by Pepe Mus (www.blood-bowl.net)
I believe there should be others out there better suited than me to write this article as I haven’t been playing Woodies for long, but as none has stepped forward to do it I have decided to be the one.
I started a Wood elf team mainly for aesthetical reasons: I really loved the quality of the 2nd ed. minis sculpted by Jess Goodwin, but also because the tactics that apply to them are totally different from the ones that apply to my all time team: the Undead. It was thus a refreshing change.
Before deciding to coach them strictly from a powergaming point of view it is my opinion that you have to take a look at the context and rules of the league: Wood elves are at their best when they have time to develop, they are a long term team that can have trouble early on with so expensive players and lack of skills (basically dodge) which are a must for their gameplay.
Long term, however, they have a potential unmatched by any other races, due to both their stats, the access to agility skills & the over the top position players; even the humble elf lineman is a very flexible player with just a couple of skills…the woodies just need cash and time to reach this stage.
Based on the above, forget coaching them if you are playing in a league using Vainilla injury rules & no restrictions to fouling…your team will most probably be massacred by any competent opponents before it has time to develop. However, if the league uses advanced injury rules as Sigurd’s and has implemented some restriction to blatant fouling then you have a decent chance of keeping your expensive players alive and get them the skills they need to rule the league.
The context in which you are playing should be considered before deciding the starting lineup: if you are facing a team with MB in your initial game (Mummies or BGs hitting your crappy AV7!) or, even worst, you are facing Dirty Players either because you are entering a developed league or some Star Player has the skill…then maybe you should seriously consider including an apothecary in your starting team.
Otherwise, and assuming the league’s injury & fouling rules are not too harsh I would counsel starting without one as you will be going through a lot of trade-offs to create your team.
In My Opinion (IMO), 2 rerolls are a must in a starting elf team because you are going to make a lot of dodge rolls to keep your players alive without skills to back them up. I do not like starting teams with low FF either as it’s the only thing you cannot buy later on (and helps winning games to boot!)...these two facts do not leave room for much considering that the basic lineman costs 70k.
Following the above I would recommend the following starting team:
10 lineelves 700k
1 wardancer 120k
8 ff 80k
2 rr 100k
If you want to make room for an apothecary you will have to sacrifice some of the above, either the WD, the FF or 1 RR.
Normal BGs Treemen are not recommended in the starting lineup as they are too unreliable with the Take Root skill, and Star Players are too expensive to be afforded so early.
The good thing about having so many Linelves early on is that they will gain the MVPs and develop without falling behind the more skilled position players, they are also easier to replace if the worst happens and you lose one or more players in the initial games.
Buys after the first game should be:
- The apothecary if you do not have him already.
- Whatever your money can afford: the 2nd WD, a Treeman or a Catcher
- Consider a wizard as soon as you be confident that you can field a decent team even after suffering a couple of casualties. If you use the Compendium racial wizards get yours even earlier as he will keep your players alive.
- Keep filling up the 16 slots after having all the above, Get Deeproot Strngbranch if your league allows him, he rocks. Get also a re-roll here and there, if possible through Extra Training.
You have access to the 2nd best catcher in the game (the Gutter Runner is slightly better because of mutations), so use him to his full extent.
There are many development paths you can follow here, I would counsel against trying to turn all your catchers into one turners, as you would miss a lot of the potential they have if you do not get the right rolls (so, no choosing of Sprint always as 1st skill IMO).
If you get +1MA early on (1/12 chance) the development path is obvious: Sprint & Sure feet next and you will be able to score in 1 turn with your 10+3 squares MA…if the player develops further get things like Leap, Stand Firm…that allow him to be better at getting through the defenses.
Use this guy to score at the end of the half, not at the beginning of it…you do not want to allow your opponent a whole half of hitting your elves and scoring on turn 8.
AG-> Leap first, then Stand firm on doubles and things like Block to increase his survivability of Sure Feet to increase his range.
ST-> turn him into a ball retriever with Block & Strip ball…you can also develop this type of player with Dauntless instead of the +1St.
Sprint in one of the catchers is good though, he allows you to score in one turn if Quick Snap is rolled in the kick-off table (a lot of “ifs” in this…but it happens now and then: chance to roll 8 on 2d6 is 5/36, not too bad). If you enjoy a passing game maybe you should consider skills as Diving Catch or Nerves of Steel…these are not my priorities though.
Right Stuff can be good too to develop a catcher throwing game…AG4 and 9MA certainly help in this (Vanilla rules allow this tactic for elves, house rules might not or might penalize it with extra bands), other skills good for this guy are Sure Feet/Sure Hands/Pro.
