In case you weren’t aware, Blood Bowl is a game, available on your games distribution platform since pretty long ago, and it manages to be both stupidly fun and infuriating like no other.
I’ll just jump right in, so I’ll assume that you’re familiar with the rules already. It’s not the hardest ruleset there is, once you get to know it, and if you don’t, there are people who can explain it better. Also, before we get started, I’d like to mention that I’m not a pro at this game. My horrible tendency of taking things too seriously has kept me from crushing enemies online. But once you get going, experience should guide you!
The first step: Picking who you are
To start, let’s play Campaign. Because screw story mode, that’s why. Depending on your edition, there might be lots of teams from which to pick just one favorite. In the end, every team is cut out for specific playstyles and levels of masochism. For the purposes of this guide, we’ll be playing Undead, contained in the Chaos Edition. Cough cough not so subtle hint as to what edition you should buy. In my opinion, they are well-suited for beginners, as they have an allrounder setup with pretty clearly defined roles for everybody. Their main strength lies in punching things, but they aren’t entirely useless with the ball either. (Most of the time.) Just don’t try to pass it from one to another. My designated catcher (who has all necessary skills) has yet to catch a single ball, and that is mostly from handoffs. I hate him so much. But I digress.
Meet new friends, play with them, kill them (Order may vary)
In addition to the above, Undead teams are pretty indestructible. They can’t hire apothecaries because, well, they’re corpses already, what can you do. Instead, the team relies on Regeneration to keep fit. I think there’s almost some sort of comedy in how often the Undead can come back from the brink. “He ripped out my lungs! Eh, I got better. Never needed them anyway.” Classy. Ghouls lack both Regen and heavy armour though, so tread carefully. Even if you do lose somebody or two, that’s where the Undead’s main gimmick comes in. If you kill anything, you get to keep it. Any dead opposition players will join your team as Linemen (Zombies or Skeletons, there is little difference between the two), meaning that you’ll never have lack either. Sure, they’re mostly useless, but they keep their original name, allowing you to lovingly recall the wonderful memory of the day you recruited them.
Actually building the team
Enough of the faffing about. What should your team composition be? This:
- 2 Mummies
- 2 Wights
- 3 Ghouls
- 4 Linemen
- 3 Rerolls
If you want, you can also swap out a Ghoul for a Lineman in order to create a slightly sturdier team. It’ll leave you with 30k to spend elsewhere. However, the chances that you’ll regret it early on are fairly low, and Ghouls are much better to have than Linemen. Not that you’ll have any shortage of those, anyhow.
What to do when you’re on the pitch
Mummies provide the team’s main muscle, and boy are they good at it, if not at anything else. Their high Strength and Mighty Blow combine to make them dish out wonderful punches, while their AV and Regeneration ensure they’ll stay on the pitch to squish more Elves. Granted, their MA could be more accurately described as their arms’ reach, but that doesn’t stop them from being excellent blockers. Use them to get into your opponents’ faces and punch as much as possible. Just remember that Mummies don’t have Block, so be careful.
Wights are the most allrounder of the team. They can and will do anything you want. Agility and Strength both at 3 means they won’t be too horrible at either punching or ball play. However, as they are the only ones on the team starting with Block, they are commonly used as Blitzers. In layman’s terms, they are the guys who punch things. A single assist will take them over the treshold of the most common player, sinking their chances of absolute failure down to 1 in 36 for two skulls. However, they have a fairly high MA and can handle the ball, so feel free to grab it if things go down and you need a non-squishy ball carrier.
Ghouls are the agility of the team. Starting with Dodge and a high MA, they are commonly used for carrying the ball. In the beginning, that’s all they’ll really do. Punch what you can out of the way with your other players, then dodge past the rest. However, don’t leave them alone–they are the most squishy of all your players and lack Regeneration, so once they’re gone, they’re gone for good.
Linemen don’t really differ from one another. Zombies have one point more in AV, Skeletons have Thick Skull and 5 MA instead of 4. Big deal.* Whether the players you hire in the end are one or the other, their most notable perk is existing. They do best at standing around, giving assists and providing that Minotaur over there something to punch other than your ball carrier. Since they are the weakest players on the pitch and you get tons of them for free, you should treat them as the expendable bodies they are. Don’t throw them away, though. They can be helpful in using their easily gained Block to clear off some players before your non-Block players throw in their punches. Or, you know, clean up players after your big guys had their fun with them. You’ll hardly weep for a Lineman if he does happen to be ejected, so they’re the optimal players for fouls.
