Sunday, November 22, 2009

Way Of the Orc: Blitzers

Blitzers are arguably the most important players on the Orc roster. Blitzers are the real go-to men of the team - they run, block, tackle and do much of the leg work. Black Orcs are the engine room of the team - but normally they provide the primary blocking. Blitzers on the other hand do pretty much anything and everything. They have good progression options and they are cheap compared to many equivalents. For example a human Blitzer costs 10k more, but is identical part from swapping +MA for +Av. Wights are 10k more and have regen but Av8. As such its very rare to see Orc teams without all four, including most starting rosters.

One of the big upsides of Orc blitzers is their general and strength skill access. Easy access to Tackle, Guard, Mighty Blow, Piling On, Frenzy and Stand Firm give lots of good development options. The all round nature of the position, and wide selection of development choices actually make Blitzers extremely versatile and hence the wide variety of choice can make it hard to develop cohesive players let alone teams. The all-rounder role also means that all stat increases are good and worth taking even on rookie players.

To Dodge or not to dodge, that is the question
Before I delve into the details of the different build options I think its worth having a little side discussion on choosing dodge. Most teams will have a couple of tackle players, and dwarven teams have many more. So there is an argument that one or two dodge players - particularly on S3 players - just give your opponent's tackle players something to do. Other double choices might not be quite as good as dodge on an individual basis but they do make that TV invested in tackle a waste and hence can give an advantage to you. As such a good rule of thumb is early on in the team's development decide whether to take dodge on doubles or not. If you do decide to take dodge then take it on everyone who rolls a double (at least all the Throwers, Line Orcs and Blitzers) or decide not to and give all the Line Orcs and Blitzers other skills instead. Throwers built to be runners should take dodge regardless - but they should be the only exception. If you want to go with a goblin heavy team then its a good idea to take dodge everywhere else too.

Build Types
I've crudely broken the build types down into the categories below. There are lots of subtle variations around these, but hopefully it will give a good idea of styles of Blitzer to build. One of the styles is called blitzer and I've used the capitalised version of the word to indicate the position rather than the style. Generally speaking the styles have relatively short progression paths - two or three key skills. At this point Blitzers tend to switch development into one of the other styles so you will end up with a mix of the styles on a fully developed player. In terms of frequency of style selection my personal preference is for an initial mix of guarders and blitzers, with other styles coming later in development. Its always worth bearing in mind that keeping the right balance of skills on the team is important. So you might be light on tackle for instance and need more so encourage that style or build. Or it may be you are being out-muscled and need more guard etc. So don't worry too much about switching styles for a player to help the team out as a whole.

Guarders generally are focussed on helping Orcs win the bashing war against other strength teams. Guard is obviously the key skill here. Getting and keeping sufficient guard on the team to have a large number of 2 dice blocks in your favour, and minimising the opponent's ability to do the same is how Orcs really win the bashing war. After Guard there are several good options - stand firm ensures annoying Guards stay where you want and Mighty Blow is good since these players will often be in the thick of the fray and making blocks themselves. On doubles, dodge is the obvious choice, but if you've decided against dodge then sidestep can be an interesting alternative to stand firm. I'm not convinced its worth the 10k higher cost on a guard player since more often than not they'll already be in the right place. Otherwise doubles would probably trigger a switch to a different build style.

Killers are pretty straight forward for Orcs. Mighty Blow and Piling On are the two skills available that naturally increase the injury rate. Although Piling On is mathematically slightly better than Mighty Blow for generating casualties Mighty Blow keeps you on your feet and hence is a better choice. These two skills are often augmented with skills to improve the knockdown rate - tackle and frenzy being the obvious choices. On doubles Jump Up is a powerful method to counter the negatives around Piling On. With those skills in place then then most of the other styles work well except for runner. In mature Orc teams I'd expect most if not all of the blitzers and Black Orcs to have Mighty Blow by their 4th skill. That makes specialist killers (with piling on) used more for targeted hits rather than general mayhem.

As the fastest player on the team it is natural for Orc coaches to use Blitzers to run the ball. There are build styles for the team which don't bother with Throwers at all and emphasise a pure running game using one or maybe two blitzers in the role. Runners take Sure Hands to help with pick ups and neutralise Strip Ball (particularly from War Dancers and their ilk). After this the options for normal progression aren't too obvious, although Fend is a handy skill on any ball carrier - although if you intend to take stand firm in the future on this player then the benefit is slight. Doubles - dodge is very obvious even if you have decided against dodge (in which case though you probably won't take dodge on any throwers). If you still don't want dodge then catch or nerves of steel can be useful.

Funnily enough the basic role type is one that Blitzers are pretty good at. The key skills here are Tackle and Strip Ball. Tackle is a great skill for both knocking over blodgers and for marking opposition receivers. Strip Ball I'm not a massive fan of on Orc blitzers, but can be useful in leagues where the main threats either don't have sure hands on the team or as a last line of defence. After those skills Mighty Blow is the next obvious choice since it makes those hits a bit more damaging. Frenzy is another option to give a 2nd bite at the cherry and can be tactically very useful for opening defences and working the sidelines. Frenzy is also good as an alternative to Tackle to bring down those annoying blodgers - whilst not tying up TV in a skill that might not be widely useful. I really like Frenzy on +ST Blitzers where you are far less likely to get into trouble, but with some guard and intelligence it should rarely cause a turnover. In low skill environments Frenzy is a good alternative to tackle and does not have the problem of only working against dodge players.

