The RPS Cup: Da Jokerz Wyld

By Kieron Gillen on September 8th, 2009 at 1:01 pm.

The three-dice block referred to downthread. Oof.
For my sins, I’m pretty confident about the season’s first fixture.

For a start, it’s Goblins. Goblins are a tricky team to play well. Highly amusing, but tricky. As dirty as you like, they’re limited to the eponymous incy greenskins (who are weak, but shifty, pretty able to ignore the worst of tackle-zones) and trolls (who are enormous, regenerating, brutal and thick with a capital lobotomy). Their main attribute is sheer dirtiness, with star players possessing a variety of impractical secret weaponry. A pogo-stick can be taken as comedy. The fanatic with the enormous ball-and-chain and the tiny guy with a chainsaw are funny, exactly up to the point where your star player becomes an exciting smear. The only problem with them is… well, they’re against the rules of the game. Any time the match restarts after a touchdown, they’re sent off. In other words, you only have them for one drive.

Secondly, Da Jokerz Wyld are a new Goblin team. The coach, Markoff, decided he didn’t like the Skaven he was playing and returned to his first love. Rather than a slightly-trained one, he’s started afresh, so they’re generally without skills. Against the honed Blighters, this is pretty unfair – though the game gives a load of extra funds to the lesser team so they can buy things to even it out a little.

And finally… well, while Markoff isn’t the coach I beat 7-1 last time – that was Nick – the last game ended heavily in my favour too.

My primary plan is standard Skaven running game. He’s got two trolls, who I’ll avoid. They’re actually so stupid that if they don’t have a handler beside them at the start of the turn, they can’t act 50% of the time. In other words, rather than fight the trolls, I’ll fight the handler and hope the troll dumbs-down. The secret weapons could annihilate me, so I’m trying another indirect counter – score (or conceed) a goal as swiftly as possible, so getting them sent off. And finally, try and avoid creating any permanent problems for the Goblins. Ideally, I want them to be strong enough to cause problems for people later in the league. Actually working them over and leaving them bloody just makes it easier for everyone else.

The Jokerz have a massive 630,000 gold to spend on bonuses. I’m expecting to see at least one Star Player join the Goblins, but none are forthcoming. It seems that he already had too many. As such, a lot is thrown down on re-rolls and ref-bribery – the latter means those troublesome chainsaw chaps will be around to assail me a little longer.

The kick off.

Match kicks off, and it immediately all goes wrong for the Jokerz. Whenever a drive starts, a random event occurs. I believe it’s influenced by both the team’s popularity and its cheerleaders and similar – which are things which many teams seem to overlook buying. I get one of the luckiest rolls of a Blitz, which means the Blighters get a turn before the Goblins can even move. Instantly, all the Gutter-runners are deep in the Jokerz half and retrieve the pigskin.

Yes, my Gutter Runners are so quick, I kicked the ball to myself.

Sneek runs in to score by turn 2. The fans don’t seem to pleased, and the next kick-off leads to a riot – which means the timer progresses before game can start up again (effectively reducing the length of the game). The Goblins manage to retrieve the ball, forming a loose cage. I decide it’s time to strike with the vicious cage-breaker Stricut, able to get through the lines and throw a block at the ball-carrier. He ends up on the floor. I’d actually forgotten that he, of all the Gutter-Runners, didn’t have the block skill. So when I selected an option which would have brought the Goblin down and left him standing if he had block skill, the Gutter Runner came crashing to the floor and my turn ends. Since it was my first action, it left a dirty great hole in the rest of my lines which the Goblins advance through. A tight blocking match engages before a Goblin does what Goblins do best – that is, dodge between masses off troops – and runs in for a goal. 1-1.

The riot!

Next kick-off prompts another, bloodier riot. The pitch fills with disgruntled fans. They leave, leaving the recumbent forms of about half of both teams – thankfully, including the ball-and-chain wielding fanatic. While the sensible thing to do would be for the Gutter Runner to press on through the corpses, I give the ball to Lhykit – my Stormvermin – and let him try to power through. It takes an extra turn, but he gets his goal. We’ll make a star of him yet.

The second half starts at 2-1, where the Goblins have their turn at an early blitz. My thrower – yes, a Skaven Thrower – retrieves the ball and actually manages a pretty decent impression of an elegant elf team, throwing the ball from the far right to the far left into Sneek’s welcoming hands. This was, frankly, not something I was expecting. I just wanted it away from my endzone. Capitalizing on this lucky dice, the Runners push downfield to near the endzone. A Goblin injures himself trying to block Sneek, which probably serves him right, and the fledgling Gutter Runner slides in for his second.

