by Chet Zeshonski (www.blood-bowl.net)
Norse and Human teams enjoy a number of advantages over most other teams. Chief among these is access to all mannner of skills save Physical Abilities. Norse and Human teams also have cheap Linemen, access to both Wizards and Apothecaries, and a large number of position players.
A quick perusal of the two team lists reveals that Humans have the edge in MA, AV, reroll cost, and number of position players. Norse, on the other hand, have the edge in ST and starting skills.
If we consider playing styles, we will see that the Humans can employ a decent strength game built around their four Blitzers and attendant Strength Skills. They can employ four Catchers with good MA and a couple of scoring skills up front, and their Throwers allow them to run or pass effectively.
Norse, on the other hand, have all the same ingredients in different measures. Norse have good Throwers and Catchers, but they are much different than their Human counterparts because of differences in starting skills and stats. They will likely employ more of a running game or short passing game. Norse Blitzers ensure that the team has a heavy-hitting element, and the success of these players is obviously essental to the success of the team as a whole.
Norse Blitzers can provide a serious edge for any smart Norse coach. However, Human Blitzers can help counter the Frenzy advantage because Human Blitzers are more likely to choose – and be in position to – the Guard skill. Norse Blitzers can’t rely on Guard, because they never know where they’ll end up next!
Human Linemen and Norse Linemen are related in a ‘half-dozen of the other’ way. Human Linemen have one more point of AV, but Norse Linemen start with the Block skill. Conventional wisdom holds that the Norseman will have the advantage early in his career, but the Human will eventually gain Block and overtake his counterpart, allowing the AV advantage to show through more strongly. However, close analysis proves this inaccurate.
If we consider these two as rookies, we see that they are actually equal at breaking AV in a matched Block. The Human will knock the Norseman down 1/3 of the time, and break AV 5 times in 12. Final rate of success: 5/36.
The Norseman will knock the Human down 1/2 of the time, but will break AV only 5 times in 18. Final rate of success?
5/36. The two are identical at this stage of their careers. However, note that because the Norseman will cause more knockdowns, he is actually in the more enviable position, because he will be able to force his opponent to stand up in his tackle zone more often than the Human will be able to do the same. Furthermore, the Block skill protects him more often when he initiates the block, and he is less turnover-prone than his Human counterpart.
What happens if a wandering Black Orc Blocker turns his attention to our two players? This is a two-die Block in the Black Orc’s failure. Intuitively, we know that the ailure rate for the Black Orc is constant across our two contestants, because he will fall down on any combination which forces him to choose a skull or a double-down result. What we are truly concerned with is the rate at which he will knock down and break AV on either of these players. We will allow for the moment that the Black Orc will take a pushback over a double-down result if at all possible.
Given that restriction, the Black Orc will knock down the Human 23 out of 36 times. He will break AV 5 out of 18 times, resulting in a final success rate of 115/648.
Given that restriction, the Black Orc will knock down the Norseman 5 out of 9 times. He will break AV 5 out of 12 times, for a final success rate of 25/108 – or 150/648. In this case, the Norseman comes off second best in terms of not getting hurt…provided, of course, the Orc coach will take the pushback over the double-down result against the Human Lineman.
In passing, it is worth noting that the BOB-down/Human-standing ratio sits at 35:1, because this will only happen on a pair of skulls. The Norseman, however, will be in this enviable position 1 time in 9: four times better.
One skill passes. Each now has a Star Player Roll, and each rolls normally. The Human Lineman takes Block, effectively neutralizing the skill advantage of the Norseman and bringing his AV advantage to the fore. The Norseman will take Pro, however, in an effort to cause more knockdowns and AV breaks. What happens now?
In a matched Block, the Human will knock the Norseman down 1 time in 3, and will break AV 5 times in 12. Final rate of success? 5 in 36. That’s right – his success rate hasn’t changed at all. Granted, he is less failure-prone, but he won’t hurt the Norseman any more than he did before he gained the Block skill.
