How to Become a Lucker
"There's nothing I can do against all your POW..."
"It's easy for you with all the 1s I roll..."
Does it sound familiar? Is it something you could say? Something you've heard during your last game?
Blood Bowl is a dice game, but there's a huge difference between Blood Bowl and your average game of chance. Both coaches don't roll the same number of dice, and each failed roll ends your turn. As a consequence, the more dice you roll, the more likely to suffer a turnover you are. Some of you already see where I'm going. You may be thinking lady Luck has turned her back on you during your last game. But have you ever wondered how many dice you rolled? And why you rolled them? And what did you roll first? You went for rolls the less likely to fail first? For the game-changing rolls? Or for the rolls that would affect the less your positioning in case of failure? Or was it completely random? And why did you have to roll dice in the first place? Because it's the game? Or maybe, maybe, because your opponent was not the lucker you think he is, but forced you to roll those dice?
I have recently joined the one true division for real menz on FUMBBL: the Stunty Leeg. Stunties have the less forgiving games you can think of. Most of them don't have G access, they can't throw the ball - or even sometimes pick it up - every block has a big chance of taking a player out of the pitch, there are Secret Weapons all over the place, with random consequences... Yeah, to the novice, Stunty games look like you could just flip a coin to determine the winner instead of playing 16 turns, the result would be the same. But if that was the case, why some do better than others in the division? How come we see coaches with a 80 % win ratio, and others with only 20 %? That's the questions we're going to try to answer in this article. It's going to be very Stunty oriented, since that's in those games the luck factor is the most important, and therefore provide the best illustration, but the same strategies apply to a lesser degree to any roster.
1) Know your luck
"Pfft... Another 1... What are the odds of a snake anyway?"
Yes, surprisingly, many coaches don't know their basics. So before we go any further, just in case, let me refresh your memory with some stats everybody should know.
Rolling a double skull / both down: 1/9
Rolling a POW (2 dice): 30 %
Rolling a POW (3 dice): 42 %
Rolling a POW (3 dice and a reroll): 66 %
Dodging with a Halfling: 1/9
Dodging with a rookie Elf: 1/6
Going for it twice: 69 %
You don't have to be a mathematics genius to play Blood Bowl, but it's always good to keep those stats in mind, as some of them are counter-intuitive. You may feel invincible because you have Dodge and you opponent doesn't have neither Block nor Tackle, but what if he goes 3d on you? You may feel unlucky because your Elfs fail their dodges and find normal that the Flings you're facing trip as they're only AG3, but they're actually more likely to succeed... And even if you fail... Remember that 1s happen. Every 6 times. How many times have you tried to doge exactly?
And even if you keep failing important rolls, like GFI to score, are you sure it means you're more unlucky than your opponent? You will notice those fails simply because the consequence is immediate: you roll a 1, you don't score that touchdown, you lose the game. Everyone can see that causal chain. But are you according as much importance to the lucky interception roll that put you in position to score baring this GFI for instance? And what about the other causal chains, way too complex for you to perceive? You know, that push you rolled on the first turn, whose consequence was 6 turns later, that the same player was one square short to blitz your ball carrier? Or that double skull you rolled that made your opponent block another guy instead of dodging away, which would have left one more unmarked player, needed to crush your offense 4 turns later? The truth is, every roll, every move, has consequences, and ultimately can be the key to success or failure. But those causal chains are way too complex for us to understand. We can only see the simplest ones. However, they count just as much. So in a few words: don't even talk about luck, because you don't have the tools, the scientific background, to assess it.
2) Never give up!
Never give up, because luck doesn't matter. Games can be unpredictable, especially Stunty games. You may have 10 players in the injury box, you may have rolled 10 double skulls in a row, it doesn't matter if you can pick up a ball in 5 Tackle Zones to steal a touchdown. What matters is not to fail those important rolls. So even if you're out-bashed, even if you have the feeling the game is over, don't let frustration overwhelm you. Don't lose your focus. Wait until an opportunity arise, and seize it!
The Elfs had the better team. The Flings tried to defend and somehow managed to score twice in return, but there was little they could against the superior speed of the Elfs. It should have been a 3-2 loss, but this happened... A great kick, a Fling running to the endzone, and their victory was sealed.