The match is starting to go like the last… but it’s worth noting that Markoff’s tactics are improved over the first game. He’s setting up his defences deeper in his half, which allows him to retreat for a second line of defence. The problem is that by not keeping a couple on the lines, I’m able to set up a little more forward with my Runners and not risk an easy block against them. The Runners inch forward a square for the next drive, where the Gutter-Runners immediately rush the ball-carrier. The ball’s knocked free which Nurgut manages run in for another goal. Meanwhile, in the mid-field, the Skaven are actually trying to be a little more vicious, and by carefully selecting their blocks, manage to not just bring down both trolls – but KO the pair of them. They’ll be back, but not for a while. The next kick-off goes even worse for the Jokerz, failing to pick up the ball before the Gutters are back on them, Nurgutt retrieving and then handing off to Sneek to run in.

We’re inching towards the final few turns. The Goblins move forward, and actually look like they’re going to get it into a defensible position on the mid-way. I suspect Markoff was trying to hurry along things quicker, trying a shorter pass… which fluffs, and leaves the ball loose at the half-way point.

The trolls being KOed. No, I didn't believe it either.

For the first part of the match Head Skaven weakboy Lhuit decides it’s time to actually show off what those star-player points have done for him, retrieving the ball, then running diagonally across the whole pitch, entirely not caring about little things like tackle-zones. He’s soon joined at the cusp of the end-zone by most of the Gutter Runners. They say it’s their half? Well, we more like to think of it as our home away from home.

And then Markoff gets a little screwed by the game. Lhuit’s the low-strength Skaven. By lining up the goblins, he manages to get a three dice block against him. One of them turns up as Defender Down. Another turns up Defender stumble. And…

Okay, let me explain Blood Bowl’s blocking. You throw a dice. If you’re stronger than them, you throw multiple dice, and pick which one to use. You’re weaker, you throw two dice, and your target chooses which one to use. It’s a normal six sided dice, with different logos – “Defender Down”, “Defender Stumble”, two separate sides with “Push Back”, “Both Down” and “Attacker Down”. Defender Down knocks pretty much everyone down. Defender Stumble knocks someone down as long as they don’t have Dodge skill. Gutter Runners have dodge. So, if you roll multiple dice and get to pick, you pick Defender Down. Markoff picks Defender Stumbles.

Why would he do such a thing? Well, as a game, Blood Bowl never explains this. There’s no pop up on the dice explaining the difference between “Down” and “Stumble”. Hell, it never explains how many of each symbol are on the dice meaning it’s impossible to calculate the odds of success without researching elsewhere. Markoff has been playing all this time and not picked up that Stumbles is the one which is ruined by Dodge. Blood Bowl is a strategy game weighted on odds, and the game does almost everything it can to hide those numbers from you until it’s too late.

So, rather than being taken down, Lhuit just gets pushed back a square – and because he has fend, the Goblins don’t even get to follow up. Rather than dodge between the lines, he backs off and around, handing off to Sneek to get his hat-trick.

Skaven leave victorious. Goblins leave defeated, but physically in pretty good shape. The season’s away.

Never ask the Skaven to sort out the dancing girls.

My careful farming of XP also pays off, as a couple of the characters advance. My youngest Gutter Runner reaches level 3, and I end up giving him the Sprint skill – which will allow him to try and run another square. My rough plan for him is to try and build him into a one-turn-scorer, a glass-cannon approach which I’ve yet to really try and pursue. Finally a Stormvermin steps up as Lhykit gets a mutation and grows a nasty set of horns. Handy in a fight.

Doubly handy, as a fight comes next. It’s The Orcish Darker Tide. Erk.

, , .

81 Comments »

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  1. Quests says:

    Oh i’ll be fooked, i see a damn exclamation mark in that picture too… i got exclamation marks syndrome, i see them everywhere, and i can’t help asking them if they need 10 boar nuts.

  2. phil says:

    These match reports are fun, but I’m concerned they could be a gateway into reading ESPN.

  3. Clovis says:

    I have no idea what is going on…

  4. Kieron Gillen says:

    Quests: Don’t worry. He’s just been sent off for fouling. He hasn’t a mission for you.

    Clovis: re-reading the basic-guide to blood bowl in the original piece may be an idea. I wrote it to allow people to hopefully give people enough of the basics to hang onto.

    KG

  5. Cutman says:

    I thought this game was supposed to be pretty bad. Was I misinformed?

  6. ChaosSmurf says:

    @Cutman – what I heard was that if you’ve played blood bowl on the table top, that’s what this is. If you haven’t, you might like it anyway but no promises.

    Liked the write up Kieron, not enough “battle reports” around imo.

  7. Yargh says:

    add another person loving the game reports. I’ve been interested in Blood Bowl for a long time but I know I won’t have the time to properly appreciate it, in either form.

