by Milo Sharp (www.blood-bowl.net)
The Dark Elven Blood Bowl game is balanced in speed and ball handling. With good coaching, they can become excellent players and compensate for their lack of strength and star players.
Like their racial counterparts, Dark Elven agility is the anchor of the team. It establishes them as a passing threat and locks them as a ball movement capable team. Playing against a hurt elven team with only six or seven players is still daunting because of their ability to scoop the ball, dodge through the defense and score so easily. Gratuitous passing has become a hallmark of Elven team development. When a player is one or two SPP’s from their next skill and there’s a re-roll nearby, a quick pass is a low risk way of generating player points. They have good speed and can line up even with most races. Whole team access to Agility Skills makes the roster even more dangerous. All players can choose Dodge, Sidestep and Diving Tackle making even basic linemen difficult to knock down, push around or even approach.
Witch Elves are one of the most dominating basic roster players on the board. The AG4, Dodge and Jump Up make them a tremendous scoring threat. Coming with Frenzy straight away makes them dangerous to opponents that haven’t learned to give them the sidelines. I use Witch Elves as the teeth of the team and the other players as support. String out the assists for a Witch Elf Frenzy run first then take the opposing player for the ride. Be careful not to let them get out on their own. A string of one-die blocks will end the Witch’s blocking run fast. Skills come quickly to Witch Elves because of their ability to receive a pass and convert it to a TD so easily. Block, Sidestep and Pro or Dauntless would be the first three of choice in order. On a Doubles roll, choose Mighty Blow.
The Dark Elf Blitzers are fast but aren’t the game’s greatest, featuring Agility skills rather than Strength. Use that to their advantage, giving them Leap and Dodge so they can get to ball carrier and Strip Ball to knock it free. On defense, put blitzers in position to react to the ball movement.
Dark Elven Passers are outstanding. Starting with AG4 gives them the accuracy of more experienced passers without a single SPP. Building them with Accurate, Strong Arm and Sure Hands makes for a great air attack. Building one with Dump-Off, Nerves of Steel and Dodge is a way to set up a good ground game. Ringing him with Diving Tacklers works well also.
Dark Elf Linemen are without question the best line in the game. Decent speed, strength and armor make them solid players. The addition of AG4 and Agility skills make them elusive targets makes each a scoring threat. I give Dodge then Block to three linemen at a minimum just to add longevity to the front line. After that, a good spice skill like Tackle or Dauntless. Side Step is another good third skill. There’s nothing more annoying than a front line you can’t knock down with two die blocks and that moves into or past your front line after being pushed around. Off the LoS linemen should be given Dodge first, then block. With Dodge, they have a better chance of surviving an attach, can get away from an attacker once he’s next to them and go in for the score easier after making a catch. I develop linemen by putting them on catching duty for a game or two and feeding them touchdowns until they have two skills.
The largest disadvantage facing Dark Elves is their lack of strength. They have no strength skills, no strength access on the roster, no big guys and no powerful star players. Dark Elves typically follow the rest of the pack in Casualties. Plenty of scoring potential and the ability to bob and weave but no punch. They need to make up for their lack of Strength skills (Mighty Blow, Guard, Piling On) with some method of inflicting punishment. The most prevalent alternative Dark Elf coaches have used has been fouling. Dark Elves have become known for their fouling—not because their coaches are any meaner or nastier—but because they don’t have another option for dealing with the team attrition.
The second largest problem faced by all elves is known as OatOa – One and then One again. Elven coaches get accustomed to their players dodging out of tackle zones without difficulty and sometimes take for granted the possibility of failing the reroll. It’s important to minimize even low risk moves.
On defense, put two linemen in his backfield early, compelling him to deal with the linemen or move the ball from a position of safety quickly. His cages will now need backs, you will have receivers to help capitalize on bobbled balls and the pressure will be on to keep the ball covered up. Forcing the play on his half of the pitch is another good possible outcome. Elves are adept at taking a ball on the pitch and converting it into a touchdown in the same turn. Make sure you have a safe place to hold the ball—the opponent’s endzone—by putting a player in scoring position even on defense.