Best rookie players in the game, even better than many experienced players, so use them wisely and keep them safe.
These guys should be your ball retrievers in defence, keep them behind the lines until a gap shows and then run them through and sack the ball carrier or take advantage of turnovers, in offence they are your last bullet for desperate situations.
A must have skill for a WD is Strip Ball, get it to them earliest.
On doubles I would go for Stand Firm to dodge in & out without fearing those double ones, then either Dauntless (if league allows Big Guys or Star Players) or Sure Feet to increase range.
Mighty Blow might be good if you want to turn your WD into a hitter, then go with skills like Pro/Dauntless or Tackle.
+1ST or +1AG are a gift from the Gods in a WD, you might want coupling a +1ST with Diving Tackle or Frenzy, while the +1Ag works wonders with the skills he already has as rookie, and with Stand Firm. +1MA is not so good here, so if it is 5+5 I might get the double.
Basically, almost any skill is good on a WD as he already has the basic ones, just try to choose skills that work in combo and maximize each other.
They should definitely get Dodge as first skill, then Block for the combo. On doubles get them Guard as they will be the ones holding the line and need as much help as they can get…I’m not a big fan of Jump up for low armour guys as most of the times they will either be face down or fouled out, if their 3rd skill is not a double get them Side Step.
Anyone that gets +1AG should go the Leap,Dodge & Block route (maybe in different order). Anyone that gets +1ST should consider either the Dodge+Block combo or Block+Diving Tackle or Block+Frenzy…all of them good.
+1MA is the worst roll for these guys, as it means delaying any combos.
Dodge versus Diving Tackle: I prefer Diving Tackle on players with high ST (so they can get 2 dice their choice) or with a lot of skills that work in combo with it (Block, Dauntless, Pro &/or Mighty Blow)...otherwise I think Dodge is a better skill (even more if the player has AG4).
You need a player with Kick soonest (maybe a catcher with defensive skills), otherwise a linelf…you might need a Dirty Player early on too (depending on the league) and a another one with Leader.
Only 1 skill for a whole extra 20k is not great value for money, and I’m not a big fan of risky passing. Plain elves are good enough at quick passes without help from skills, so I would go for a very conservative route with these guys. I would get them late in development and turn one into a runner (Dodge,Block,Sure Hands/Dump-off) and the other into a long range thrower (Accurate,Strong Arm & either Sure Hands/Sure Feet/Safe Pass or Dodge).
If your league allows rookie Treemen, first thing to keep in mind is that they are sloooow to develop with their negative skill, so do not plan on getting more than 2-3 skills at most unless you join a league that will stretch for very long. There are a lot of house rules regarding Big Guys (negative skills or not, MB or not, access to +1ST on doubles or access to agility skills on doubles…), so trying to summarize:
- Remove any negative skill soonest, you want your tree on the pitch. Consider getting him MB if he doesn’t have it: the Treeman needs all its help to get SP points.
- Get him Block soonest, same reasons as with MB and also keeps him on his feet.
Other skills to consider are Throw Team Mate (to couple with Catcher with Right stuff) & Multiple Block (can hit 2 opponents with 2 dice with just one assist). Guard would be sweet too but he probably won’t get that far.
ST is great, AG sucks, MA has mixed feelings for me (IMO this would not allow him to get up without rolling, as the restriction is a racial one, but this is open to discussion [check your local league ruling on this] ).
If you can get agility skills on doubles Jump up would be great to get rid of the “get up” roll, and it works in combo with Stand Firm & AV10 too.
Tactics on Defence
This is where Elves have to win the game in my opinion, having a great offense will only help you tie games at best unless you have a one turner machine…you have to score when the opponent receives to win.
How do you do that?: get groups of players deep into the opponent’s half, try to hit the ball carrier soonest, before any cage is created. take advantage of the Kick skill to place the ball deep by the wide zones against slow teams, maybe in the wide zones near the scrimmage line if you have a turnover causing card or your opponent’s setup is too unbalanced to the other side.
Cause turnovers with cards & wizards and use your speed to pick up the ball and take it far from any opposing players.
Use those wardancers with Strip Ball.
Take advantage of Blitz rolls on the kick-off table and of your opponent’s fumbles…you must be ready for the opportunity and grab it when it shows, and that requires some planning ahead.
I have used TTM defensively after rolling blitz on the kick-off table to throw a Catcher and get the ball before my opponent even started moving (we play Place ball, roll on table, scatter ball, move…others do it different so you should check with your League Commish regarding this). This tactic needs a certain kick-off setup as you need the Treeman & the Catcher starting one by each other’s side or the Catcher wouldn’t be able to move after being thrown. I used the following setup at the time:
T: Treeman with TTM
C: Catcher with Right Stuff
|: Wide Zone Lines
Note also from the setup that all position players are more or less protected and cannot be blitzed on the first turn, also only 3 sacrificial lambs in the line. You might wish to set the players 1 additional square back to protect against Quick Snap.