Pro, Wrestle and Juggernaut are in the second list of teams. Pro gives about 10% more knockdowns on a 2 dice block which can be handy. Wrestle enablers you to put Block players prone - which could mean getting the ball loose or making that vital whole. Normally I wouldn't recommend wrestle on a block player but for specialist blitzers its a worthwhile option. Juggernaut is useful for cancelling fend, wrestle and stand firm as well as generating more pushes.

I'm in two minds about whether this is a specialised version of a guarder style or not. Some Orc coaches really like Stand Firm as a great positional skill. If your opponent can't push you out of the way then it can be very difficult to break down the defensive line to score. From Stand Firm there are two obvious directions - Guard or Tackle. Guard just goes straight into the guarder role with the variation being Stand Firm came first. With Tackle, and Diving Tackle on doubles, you have a player who not only is hard to shift but against agility teams is difficult to move out of the way and difficult to get away from. Roadblocks are also very handy if you want to fight a sideline war with frenzy-heavy teams as having some one who can't be moved is handy. Remember though that Juggernaut negates Stand Firm.

A variation on the roadblock style is a marker, and especially in leagues where passing teams represent a significant threat, is to add Pass Block as a later skill. A couple of block, tackle, diving tackle, stand firm, pass block Blitzer can significantly reduce the passing options for some teams. Notice that Pass Block is to shut down channels for the passing game, not really to create interception attempts. Normally the threat of an interception is enough to make many coaches avoid providing the opportunity - but hopefully you'll force a riskier play than they'd need to otherwise.

This really is very obvious for me. +ST makes them awesome ball carriers and blitzer types. With an early +ST I'd either go for a runner or blitzer build. With a blitzer build I'd make Frenzy a priority since MA6 S4 Frenzy players are very useful. Then I'd probably be focused on killer skills since you'll be hitting with him a lot.

Agility is fantastic on Blitzers, arguably having a bigger impact on the team than +ST would. Having a player who can reliably dodge and handle the ball is great and helps provide options that otherwise the team wouldn't have. +AG continues their all-round role a bit since they work well as blitzers and runners. There is now an option of developing a receiver too. However lack of Agility skill access means unless you get doubles skill choices are limited.

Another option to consider on doubles for a +AG player is Leap. Orc teams don't normally have it, and a 3+ leap with a one dice hit is actually a pretty reliable method of getting the ball free. Even if it doesn't just the threat of the leap can make your opponent more cautious and allow you to stop the drive by more conventional means.

There is one very handy skill on +AG Blitzers that does not normally recommend itself. Pro is a bit of a marginal skill for many players but AG4 players without agility access benefit from it quite a lot. The ability to try to reroll any agility roll is very handy when they will often be on plays when you'll have used a team reroll already or you might not want to exhaust it on a non-critical action.

On a 6,4 I'd almost always take the MA. Speed is one of the main weaknesses of the team, so adding to it is always handy. As with every team adding MA to your fastest players is always a good - they are the ones you'll often be moving furthest anyway. Also the transition MA6 to MA7 is significant for making 2 turn TDs doable without any GFIs. Once you've got MA7 (or 8!) then blitzer and runner builds emphasise the advantage most. If you've already developed as a roadblock or marker you may even want to consider Shadowing to compliment Tackle & Diving Tackle. I wouldn't normally bother with it on anyone with MA6 or lower, but at MA7 it starts to become more useful.

+Av in contrast makes them even tougher. Since you've already got Av9 you are already pretty tough, and Av10 does not help against Claw. However if you've already gone a way down a guarder build then it might be a good option, but generally speaking MA is a better choice.

5,5 does offer a lot of alternatives, but all other things being equal I'd tend to prefer MA over any other choice. Speed is the biggest weakness of the team, so speeding up the fastest players really helps. This is marginal though, so a lot would depend on league composition and the current status of the squad and player.

As you can see Orc Blitzers have a huge variety of options in terms of development. For me bread and butter skills are Tackle, Mighty Blow and Guard. With tackle the team probably wants two fairly early on and at least four longer term. Line orcs (with Wrestle/Tackle) can fill that quite effectively leaving other options for Blitzers. Similarly with Guard the key is having enough so that you can dominate other bash teams. So if Black Orcs all have Guard then its less important on Blitzers. Mighty Blow is wanted on all the Blitzers by fourth or fifth skill IMO since you need a certain lethality across the team to compete with other bashers - even if you've got a guard advantage.

With all the options its easy to end up with players and teams that aren't cohesive but with some thought and planning its not too hard to build a formidable array of Blitzers that let you take on even the most difficult of match ups.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Way of the Orc: Line Orcs

Lineorcs (or linemen as some insist on calling them) are not heavily used in most Orc teams. A maxed out team will have 4 blitzers, 4 black orcs, 2 throwers and a troll. Then there are a couple of spots for reserves filled with Line orcs and goblins. Traditional starting line ups may even only contain a couple of line orcs too.