  8. Andy says:

    I love this game but I was very much like Markoff. I’m almost certain that the games tutorial suggests that Defender Stumbles is better than Defender Down (which, now I’ve read a rule book is clearly not the case). I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to at least skim read the living rule book.
    You must make a bigger fuss somewhere when season 3 starts up as I’ll be very keen on getting in with my Lizard-men team.

  9. Kieron Gillen says:

    Andy: I suspect when the game launches in the UK, we’ll try and arrange a few more divisions for new players to go through.

    (And then, the people who want to continue to play at the end, could be promoted into the main league. After all the drop outs we had – which are inevitable – i think a “proving league” isn’t a bad idea. Also: Experience.)

    KG

  10. Dominic White says:

    I forget what directory it lurks around in, but I recall that the PC Blood Bowl comes with a copy of the latest rulebook straight from the boardgame, which is where you’ll get most of your specific rules information from. It helps to reduce the ‘What the hell is going on?’ feeling you get when you’re presented with several dice that you’ve not even begun to study.

  11. Dominic White says:

    Failing that, you can read it here:
    http://www.bloodbowlonline.com/LivingRulebook5.pdf

    It’s probably worth reading through start to finish before you even play your first game. There’s quite a lot to learn.

  12. Lu-Tze says:

    The Defender Stumbles one is so much more tempting with that extra Exclamation Mark. It says HEY! THIS WILL HURT SOMEONE! CLICK ME!

    That said, I’ve been caught out more than once because I get a sick pleasure out of using Both Down when I’ve got a guy with Block and I have no interest in moving things around. Then I realise too late the other guy has Block too, and I could’ve just stuck with the Defender Down option, but now i’ve totally wasted it and oh god why am I so stupid.

    My most common mistake is probably forgetting that someone has Frenzy, and getting dragged from the good kind of 2 dice block into the very very bad kind of 2 dice block on the followup.

  13. Hentzau says:

    I never take Frenzy. With my kind of luck it’d be a liability.

  14. Markoff Chaney says:

    Excellent write up, even if it’s too kind to me and my deplorable skills as a coach. ;) I’m still flummoxed as to why I couldn’t pick a star player. I only had 15 players and was able to buy an expendable loner gobbo, but I didn’t even have an option to purchase a star player. I rather enjoyed having the bribes, though. It made some of those failed chainsaw rolls easier to take, since I could just put him back on the field. At least he didn’t fall on the chainsaw like he seems to like doing.

    There are a few things I would like to bring up to prospective players. Be sure you know the skills of the person you are attempting to block BEFORE you throw the dice as, I think, you can’t see their skills after the dice have landed. Another is to read the rule book a few times so simple stuff doesn’t pass you by (such as understanding that Defender Down is not impacted by a Block skill but Both Down can be impacted by the skill), enabling yet another point to fall through your already sieve like fingertips. Even though I read LRB5 through once before playing the game, it appears my memory fails me more than I would like and it would behoove me to read back through the rules at least another time or three.

    One final point that was stated in the comments in the prior thread that really must be reiterated is that, many times it seems, you can have the absolute worst luck with rolls. Worse luck than can seem possible, let alone probable, with six sided die. That’s all part of the joy and the chaos is, by its nature, a lot of the fun and a lot of the unpredictability that makes it not just a game of odds and stats.

    Goblins make great fodder, even if played properly, and I don’t even do that, but I do have fun. I do so enjoy playing the game. Any fans of Turn Based Strategy games with a bit of a competitive, or even masochistic, bent should at least try it out and see if they enjoy it. There are some free online variants such as FUMBBL that don’t even require a financial investment, only time. This client is far superior, in my opinion.

    Thank you for the write up and, again, for the time and the wonderful game. Always a pleasure. I can’t wait to play, and that includes losing or possibly somehow winning, my next match. I know I’ll have fun regardless the victor or the score and, to me, that’s why I play.

  15. St4ud3 says:

    o_0 Just saw, that this game costs 50€. Are they kidding? I wouldn’t even pay that much for Half Life 3 if it cam bundled with Portal 2.

  16. Ansob. says:

    Someone replace the Bloodbowl ball with guns and swords and th-

    Actually, no. Someone make a tile-based Necromunda game in gorgeous 3D, already. I enjoy the concept of Bloodbowl, but I could never get into it. Probably something to do with being allergic to sports. :(

    I should probably go reread all the SG rulebooks for kicks, though. I think the copy of the BB rules I have saved in my TT folder is LRB3 or something.

  17. Ansob. says:

    (I’d edit my post, but… Well, you know.)

    o_0 Just saw, that this game costs 50€. Are they kidding? I wouldn’t even pay that much for Half Life 3 if it cam bundled with Portal 2.

    It’s Games Workshop. That alone should tell you enough.

