by Reinier van Noort (Paradigm Central)
After having played Bloodbowl for some time (ever since 3rd edition was re-issued, somewhere in the second half of the nineties), I consider myself an experienced BB player, having played Humans/Orcs in the very beginnings, Dwarfs (for a very long time), Chaos Dwarfs, Chaos, Dark Elves and now Vampires in 4th edition.
After guiding my beloved Vampires through only 9 games, of which I must admit I only won the last 3, I’m already starting to be brave enough to put some information on the net regarding how to play with Vampires.
At least how I think it should be done. I mostly did this because I noticed a big lack of Vampire Strategies (I actually found none). I also hope to at least give some starting Vampire players something to read, and maybe something that helps them play better then I did. (Well, except for results I actually had a very good start I think, getting a 194 Team Rating in only 9 matches….)
Off for a Bite.
Q: Is ‘Off for a Bite (OFAB)’ as bad as it seems?
A: ‘Yes it is.’
Off for a Bite can be a real bitch for especially starting Vampire teams. One drive all your Vampires are there, and you’re ready to kick ass (or bite it), the next your thralls are the only ones on the pitch ready to help your Vampire Lord out. With only 8 or 9 players on the field, all but one of which are thralls, you can expect some trouble, especially against very fast or very strong teams (Wood Elves, Dwarves). If one of your vampires rolls double, my advice is, especially in the beginning, when your low on players, to get rid of the OFAB whenever possible.
The best advice for OFAB is though, Learn to live with it, and see that it has something cool though; I have made an extra column on my playsheet in which I keep track of the number of Bites each of my Vampires has taken, just like you would do for TD’s or Casualties. (Even though you don’t get experience for this.) Some of my Vampires seem to made a contest out of it, fighting to determine who’ll get the most Bites. Lothar von Drack is still on the lead he’s had since my very first match, with 23 Bites. (OK, as one of my starting Vampires, he has had more chance.)
Starting and Evolving a Vampire Bloodbowl Team.
In the beginning you’ll notice that your team will be very low-powered, or just plain bad. Just fight, survive and get as much experience from your games as you can. Build up your Vampire Lord, and let him smash his way through the opponent, getting most of their more aggressive and violent players’ attention directed towards him. His Strength of 5 (same as Rookie Big Guy!) combined with his Block/Dodge combination and AV 9 will usually keep him alive. Regenerate will also help, but it can often be good not to use your Apothecary on your Thralls, saving him for the Lord (you can only ever buy one, and can’t replace him! Besides, he’s expensive enough!).
Don’t make too much fouls just yet, your team will have great difficulty in receiving those; let IGMEOY protect you.
And of course, remember who did what to you, and let your Vampire take revenge whenever they get a chance later.
If necessary, take your revenge when the opponent is old and retired, but always take your revenge!). (Dwarf experience talking – Ed.)
My starting Line-up was:
1 Vampire Lord 180,000
2 Vampires 220,000
8 Thralls 400,000
2 Re-Rolls 100,000
9 F.F. 90,000
This meant I had 10,000 left, unused. I did have a huge Fan Factor though, and money is what you really want, especially when getting started, since you’ll need more Vampires. And they are Expensive (yes, with a capital E).
Like with any other teams, get a Apothecary soon, and also get players fast, especially Vampires. (This is where the Special Plays come in.)
What I did is count how much players I really have, averaged out, simply by counting OFAB Vampires as 1/2 and other players as 1. For Example, my team now has 16 players, one Vampire Lord, 7 Vampires and 8 Thralls. All my Vampires still have their OFAB’s and thus count for 1/2, which means on average I have only
1+7×1/2+8=12 1/2 players. The minimum number of players I have, if the OFAB’s are against me is only 1+8=9! On maximum, however I would be able to field 1 Vampire Lord, 7 Vampires and 3 Thralls! 7 Str 4 players on the pitch… All with agi. 4 too! Now how many other teams do you know that could match that?
(Except for Big Guy Teams).
The Vampire Lord
Always start with a Vampire Lord; he’s the most powerful and useful player in the game, slow advancement being the only drawback on him. Then start to love him. I used my Vampire Lord a lot during my first few games, him being the only player scoring TD’s.
After getting him his second skill-increase, I started using my other Vampires a lot more, enabling them to get much needed experience as well, the third increase is very far away anyway.
Tackle (take out annoying dodgers with ease as well)
Mighty Blow (make sure they stay out)
Side Step (you choose where you’re blocked to, very useful!)
