by Gavin Thorpe (Blood Bowl Home of @rnholm)
The Undead are one of the most rewarding teams to coach in Blood Bowl and i hope that the following hints and tips will encourage you to try them out. They do require a good sense of tactics, but when used properly they can be almost unstoppable, burying their opponents under the weight of their attack.
Raising Their Spirits
Undead teams consists of a strange variety of players, ranging from the fairly dire but plentiful and cheap Zombies and Skeletons, to the awesome Vampire Counts of Sylvania. To get the best from this wide range of players, remember the saying “a place for everything, and everything in it’s place” and try to ensure that you use each player to do things that they’re good at. Forget passing the ball to a Mummy, for example, as they’ve only got an Agility of 1.
Zombies and Skeletons are the Lineman of the Undead Blood Bowl team. They should be used to get in way of your opponent, exert tackle zones and assist your blocks. Their low Movement means they can be out-flanked and out-paced by almost every other team, but don’t worry about this – the following tactics assume that the other side will run circles round these guys.
As mentioned above, Mummies have abysmal Agility, but they make up for this by being the strongest players you can buy without purchasing a Star Player. Their Strength of 5 makes them a cornerstone of any offensive or defensive line, where they can smash their way through the enemy and provide holes for your speedier players to exploit. With a Movement of only three, Mummies find it hard to compensate if they are not set up carefully so you must be aware of this when you begin each play. However, any opposing player who is clumsy or stupid enough to get in range can be quite certain of getting a good whack round the head!
Ghouls and Wights are your equivalents of Catchers and Blitzers. Ghouls only have an Agility of 3, and don’t have the Catch skill, but their movement of 7 gives you the ability to respond quickly if something goes horribly wrong. Their Strength of 3 is better than most other Catcher-types, making them useful for throwing blocks, at a pinch. Wights come with the Block skill and a slightly higher Armour value, allowing them to stay in the thick of the fighting and still emerge reasonably intact.
Death Warmed Up
Vampires are great play makers. in my opinion, their high Strength and Agility, plus the Block and Dodge skills, makes them the most versatile Star Player you can get – for any team! Although when i started out with the Washington Deadskins i didn’t have a Vampire, i soon found out that it was difficult to win without one. i lost five of my first seven games simply because i didn’t have enough skilled players, but i learned! A Vampire Star Player gives a rookie Undead team a sort of safety net which keeps you in the game while the rest of the other players get some skills.
With your Vampire in reserve, ready to save the day if things go wrong, try to score with your wights or Ghouls (allowing them to get the Star Player Points they need). Vampires have the Hypnotic Gaze skill, which means they are great for turning small holes in your opponent’s defence into large gaps for you to exploit. They can even Hypnotize one player and block another in the same turn, creating a hole wide enough to run your Ghouls and Wights through without having to dodge.
Taking everything i’ve said into account, my prefered starting team would now be something like this:
1 Vampire Star Player 180,000
2 Mummies 200,000
2 Wights 180,000
2 Ghouls 140,000
3 Skeletons 90,000
3 Zombies 90,000
1 Team re-roll 70,000
Fan Factor 5 50,000
As the Undead have two types of player who only cost 30,000 each i’ve found that it’s quite easy to have two or even three reserves in your starting team. This makes a battle of attrition a very favourable game plan for most Undead Coaches. if you are playing in a league, you can cut down on the Zombies in your starting line up as your Necromancer will be able to use his Raise the Dead spell to turn the casualties you inflict on your team!
The best defence against a running play is to stand firm and give as good as you get! The Undead are very resilient to damage and with both Mummies and the Vampire on the line of scrimmage they are able to rumble with the best of them.
A. Your opponent picks up the ball and tries to form a safe pocket to hide the ballcarrier in. As he does this, he also attempts to break through your line to make a clear path into your end zone.
B. Stand Firm and fight back! Your Vampire and Mummies can hit them harder than they can hit you, so don’t pull your punches!
C. As the blood flows freely in the centre, you should run round the back of their safe pocket and attack from all sides.
When you’re facing a team which is good at passing your line needs to be much more flexible. Keep your faster players out of contact so that they can move quickly to intercept any Catchers that make a break for your endzone.
A. You kick off to your opponent and he scoops up the ball with one of his Throwers. At the same time, his Catchers rush forwards ready to receive the throw once they are clear of your defence.
b. Your immediate counter should be to drop back your Ghouls and Wights to cover any break through, blitzing the most threatening Catcher as you do so.
C. Once you’ve covered his Catchers, break through the enemy line with your Vampire if you can, and sack the Thrower carrying the ball. This is more likely to fail and cause a Turnover, so remember to make your safety moves first.
Stopping The Rot
Undead are not one of the best defensive teams. Being dead, they are rather clumsy and to avoid serious problems you must make sure that your team is set up correctly. if you fail to do this you will find that your team is too slow to respond to your opponent’s underhand and sneaky plays.