Line orcs stack up well against many other teams' line men. MA5 isn't ideal - but its faster than zombies or Dwarf blockers. Average strength and agility mean they can block and handle the ball a bit. Armour 9 is a big bonus. Compared to say a human lineman having the extra point of armour makes them much better at soaking up punishment and letting the rest of the team win the game.

However line orcs are worse than the positionals in the Orc team so don't get much play time. Only having General access means that their development potential is worse than the other orcs. Black Orcs are stronger and that makes them much better in the blocker role. Blitzers are faster, start with Block and have strength access - all for only 30k more than a line orc. Goblins give options not otherwise available to the team. Compared to a thrower they don't look so bad +Av vs Pass, Sure Hands and passing access for 20k. So some coaches in short leagues and tournaments, where throwers are less likely to develop, think they represent better value for the team. Where you are allowed to "buy" skills a Line orc with leader is still cheaper than the equivalent thrower. The other side of line orcs is that they are less efficient in TV terms than most other players. A +MA Block lineorc is 20k more TV than a rookie blitzer, and has less potential for development.

So generally the only reason to have line orcs on the team is early on when you can't afford the full team, and then as a alternative to fielding throwers - particuarly on defence. So a common pattern is for an orc team to have two throwers built for offence and two line orcs built for defence. So when kicking the line orcs get fielding, when receiving the throwers. That of course assumes you've got the troll and all the BOBs and Blitzers. If any of those aren't available for any reason then you are more likely to field some more line orcs.

Block or Wrestle
One of the key questions is what skills to give line orcs should they be lucky enough to skill up. My general view is that giving them Block or Wrestle first is crucial for them to get to a 2nd skill. Skills like Kick or Dirty Player, which are useful to the team, don't help them gain SPPs and may even reduce the already limited game time they'll get. Even if you do take a specialist skill first then you'll probably want Block or Wrestle second.

Prior to LRB5 Block was the automatic first choice. It significantly increases reliability when blocking and increases the chance they'll stay on their feet when hit. Single dice blocks are less of a gamble too.

However Wrestle, introduced in LRB5 provides some interesting options that aren't available otherwise. Wrestle enables the player to make both players go prone on a both down result - regardless of whether your opponent has Block. That can be very useful for hitting ball carriers with block or blodgers. Defensively it can be annoying for an opponent to be placed prone if they get a both down result. I think a little bit of Wrestle is good for a lot of teams as it helps deal with teams loaded with Block as well as Blodgers when you are light on tackle.

For me the crucial reason to favour Wrestle over Block on line orcs is that you aren't likely to take it on anyone else (or at least not early on). Blitzers start with Block, adding wrestle, although useful isn't in my opinion as effective as the other options (tackle, mighty blow, guard etc). Trolls and Black Orcs are relatively slow and often built with guard - so want to stay on their feet as much as possible. Throwers are often all ball carriers and therefore don't want to go prone much. So that sort of means if you want Wrestle on the team - which I do - then line orcs is the best place for it to go.

One of the obviously specialisations an Orc team wants but can find difficult to accommodate is that of a Kick player. Kick is a very useful team skill and can really help set the tone of the offence. This is particularly true on table top where you can chose the location of the kick. On the Orc team the obvious candidates for Kick are either a defensively built thrower or a line orc. The downside of Kick on a line orc is that to use the skill you can't be on the LOS or in a widezone. These are places that line orcs often get set up so my slight preference is for Kick on a thrower.

The other team specialist role is fouler. A line orc with Dirty Player is an obvious way of adding this specialist to the team. There are a couple of downsides. First of all foulers are generally better fielded on offence when you've got a better chance of controlling play and building up fouls with numerous assists. Secondly fouling is a lot less effective since LRB5. That means the whole idea of having a specialist fouler is something you'll need to think about. If you want to foul then you really need the skills to make it work. Now a Sneaky Git/Dirty Player is a powerful fouling tool that can be used to great effect. The massive advantage of the SG/DP combo is that you can foul fairly indiscriminately - without having to get lots of assists - safe in the knowledge that if you are sent off you've got better than a 50/50 chance of having your opponent off the field too.

If you do want to foul I'd recommend a slightly larger roster than might otherwise be the case.

With the exception of Sneaky Git, described above, there are two very good candidates for doubles. Guard is a favourite for many Orc coaches. Extra guard is always good and it helps reduce the need for it on other positions even if you want to restrict yourself to four or five. Dodge is another common option. Orcs don't have it normally available. For me the problem with taking dodge is that most teams will have a couple of tacklers. That means if you have a small amount of dodge then you are likely to attract the tacklers, negating the skill. So either take no dodge at all (or just on throwers) or take it on pretty much every double you get so that you've got so much you can overwhelm the number of tacklers on most teams.

Other options that are interesting are Diving Tackle - great for helping pin players down and good in combination with Tackle and Wrestle too. Leader is worth a mention - 30k in TV instead of 60k for a team reroll. Its good value especially early on when you might need the reroll more. However none of these doubles help the line orc develop that 2nd skill and so you need to take that into account.

+ST is a no brainer. Sure it makes him a 100k player but 5439 is an impressive stat line and Orc teams with a couple of +ST are almost untouchable by other bash teams and very hard to break down defensively. I'd be force feeding him touchdowns until he got 16 SPPs and Block.
+AG is also too good to pass up. It isn't as good as on a thrower, blitzer or goblin but extra AG helps in many tight situations.
6,4 is interesting. +Av reinforces the toughness - but doesn't help with development. Also it doesn't help against Claw. I prefer +MA since speed is an area Orc teams are lacking and another MA6 player can make a big difference.
On a 5,5 I'd normally take the double since I think they generally offer further development.

