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 Issue 10 - August 13th 2510
Coaching Humans
Lavino Fighting Hellfish's Logo

“Don't get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water.”
Bruce Lee von Altdorf – Human Blitzer

Humans are somewhat of an oddity in Blood Bowl. They truly shine at TR 100, starting with one of the strongest rosters, with great positionals and a good number of skills giving free rerolls. However, as the TR increases and other races start developing their stars, humans lose their advantages.

This is mainly due to the average physical stats that humans have: skilled ST3 AG3 players can compete (and even own) ST4 or AG4 players if the latter have no skills, but as soon as the strong and agile types skill up, humans’ biggest early advantage, reliability, loses its appeal.

Humans come with a strong “Jack of all trades” flavor: they can do everything, and yet they don’t excel at anything. In Blood Bowl, where extreme specialization usually pays off, this is mainly a flaw, and humans are often considered a subpar race at TR 200+.

In my opinion, humans deserve more than this. While they have no main strengths, they also have very few weaknesses, and there’s very few tricks they can’t at least “try” to pull off on the pitch. When dealing with humans, one should always remember that quantity has a quality of its own.

Human Strength

“People do not lack Strength. They lack Will.”
Victor Hugo – Human Catcher

I can imagine a new coach staring at the standard human roster with a “meh” look… everything looks average, there is no Chaos Warrior, there is no Wardancer, there is no Gutter Runner. Simply, there is no star to base your game plans around. So, what’s good about a human roster?

Humans are FAST.
Don’t let AG3 fool you into thinking that humans lack mobility: humans have four MA7 blitzers and up to four MA8 catchers. That’s FAST. That’s faster than Dark Elves. That’s faster than High Elves. That’s faster than Pro Elves. Actually, on a Blood Bowl pitch that’s faster than anything that’s not a rat or a tree-hugger.
And speed doesn’t just come into play when there’s a End Zone to reach. Movement is a critical, and highly underrated, stat. It makes you reach better positioning with fewer Go for It rolls. It makes it easier to redeploy on defense. It makes it possible to press the opponent’s ball carrier earlier.

Humans can adapt.
Orcs bash. Chaos kills. Elves dodge. Dark elves run. Skaven die. What about Humans? Well, the nice thing about humans is that they can do all of the above, depending on the opponent.
Humans have five players with strength access and four players with agility access. It is five Guards/Mighty Blows and up to four blodgers we are talking about. When facing elves and other low AV opponents, humans can use their higher number of Guards to cage and go for the numerical advantage through blocks and fouls while controlling the clock, basically following the standard Orc approach to Blood Bowl. When facing slow grinding opponents, they can use their superior speed for a quick score and, even more important, they can put up an extremely adaptable defense – which is very difficult to penetrate – while pressing the ball carrier, not unlike elves.

Human Stars rock.
While not that important in casual play, Human Stars become a decisive factor in tournaments. Zug is a solid choice for a mere 60k, and Morg, Griff and the Count are three of the most impressive stars of Blood Bowl (if not THE three most impressive), and match-winners all by themselves. Add Zara against undead, and it just isn’t fair. Stashing enough gold to ensure a good tournament run can be difficult for Humans, but with such an array of quality options, it’s almost always worth it.

Human strategies and tactics

“The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.”
Vince Lombardi – Blood Bowl Coach

There’s two different aspects of the development of a successful human team that need to be taken into consideration: the first one is about skills choices and strategic options , while the second is about in-game tactics. Both are vital, and while I might examine them in different sections, it’s important to remember that both aspects work together and are very closely related.

Skills selection and general strategies

Linemen:
Human linemen are a happy, reliable and expendable bunch of soon-to-be-dead players . The epitome of the cannon fodder, human linemen are born with a thankless task. They can survive a few hits, and they can dodge if necessary, so their entire life is spent keeping Chaos Warriors, Black Orcs and Sauri occupied, sucking up blocks after blocks in an effort to force the opposing lines to open or waste time maiming useless 6/3/3/8 no skill guys. Like every decent cannon fodder, linemen should get Block and Dirty Player as soon as possible, and later take Tackle. One lucky boy will take Kick and save himself a lot of pain by leaving LoS duties to others, but apart from that there’s little joy in a lineman’s short and violent career. The only real way for a lino to become a trusted and valuable resource to the team is to roll a stat increase or a double for Guard. As a matter of fact, an unspoken rule among humans says that a Guard lino should be immediately promoted to Blitzer status and should consequently receive care and attention from his coach.