Two classic defensive set ups are shown in the examples. Both are very similar, the main difference lies in the way the players react to your opponent’s plays. Basically, you have strong central line of scrimmage with the Mummies ready to pound anyone who comes within reach – remember that your opponent has to put someone on the line of scrimmage. if you think that there’ll be a big ruck in the centre you can throw your Vampire’s weight in there too, otherwise you might want to leave him free to plug any gaps. Behind this block are faster Wights and Ghouls and to either side are Skeletons and Zombies. The Skeletons are fielded nearer the flanks where their extra point of Movement helps them to keep up with the Ghouls (sort of), and the Zombies are placed more centrally because their armour will keep them going longer in a fight.
The first diagram shows the defence against hard-hitting teams like Dwarfs that prefers to run with the ball. This is just the sort of game that Undead are good at and you shouldn’t have too much trouble in ensuing scrap.
You’ll probably have most problems facing fast, agile teams like High Elves. These teams can potentially run through and around your defence and pass the ball over the heads of the Mummies and Vampire, dodging your most dangerous players and leaving you with little to do but chase forlornly after them. To counter this you should try the set up shown in the diagram above.
With this information you are more adapted to deal with passing plays, that usually send players up the flanks. You do not have to waste your valuable movement crossing from the centre of the pitch to the sides. instead your players can drop back with the opposing Catchers, using their whole movement.
Vampires are so flexible they can be useful almost anywhere. Setting them up towards the middle of your line of scrimmage brings their Strength of 5 into play, but if you set them up in a widezone their Hypnotic Gaze allows you to storm your opponent’s line. Either way, Vampires are your best all-round players and should cause your opponent some nasty moments however you use them.
The Funeral March
The best offensive play is the straight run up the centre. There are variations on this theme which i will explain later but the basic idea is very simple. Using your Mummies and Vampire you break a hole in the defensive line of the other team. The ball can be carried through this gap by a Ghoul or Wight (preferably Ghoul as their Dodge skill can get them out of unforseen scrapes). Before you do this you must set up a corridor so that the ball carrier is protected. Using your other Ghouls and Wights you set up a short ‘safe zone’ three squares long. in your next turn you can run the ball carrier into this area without unneccesary Dodges. From then on, your team steadily works its way up the field, hitting anybody foolish enough to stand between the ball carrier and the end zone. After two or three turns of this slow advance your ball carrier can sprint into the end zone. i call this play the Funeral March, as the two lines of players slowly make their way towards the end zone.
Variations on this play can be introduced to keep your opponent from knowing exactly what you are trying to do. For example, sending a Ghoul down one flank may convince your opponent that you are going to pass the ball, making him pull baack from your line and making it easier to form the corridor. if you are using the Special Play cards from Deathzone, you may be lucky and draw a Magic item that will make a passing play possible. Even if you don’t, the Ghoul can still either return to another part of the corridor or wait for a hand off which will start him running for the end zone a turn eralier than expected.
if you’ve plenty of time to score, or it’s the first half and you want to grind the other team down a bit, you can use your Mummies as blockers, making sure the path is completely clear of opposing player. This does limit the whole team to the Mummies’ movement of 3 which is why you shouldn’t attempt this play when you only have two turns left to score!
With a Vampire on your team you can try the odd passing play to keep the other Coach on his toes. One of the best uses of this tactic is a fake Funeral March play. After a turn of advancing up the field the ball carrier hands the ball off to the Vampire, the Ghouls at the front of the procession make a break for it, and the pass is thrown over the heads of the defenders. The beauty of this play is its felxibility. if the opportunity to use this play presents itself you can perform the pass, if it doesn’t then you can simply forget about trying fancy manoeuvres and carry on with the Funeral March.
Your first job is to secure the ball and surround it with the largest, strongest and most psychopathic players in your team. This done, you move off downfield.
Once inside the box the hardest thing to do is to keep up the momentum. You may have to do some pretty fancy manoeuvring in order to keep the pace of the Funeral March steady if not fast, so think carefully about the order in which you move your players. Also, be sure to keep an eye on the number of downs you have left to play and be ready for that final sprint!
A. Having secured the ball, your front line obliterates the opposing line of scrimmage and starts to form up for the procession down the pitch.
B. You move your ball carrier into the centre of the box and close the lid on the coffin with Skeletons at the back.
C. With everyone in place you set off towards the end zone at a sedate pace, breaking the opposing players’ bones as you go.
D. The other side will undoubtedly try to stop you, but with your Vampire, Mummies and Wights at the fore they will have to be very lucky to have much chance.
E. When you’re far enough downfield, use the Vampire’s Strength and Hypnotic ability to smash a hole in their line and send your ball carrier sprinting through for a Touchdown!.