Further Development
Second or third skills on Line Orcs without a stat or double start to become sub-optimal. General only access makes Tackle (after Block or Wrestle) the stand out skill. I'd be aiming for about four tackle on a mature Orc team so freeing blitzers from taking it is good. The combo with Wrestle is particularly good for taking down blodgers. After Tackle the options really start to thin out. Shadowing is almost pointless on a MA5 player, Pass Block useful against passing teams, but useless otherwise. Pro handy, but there aren't too many rolls you'll make that aren't going to be turnovers so you might end up wasting it.

This brings up an interesting question. For those who are particularly concerned about keeping TV low are skilled line orcs worth having at all? Compared to the other members of the team they are expensive. So there is a line of though that says if you get to 31 SPPs then retire them in favour of a rookie and knock 60k off your TV. I don't subscribe to that view myself and I'm happy with "fatter" teams as I feel they do better during the lean times.

Line Orcs aren't a particularly vital component of most teams. Either filling in on defence or just being spares should some of the more valuable players be unavailable (MNGs even happen to Orcs...). They can be useful specialists too. Get lucky in development and they can have a bigger impact. So largely they are the supporting cast. They can be useful, particularly when built to fill the niches the rest of the team don't want to. Many coaches will develop them a little bit, but then let them stagnate. Two or three skills is the most they need and if they get much more developed they can unnecessarily bloat your TV.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Way of the Orc: Throwers

Throwers are a little unusual on "bash" teams like Orcs and they are one of the things that make the team unique. Actually having players start with Sure Hands and Pass, along with passing skill access, gives Orcs options for developing a passing game that just aren't really viable with most other teams. For example Dwarves have their runners - but only having four players in the squad with AG3 limits the passing options somewhat.

Throwers give Orcs the potential to develop a genuine long passing game. Accurate & Strong Arm throwers (requiring a double) are throwing short passes on a 2+. With several AG3 outlets (blitzers normally, but line orcs and goblins too) Orcs have the option to play the game both ways.

That said Orcs are an excellent bash team - but a mediocre passing team. They are just too slow and unreliable (AG3 and no catch skill, combined with AG3 passing). If you want to build a genuine passing team play elves, skaven or humans. What the passing game gives Orcs is a decent back up plan should the running play stall or should a faster drive be needed. You don't have to do this - taking goblins with catch or a couple of +AGs can make passing a real threat. However other teams will do it better and its not really playing to your strengths (so use it to exploit opponent's weaknesses!).

Throwers are actually slightly overcosted. Compared to a human thrower they have -MA and cost the same and have the same skill access. MA5 and Av8 are key concerns with the player type - they are comparatively slow and soft. However Sure Hands, Pass and passing skill access are worth something to a team that without them would be fairly one dimensional.

That is all very important because a lot of it affects how to develop throwers and whether to take them or not. There are some coaches who prefer to emphasise the running game and as such feel that throwers Av8 makes them comparatively weak compared to the cheaper line orc. This is particularly true in tournament play where the short format generally prevents the development of a better passing game. 20k saved by taking a line orc over a thrower makes a big difference. My preference is to run a thrower anyway because Sure Hands is a good skill to have. The reroll is useful and often you'll end up facing War Dancers with strip ball (which sure hands negates) so throwers as runners can compliment the running game well.

There is an argument to say give a Blitzer Sure Hands and use him instead. Its slightly more costly (10k premium for the Blitzer with sure hands vs the thrower with block) but you do get +MA and +Av which make it look like a bargain. The counter case is that this ties up one of your better players as a ball carrier reducing hitting power.

In medium-long term league play I really can't think of a good argument not to take throwers. The premium is relatively small and the options it gives are well worth it. The question then becomes one of development.

This is the classic build - Block first then skills to help with carrying the ball. It is pretty much the automatic first choice. After that Kick Off Return is good for improving coverage of the back field and putting the ball carrier 3 squares further forward on kick off. Fend helps if you do get hit and reduces the amount you'll need to dodge.
Doubles dodge and sure feet are the preferred options as one helps you survive hits and escape from trouble, whilst the other helps compensate for the low speed.
Nerves of Steel can also be handy for getting out of a tight spot, and Leader can help if you are low on rerolls. However I generally don't bother with leader on Orc teams as you are generally cash rich and a useful skill on the thrower can add more value to the team.

Accurate is the obvious first choice if you want to develop your thrower into a genuine passer of the ball. 2+ quick passes should mean you are throwing a completion every drive just to speed up development. On doubles Strong Arm will help develop that long range passing game. After those two the options aren't so clear. Kick Off Return is great - but you generally only want it on one of the throwers. If you are going to build one passer then my preference is to give it to them since you'll normally want them picking the ball up and passing it to a runner. Safe Throw helps with long range passing because it means you need to worry less about interceptions.

