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.