If possible, make sure your players don’t end their movement in contact with opponents. Keeping your team alive might include dodging players one square away from opposing players and relying on the one blitz maximum to limit the amount of punishment your team endures. If your opponent is undermanned or under-strengthed, move in and keep contact. Make sure one opposing player is on his back each turn to receive a boot to the head.
From the opponent’s endzone, count backward six squares. Mark that line in your mind as the Red Zone—the place from which your players can score. When you receive, move players you want to develop into the red zone on turn one. If you only use one player, they’ll get knocked over for sure. Use three instead. They’ll be able to knock over one, put tackle zones on the rest but it will take five or more players away from the LoS if they want to do it right.
Get good at the Run-Pass-Run-Handoff-Run-Score routine. It’s something elven teams do well. It will go nicely with the next tactic.
The Relay: Before picking up the ball, move a Witch Elf or a Blitzer with Dodge to midfield, behind the line of scrimmage, as the relay player. In the next turn, move your ball carrier up, quick pass to the relay player and have the relay player run and dodge to a point where the ball can be handed to the receiver. Rather than hand off to a receiver that’s in a tackle zone or two, position the relay player in the path of the receiver as the receiver is moving to the endzone. If you can, use a blitzer to move one of the tackle zones off the receiver to clear his dodge path. The pass-handoff-score allows you to chose which players will be getting the TD (which aids team development), is safer and more accurate than longer passes and also prevents most interceptions.
For cards, choose a Magic Item each time. The Magic Items will help keep your team intact, featuring Healing Scrolls, Magic Helms and Magic Sponges. Take Random Events until you have a full roster and Dirty Tricks from there on out.
Good team development rules apply: Get a kicker early to force the play deep in his end of the pitch. Give that kicker the Diving Tackle skill to keep opposing coaches honest about targeting him. (He’ll still be targeted but the coach will need to put some effort into it.)
The Dark Elves don’t have catchers. With their high agility, that’s actually a good thing. It forces you to use others to catch and those others will get the TD SPP’s rather than a corps of catchers.
Be the first coach in the league with a Dirty Player. Use him judiciously to take down opposing threats rather than booting any linemen and happens to be down. Protect your DP to make sure he’s not KO’d or worse, leaving you with plenty of bob and weave but no punch. The game turns bad when it revolves around fouling but it’s not wise to expect your opponent to be “gentlemanly” if he shows up with four guards and eight players with Mighty Blow. Put Diving Tackle on your DP early and then Pro. They’ll get plenty of experience in short periods so make sure you have a retirement plan for over achieving (read “bloated”) Dirty Players.
Tailor your skills to your league. Bring in Tackle for faster leagues and Dauntless for bruising groups. Don’t put these skills on the same player. You’ll begin to depend on him and will be lost when he’s SI’d. With Doubles, choose Guard and Mighty Blow. After AG increases, choose Leap and Strip Ball.
For long-term development, elven teams that thrive are the ones that survive. If they can keep from getting pounded, they will be scoring threats and consequently game winners. Dark Elves have a decent AV but it will get chewed up against a team with mighty blow and strength. Putting defensive skills on players and limiting the damage you take is very important. Look for Dodge early, perhaps even before Block. Not only will it help you stay upright during blocks, it also increases your ability to successfully avoid your opponent’s tackle zones. Remember—he can only knock you down once per turn if you end your turn with all of your players outside of his tackle zones.
The start up team I’d choose depends on the maturity of the league. In a fresh league, I’d choose an Apothecary, a 2 rerolls, an 8 fan factor and 11 line elves. It’s not skill heavy but with AG4, you can afford some gutsy die rolling in the first few games while your fan factor makes some money to afford the pricey players. With a mature league, I’d start with an Apothecary, 1 reroll, a 4 fan factor, a Passer and 11 line elves. You can rely on the mature teams to boost the gate but will need an extra player to deal with the brutality.
Never Apothecary a Badly Hurt or a pre-game Niggling injury. Never. Think twice before immediately healing a Serious Injury too. More times that not, a player getting seriously injured will only miss the next game. Chose carefully the players you’ll apothecary for an SI. Save your apothecary for the Turn 8, second half death of your prized witch elf. It’s not a question of whether it will happen. It’s only a question of how bad you’ll kick yourself for losing the killed player.
Famous Dark Elf Teams
The Darkside Cowboys
The Naggaroth Nightmares