Guard with Stand Firm (This combination can make your Vampire Lord a real Line of Scrimmage (LOS) monster!)
Other useful skills could be those helping him out in his ball handling, like nerves of steel, catch and so on. Very in spirit with the background would be Leader of course.
Not as good as the Vampire Lord, but very good players anyway; your Elven Linemen with the very nice Strength Increase. In quality they suffer a lot from their OFAB trait. Slow progression does form a problem, however, you’ll see that since they have a high strength and agility, they are very useful players and thus they will gain their experience fast enough. Use them for as much as possible, and when your lord has had his share of points, try to give these guys as much as possible, hoping for that double.
Block (This is the first skill to give to some of your Vampires, making them a lot better in blocking and getting blocked. The only thing preventing me from giving it to al of my Vampires is the slow progression.)
Dodge (If you want to involve a bit of a runner type of guy, evading the enemy rather than knocking him down.)
Guard (We all know Str. 4 guys with Guard in the LoS can be real sons of bitches, especially if they have Block and/or Stand Firm too.)
Stand Firm (with the Guard) or Side Step (in combination with Dodge (!))
I’m still waiting for a chance to give one of my Vampires Frenzy. With Str. 4 and Block, that should be a very nice Trait to have, even though it has become a bit negative too, since in the new rules you have to Block/Blitz when standing next to someone at the start of your turn (BB-Mag. 2).
Again Ball handling Skills or maybe Skills like Sprint/Sure Feet can be handy as second/third skill.
I would advice getting some Blocking and some Ball handling Vampires, not specialising them too much unless
they have already lost their OFAB. (If you count on one player too much, and he/she decides it is more useful to bite some nice necks in the public, and thus doesn’t show up, that could mean trouble.)
Get some Vampires with Block first, they are just too annoying for you opponent not to have.
These players are only present to fill up your ranks and replace Vampires not on a diet.
But wait, they are overpriced (compare them with Human or Norse linemen), but why shouldn’t I make them useful. Especially their low cost and inexperience during the first few games make them good Line of Scrimmage (LoS) food, and later, maybe you can get one or two with Guard and Block, and use them with your Vampire Lord or some (experienced) Vampires to make a nice and tough LoS instead.
Also these men will be there to do what your Vampires don’t want to do. In my case that’s picking up the ball, and often make the pass too! (Like you could have read, my Vampires really don’t like doing that.)
I would advice, however, to prevent scoring with them, if there is a Vampire in an equally good or slightly worse position. Your Vampires really need all the experience they can get!
One last thing to remember though;
“Better one Thrall playing on the Field, than 10 Vampires sucking in the Stands!”
Block, Guard on doubles.
Sure Hands, Pass (They are not as agile as Vampires, but still very useful for a relatively safe position as Thrower.)
Things like Leader or Kick are always nice skills to fill up Blank fields for these guys, however, considering the Background for Vampire teams, with their Lord & Master, I would never give a Thrall Leader. (I think enjoying your team and its background to the full is just as important as playing games. That’s also the reason I’m glad there are no Vampire team models, and I just have to convert them all myself. (It’s just a bonding thing I’ve never had with any other team.)
For all players I could advice Pro, when you really don’t know anymore, but I’ve never had that problem; always had plenty of skills I wanted to have…
Special Events Choice
My first matches I played against very experienced teams, having ratings around and above 180. This meant I could usually count on having 2 Special Events at my disposal and also, (very useful in your slowly progressing team), 2 Bonus MVP’s. This really sped up my advance.
I would advice you always get the Random Events, and just hope for those “That boy’s got Talent” or “Special Offer” results. I actually got a Special Offer twice, but both these matches also cost me one of my Thralls. (Apparently they got revived as Vampires.)
Later, when you’ve got 16 players, you could start thinking about getting any of the other cards. (Else you’ll be boring and predictable). Random Events will probably be the best choice still anyway IMHO.
…One day I will get that Bloodweisser Sponsorship Deal….
At first I always used my Vampire Lord in the offence; he’s the only Vampire that’s always on the field, he has Strength 5, Block and Dodge, and I wanted him to get some skills fast, in order to make him even stronger still. I simply Blitzed-away the Defence near (not at!) the sidelines with him, and then sent him forward with some other players Vampire or Thrall, forcing the opponent to spread his attention. The fact that he’s not the only thread and his high strength (5) usually kept him safe, and ready to receive the ball in the next turn from a pass made by a Thrall. (My Vampires seem the fail at almost every pass-attempt with impressive displays of rolling 1 twice, while my thralls seem to be successful every time!). He then Blitzed himself away from the opponents and scored.