The Norseman, meanwhile, has watched his sole blocking advantage negated: after all, he can no longer count on a double-down result to drop his opponent. He has picked up a new advantage, however: Pro. Let’s see how it works…
The Norseman can knock the Human down on the first throw of the dice, but his odds have dropped from 1 in 2 to 1 in 3. However, if knocked over, he will still break AV 5 times in 18. Initial success rate, without Pro: 5/54.
To this, however, we may add a few qualifiers. The Norseman might knock the Human down cleanly on the Block (1/3), but fail to break AV (13/18). He could successfully Pro the roll (1/2), and then break AV (5/18). This is exactly the same multiplication of odds found in the example above, but with an extra 13/36 thrown in. We set that to the side for the moment.
The Norseman could also fail to knock the Human down on the Block (2/3). He could make his Pro roll (1/2), and then knock him down (1/3) and break AV (5/18) as before. This is exactly the same multiplication of odds found in the first example, but with an extra 1/3 thrown in. We add this to the 13/36 found in the previous example, and the 36/36 implicit in the first example, and determine that the odds of knocking down the Human Lineman and breaking AV on a one-die Block when the Norseman has Pro and the Human has Block are:
61/36 * 5/54 = 305/1944.
Breaking this down simply, we come up with something slightly above 5/33. Note that these odds are better than the original 5/36 odds the Norseman had when neither player had gained a skill!
The Norseman’s failure (read: “turnover”) rate has dropped as well. He will now fall over only in the following circumstances:
- Rolls a skull (1/6) and fails to Pro out of it (1/2)
- Rolls a skull (1/6), Pros successfully (1/2), skulls again (1/6)
- Rolls a double-down or pushback (1/2), Pros successfully (1/2), rolls a skull (1/6)
The total odds? 5/36 – actually less than the original 6/36 odds of falling down when neither player had gained a skill. Granted, the Human Lineman has cut his failure rate in half, while the Norseman has posted more modest gains. It is still important to note that the Norseman succeeds more often, and fails less. He also causes more knockdowns, so he forces his opponent to stand up in his tackle zone more often.
The wandering Black Orc, of course, is now more deadly to the Norseman by far, because his success rate is the same for both players, so only AV provides the difference. The AV, of course, is in the Human’s favor.
The accounting gets trickiest at the two-skill level. The Human Lineman, in a head-to-head encounter, would take Pro, but the Norseman can’t really take a single skill that will help him take out the Human Lineman unless he takes Frenzy, which is exceptionally difficult to calculate. At this point, however, the Norseman becomes generally useful to the rest of his team. He can take Tackle, for example. He can take Frenzy. Or he can take Dauntless, essentially giving him the edge over the Human Lineman when the wandering Black Orc makes his re-appearance.
Most Human Lineman who are not DPs do not seem to average 2 skills apiece. If they do get to that point, the journey has usually been a long and hard one, and they don’t seem to last much longer beyond that. This means that the old adage about the Norse – “Once other teams pick up Block, they’ve lost their advantage” – doesn’t really ring true. In fact, the Norseman enjoys a number of advantages over his Human Lineman counterpart for a large portion of their respective playing careers.
Human Throwers and Norse Throwers are similar, at least initially. The Human Thrower is less turnover prone because of his Sure Hands skill, while the Norse Thrower is less likely to be knocked over in a Block – and, as a consequence, is less likely to be injured despite his lower AV.
Of course, Passing is a Thrower’s forte. Both players have an AG of 3 and the Pass skill, so each can make a decent living Passing the ball as rookie players. As they develop, however, it is likely that their paths will diverge.
If each player becomes a long-ball artist, then they will develop fairly evenly. The Human Thrower will likely take Accurate, Strong Arm, and Safe Throw, while the Norse Thrower will counter with Sure Hands (a given, in my book), Accurate, and Strong Arm. On a fourth skill, they will probably come to a head as the Human takes Block, while the Norseman counters with Safe Throw. At this point, the Human Thrower has the advantage of AV.
However, this is not a likely development for the Norseman because of his Catchers, who are no speedier than any of their team-mates. The Norseman will likely develop along a path that is different, yet also useful.
