by Carl Brown (Blood Bowl Home of @rnholm)
Orcs have been playing Blood Bowl since the game was invented, and teams such as the Gouged Eye and Orcland Raiders are amongst the most succesful in the league. Orcs play a tough and hard-hitting game based around pounding their opponents into the turf before they stomp downfield to score. Orcs don’t tend to throw the ball much which is a good thing really as they are not very adept at catching it. It’s not that they can’t catch, it’s just that when the ball is in the air they tend to forget about it and get stuck into fighting with the nearest opponent instead!
Before we look in detail at creating a winning Orc Blood Bowl team, let’s take a minute to consider their strengths and weaknesses. In Blood Bowl , as in war, you should understand your friends and respect your foes – the better you know your team, the more chance you’ve got of using it to the best of it’s ability. Orc teams have two main attributes: toughness and strength. Orcs have the highest armour values in the game, equal to Chaos or Dwarves, so they are very difficult to hurt. In common with Chaos teams, Orcs are also able to start a season with Strength 4 players, which makes them very very mean.
On the downside, Orcs also have two major disadvantages compared to other teams. First of all, their low Movement Allowance means that they can be easily outrun or outmanouvered by other races. Secondly, Orc teams don’t have any Catchers which makes the throwing game particularly risky.
So, what does this tell us? Well, with high armour values you can expect Orcs to stand up to a lot of punishment during a game. Black Orcs (with their Strength 4) are at an immediate advantage when they make Blocks, as the majority of their opponents will require an assist to be on even terms. The lack of Catchers in the team means that the throwing game should be used as a last resort, and because Orcs don’t move very fast they can’t be expected to outpace anyone in a flat out sprint for the endzone.
You’ve probably guessed that this all points to a team built for sustained, stomping, running plays. Which is exactly what Orcs are good at.
Creating Your Team
With all these big and aggressive creatures at your disposal, it’s relatively easy to create a league team capable of beating the living daylights out of almost anyone they meet. However, although four Black Orcs, four Blitzers, two Throwers, one Lineman, two Rerolls and a Fan Factor of 5, might sound like the perfect line-up for a one-off game, for a league it’s a bit of a risky option. When playing in a league your team carries on for game after game and any injuries or deaths carry over to the next match. This means that if you start the season with only eleven players, when casualties start rolling in you’ll find yourself starting games with less than a full team. This will make it even harder to win your next game, and more likely you’ll sustain further injuries. Once you get to this state it is very difficult to pull your team back up to scratch.
A far better, and safer, idea is to start off with a team designed to compensate for these early losses.
I’ve played in Blood Bowl leagues for quite a long time now and I’ve fallen for starting with a super-strong eleven Orc killing machine on a couple of occasions. Needless to say they didn’t stay super-strong for long!
For a longer-term squad, designed to stand good in a fight but also able to cope with the odd casualty in the initial stages of the season, I recommend the following line-up. The Deff Skwadd started oit with two Black Orcs, two Throwers, one Blitzer, seven linemen, one Goblin, three Re-rolls and a Fan Factor 5. This forms a good foundation on which to build a succesful team. My first purchase after a few games would be an Apothecary, and after this you can concentrate on strengthening the front-line with more Blitzers and Black Orcs.
Your plans should then involve adding extra bits and pieces like Goblin Secret Weapons, Cheerleaders and Assistant Coaches as well as saving up for a Star Player such as Varag Ghoulchewer or an Ogre or Troll.
Tactics And General Game Plan
Once you’ve picked your team it’s time to start thinking of about how you are going to use it – Da Plan! Deciding on an overall strategy or game plan is a vital part of becoming a succesful Blood Bowl coach. In your first few games it’s good enough to just go out, cause mayhem, and try and score as many times as possible. However, you’ll soon learn that there are points in each game where you have a definite advantage and times when your can dictate the flow of play.