But of course, we're talking about extreme scenarios here. Most of the time, you rolls weren't your undoing. How you let them affect your game were. If you go "all men los", or if you position your best players only one square behind the line of scrimmage, can you really blame bad luck in case of Perfect Defence or Quick Snap events? No, you took a bet, and you lost. And what if you quad skull that blitz with the player who was protecting the ball carrier? You could have moved another player to protect him first, but you didn't. Of course, the odds were on your side, but you could have proceeded differently. I'm not saying you should always play the safest way, but if one want to improve his gameplay, he should check what he could have done differently instead of blaming luck. And that also helps with keeping his cool during the game when everything's falling apart. Frustration generally arise when people think there's nothing they could have done to prevent the disaster. Acknowledge your own mistakes, and your frustration may not completely disappear, but at the very least, it shouldn't overwhelm you anymore.
Oh, and one last thing to keep in mind when everything seems to be over: you won't roll 6s if you don't even try...
3) Play with Lady Luck
That's the fun part, and that's a strategy that isn't often talked about. Most guides mention the odds of being taken down when you mark a players, to know how safe the option is. Of course, sometimes, you don't care: you will mark the player, nomatter what, to make sure he can't freely blitz. But sometimes as well, you want to mark him for the sake of marking it, to make him roll more dice, because you know that, statistically, he's gonna fail one which is going to create an opening. That kind of strategy would be suboptimal versus Dwarves, but it's most effective versus teams with few "second chance" skills like Block, Dodge, Sure Hands, etc. And that includes all the Stunty teams, undeveloped Chaos, Pact, Slanns, Lizardmen, and many more.
The most unforgiving match you could ever imagine: 11 rookie Flings versus 11 rookie Flings, no bench, no reroll. Blue had the game won on the first turn when he decided to place all his players on the Line of Scrimmage. Red had two options: placing only 3 players on the LOS and dodging away (he would lose the advantage of starting the game, and would have to roll dice simply to retreat, leaving the whole opposing offense intact, and free to advance), or going all Flings LOS as well, but he would be outnumbered (he had to leave at least one player behind to grab the ball), and have to do a bunch of dodges for assisting or to do 1d blocks. In either case, he was screwed.
Everybody uses that strategy to some extant. That's what you do when you cover the ball for instance: you lower the odds your opponent picks it up (-1 to the roll per Tackle Zone), and you force him to roll extra dice with random consequences (to use two guys to blitz one of your players next to the ball, to eventually pop the ball out - we all know how bad that can end for him). Everybody uses that strategy to some extant, but you can push it even further.
First, you have to observe your opponent and watch how he plays. Is he the risk-taking type? Does he play very conservatively? Does he dodge as soon as he can? Never? Does he take a lot of 1d blocks? Observe him, and exploit his weaknesses. Force risk takers to roll even more dice, and wait for them to fail. Force conservative coaches to do moves they don't generally do if they want to stay in the game, and watch them hesitate during several turns, much to your advantage. And in the meantime, try to play as safe as you can.
The Orcs coach was playing very conservatively. The Ogres noticed he wasn't inclined to block 2d up, or to dodge. Their coach decided to mark as many players as he could with Ogres, and ended up not even blocking with them not to risk to free some Orcs after a failed Bonehead roll. It took several turns for the Orcs to try to dodge away, and they were already out of rerolls. That was already too late.
When you're playing with Flings, you have 3 ways to defend and take the ball carrier down. You can sacrifice a Fling and go 2d up against him - that's generally a last chance move, and don't expect it to work if he has blodge. You can do Stunty dodges to pass his screen and get assists - that's a lot of rolls, and that won't work against a standard X cage. Or a Tree with Break Tackle can blitz when he has a chance. To do so, you have to keep your opponents in the "death zone" (less than 4 squares away from your Trees) as long as possible. And that's when you want to mark his players (at least when they don't have Block). You will immobilize them, and you will make them roll more dice - remember: every 9th roll will fail. Wait for that to happen, and strike!
But you can use that strategy with other races as well. Don't be afraid to mark rookie Humans with a single Norse for instance, even if that means they're gonna have free blocks on the next turn. To do so, they're gonna have to move another player to assist, which will impact their positioning, and even then they will have 1/9 chance to suffer a turnover. And if they don't block, then you have the free block on the next turn.
And never stop making your opponent roll dice, even when the game seems over: you know... overtime, when the ball carrier next to the Touchdown line is out of blitzing range... Don't leave those players of yours prone. Offer him free blocks, bet on his greed, and start praying for a triple Skull. That won't happen if you don't try. Even in the most desperate situations, making your opponent roll more dice can be your only hope.