Blood Bowl PlayBook :: General :: The Basics

The Basics

by Stephen Babbage with Coach Blacknife (


To me, Blood Bowl is a fun strategy game: yes, the most important element is strategy. In our league a team winning by luck alone is very rare; obviously luck does affect gameplay and can help determine the outcome of a game, but if the Coach is not using strategies and intelligence to win then they’ll find it difficult.

1. Choosing a Team

This is, perhaps the most important part of the game. After all if the team does not reflect your style of play then you will be struggling to be successful. Success is not necessarily winning the League – although this is a common goal – but rather it is measured in how you feel the team has performed (after all, a Goblin team is not expected to lift many trophies!).

Although your initial choice of team is unlikely to be your ideal, bear in mind the way in which you want the team to progress. A solid core for your starting team is essential, although most teams are forgiving and can be brought back round after a poor start. Weaker elements of the team (such as Catchers) should be drafted later in the season unless your plan revolves around these guys – otherwise you may find that they just don’t last the distance.

Some points to remember:

  • Do not rely on Star Players. Some teams (e.g. Chaos Dwarfs) can easily do this (Hthark), but if the player gets taken out of the game then you can end up in trouble. A Blood Bowl team should be flexible enough to cover the loss of any one player, after all that’s what the word Team refers to! One other problem with them is that they tend to absorb Star Player Points (SPPs).
  • Enroll Position players. Position players are those on the team lists which aren’t Linemen: Blitzers; Witch Elves; Wardancers and so on. Dwarf teams are unlikely to go far (pun intended) without Trollslayers and this is true of most teams. Admitedly Elf teams can field Linemen exclusively and get by, but at the cost of each player you’ll find that they are almost a match for other teams Positional players! (Although saying that, even Elf teams are complimented by Position players: Wardancers on the Wood Elf team for example.)
  • Don’t pass by the miscellaneous. The support elements of your team list should not be entirely shunned, after all Rerolls are vital to most teams and Fan Factor will help you on the Kickoff table (and your income at the end of the game!). An Apothecary is essential for all teams after game 1 (and for Elf teams for game 1) – even for Chaos teams. Wizards are a fair addition once your team is robust and the Halflings struggle without their Master Chef.

2. Game Strategy

Look at your team. Look at your opponents team. Weigh up their strengths and weaknesses. Taking on a Chaos team with the strategy of attritional warfare could be considered a bad career move for the Coach as, unless the dice are in your favour (remind yourself how often that happens!) you will likely take a pounding! Most teams are flexible enough to at least try a variant play, in the example against Chaos you could try a Passing game – something even Orcs could achieve – and hope you survive the onslaught.

The point here being that you shouldn’t play to their strengths: develop strategies. Otherwise winning won’t be your objective; getting off the Pitch in one piece will seem way more appealing!

Some points to remember:

  • Play to your Strengths. Don’t plan on scoring quickly with Dwarfs or holding the tide of Chaos with Elfs. Allowing early TDs from your opponents can even be a game winner (see the Lateral Plays article).
  • Play to their Weaknesses. Refer to Choosing a Team (above) and work out how you can neutralise their key players; whether this be taking them out of the game or getting them off the Pitch!
  • Stay with your strategy. Even when you’re taking a beating, changing tack in mid-game can spell disaster. Incidentelly, this point is also valid for Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Warhammer 40,000, Necromunda, and any other wargame you care to mention!
  • Watch the clock. Don’t leave a two-turn strategy until the last two turns of the game unless you really have to! Give yourself a turn in hand to account for the slip ups which will inevitably occur.
  • Strategy Guides. White Dwarf 176 (U.K. version) has tips on team plays. Of course you could always refer to our own home-grown strategies.

3. Setup

Placing players on the pitch is the first step of your strategy, thinking that you can execute your plan regardless of your setup is a big mistake! If you are kicking, for example, you have to ask yourself some questions like “Can I catch a fast opponent?”, “Should I let them into my backfield easily?” and so on. These should be balanced against questions such as “What level of resistance should I exert on my Line of Scrimmage (LoS)?” and at all times it should be kept in mind that you will almost always move after your opponent (unless you are extremely blessed and manage Blitz turns at every kickoff!).