Defensive Thrower
A defensive thrower is a build type that is a little bit unusual. Orcs don't really need two throwers on offence - particularly if most of the carrying is done by Blitzers. So that gives the option to build a thrower specifically for defensive duties. The key skill here is Kick because you don't really want to give it to anyone else. I'd take Block first because its so generally useful though. Then you'll follow up with skills that aid in retrieving the ball - Nerves of Steel being a classic option so you can try and pick up in TZ (with Sure Hands!) and then if you manage to you can dispose of the ball safely.

Option Thrower
I'm putting this build down out of completeness, but its for a play style I haven't really tried myself. The idea behind the Option thrower is rather than to try and protect the ball carrier you use the ball carrier to suck in the blitz to open holes elsewhere to exploit. The key skill here is Dump Off combined with Nerves of Steel and Accurate to make the play more reliable. The thrower is exposed to the blitz, and then dumps off to a nearby receiver who can't be effectively marked. Personally I don't think Orcs are a good natural fit for this style of play - not having very reliable receivers - so I'd rather build to protect the ball carrier and pound the opposition.

I generally like starting teams with one thrower and building them as a dedicated passer. The 2nd thrower I'll normally build either as a Runner or Defensive thrower (or a bit of both). Then the passer gets completions to the runner so they both keep developing and even up.

All in all I think Orcs are very lucky to have throwers. They provide options that would otherwise be unavailable to a classic bash team and mean that when needed they can up the pace to score quickly. This is one of the key advantages they have other other bash teams - they have a Plan B that can work well.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Way of the Orc: Goblins

Goblins are a wildcard option for Orc teams. Their vulnerability and lack of strength means that they are the polar opposite of the normally tough and strong Orcs. However they offer something different to the otherwise slow & predictable Orc teams.

The obvious advantage of Goblins, and possibly a good enough reason on its own to have them is for the Throw Team Mate (TTM) option. However they also offer interesting options as a "receiver" giving the Orcs a possibility of developing genuine catchers.

Within a standard Orc team I'd recommend having one or perhaps two goblins on the squad, developed to provide TTM capability or as an additional receiver for those short (2-3 turn) drives you occassionally need to make.

Sometimes it can be fun to build alternative teams that utilise goblins more extensively. Against many rookie teams (pretty much everyone apart from Dwarf, Chaos Dwarf and Norse) Goblins can be very annoying, Stunty and dodge can combine to give mobile pieces that are hard to knock over. Against players without block goblins are less likely to have their armour broken than a thrower would (although the thrower would stay on the pitch more!). Under LRB4 rules a 4 goblin starting roster offered the advantage of freeing up cash for fan factor, rerolls and other positionals. However under LRB5 that need for early cash has largely disappeared so does push longer term team planning that way.

Goblins are very easy to play badly. Generally speaking good opponents will seek to blitz/block Goblins as much as possible with their Block/Tackle/Mighty Blow players. This is an attempt to remove the weakest pieces from the board enabling them to bring better numbers to bear against your stronger and tougher players. So:
  • Avoid leaving goblins in positions they can be blocked.
  • Avoid ending your turn with goblins next to block or tackle players.
  • Do NOT run goblins downfield unsupported.
  • Keep goblins away from positions where they can be chain-blocked (i.e. blitzed or blocked onto another player for another block).
  • Do NOT think stunty means you should always run through lines. Goblins fail one dodge in nine.
  • Goblins make good ball carriers. They are as fast as Blitzers, and with stunty and dodge find it easier to escape from trouble. Sitting in the middle of the cage is safe too.
  • Goblins are good at providing assists in difficult situations. Try to ensure you don't leave them standing next to players.
  • Goblins are as good at fouling as any of your other players - and less valuable so less worrying if they get sent off.
  • Goblins can be thrown by the troll. Always fun should you be without another option - but don't use it much as its very unreliable and normally there is something better for the troll to do.
  • Goblins are good for running through the lines and grabbing loose balls or marking ball carriers.
  • Goblins are handy for running into sideline cages blitzing ball carriers into the crowd.
One turn touchdowns with Throw Team Mate
There are many tips to a good TTM play. First of all remember the Troll can move before picking up the goblin. So if you have two goblins put both on the LOS and then run the troll one square into the opponent's half to make the throw - meaning one less square you need to move the goblin.

Don't forget that you need to get the ball to the goblins. So set up your throwers, blitzers and line orcs to try and cover as much of the field as possible and at the same time be able to get adjacent to a goblin for the hand off. As the ball could land anywhere you should either set back far enough you need all your movement or a single GFI to reach the goblin. Don't set up for both GFIs to get to the goblin as you want to allow a little bit of wiggle room should the ball land off your route.

There are two "double-less" progression routes for goblins which are the standard ones I'd consider in an orc team, and then alternatives to consider should you be lucky and get a double.

Defender - the defender goblin specialises in being really annoying to the opponent. Sidestep then diving tackle. If are lucky enough to survive to a 3rd skill Jump Up is probably the best option, but sure feet/sprint are also good considerations.

Receiver - built to either run with the ball or sprint downfield and take the catch. These are the main build that Orc teams really benefit from. Catch, Sure Feet, Sprint. Diving Catch under the experimental rules is also interesting, but it doesn't help with hand offs so doesn't help with TTM - just a standard receiver role, so gets demoted to 4th.