There really isn’t much variation possible here. Use punchy things to punch, Ghouls to run, and Linemen for their excellent skills at breathing and not spontaneously falling over. It sounds simple, but it’ll carry you through most matches and only needs minor adjustments to go against teams that outmatch you. More on that below.
You’ve survived your first match, what now?
As you play matches, your players will earn Star Player Points for various actions and level up. Choosing what to get can be a tricky decision, as most players won’t be likely to survive for more than three levelups at most. When a player levels, you roll two d6; doubles will allow you access to usually restricted skills, rolls of and above 10, 11, and 12 will allow you to increase MA or AV, AGI, and STR, respectively. If none of those things occur, you’ll have to pick a skill from a category with normal access.
For Mummies, getting Block is top priority. They lack the downsides of most strong dudes, but not having Block pushes their chance of failure in a block up to one in nine.** The only problem is that they only have normal access to Strength skills, so you’ll only be able to pick Block if you get doubles. Needless to say, when that occurs, you must pick Block, even if you could get +1 STR. If you already have that and end up with another chance for it, grab +1 STR or +1 MA. Increasing Strength seems like a waste, but keep in mind that 3 is the most common number for Strength, meaning that you’ll be able to roll 3d blocks unassisted. If you get doubles, already have Block, and can’t get a stat increase, Side Step will allow you more control over where you’re going.
In all other cases, meaning most of them, Guard allows you to be both helpful and in the way of the enemy team. As Mummies have only 1 AGI, Break Tackle is almost required to allow them some mobility. You’ll be able to dodge like an Elf, but remember that it only works once per turn. Once you have those, Stand Firm is great to ensure you stay exactly where you want to be. It negates the need for Side Step, so if you want to get either, disregard the other. Overall, I’d say that Stand Firm is a little stronger than Side Step, especially as it’s much more likely that you’ll get it. That’s a matter of personal preference.
Wights should, like Mummies, grab Guard first. Undead rely heavily on assists, so the more you can get, the better. After that, Mighty Blow should be chosen for profit and amusement. Inflicting casualties gives SPP, so it’ll help your Wights level faster too. As for third, get Tackle. There’s a variety of skills available for Wights, but I’ve found that to be the most useful. Tackle, by itself, takes Elves’ lunch money, then smacks them in the face regardless. It completely negates Dodge on the enemy, effectively doubling your chances of taking the enemy down if they have Block, or raising it from one in three per dice to a coinflip if they don’t. If you already have it, Piling On can be chosen to improve chances of casualties, though Grab and Stand Firm are also alternatives.
On a double roll, you can add insult to injury (that which you just inflicted) and get Dodge. It makes your Wights pretty good ball carriers who are able to avoid punishment, and it simultaneously reduces your own chances of going down to one in six per dice. If you get another, Side Step will allow you to go where you want, when you want. Pretty much any stat increase is viable besides +AV. You can build one Wight to be a ball carrier rather than a brawler; prefer upgrading AGI in that case.
Ghouls are mostly carriers and should be leveled as such, though you also have to keep in mind how squishy they are. Thus, get Block first to make your Ghouls nearly indestructible. You can also opt for Sure Hands first, but keep in mind that they’ll get into a fight regardless of your choice. That’s why I like to delay that until the second level up. After that, Side Step is a pretty good choice. It’s very likely that you’ll stay on your feet, so being able to choose where to go is invaluable. What to get after then is a matter of preference and role. Sure Feet, Catch, and Tackle are all options. If you’re feeling cocky, Leap is much better than it sounds. Once a turn, it will allow you to go two squares in any direction, regardless of what or who is in your way or left behind trying to tackle you. That being said, it demands an unmodified Agility roll (subtract player’s Agility from 7; He must roll that much or higher on a d6 to succeed) each time, so be aware of your odds. Ghouls have a lovely animation of doing a front flip before landing on their face, though, so it might be worth it either way.
If you roll doubles, that’s a sign that you should build your Ghoul as a brawler and get Guard. Even if you don’t intend ever to hit anything with him, the assist will prove its own worth. All stat increases are valid options for Ghouls; get +1 STR and +1 AV if you’re building a fighting Ghoul, +1 AGI or +1 MA otherwise.
Linemen shouldn’t get many SPP to begin with, but if they do, they should go and grab Block. Yes, Block is indeed top priority for everybody. It’s that valuable. After that, Tackle can be taken to make Elves cry even more, or Dirty Player if you’re into that sort of thing. If your linemen level even further, you should consider using your actual players (i.e. everyone but Linemen) instead of just Zombies all the time.