We can rightfully assume that any reasonable coach will take Sure Hands for his Thrower’s first skill. After all, it relieves him of the need to keep a team reroll handy for picking up the ball, and also protects him from any opponents with Strip Ball.
At this point, he is a sturdy ball-carrier, but not as adept a passer as his Human counterpart. I believe that absent any speedy players, Norse are well adapted to small ‘cage-style’ tactics. This requires the Throwers to get the ball (Sure Hands), run it up field, and perhaps make a Quick or Short Pass to a Catcher who runs upfield for the score. He might also want to be able to survive a hit and dump it off, and he should also be decent at throwing a Long Pass or Bomb.
It is my contention that the best two skills for this are Accurate and Dump-Off. Some coaches would place Nerves of Steel before Accurate, but I believe this is inefficient. If you only ever Dump-Off in the face of one defender, Accurate is every bit as good as Nerves of Steel, because it cancels the -1 penalty incurred by the opposing player’s tackle zone. Additionally, it will help you complete those Quick and Short Passes prior to scores, and it will also help minimize the fumbles on Long Passes and Bombs. Nerves of Steel will not help these things.
This will give you a different, yet efficient Thrower well-suited to the short passing game employed by a team whose players are all MA6.
Human and Norse Catchers are at opposite ends of the catching spectrum. Because Human Catchers have high MA, low ST, low AV, and some scoring skills, they will likely be developed as ‘burners’ or Pass Blockers. It takes a tremendous amount of time and investment to develop them as ‘hitting’ players, because they need Block, Dauntless, and Diving Tackle to be effective. Likely skills involve Block, Sure Feet, Sprint, and Nerves of Steel.
Norse Catchers, on the other hand, will never qualify as ‘burners’. They do make good Diving Tacklers, however, because they start with ST3 and Block. They can also make nice complements to your Throwers, running up the field with the rest of the pack before catching a Dump Off and running in for the score (Blitzing their way through if need be!)
You have options with Norse Catchers. Dodge is one of the more likely skills, because a ST3/AG3 Block/Dodge player who can catch the ball is an obvious asset to the team. Other good skills include Diving Tackle, Nerves of Steel, Side Step, and Sure Feet. It all depends on the type of player you want.
Humans do have one advantage over Norse in the Catcher department: they are allowed four Catchers, while Norse may have only two. However, Norse Linemen are decent players who come with Block, and suitable back-ups to Norse Catchers once they have acquired Pro. This advantage plays into the hands of a good Human coach, who can build a pair of offensive scorers and a pair of defensive Pass Blockers. However, it does give the Norse a sizable edge in ST, and the ability of the Human team to send their ST2 Catchers deep will be severely curtailed against a Frenzy-heavy team like the Norse.
If Norse enjoy one large advantage over their Human brethren, it is in the area of Blitzers. Human Blitzers are faster and better armored, but Norse Blitzers start with two extra skills. One of these skills is an Agility Skill they can’t normally get, making Norse Blitzers the only players in Blood Bowl with this advantage!1 (see the end of this tirade)
Human Blitzers can develop into outstanding players in their own right. Pro, Dauntless, Mighty Blow, Stand Firm, Guard – these are all excellent choices for Human Blitzers.
Norse Blitzers, however, have to play to their strengths – and that means they must cater to Frenzy and Jump Up! To this extent, Norse Blitzers must rely on such skills as Pro and Stand Firm. Guard and Mighty Blow are not quite as useful for the Norse Blitzer, because he often ends up far away from his team-mates – or pushes his opponent into the stands, where his Mighty Blow isn’t even needed!
As any number of coaches will tell you, Frenzy has obvious drawbacks. However, a smart Norse coach with four of these players can dictate play to his opponent, almost certainly keeping the enemy away from the sidelines, running for his life up the middle of the field. A Norse Blitzer with Stand Firm creates a real problem for any opponent who doesn’t break his AV in a Block.
1 Dwarven players start with Thick Skull. We didn’t count it :)