Special Play Cards
The Special Play cards in Death Zone add an entirely new element to the game, and if used properly can stop or score a Touchdown when all else has failed. The most useful cards for Undead are those that involve moving about, such as the Sewer Map, and the Magig items Speed of Light, Rakarth’s Bounding Leap, Time Warp, The Secret Way and Magic Pills. if you can get your hands on one of these cards you can spring an unexpected trick on your opponent. imagine his surprise to find that one of your Ghouls or Wights can move an extra four squares this turn! imagine his complete confusion when an extra Mummy turns up right next to his ball carrier!
The other cards have no more specific uses with an Undead team than they do with any other race, but here are a few pointers on some of the more profitable uses.
Knutt’s Spell of Awesome Strength is a great card for Ghouls, allowing them to add the roll of a D6 to their already average Strength of 3. Combined with their speed and Dodge skill they can make excellent pocket-breaking runs or Touchdown blitzes with this card.
Scutt’s Deluge of Despair halves the Movement of the other team, bringing them down to your own sluggish pace. it’s especially demoralising for your opponent if you play it when he thinks he’s broken through your line, your end zone is in sight and he has that “nothing can stop me now” feeling.
Magic Hand of Jarik Longarm allows you to automatically complete a pass successfully. Since the low Agility of an Undead team makes passing plays unlikely, the use of this card can throw your opponent’s defence completely off balance, especially if used in conjunction with a card that allows you to move a player further down the field to receive the pass. if you get this card, you can often tempt the other side into a largle brawl in the centre, setting them up for the sudden pass over their heads.
Magic Helmet permanently increases one of your players Armour value by one and is best used on ghouls, whose Armour Value of 7 means they can spend quite a bit of time staring at the pitch. Alternatively, you can give the Magic Helmet to a Wight, giving them enough protection to participate in a full scale ruck with the opposition and you don’t have to worry too much about the Wight being too badly hurt. Combined with the Regenerate skill, a Magic Helmet can make players almost impossible to injure…
The Long Haul
Undead teams are definitely at their best in a League. Their ability to Regenerate allows them to continue to pick up Star Player points long after ,ortal players would have retired. Having said this, you can have all the time in the world, but you can’t rely on Most Valueable Player awards only, you have to score Touchdowns and inflict casualties if you are going to get anywhere in this game.
The following are my suggestions on what types of skills are best to acquire for different players. Of course, Strength increases are welcome on any players, but be wary about increasing the Movement of Zombies and Skeletons, as this seems to me to be throwing away a good opportunity to get Block, Tackle or a more useful skill. Of course you will only have the choice if you roll a double, but it’s always worth bearing in mind.
A Mummy with a Movement of 4, on the other hand, can be a horrible surprise for your opponent, as this allows them to make a Blitz action on the same turn they stand up (their usual Movement of 3 is taken up by the process of standing up). In fact, the mere thought of a Mummy with high Movement is enough to give some Head Coaches nightmares.
The majority of Star Player Points for a Mummy will come from casualties, so hit the opposition whenever you can. The most essential skill to get for a Mummy is Block and when they have this skill the Mummy is almost without equal on the front line, with the exception of a few very expensive Star Players. Tackle is also useful for making sure the opposition go down when you hit them, and at the same time the Tackle skill stops fast teams like Wood Elves slipping past these lumbering players.
If you are fortunate enough to roll a double, then I would recommend the Jump Up skill, as there is no sight more horrifying for your opponent than to see a Strength 5 player leap nimbly to his feet and be allowed to block the guy who just downed him!
Ghouls benefit greatly from skills such as Catch, while Sure Hands and Sure Feet increase their ability as ball carriers. To make full use of skills like Leap (which require an Agility roll) a roll of eleven and a bonus Agility point is preferable. Block is a handy skill too, allowing the Ghoul to ignore certain Block dice results when the other team inevitably gets close enough to land a few blows. Pass Block is another annoying skill for your opponent, which can be used very effectively not only to intercept a pass, but also to move your Ghoul nearer the ball and the opposing end zone. One Ghoul can be given Dirty Player and be turned into a kind of hit man. He can then use his speed to run in and make sure you remove downed players for as long as possible.
Wights with skills can be divided into two categories: those who are great at blocking, and those who are great at Blitzing. Blocking Wights ought to get Mighty Blow, Tackle, Dauntless and Strip Ball, while Blitzing Wights will find Shadowing, Frenzy, Strip Ball and Tackle more useful. Depending on your choices, your Wights will then start gaining more Star Player points from Touchdowns or casualties, so capitalise on this during the game.
Them Dry Bones
Finally, you have the cheapest of all your players – Skeletons and Zombies. These players should be given all the usual Linemen type skills, such as Block, Tackle and Dauntless. If you can get one or two players with the Guard skill by rolling doubles, you can keep them next to your Mummies and make them even more potent blockers. For a bit of surprise value and variety, why not try a Zombie or Skeleton with Kick, as these players can be set up off the line of scrmmage without damaging your game plan.
Well there you have it – the distilled wisdom of an old Necromancer. Everything I know about leading an Undead team to the top of the League. At least, everything I’m going to tell you – I still need some secrets, you never know when our teams might meet…
Published in the White Dwarf #221.