Throwers:
One thing to remember about throwers is that they fail. They are there to provide a Plan B to your attack schemes, but unless they roll +AG you better use them as a backup or as running ballcarriers. Accurate and Block should be first choices, while the third can be either Tackle (having a defensive blitzer with Sure Hands is very important against elves) or, if you really like passing, Safe Throw.
Doubles can go on Dodge (best choice if you like the running game) or Strong Arm (if you really really really like feeling like an elf and you don’t mind bashing your head in despair on the wall every other game). All stat increases should be taken.

Catchers:
The unexpected game winners, a battery of developed catchers can turn the tide of every game by making your defensive drive a nightmare for your opponent. Forget about offensive catchers: MA8 will work just fine without Sprint, Sure Feet or Leap. Go for the defensive route, and get Block and Sidestep to turn the useless av7 little guys into highly effective weapons to attack (and stick to) the opponent’s ball carrier; Diving Tackle at 31 spp is just the cherry on top, but must be noted that this approach, while very effective, makes your catchers’ lifespan as short as a fruit fly’s…
An alternate route is having Dirty Player catchers. I’m not sure about risking the most mobile player on the pitch for fouling, but sure it’s a way to have your little and fast boys live a little longer.
I usually only have three catchers at any given time on my team. Their lack of strength makes it difficult for the team as a whole to fight back, and on defence two AV7s are more than enough for my likings… so I use two on the pitch and one as a reserve. Four catchers probably inflate TR a bit too much for their real use, mainly because I think numbers are important and four easy-to-break players are just too dangerous to have.
Dauntless is the perfect choice for catchers in case of doubles. All stat increases should be taken.

Blitzers:
The core of every human team, they provide the strength and the speed necessary to win games. As such, they need Guard as soon as possible, followed by a mix of Mighty Blow and Tackle to round up the casualties inflicted by the team. After that, it’s either Shadowing or Strip Ball.
On doubles, both Stand Firm (my personal choice) and Dodge are excellent choices. Get both and your player will become extra-awesome. Some very good coaches also like to have a Frenzy player on their team, a choice I’m not particularly fond of because I like to have total control over my assists. All stat increases should be taken, because all of them make your blitzers n-times better at what they do: hit and run.

Ogre:
One of the best Big Guys, I use the Ogre in a slightly different way than the mass. Before getting Guard (obvious first skill in all cases except for a double, Block, or +ST), my Ogre does LoS duty soaking up hits on defence and trying to earn three casualties as fast as possible. As soon as he learns how to Guard, though, I take him off LoS to use him as a high strength Guard player and a difficult to move road block. Break Tackle should be the second skill, and Multiple Block the third. On doubles, it’s Block and Stand Firm. Stat increases can be ignored, except for the +ST lucky roll, which is just great.

Tactics and Players Synergies

As you can see from my skills selection and considerations, I think that “live fast and die hard” is the best possible philosophy for a human coach. In order to win games you must commit all your team to a common effort, and it’s very likely that some will fall before it’s all over.

But remember that it won’t always happen! Bashy opponents tend to expect that humans will break just as easily as elves (which won’t happen), and will have little chance of fighting back. My suggestion is that an aggressive approach to bashers often proves them wrong and exposes their own main weakness, which is the lack of mobility. Forcing them to worry about the ball from the get-go, forcing them to redeploy again and again, and showing no fear in front of their heavy-hitting and steamrolling capabilities, you can gain a psychological advantage and a very real tactical one. Bashers have a difficult time when things don’t break fast, and they usually panic if they need to find an alternate path after the first one is successfully shut.
Of course, I know that keeping a cage from forming, while an ideal situation, is difficult; on the other hand, I always try to encourage myself by thinking that reforming it once it has been busted is even more difficult.