Setting up to receive means that you can take advantage of the kicking teams position and it is at this point you should question your strategy. Should you pound your opponent into the dirt? Form ‘da Cage’? Or Blitz your way into his half for a quick Touchdown (TD)? These points should really be addressed as you’re setting up and not after the ball has been kicked!

Some points to remember:

  • Players in the Reserve Box. Remember, they didn’t necessarily sit out last drive because they are useless, your defensive specialists should have been put ‘on ice’ during your offensive push and are then brought back for when you kick the ball.
  • Exploitation. Balance your strengths and your opponents weaknesses to maximize your setup. Bear in mind that a strike at the weak point in your opponents LoS could be a trap…
  • Think during their turn. While your opponent is setting up, don’t use the time to grab a soda or run to the bathroom, watch his positioning. After you respond with your setup just yell “Woah, have to get to the bathroom!” – they’ll wait!

4. The Turn

Some points to remember:

  • Miscellaneous gubbins. Always bear in mind what Special Play cards you have retained in your hand – and how many Rerolls you have left for the half!
  • Moving is free. Make sure that you move players who don’t need to make any rolls before contemplating your master stroke; otherwise you may never move them!
  • Get them UP! If your players are on their backs, please remember to do this as soon as possible in your turn. Otherwise you deserve the Dirty Player who’s coming your way!
  • Opponents player strengths. Keep an eye on which players are placed where. You don’t need to memorise all of them, but knowing where the guy with Tackle is should make choosing where to Dodge easier!
  • Your strengths. If your team is better at Blocking then punch before Dodging and vice versa for Agility based teams. Bear in mind the above point about ‘free’ movement however.
  • Your players strengths. Many of your Position players are specialised and as such should be the ideal candidate for their job: don’t pick up balls with Mummies when a Ghoul is around; don’t dodge with a Black Orc when a Lineman could do it; and so on.
  • Watch the clock. Allow yoursef at least thirty seconds of your four minutes just to contemplate the order of your moves in the coming turn. Contemplating this during your opponents turn helps too and allowes quick changes to your immediate move if needs be.
  • Watch the Dice. If the probabilities are on your side then the luck kind of looks after itself. I say ‘kind of’ as we’ve all had at least ‘one of those matches’.

5. The Drive

This is all about scoring TDs. Actually it could also be about wearing down your opponent in preperation for scoring lots of TDs. On the other hand it may be that you wish to let your opponent score as quickly as possible just to get your hands on the ball… many possibilities really!

Some points to remember:

  • Don’t rush. Why present yourself with unnecessary problems caused by pushing your players at the wrong time? There is no reason why players need to ‘go for it’ if they are within normal movement distance for next turn (unless it’d put them out of immediate Blitz range!). Slow teams should make an orderly advance down-pitch, leave the acrobatics to the Elf teams.
  • Anticipation. As your opponent is moving, use the time to not only adjust your immediate turn plans, but to figure out what they are up to – you’re not the only one with a plan! If you can see gaps, or possible breaks, then try to plug them with Linemen or tempt your opponent to take another route; the latter being a better idea as you can then predict where your opponent is likely to be and the advantage is yours!
  • Keep your game strategy in mind at all times.

6. The Rest

At the end of the day, Blood Bowl is about fun. Nobody outside Games Workshop has been making money off it by playing and social benefits don’t immediately spring to mind either. Keep this in mind and have fun, remembering that you can enjoy the tension of the game while still taking it all lightly!

Some points to remember:

  • Don’t work from hearsay. If you can get a hold of the rulebooks, then please do. Not only does this mean that you will be able to make positive rule decisions, but it means that Games Workshop will continue producing the game!
  • Roleplaying. It’s not just for Dungeons & Dragons or Vampire players! Playing the team (thinking ‘Orcy’) should lead you from a game of min/max’ing statistics into a more enjoyable experience. Remember the team who wouldn’t foul? Sure they may take a kicking for it now and then, but they have a moral advantage over the rest of the league (which may even discourage fouling against them!).
  • Organisation and promotion. Being league Commissioner or one of his lackeys, sorry ‘Assistants’ gives an interesting spin to the hobby outside of playing game after game. Drawing in new players is a great way to both keep the league going and bring in new ideas, be they strategies, organisational or rule changes.
  • The periphery. Get into all of the aspects of the hobby: Painting teams in your own (or favourite team) colours; naming the players; throwing together a game report or league newsletter. The hobby holds more interest if you make it more personal.