The Rule of Five
The Rule of Five is real. You might be a vocal supporter, a steadfast opponent, or you might not even know what it is. Regardless, it does exist, and you're hurting your game by not understanding it. So, what exactly is the Rule of Five?
The Rule of Five is a team building philosophy that states, in order to maximise efficiency, you should focus development on five key players and treat everyone else as expendable. That seems pretty extreme, but the rule derives logically from the rules of Blood Bowl itself. When receiving the kickoff, you are guaranteed a chance to do the following things (let's ignore Blitz!): make 3 blocks on the line of scrimmage, make 1 blitz and attempt a pickup with a player. In order to do those things you need (you guessed it) 5 players. When defending, no matter what formation you choose (except for extreme deep OTTD type defences), you can only protect 5 players from a blitz. This is where the "standard" 3-3-5 formation comes from. Given these two facts, it seems logical to make these 5 players the same on both sides of the ball. Now you have 5 guys you need, and 6 guys you don't. Boom, Rule of Five.
Now the anti-5 crowd will counter that this only describes 2 turns out of 32, and it's crazy to build your entire team around 6 % of the game. They're right of course... But, those two turns are the only two you can count on in the entire game. Every other situation has almost infinite permutations, and you can't plan for those. The only two things you're guaranteed are one turn kicking off and one turn receiving the kick. To ignore that is to put your team at a disadvantage. Additionally, once you start facing Claw, Mighty Blow and Piling On (CPOMB), exposing a key player to even one unnecessary turn of blocks can be fatal. The Rule of Five isn't the be-all and end-all of team building, but it's something every team should keep in mind.
So, how does the Rule of Five effect each roster? Let's take a look.
The Rule of Five Truthers
Dark Elf, High Elf, Pro Elf - If you play one these rosters you must, at the very least, keep the Rule of Five in mind. Your positionals are expensive and fragile. Putting even one in range of a Tackle, Mighty Blow Piling On-ner (TPOMBer) on Turn 1 can mean the difference between winning and losing. So how does that work in practice? Think long and hard before adding a sixth positional. Four Blitzers and a Witch Elf is probably enough. Runners and Assassins are barely better than a Lineman, so leave them at home. The second Witch adds a lot less than the first and puts a valuable Blitzer at risk. For Pro and High flavours, you need to decide if a Thrower is even worth his cost over a Lineman, or if you'd rather have a third Catcher in safety. Running all four Catchers plus a Thrower means you are either putting an expensive AV7 piece or a crucial Blitzer at risk. It also means you need to think long and hard at over-developing Linemen. What does a +Stat Lineman really add? You can't keep everyone protected.
The Skaven team Sewer Commando seemed determined to tempt the gaze of Nuffle by recruiting two Blitzers with names that begged for his amused judgement. Will I live more than 4 games lasted a whole two matches before dying, whilst More than 4 games nuffle please lasted just three before being smooshed into a smear of blood on the pitch. Rumours that they have just recruited "Totally Indestructable Trevor" remain unconfirmed at time of press.
The Rule of Two
Wood Elves - Let's face it, Wood Elves are a two man squad, and everyone else is just for show. For them, the Rule of Five is more of an afterthought. You need to decide if you want a Thrower (I like them) and how many Catchers you need. One adds a one-turn threat and a mobile assist. Two can stay safely within your 5. Three is overkill. With Wood Elves, I'd probably just run the one catcher and "reserve" a positional slot for a Guard or +Stat Lineman. Being able to protect a Lineman makes Wood Elves one of the few teams where the Rule of Five would suggest taking +Stats on Linemen.
The Rule of Four plus One
Skaven - Gutter Runners are the sneaky little fuel that keeps the Skaven offensive engine running. With AV7, they must be protected at all costs. That leaves one more "slot" in your 5 if you're keeping it strict. Early, this might be a Thrower if you like them, but later it will likely be a key Blitzer. +Stat and Claw Blitzers are key players for Skaven and they need to be protected. In sum, Skaven players shouldn't get attached to both Blitzers, because one is going to get POMBed sooner rather than later.
Khemri - They get to 4 + 1 in a totally different manner, but the results are similar. Khemri needs to keep their Blitz- and Thro-Ras safe, If you're deploying all four, you can keep a developed Tomb Guardian back as well to keep him safe.
The Rule of Five plus Strength
Undead, Necromantic - These are very similar teams with very similar goals. Necro need their Wolves and Wights to win, and Undead need their Wights and a Ghoul or two. Both have tough, slow, high armour players in the Mummy and Flesh Golem. Given their strength and low speed, it's probably a bad idea to put these guys in the back row. So for these squads, the Rule of Five will help determine how many Ghouls you want to run. Necro wants no more than one as you can't protect more than that and Undead want no more than three for the same reason.
The Rule of Blood
Vampires - These teams may want five Vamps, or they may want three or four. Regardless, you need to keep these guys safely in the back row. If you run fewer than five, you can be a little more liberal taking stats on Thralls as you can treat them like mini Vamps and keep them safe.
The Rule of Man
Amazon, Human, Norse, Slann - The three human rosters play very differently from Elf rosters as you cant rely on a few stars and a mob of scrubs to get the job done. The stars don't get that good and the scrubs aren't good enough. On these rosters you need a lot of flexibility to win, so the Rule of Five doesn't really apply. That being said, you can use some of the tenets to aid your defensive setups. Slann aren't human, but with up to eight positionals, they play similarly in many ways.
The Non-Rule of Fivers
Chaos, Dwarf, Nurgle, Chaos Dwarf, Lizardmen, Chaos Pact, Orc - These teams are all going to have a variety of players that contribute different skills and can't really run the stars and scrubs philosophy that the Rule of Five suggests, and their toughness means they don't really need to.
The Rule of Stunty
Goblins, Halfling, Underworld, Ogre - Stunty squads probably won't develop too many stars you can rely on. Underworld are a little different in that their six positionals are stars by comparison. These squads don't follow the Rule exactly, but like the "Human" teams, the tenets can be useful, especially if start to rely on a few more developed guys.