If you’re up against a fast, lightly armoured teamsuch as the Skaven and Elves the game plan is simple. You should try to rip as many of them apart as possible in the early stages of the game so that they can’t put up much of a fight later on! If you win the toss, opt to receive the ball and try not to score until the 7:th or 8:th down. By then, a fair proportion of the opposing team should be in the KO’d or Dead & Injured box and your team will outnumber them for the whole second half.
If you lose the toss and your opponent decides to receive, you have two choices. The first is to try and soak up your opponent’s attack and capture the ball off him. Once you have the ball stomp your way down to the endzone and score. The risk with this tactic is that you may succeed in holding up your opponent’s attack for the best part of the half, only to see him slip through on down 7 or 8. If this happen if this happens you haven’t really got much chance of equalising before half time.
The second option be even more of a gamble. This time you deliberately don’t put up too much of a fight in order to prevent your opponent from scoring (You do however take every oppurtunity to beat into pulp any of his players not directly involved in the play!). As you aren’t offering any real resistence, your opponent should score by turn two or three and this will leave you with the remainder of the first half in which to equalise. At the start of the second half it will be your turn to receive, so you should be perfectly set-up to grind your way down the field for a 2-1 victory at full-time.
The big danger with this plan comes if anything should go wrong while you’re trying to equalise – such as fumbling the ball or your opponent rolling a Blitz result on the kick off table. Your opponent may sieze the chance to score a second touchdown and leaving you trailing 2-0 at half time.
Against slower, tougher teams such as Dwarfs or Chaos your tactics are similar up to point. If you win the toss – get them before they get you! Have a good old-fashioned brawl in the first half and try to score on the 8th down. In the second half, try to weather the storm as your opponent rips into you and while this is going on try to work someone behind his line to sack the ball carrier (Orc Blitzers are good at this!). If you lose the toss and the opponent receives, try to minimize your casualties by backing off so that the only block he can make is with his Blitz action. If you do this properly, and are reasonably lucky, you should end the first half at 0-0 and with most of your team intact. In the second half, you get to receive the ball and can batter your way down the pitch once again.
It must be said that games against these kinds of teams can be very bloody. In one memorable match against Andy Chambers’ Chaos Doomlords, Andy killed two of my players, crippled on of my Linemen and left my only Thrower with an Agility of 2! Needless to say, I also lost the game.
Tactics On Defence
When you come to set up your defence, the main thing to be aware of is that your opponent is going to have the first down and thus hit you before you can hit him (unless you’re lucky enough to roll a Blitz result on the kick-off table!).
You must therefore set-up your team in order to minimise the initial damage. There are two ways of doing this. The first is to set-up five Orcs on the line of scrimmage, two Orcs on each wide zone and two Orcs a bit behind the frontline (see Diagram 1).
Putting so many players on the front line creates a large number of tackle zones which prevent your opponent from using assists. This makes your line much harder to break open. The only way your opponent can get assists is by launching his attack against one of your widezones and then continuing down the line (see Diagram 2).
The way to minimise this danger is to put a Black Orc on each wide zone. As most teams’ players have Strengths of 3, they only get to roll one Block dice even when they get an assist from a team mate. This means the Black Orc has a reasonable chance of standing his ground. The danger with this defence is that if just one of your players go down, it creates a hole through which your opponent can sprint.
The second defence (see Diagram 3) follows a different approach entirely. In this case, the line of scrimmage has the minimum of three players and the rest of the team stands two squares back.
The reason for standing so far away is to stop your opponent from being able to block lots of your players on his first move. Why not stand only one square back? Well if you are unlucky enough to roll a Quick Snap on the kick-off table your opponent can move each of his players one square in any direction and into contact with your men before he starts to make his play! By standing two squares back you can stop this from happening.
If your opponent should break through down one of the wide zones, you’ll have trouble getting players back to cover the attack, because the only players within reach are positioned in the centre. However by putting the Black Orcs on the wide zones you’ll make it n’much harder for your opponent to break through here and he’ll probably go for a softer spot. If, because you only have three on the line of scrimmage, your opponent breaks through there, it’s not such a problem as you can get players in his way from both wide zones. By keeping a Blitzer or two in the middle of the field you’ll have a fast reserve and someone who can hunt down the opposing ball carrier.