Against agile types, things are a bit trickier. It’s not about psychology, it’s about their goddamn AG4! Elves are used to getting hit and are usually very cautious about it, so your grinding style must be patient and flawless, but as violent as possible from the very start. Dirty Players provide an excellent solution to elves who come too close, and losing a human lineman to a scrupulous referee is almost always worth the trade if the victim of the foul is a skilled elf.
As a last note, it is worth mentioning that, compared to slow grinding races like Dwarfs and Khemri, Humans can control the clock just fine but are still able, if needed, to pull off a reasonably easy two turns Touchdown (or even an one-turn one).

Offence:
Humans can be very effective if they focus all of their strength in a single breach, and make it count. Also, with high movement and decent agility, they can retreat, reorganize, and try again with little effort. The one thing that they cannot do, however, is trying to control all the pitch. They are strong as a group, but weak as individuals.
Your blitzers should work like a pack of wolves, hitting together, providing each other assists for maximum damage, and controlling their portion of the field, presumably where you are hiding the ball. The Linemen and the Ogre should be used to tie up the opposition in other areas and to deny the opponent precious reinforcements where he needs them the most, i.e. in the breach opened by your blitzers.
Scoring with blitzers is nice and should be encouraged. But with a strong pack of blitzers protecting the ball, even a lineman can “safely” cover the distance to the End Zone. Catchers, unless you really need to skill them up, can be used either as a backup plan or as a bait: in my experience, to be honest, they often end up filling both roles at the same time.

Defence:
Catchers (and occasionally blitzers) should be used to pierce the opposing lines early in the drive, and to threaten the ball from behind (ahem). Sticking a catcher to the opponent’s ball carrier forces the opponent to use his Blitz action to free the ball, and if you are able to decide where your opponent is going to use his precious Blitz, you are halfway to victory because it means that you are controlling the game.
Be cautious about swarming into the opponent’s half, though: overcommittment is responsible for a lot of losses in Blood Bowl, so weight carefully how many resources you can afford to send as infiltrators.
Also, remember that the humans’ true strength is in the numbers. If you let your opponent spread your blitzers and isolate them, you are in for a world of hurt. Isolated, your players cannot stand the mobility of agile teams or the brute strength of the bashers, so for every resource you commit to a solitary task (be it man-marking an opposing players, or infiltrate the opponent’s backfield) you have to calculate the net gain. An unskilled lineman tying up a Multiple Block Claw brute is a sensible choice. A block tackle guard blitzer tying up an unskilled Black Orc is a precious waste of resources and probably worth a dodge roll in order to disengage and reorganize.

Last but not least: Rerolls!
Chances are you’re going to end up with some unused rerolls when a half is over. If that’s the case, you are either having very good dice or you’re doing something wrong. Humans can do a fairly number of nasty things (mainly, dodge into impossible places) with relative ease if you’ve got yourself a reroll to spare. After all, a dodge is 67% without reroll and goes up to 89% with a reroll! Even dodging into a tackle zone is a 75% chance of success with a reroll.
Don’t be shy, and remember that most of the times these stunts surprise your opponent, which is always a nice thing. Surprised opponents are forced to quickly reconsider their game plans, and that’s a primary source of bad plays and tactical mistakes for you to exploit.

Last Words

“How I learned to stop worrying and love the Orcs.”
Stanley Kubrick – Ogre

This is it.
I really hope these few tips can make it easier for you human coaches to find your way. They worked quite well for me in my long (and still lasting) struggle to become a decent human coach, but there’s always room for improvement, so I encourage you all to just use these as guidelines to develop your own affective strategies.

In my opinion Humans are one of the best races in Blood Bowl, and probably the one providing the most excitement because most of the times you’re supposed to be the underdog.
To put it bluntly, if you lose you can blame the race, but if you win, it was your tactical genius to take the win home! What can beat that?

So.
Now you’re covered from head to toes.. All that’s left is that you go out and make a human team!

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