If you do not succeed at robbing the ball early on and your opponent forms a cage then you must start falling back, dodge your players 1 square away and keep the pressure on, use your speed to isolate and surround a player here and there and try to block/foul him out. Keep one player as a scoring threat in case you manage to get the ball and, generally speaking, try to minimize the damage your team suffers while you wait for your opponent to fumble a roll…do not leap your WDs blindly into the cage as that would probably just end getting them injured and not being on the pitch when their opportunity shows: Either get the ball quickly or be patient if chances are not good yet.
Tactics on Offence
Wood Elves are the team better suited for offence, and you shouldn’t have much trouble with this part. You can play a passing game even without using position players, or you can play a running game using your speed…you should be able to mislead your opponent by dancing from left to right at will…he will not be able to match your speed.
Two points worth noting though:
- Beware of cards & wizards: Even if your opponent’s players are too unskilled to stop yours he might have something in his sleeve that might screw you…so try not to run a player with the ball solo through the opponent’s half if you can avoid it…keep someone nearby in reserve whenever possible.
- Timing: even if you can score in two turns you must decide if you really want to; do you want to leave your opponent 7 turns to equalize? maybe you should hold the ball a couple more turns…this is something you must ask yourself in each game, sometimes it will pay to score quick (maybe you have cards to rob the ball and score again), others it will be better to leave the other coach less time.
A note on gaining experience: If you have time, re-rolls and are not hard pressed in offence – just do a quick pass here and there in a safe pocket: basically every player should get 1 SPP just in case he gets awarded a MVP…of course every player that gets a MVP later on should be the one picking the ball next game and passing it to get a skill. Just do not overstretch this and take unnecessary risks.
As mentioned before, if you have a Catcher with Sprint and there’s only 1-2 turns left just set him in the line by the wide zones just in case you roll Quick Snap.
Apart from the above example & the MA10 & Sprint one turner, there’s a 3rd way for woodies to score in one turn by using TTM, the procedure is more or less the following:
Set the Treeman & catcher as far forward as possible without putting them in opposing players tackle zones (all those -1 add and might make the tree fumble the throw). Set your fast players spread out.
You need to throw the catcher before he gets the ball, because otherwise the failed pass (and it will be most probably a failed pass with the Treeman’s AG1) would cause a turnover if the Catcher had the ball.
So, you throw the catcher to a more or less safe spot nearby taking into account possible scatter (have a re-roll ready for the possible fumble), catcher needs to land on his feet (AG4 means 3+ to land on failed pass, 2+ if the treeman rolls a 6), after this the Treeman has taken his action, but not the catcher…you now need to get the ball and hand it to him (you have already used your pass action for the turn)...then it’s just time for the Catcher to run and score. As you can see, many rolls which can fall, but it can be done…the more skills you have to minimize chances of failure, the better.
I think it’s worth mentioning again that all these one turn scoring tactics only pay at turn 7-8 of the half…if you score in one turn in turn one your opponent will only say “Thank you, please set up your guys so that I beat them for the rest of the game”.... a game that you might end up losing 1-2.
Cards, Cards, Cards
Always get 1 Magic Item, you need those Healing Scrolls & magic helmets more than anyone else.
Apart from that, Random Events early on, and Dirty Tricks if money ever stops being a problem…you will need the cards which cause turnovers.
Wood Elves copared to other Elves
You might ask yourself: I want to coach an Elven team, but which one?
If that is your case, maybe the following can help you:
Wood Elves are the finest of the finesse teams, they take all Elven advantages & disadvantages to the fullest, so they are the more skilled, but also the more frail & expensive.
In My Opinion Wood Elf position players are better than their counterparts, but the Lineelves are weaker. Why? you might ask. Because a lineman’s first task is to hold the line and take a beating, and AV8 is much, much better than AV7 for that. The extra MA woodies have doesn’t pay for that disadvantage.
So, if you plan on playing fancy Elf play to its fullest, go for Woodies…otherwise maybe you should consider a more solid bet by going Highs or Darkies.
Wood Elf Star players are also better than their counterparts in Vainilla BB, that should also be considered in leagues that use them…finally, if your league uses very restrictive Injury as fouling rules (as “Naturals” & IGMEOY) there’s no team better suited for this context than Wood Elves, as number of deaths will be minimum (IMO, they are even unbalanced in this situation…they just have too much more potential than anyone else).