Tactics On Offense
When you’re on offense with Orcs you might think that putting everyone on the front line where they can stick the boot in straight away would be the best policy. On some occasions this can work, especially when you have a lot of Black Orcs and Blitzers.
However, as Orcs have a low agility, it’s also important to set up your team in a way that enables you to manoeuvre your players into a protective pocket (or Da Cage as Orcs call it) around the ball carrier with as little dice rolling as possible. Obviously you’re going to need a player who can pick up the ball in the first place so you’ll need at least one Thrower with his very useful Sure Hands skill. One of the worst things that can happen to an Orc team is a deep kick into their endzone. Because they are not very fast, a turn spent running back down the field to retrieve the ball cuts down the time they have to move upfield. With this in mind, your Throwers should be set up so that they can reach the corners of your own endzone. It’s best to place your toughest players on the line of scrimmage with the job of clearing a path for the rest of the team to follow down. These players will probably be Black Orcs and Blitzers and a Troll or Ogre, if you have one.
The example play “Da Stomp” shows the first down and general movement of an Orc drive. If the ball lands close to the halfway line, gather it up with a Thrower or Lineman and get it to the centre of the field behind your Black Orcs. Then form a protective cage around the ball carrier with your remaining players. If the ball lands deep in your own half create the cage first then gather the ball and hide it inside. The reason for creating the cage first is that these moves require no dice rolling and can’t go wrong. Why not create the cage first if it lands close to the halfway line? Because as the ball is close to the opposing players, if you fumble it when trying to pick it up, and all of your men are standing 2 or 3 squares away, there is nothing to stop your opponent from running forward and grabbing it. If the ball is deep in your backfield your opponent can’t reach it so if you do fail to pick it up it’s not such a problem.
Once the ball is secure in the pocket, Block with your Black Orcs and Blitzers but don’t follow up. If all as gone to plan, on your opponents down he will be faced with menacing wall of Orcs that he is unable to block except with his lone Blitz action. This means that on your second down, your formation should still be pretty solid and ready to roll (still keeping a cage around the ball) maiming and killing all the way downfield to score.
1. Form a pocket and get the ball to safety.
2. Block your opponent’s men on the line of scrimmage in order to move them away form the cage but don’t follow up.
3. Smash your way down the field, manoeuvring your pocket of players through the gaps made by Black Orcs and Blitzer.
4. When you are in range of the endzone, break a final hole and rush the ball carrier out of the pocket to score.
My second sample play is “Da Foola”. As it’s name suggests, the aim is to fool the opposition into defending against one attack, while actually pushing towards a different play.
In this case you are initially making your play look like “Da Stomp”. On the first down you form your players into a cage around the ball and block with your front line. On the next and subsequent downs you swing the pocket around the left or right and make a concentrated push down that flank. Simultaneously, you run a couple of players down the opposite side in order to threaten a pass action and spread your opponent’s defence. Because Orcs are not renowned for their throwing game, your opponent won’t believe you’ll attempt the throw and the two player will be only lightly marked. If your running play grinds to a halt, it should be easy to get one of these two into the endzone and throw the ball for a surprise touchdown. Goblins are particularly useful in this role as their “Stunty” and “Dodge” skills enable them to slip through opposing lines and get into position for the catch.
1. The initial moves mimic the pattern of Da Krunch, but the box is more loosely held.
2. Fake attack down centre.
3. Main attack and ball carrier switch to the left hand side.
4. 1 or 2 Goblins move down the right hand side.
5. Da Foola, the ball is thrown to a waiting Gobbo!
Weapons And Monsters
One of the best things about an Orc team is the sheer choice of Star Players. Some of the most dangerous and useful are the Goblins with Secret Weapons and large monsters such as Trolls and Ogres. Although your opponent can roll after every touchdown to see if any players using weapons are sent-off, don’t worry about this. The fear they cause far outweighs this risk and at one point in the Studio League I had one each of the four weapons available!