On doubles, Guard will help Linemen do their job of existing better. On a few dedicated foul players, Sneaky Git can be helpful as well. If you roll a stat increase, don’t pick +1 AGI. Other things can all be helpful.
Oh noze, I’m getting countered! What do?
As with everything except Smoke Bomb, you also have teams which do certain things much better than you can and use that advantage against you. For the sake of completion, I’ll cover some of them. Remember that the tactics listed here also apply for all other races who play alike.
Dwarves are one of the most hated races due to their abundance of Block and high STR. Don’t engage them in a direct fight one on one, because you probably won’t win. Instead, use your Mummies and assists to get key targets out of the way, then use your agility and high speed against them. You can click on enemy players to see their possible movement squares, so plan accordingly. If all goes well, you should be able to break open a breach on one side and watch all of them futilely waddle after your star Ghoul, unable to reach them with their tiny, tiny legs.
Elves, on the other hand, will usually prance around confrontation altogether. Don’t try to tag them with a single Zombie, especially without Tackle. It won’t work. However, they are all pretty squishy. Gum up their position forward on the pitch with most of your team presence, punching everything in hopes of eventually reaching the ball carrier. Elves rely most on getting to the end zone before the enemy can react, so leave a few players behind deep in your own half in order to punch any who manage to slip through. Their light armour makes it likely to inflict casualties, and even if you don’t, knocking them down will cost them a lot of time, time which you can use to grind up their cage.
Humans are about the literal definition of middle ground in Blood Bowl, as well as being those guys who always run into the turtle formation and then waste your time moving forward by about half a square per turn. Like you, they’re fairly allrounder and rely on using a number advantage. Unlike them, you have some actually valuable players. Surround their cage on one side like some analogy that would be censored anyway, then whittle your way inside to the shiny guy. Don’t just surround them enough to put every side into a Tackle Zone though. Make sure that you leave them no easy escape, even if they manage to break away one or two of your guys. On that note, it should be obvious that Mummies and Wights (preferably with Dodge) go to the front of the cage, where they’re most needed on their feet and preventing escape.
Nurgle teams deserve special mention in that they are essentially your nemeses; They wear thick armour, won’t reliably screw up with the ball, and are generally bigger and meaner than you. Make sure to stack up assists and pick your battles well. Foul their Beast of Nurgle whenever it doesn’t put you too far behind. It’s quite tough to break, but getting it off the pitch will give you an immense advantage, and once it’s down you can get up to +8 on the Armour roll to get past its layers of lard. Tackle isn’t usually too abundant with Nurgles, so don’t be afraid to dodge either if you have to. Worst comes to worst, you might have to just delay the inevitable if you get up a lead on them.
Well, that’s basically all the strategy there is to Blood Bowl. I never said it was a deep strategy game, mind you. Apply both strategies in mixed measure to match the opposing team. Watch out for any special mechanics. To avoid surprises, inspect the enemy players before you make a move, and read their skills. If you aren’t considering the possibility of something like a thrown teammate from the opposition, you are going to lose. That is, I can think of one more strategy tip.
Halflings: Small, stunty, easy to catch when half your team has Tackle. They’re not hard opponents; in fact, I wouldn’t consider them opponents at all. They are remarkably fun to punch though. Go for as many blocks as possible, their squishiness will result in most of the opposition spending the match in the sick bay. If nothing else, they and Goblins serve as the perfect example for why Tackle is so awesome. Okay, maybe forcing Halflings into a fight is animal cruelty or something. I don’t care, they killed one of my Mummies somehow (it wasn’t a treeman), and I’m out for revenge. I already managed to recruit one of them for my team, but the bloodlust will never be sated. Do me a favour and continue my quest. I promise you’ll enjoy it.
Edit 29.06.13: Added mention of Leap for Ghouls, as well as Nurgle tactics, and slightly modified wording. This is normal, right? Everybody grooms their guides once in a while, right?
* It should be noted that there is a common dislike against Skeletons amongst the community. I like to laugh about such blind hatred, but keep in mind that Skeletons’ AV of 7 means that their Armour will, assuming no mods, be broken in 41% of cases instead of 27% for Zombies, and that any mods like the opponent having Mighty Blow will put them at an effective AV of 6, meaning that their armour will be penetrated in 58% of all cases. Personally, I just take Linemen as the crow flies. A more mobile team has its advantages, but losing players even to a KO can be fatal.
** Assuming a 2d roll. That is also why you should try and increase that to 3d (double your opponent’s Strength) whenever possible.