The turn counter pings and your four minutes begin. Do you go for the safe play or try something riskier? Are there obvious moves, or should you sit back and come up with a plan?
We all start in the same position and yet we end up making very different moves. There are some that are clearly better, but the game is so complex in terms of the number of permutations that there are other moves where 'best' is hard to define. I wanted to understand what went through the head of a coach as they played out a turn. Do people approach turns in a similar way and select different moves, or are they looking at them completely differently?
I took a turn from a game and asked three coaches to put themselves on the clock in coming up with a plan and then to write down their thoughts. Firstly, here are things at the start of the High Elf turn three, Dark Elves having received:
Where b is Block, d is Dodge, g is Guard, l is Loner, 3 is AG 3, 87 is MA 8 AV7 and shacc is Sure Hands and Accurate.
It is decision time! The Dark Elf Runner / ball carrier has been left exposed and close to the side line. 3 plays come immediately to mind:
1. Can I chain surf the ball carrier?
2. Blitzing the ball carrier
3. Shore up the defensive line
Option 1 is very attractive if it can be done. If I can push players into one another and end up with the Runner in the crowd, I'd have a good chance of regaining the ball after it gets thrown back in. I can see ways to chain-push the runner next to the sideline but I can't see a realistic away to complete the play and get him into the crowd so unfortunately option 1 is no good (as far as I can see).
Option 2 has a chance of popping the ball lose when the Runner gets hit (or if the Dump Off Pass doesn't work out for him). There are some plusses and minuses to this option in this particular position:
a) There is a Lineman with Guard next to the runner covering the key square, however that Lineman could be blocked away with a one dice block from my Catcher (who has the Block skill)stood by him, so that's not too bad
b) The ball carrier has Dump Off which is a real pain in positions like this. However, he also has a reduced agility of only 3 which means the pass will fail on a dice roll of 1-3, since the Runner will also be in the tackle-zone of the High Elf making the blitz. The pass will be failed on a 1-4 if my Catcher gets at least a push back when he blocks the Lineman with Guard, since he will have an extra tackle-zone on the Runner too. Instead, if the Runner takes the hit, there will be a 50 % chance of knocking him down (without a re-roll) since he doesn't have Block or Dodge (as a separate note here I think it's a mistake to keep the AG 3 Runner in the team - he should be fired. AG is essential to the ball carrier)
c) There are a lot of Dark Elf players close by, so the ball could easily spill to a safe place
d) The Runner is close to the sideline, so there is the chance of the ball spilling into the crowd which could be a great result for the High Elves like in option 1 above
Option 3 would tighten the screw and potentially set up a better chance to win the ball on a later turn. If going for this option, I'd blitz the Witch Elf in the most advanced position with a player with Block and an assist to get maximum chance of knocking her down and strengthening the defence near the sideline. Targeting high value but vulnerable players is also generally a good choice.
It is a matter of judgement between options 2 and 3 and this comes down to coach temperament as much as anything. Are you willing to risk more to have a chance to gain more? I don't see that there is a right or wrong answer. I think I'd be tempted to try the hit on the ball carrier and see how my luck was. I am not convinced I am going to be able to defend this drive if I play passively and either way I am hoping there will be sufficient pressure for the Dark Elves to have to rush the score if they can, in which case I'll get a chance to score back before half time and still have the advantage in the second half when I receive.
Having decided to hit the Runner, here is how I'd do it:
1. Stand up my prone Catcher and Thrower (needed so the Dark Elf Blitzers don't provide assists later on)
2. Block the AV7 Blitzer with my Catcher (who has an assist). If I get double skulls / both down I will re-roll to try avoid the turnover. If successful I now have more Dark Elf players in tackle-zones, so the catch from the Dump Off is harder
3. My prone Blitzer nearest the half way line will now get up, dodge (2+ with the Dodge skill) and move next to the Blitzer who is 2 squares behind the Runner - now the catch is harder for him too
4. My Catcher will block the Guard Lineman (1 dice block and I have the Block skill). If I still have a re-roll I will re-roll if get a Skull. If my Catcher can move in after the block he will to put a tackle-zone on the Runner
5. My second Blitzer will blitz the Runner. This will be a 1 dice block. Hopefully he is now in 2 tackle-zones, so his Dump Off with AG 3 is 5+, and as all his team mates are in tackle zones the catch will be on a 3+. If the Runner doesn't risk the Dump Off and I get a POW result, I will push him back next to the sideline in the hope of the ball going into the crowd
From here the remaining moves depend on what happens now with the ball. With a little luck it could end up somewhere I could get it and I'll then provide as much cover to the player that retrieves it as possible. If the ball remains in Dark Elf hands I'll use my remaining moves to try to put as much pressure as possible on by moving my last players into Dark Elf tackle-zones. Hopefully my opponent will suffer a turnover from the dice he has to roll or will feel the pressure to score next turn, giving me plenty of time for the return score before half time.
My simple plan would be to put as many tackle-zones on the Dark Elves as possible with a minimum of dodges and GFIs:
1. Dodge the prone Blitzer near the half way line out so that he can put the Dodge Blitzer in a tackle-zone, and also another tackle-zone on the Lineman two squares below that Blitzer
2. Two dice block by the unskilled Catcher on the MA8 Blitzer
3. Stand up the Blodge Catcher
4. Risk the one die block on the Guard Lineman
5. Go for the one die blitz on the ball carrier by the other Blitzer
6. Depending on the Dump Off one of the Linemen may be free to gather up the ball
Bit like shuffling the deck or just smashing all the balls in pool!
OK, so I decided not to analyse this too much and tried to decide in 2 minutes, which is what I usually play in, to give a more realistic picture of how I would play the turn. I am a quick player and, on reflection, would benefit from spending more time to decide what to do!
Here we go...
1. Move the second lowest Lineman to underneath the Witch Elf to give numbers if something goes wrong!
2. Stand up the Thrower, I forget to stand my downed players first sometimes!
3. Stand up the Blitzer nearest the halfway line
4. Stand up the Catcher next to the Witch Elf
5. Move the lowest Lineman to underneath the Lineman with Dodge to get some back up in case they push further next turn
6. One die block the Guard Lineman and hope not to roll a Skull. RR if so. If push, POW / push or POW, follow up. If both down... Well he stays! This will take the Guard away from the ball carrier and allow me to get a one die blitz on him
7. One die blitz the ball carrier with the nearby Blitzer from bottom right adjacent tile and hope for both down, POW or POW / push. If push, POW / push or POW, follow up. This to me is worth it for a 50 % chance to rid the ball carrier of the ball
8. Two dice block the MA8 Blitzer with the Catcher. If push, POW / push or POW, follow up. If both down or Skull, RR. Pushing the back support players further away from the ball will help my numbers further up the field
9. Move the Lineman hopefully freed by this block to the right of the Witch Elf with a 'go for it'. Save the 'Go for It' till the end as it's not a necessity
10. End Turn!
This would leave it with a possible surfed High Elf Blitzer but I think the one dice blocks above are worth the calculated risk considering both attackers have Blodge and the defenders have nothing.
So, interestingly, each coach decided to go for the ball, albeit in slightly different ways. Personally, I would have seen the risk of losing from this approach as a little too high and would have tried to turn the screw by boxing my opponent in. But that's the beauty of the game. What would you have done?