Nobbla Blackwart is a must for every Orc and Goblin coach and should be purchased as early as possible in the team’s development. When he attackswith his chainsaw he gets a massive +3 on the armour roll so he almost always causes an injury. This makes him excellent at taking out your opponent’s Star Players. If he only stuns them it’s good enough because while the player is down you can gather a few boyz around and kick him to death with a foul action!
Fungus the Loon is good for the sheer terror he puts into your opponent. He might not exert a tacklezone but you can guarantee your opponent will keep his best players away from him. This makes him very useful for opening gaps in lines of defence through which you can send your Blitzers. There is a danger that the fanatic could end up splatting one of your own players but that’s the kind of risk you have to take!
Scrappa Sorehead is good when you need fast a touchdown. He normally moves six spaces but can go for three extra squares making a total of nine. Add to this his Leap and Dodge and you have the fastest and most agile player an Orc and Goblin team will ever get.
Bommer Dribblesnot is most useful against a team that plays the running game such as Orcs, Chaos or Dwarfs. When you need to break into the pack surrounding the ball you can lob a bomb. Don’t throw the bomb into the middle of the group as it might get caught and thrown back! Aim just for the edge of the pack and if you are lucky it will scatter adjacent to a couple of players and knock them down. This will then open the ball carrier up to be Blitzed.
Trolls and Ogres open up a whole new element to your game. Aside from being immensly strong, they can also throw Goblins. If you use them on the front line you can be sure that they’ll knock down any player foolish enough to get in their way and they are in turn very hard to take down. Should you have a Goblin in your team as well as a monster or two, then you have in your hands the capability to score in one down. When you are on offense set up your Goblin and monster next to each other just behind the line of scrimmage. When the ball is kicked, retrieve it and hand it off to the Goblin. You then declare a pass action with the monster and aim the Goblin as close to the endzone as possible. If you are lucky (you’ll probably need 6 to be accurate), the Goblin will land safely and then simply run into the endzone to score. It’s a risky play, but in a tight spot, close to full time, it can win games.
Special Play Cards
I’ll just say a quick word about special play cards and using them in a game. Don’t forget you have them, and don’t be afraid to use them! In all the time I’ve played with the Death Zone rules, the single most frustrating experience I’ve had is when I’ve seen a chance to use a card but didn’t do so, just in case a more appropriate situation come up later. Inevitably, the opportunity I’m looking for doesn’t arise and I end up using the card on something trivial. After this had happened to me more times than I care to recall, I’ve come to believe that it’s better to use a card as soon as you think it’s the right moment rather than wait for an opportunity that never comes.
No matter how much plotting and planning you do there is one thing that cannot be prepared for, and that is luck. Even with the most fool-proof plan and best team in the world, if the dice aren’t rolling your way there is nothing you can do about it. (Except maybe curse, and mutter “We wuz robbed” – a common enough practice among Blood Bowl coaches who are having a bad day).
There are, however, small things you can do to increase your chances. When you want a job doing, make sure the right player is doing it. It’s no good expecting a Black Orc to pick up the ball in an enemy tackle zone, dodge out and then throw a perfect long bomb to your receiver in the endzone, they just don’t do that sort of thing. A Thrower on the other hand would have a figthing chance. In the same way, don’t expect your Thrower to flatten the opposing team’s Star Player. The right man in the right place is the mark of a good coach.
The sequence of moves and dice rolls is also important. Try to make any dice rolls for which you have a skill re-roll first and then proceed to ones that are covered by a team re-roll working from the easiest up. Sometimes this isn’t always possible and you have a very difficult roll to make before anything else in play can happen. On these occasions make sure you prepare for the worst by moving free players into positions from where they can defend should something go horribly wrong when you make your play.
Well that’s all for now. I can’t guarantee you’ll win all your matches, but these suggestions should go som way to helping you to Block, Foul and smash your way to the top of the league. Even if you don’t win every game, make sure you duff-up your opponents and you’ll have almost as much fun. Right now, me ladz need their pre-match team-talk, so happy hunting and in the words of Varag: “Stomp ‘Em!”.
Published in the White Dwarf #220.