Fouler - Doubles first and take dirty player and follow up with sneaky git (or feel lucky and start with sneaky git!). A DP/SG Goblin still adds 90k worth of value however he gets good odds making fouls on almost any opponent and SG means you don't need to worry about loading up with assists.

Guarder - guard on doubles sounds like an odd choice, since it implies putting the goblin in harms way. However goblins can get where no one else can reach and hyper-mobile assists are always good. Throw in sidestep and you've a nasty little problem for your opponent to solve.

Blitzer - strip ball, wrestle or dauntless are all double options that basically try and convert goblins into genuine blitzers. This is once again to take advantage of their mobility in order to break down cages. Combine with Jump Up, Sure Feet and/or Sprint to increase range or Sidestep/Diving Tackle to increase annoyance should you get the ball loose

Retriever - sure hands on doubles. Once again using the goblin mobility to get anywhere to have the player that goes and gets the ball out of those tricky spots. Speed skills to help you get there, SS/DT to help should you fail the pick up anyway. Block on a subsequent double gives you a good ball handler in many situations.

Stats - +ST goblins are interesting players to have. They suddenly become real competitors for blitzing as they can get to places that no other player can. Subsequent doubles for blitzer build (wrestle, strip ball) will make them feared whilst they last.

+AG - probably the best increase you can get on a goblin. 2+ dodges anywhere is awesome. There just won't be a defensive line they can't waltz through. It also makes them better at picking the ball up and catching so a retriever or receiver build makes a lot of sense.

6,4 - I'd always take the +MA - goblins won't live long even with Av8, whilst MA7 makes them much better receivers as they can score in two turns without going for it.

All in all Goblins offer something different to Orc teams. Some games they will be gold and deliver exceptional value for a 40k player. In other games they will be a liability where they just get cas'd on the first turn and leave you short handed.

If you like your Orcs slow, predictable and conservative then Goblins probably aren't for you, but if you like having some different options try one.

Way of the Orc: Trolls

Trolls are possibly one of the worst used pieces in an Orc team. Many an Orc coach complains about the unreliable troll ruining a turn or failing that crucial block. This can be true, but used right they are a powerful piece that your defence can solidify around or as a distraction to keep opposing players tied up. An Orc team with four Black Orcs and a Troll is a formidably strong proposition. Khemri & Lizardmen can just about out strength it.

Their 4519 stat line really makes it clear they are blockers. However its the skills that make the difference. Mighty Blow is good, and means they can be effective bashers. Many get sucked into thinking this means you need to hit with them often. However Really Stupid & Loner make them unreliable. If you need to do anything with them they have a 1/6 chance of failing with a good chance of wasting a reroll. Worst of all Really Stupid means you need to keep another player adjacent to them or move in otherwise its a 50% chance of losing the action and tackle zones. Always Hungry and Throw Team Mate mean you've got the option of throwing goblins. I'll discuss this more later.

Regenerate is useful. Sometimes it will be a life saver - maybe literally! Generally speaking Orc teams don't get hurt too much, so when Trolls are hurt you have the option of using the apoth before rolling to regenerate. With a badly hurt or even miss next game I'll generally save the apoth and hope regen kicks in. Permanent injuries, excepting -AG and -MA, and deaths I'll use the apoth. Even if the apoth fails you've still got the regenerate as insurance. What regenerate means though is that when you've used your apoth you can still risk putting the troll in the way of nasty opponents in the knowledge even in the worst case you've a 50/50 chance of getting away with it.

Game Play
So how to use Trolls? What you need to do is work with them so that Really Stupid minimises its impact on your game plan even when failing. Try to position players, and execute follow ups so that the Troll starts your turn next to a team mate. That way you won't need to waste a player moving next to the Troll, just to let the Troll move. Partly you can do this by "compressing" the play. On offence this is relatively easy - keep the Troll within or near the cage as you roll up the pitch. On defence it can be trickier when against flair teams who want to spread the play around more. Often then the best action for the Troll is none at all. A S5 player with tackle zones is a useful defensive piece. A stupid troll without zones often a gaping hole for the opposition to run through.

When taking actions with the troll the basic rule of thumb is when taking a Move action do so as soon as you can in the turn. That way if you do get a stupid Troll you can re-plan the other moves to compensate. When blocking, or taking any other risky action, do so as late as possible in the turn. Really Stupid failures can hurt, but a knocked down troll early in the turn can be fatal. 2 dice blocks with trolls will turn over 1/9 - even with a reroll you are willing to lose on a failed loner roll that's about 1/16. Even 3 dice blocks aren't that safe - being less reliable than 2 dice blocks with Block or Wrestle. So when you block always think that you've got about a 1/4 chance of failing stupid or the block. So block every turn and that's twice a half.

General advice for Orc teams is don't blitz with Trolls. Even a 1 dice block with a blitzer is more reliable.

So what should Trolls be used for? Trolls are great punch bags. Cheaper than any other Big Guy, S5 means even other S5 players needs assists to take them on, Av9 makes them hard to hurt, regen gives insurance.

Trolls are great as tieing up opposition players. Tie up a nasty S3 or S4 player (MB/Piling On) with a Troll and your opponent will be annoyed as hell. Against Claw players you are better off trying to keep them on the ground or restrict them to blitzes. Against S3 teams try to keep a couple of players in your tackle zones. They can commit more to trying to block you, risk 1 dice or 2 dice against blocks or just sit there. Anyway you are getting more of their players to be negated by one of your.