Even though this is still a very useful strategy, I now prefer scoring with one of the ordinary Vampires, since they have become more numerous, and also need the experience. My new strategies are still pretty much the same, though. I blitz a hole with the Vampire Lord (If I need his Tackle; I got him that as soon as possible.), and walk through with him and some ordinary Vampires, and sometimes some Thralls too. Then I pick up the ball with, usually, a Thrall, and get him in a safe position, ready to make either a Pass, or a Hand Off followed by a Pass in the next turn, getting the ball to a Vampire in more or less the best scoring position. This is a bit of an Elfish tactic, but for me it works rather well. Especially since Str. 4 or 5 players are a lot more difficult to tackle than Str. 3 players.
Making a Cage with Str 4. Players is usually a very good idea, however I’m not too good at that, and so I don’t usually do so. What you choose to do (cage or be Elfish) should mostly depend on your and your opponents style of play.
The way you put up your players should not be too different for both strategies though, some on the LoS, either Thralls or Vampires (I already talked about this when I was talking about the Thralls), some wide, two players (I use Thralls for this) back, to pick up the ball, and the rest on the side at which you plan your breakthrough. The players standing wide on the other side are used (if necessary) for shielding of my ball carrier.
You’ll see that once your team has evolved a little, it’ll be very suited for taking advantage of the mistakes your opponent might make. Learn how to do this. It usually means moving one or two of your Vampires (might include your Lord) into your opponents half in your turn. Here they will be ready pick up the ball if it is dropped, Blitz/annoy the Ball carrier, keep some opponents busy defending the Ball carrier, and later, they might catch a Ball if you conquer it in your half of the Field. Mind though that each Vampire in the opponents half of the Field, will be one less defending, and sometimes it is a lot wiser to keep them somewhere between the ball and your end zone. That just depends on your opponent, and even more on the number of players you have on the Field. The high strength/agility and large number of skills of your Vampire Lord means that when there’s a small hole in the cage your opponent has around his Ball carrier, he will often be able to use this and Blitz the Bastard. (Or Blitz someone next to him and get a Tackle Zone on the Bastard by Following him up.) In addition it often means that he can still roll one or two dice in doing so! (This might take some help from your other Vampire near there.)
Defence against Elfish and similar teams thus means annoying the Passers, and Blocking the Catchers. Defence against Dwarves and other Cage teams, should be done by slowing them down. Try and do this the Elfish way, keeping your players one step away from the opposition, especially Thralls. AV 7 is just asking to get killed otherwise.
In summary, defence is not that different from most teams, like humans or Elves. (I think playing Vampires is a lot like playing Dark Elves.)
Putting up your players should not be too different from attack, but now they’re equally spread between left and right (of course). I don’t usually keep my backfield players back as far as I do in attack, when they have to, in order to pick up the ball, but I do keep in mind the maximum reach of my opponents players, making sure I can still Blitz that Gutter Runner if he runs through, or get in front of him. (Also, in offence my two back players are standing next to each other, five steps from the sidelines, now they often are in front of each other, with a Vampire standing back the furthest.)
Furthermore, remember not to leave holes in your line big enough to walk through without having to dodge!
- Get a nice Team Song (If you don’t like metal, think about songs like “We only come out at night” by The Smashing Pumpkins, found on the great album Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.)
- Remember to do something that will stop you from getting too annoyed by the OFAB skill. Else, it could get you a heart attack. If your heart was still beating, that is.
- Nickname your players whenever they achieve something worth nicknaming them for; all my Vampires are one family and thus are all named Von Drack. One of my Thralls once achieved killing a Treeman, who tride to block him, and rolled double “Both Down”. My players’ nose wasn’t even bleeding, but the Treeman never got up anymore. Needles to say that ever since, my Thrall proudly bears his nickname “The Lumberjack.” Some of the Fans even started singing songs about him being a Lumberjack… However, with some less enthusiastic or qualified players it might just be necessary to give them a lesser nickname, too ‘encourage’ them a little. “Food”, “Stone-Cold” or “Dead Meat” might do the trick.
Now, get out there, and start biting those fans, I mean, uh, killing those opponents.