purchase until you’re on top of everything else regarding team development, and remember that even two Vampires can create a whole lot of mayhem for your opponent.
In line with this you actually need to distribute some SPP for your Thralls. Get Block, then Tackle on 1 preferably 2 early on, making you able to deal with pesky blodgers. 1 Strip Ball/Block is also neat. Now you have some decent “Blitzers” without negatraits! Finally a Sure Hands Thrall is of more help than you’d think. With him you can pick up, get ball control and hand off without having to worry about Bloodlust rolls. Doubles on the Thralls are well spent (as always) on Guard for that extra assist you will need on your blitz actions or Dodge for survivability. Pass and/or Accurate for your Sure Hands guy will be high priority as well, since it relieves essential tasks from Vamps. I’ve also found Dauntless to be of much use to put down opposing big guys at lower TR. But as you progress you will find, that the tougher opposition more or less forces you to choose scoring over bashing, since most teams - even Elven ones - have more bashing power and higher AV than you (thanks to Angelface for stressing this in the original forum thread).
The Vampires more or less skill up themselves, and the question will often be when to take the Pro skill that saves you re-rolls and makes the Vampire moderately more reliable. You’ll find different views on this, but my standard development of a Vampire would be Block (survival and blitzing skill), Guard (support the blitzer-Thrall), Pro. Of course with Vamp #4-6 I’d probably start playing with other combinations. Vampires need doubles less than any other player type with the unique SAG-access on a normal skill, but Stand Firm is always good, Jump Up with AV8 is also nice, while I’d avoid Frenzy in most cases, since the guy is unpredictable enough as it is. +AG is a blessing, almost better than +ST for a Vampire, since it improves the Hypnotic Gaze skill significantly (besides all the normal benefits of AG5).
Try these at home
Those are my thoughts on Vampires for now. I encourage every Blood Bowl fan to give this race a shot. It’s frustrating, challenging and difficult to develop Vampire teams to über-Dark or High Elf-level... but above all it’s good old-fashioned fun.