Trolls can bash - with the caveats above. Aim for 3 dice on weak targets to maximise the value of Mighty Blow. Generally speaking if I'm going to take on another Big Guy I'd rather have a comparably reliable BOB do it than a Troll.

Trolls can throw goblins. Doing this is very unpredictable. It will only work about 1/4 when you've factored in stupidity, hungriness, fumbles and landing rolls. However doing so when the goblin does not have the ball won't result in a turnover, so your downside of a failure is pretty low (normally the goblin getting hurt). The only time I'd throw with the ball is for the one turn attempt at the end of the half or a real desperation play. There is an argument that having the capacity to do so on an Orc team is worth having - even if you only get 1/6 successful attempts.

In terms of skill progression Trolls get even better at the punchbag/tie up roles with Guard and Stand Firm. Grab is a good 3rd skill. After that value drops off a bit. Thick Skull for some extra resilience, Break tackle helps you reposition yourself. Strong Arm helps when throwing goblins. Juggernaut helps blitzing - but you shouldn't be blitzing with troll. Piling On helps with cas, but then you are slow and need to stand up. Multiple Block looks good, but the unreliability increases significantly with it. Without block the two 2 dice blocks you'll have about a 1/6 chance of turning over (plus a 1/6 of failing stupid). I'd only go for Multiple Block if I got Block or very late.

Doubles are where it really kicks in. Block is an automatic first double because reliable hitting makes them much more valuable players. Pro if you are lucky enough for a 2nd double because it significantly increases reliability.

Stats - on a 6,4 I'd probably take Guard or Stand Firm ahead of the stat. After that it would depend on the league. Bash heavy and claw light +Av is very handy, other wise +MA is always good to have. +AG is a waste, don't take it.

+ST is a debatable option. S6 players are really quite frighteningly good. They can soak up other big guys more easily, get 3 dice more easily and are harder to move. However Block makes Trolls much much better. I think on balance Block is a slightly better option, but I prefer +ST because you might get another double and the psychological factor can be significant too.

Big & Stupid
Trolls are big and stupid, and if you leverage that correctly you'll get great value of out them. If you resist it and try and pretend they are something they aren't (bashers, blitzers) then you'll find them unreliable and probably be better off without them.

Orc teams with four BOBs operating around a Troll form a very strong a solid line that most other teams can't really compete with. That means you can direct the play as you want - on offence smashing the holes for the cage to advance through. On defence you can stop most other cages in their tracks, or against flair teams force them where you want and then box them in.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Way of the Orc

I started trying to write a post on Orc strategy, and I realised it was getting a bit too complex, at least in my head if not elsewhere so I've decided to break this up into multiple blogs. At least then I might get some of them published! This is the first post so really designed to give a feel for an overall approach to Orcs. More will follow with detail on specific aspects of the game.

Orcs are an immensely popular team. They came in the 3rd edition boxed set, have a great, flavoursome background story, and are a good team too. All these combine to make them the most popular team among NAF coaches.

Orcs have a strong background in all fantasy genres, obviously within Tolkein and are present in all the core GW games. In Blood Bowl they have always been one of the main teams - from 1st ed all the way through to today. Thanks to their popularity in other systems there are plenty of choices for minatures to use - from GW's own BB range, Shadowforge's Female Orc team and conversions from WFB & 40k.

From a gaming perspective Orcs offer an unusual set of options. Sometimes Orcs are described as a more "balanced" bash team. IMO they aren't really - they are a 1st rate bash team with options. Very few teams have a clear strength advantage, and those who might be better at skilled blocking (e.g. Dwarves) often find it hard to keep up once the Orcs are skilled. However unlike a great many bash teams Orcs have dedicated throwers and can develop a reasonable passing game. To top it all off they have the option of using the Troll/Goblin combo for throw team mate plays.

All this means that there is a good variety of options for team building and development, meaning Orcs offer a bit more versatility than some other races. These strategies for Orcs I'd crudely break down into three core "bash" strategies: Guarders, Killers and Deniers. As well as at least one passing strategy.

Guarders emphasise guard on all the positionals - giving Black Orc Blockers (BOBs) and Blitzers guard as a first skill and relying on it to ensure winning the bash war.

Killers emphasise the destructive skills available - Block, Mighty Blow, Piling On - with an added flavouring of Frenzy & Tackle.

Deniers love the ability of Orcs to control position effectively. Stand Firm is the skill of choice here which means that a great many teams will find themselves unable to make the holes they need to penetrate the powerful Orc defences.

Passers tend to use the throwers Orcs have available to them to build a decent passing game - Accurate & Strong arm on doubles for the throwers, Blitzers taking Dodge & Catch, and maybe fielding a couple of goblins built as receivers.

Most Orc coaches take their own blend from these different strategies. combining them to make something unique. There is another level of sophistication which is that the different strategies are optimal for facing different opponents, so within a typical face to face league you might emphasise some more than others to help you beat the competition. An obvious one is that in a league with a high proportion of Elf teams you'll want more tackle than one full of Dwarves.

Way of the Orc: Black Orcs

The Orc team is blessed with Black Orc Blockers aka BOBs. Strong and tough with general & strength access. A 4429 stat line is almost optimal for the position they play - no unnecessary AG or MA to inflate the price. So they are cheaper than Chaos Warriors and just as good at the blocking job.

I'd describe BOBs as the engine room of the Orc team. They do all the heavy lifting on the LOS which provides the platform from which the blitzers operate. Without BOBs to back them up Orc teams just don't have the oomph to win bash wars or effectively channel flair teams where they want.

The problem with BOBs, which is common to other low AG S4 unskilled players, is that they skill up very slowly. Lack of Block means they aren't reliable hitters. So you tend to rely more on MVPs and the lucky cas to get a skill until they've got the crucial accelerants.

Accelerated Development
My rule of thumb is that on average an unskilled BOB will gain about 1/2 SPP per game. That is almost all MVP! So an obvious thing to do is to give them "SPP accelerant" skills to help them develop faster. As a blocker the obvious candidates are Mighty Blow and Block. Mighty Blow roughly doubles the number of casualties caused, whilst Block makes you more reliable blocker. So even though Mighty Blow is much more effective at getting cas when blocking you don't use it as much because the BOB still isn't that reliable - so you are hitting at the end of the turn - and lack of block makes him easier to put on the floor. From a team perspective Block is better because you don't use as many rerolls or cause as many turnovers. So I think they are roughly even - doubling the number of SPPs gained to 1. Take Block first because of the turnovers!

A lot of coaches will read that paragraph above and decide that the best progression then for BOBs is Block & Migthy Blow (which seems to be worth about 2 SPPs per game on average). That's a perfectly valid option too for those who want a "Killer" emphasis. Doing so puts the emphasis on getting Guard on the blitzers - or giving up Guard since you don't feel that there is much competition in the strength war.

Guards! Guards!
However the best skills for an individual player are not necessarily those for the team. A classic example of that is kick. Absolutely no benefit to the player with the skill - however a huge benefit to the team. For BOBs this team accellerant skill is Guard. Why is guard so good for BOBs?
  • Guard is best in the thick of the melee - which is where BOBs spend their time
  • Guard is best on players you don't mind getting hit. S4 & Av9 means they are tough.
  • Guard is best on players who are hard to get out of the way - S4 again makes a big difference.
If you have a wall of four guarding BOBs and a guard Troll then there really isn't anyone who can out muscle you. Lizards and Khemri will be about even. Dwarves don't have the natural strength to compete and Chaos are too busy trying to get some skills on the team as a whole. Your opponent ends up with one or half dice blocks to try and break through the line.

My experience tells me that against other Bash teams Guard is a massively more useful skill than Block or Mighty Blow - and Guard on BOBs is generally more useful than on the Blitzers because they are big & strong so harder to move and happier standing next to opposition players. Against flair teams Guard tends not to be as useful, since they can dance away. However the solid line that multiple guarding BOBs provides can allow you to force them to go the way you want - and on offence is a pretty unstoppable cage. Block probably gives a little bit more but not much and in most leagues bash teams are more common than flair teams.

My rule of thumb for BOBs is take Guard first, unless another BOB already has Block. In which case take Block. So when you first BOB makes it 16 SPPs and gets Block to compliment his Guard, then any BOB takes Block next. The reason for this is that once you have Block BOBs you will naturally want to block with them first. So you'll find the number of blocks made by Block-less BOBs dwindling, so they never catch up. When you have Block/Guard and Block BOBs you'll naturally end up using the Guards to assist more - so the lower skilled Block players will make more hits and get more Cas.

After Guard & Block, Mighty Blow & Stand Firm are both really good skills. Grab might creep in too, particuarly if you are having trouble with teams with many sidesteppers.

Generally speaking I think there are no better skills than Guard & Block for the first two slots, other than +ST. AG is a waste on a AG2 player anyway and +MA/+Av don't give a lot compared to Block/Guard. Doubles are also comparitively poor. That's not to say don't take them but that taking them probably means you've got a worse player for a long time as none of those increases help improve the SPP rate.

However once up to the 3rd skill the alternatives become more interesting. 6,4s are full of options. Av10 can be nice, particularlly in a league without any Claw. However I'd often take +MA instead as being a bit faster makes a huge difference for keeping up with the cage and providing more mobile assisting/blitzing opportunities.

Doubles have a couple of competitive candidates. Dodge, Diving Tackle and Jump Up. Dodge is good because players with tackle tend to be designed to hunt catchers rather than S4 blockers. The Block/Dodge/Guard/Stand Firm combination is about as annoying as you can get.

Diving Tackle is excellent because it makes the BOBs much better at pinning opposing players. Even Elves with dodge won't want to run away early in the turn because of the 1/4 chance of a turnover - meaning you are more likely to get chances to hit.

Jump Up is also worth a mention since it also works well with Stand Firm and helps compensate for the low speed. If you want to develop a real killer BOB then Jump Up makes Piling On a much more palatable option.

That said, ignoring the doubles & stats is okay since you probably end up with a player of roughly equivalent value anyway - and 10k less to TV.

So, all in all BOBs are a crucial element in any successful Orc team and are blessed in that their normal skill access gives them everything they really want or need. Take them all and skill them up as fast as you can. In games you are dominating use touchbacks or hand offs to get the ball to the BOB who most need the SPPs!