  18. TotalBiscuit says:

    @Cutman – In terms of what it adds to the experience and in terms of a game in it’s own right, yes, it is bad. By bad, I mean it’s a carbon copy of the boardgame, warts and all, with very few additional features and they expect you to pay £40 for it. If you like the boardgame and you want to play with people you’re not in physical proximity of, it’s good to have, but you really have to understand the rules because the game does not give anywhere near adequate feedback or tutorials.

    The whole problem with it is that it’s harder to keep your cool when you make a string of bad rolls in a computer game, than it is when you’re playing a boardgame socially. It is hard to shake the feeling that the computer is cheating in the single-player and unlucky rolls in multiplayer results more often than not in nerd-rage rather than the laughter you’d usually get in a social environment.

  19. Cutman says:

    Well seeing as I never knew there was a boardgame of this, I guess I’ll shy away.

  20. Dominic White says:

    For those grumbling about the price, it’s only $35 off GoGamer, and £25 off Amazon UK. The digital distro prices are huge, but why would you even want to get it digitally when the boxed version is cheaper?

  21. JinGle says:

    RPS has been doing a lot of report’s lately and I’m enjoying it very much.

  22. Ian says:

    Was just about to say what Dominic said, you can get it £25 from many British shops on pre-order.

    For that price I might be tempted.

  23. Andy says:

    Or, pay full price for the digital version giving more money to Cyanide who will then have more resources available to improve the online match-making and possibly the AI.
    Unless KG does still harbour feelings of unbridled rage towards them. In that case, pay as little as possible for it and hope someone better gets the Blood Bowl license in the future.

  24. GJLARP says:

    I love the older Blood Bowl. I’ll totally buy this, but I won’t have anyone to play it with, so I won’t buy it after all, at least not until a price drop that warrants me to play with bots :P

  25. ChaosSmurf says:

    Dominic – ease of access, lack of need for a disk, immediate use after purchase. That stuff isn’t worth £15 mind :P

  26. CdrJameson says:

    Hang on – you mean this is turn-based, not real-time?

    SOLD.

    Beware the elemental fury of the Hulking Stone Rovers.

  27. Ian says:

    GJLARP: RPSers?

  28. Andy says:

    CdrJameson:
    There actually is a real time mode in there but it sucks…. hard.
    Actually, that’s unfair, it has it’s merits but it’s never going to be more popular than the turn based version given that it’s the board game experience that people are after.
    In my opinion, you want a real time Football game, play Madden.
    Just made me think though, someone should totally make an updated version of Mutant Leage Football!!

  29. Vinraith says:

    Great write-up, Kieron. Almost as good as being able to play the game at work. I should get in on one of these RPS leagues, though being in NA makes the timing a little tricky (even if I do keep unusual hours). I’m sure I’ll get creamed against humans, too, considering my spotty record against the AI.

  30. Markoff Chaney says:

    Have no fear, Vinraith. So far our brothers across the pond have been able to accommodate me graciously and I’m EST (or GMT -4 right now). I’ve actually played more with my good friends in RPS whom I’ve never met than my best friend who lives 2 miles down the road that I bought the game to play with in the first place. It’s been a blast. Glad to see the legs are still running and we may be picking up more steam over time, even.

  31. Dominic White says:

    I definitely want to get in on the RPS league. Although I’m probably going to be more comic relief than anything – the AI still regularly stomps me. I really don’t have too good a handle on this game.

  32. Vinraith says:

    @Markoff

    That’s good to know. I’m Eastern time zone as well, though I keep hours that more closely resemble your typical west coast inhabitant (up late, to bed late, comes of working in astronomy). I guess I’ll try to get in when things cycle again. Until then if anyone’s interested in a one-off game, I’d certainly be up for it. It’d give me a chance to get a feel for the MP system (I’ve not touched it yet, is there registration to be dealt with?) and practice against real people can only be a good thing.

  33. Duffin says:

    Long time lurker…. had this on the radar for some time now, when it comes down to £25 I would definitely be interested in a league. A ‘proving’ league sounds like a good idea, would give people chance to get to grips with the rules and earn some experience.

  34. NeonBlackJack says:

    This is so much more exciting than boring ol’ real-life football.
    I’m hooked.
    I’d pay money to watch videos of this tournament with quality commentary, kind of like that StarCraft 2 video that was released with the two Blizzard guys letting you know what’s going on. Strategy runs deep.

  35. EyeMessiah says:

    £25? I’m a bit tempted to rebuy for that kind of money.

  36. Markoff Chaney says:

    @ Vinraith – There is some registration (it is tied with your second key received from Cyanide or whomever, the first is for activating the game itself) but it’s simple and in-game. If there’s enough interest, we may be able to field a US and a UK league at the same time, to make it easier on some of us US players, with grand ultra mega mega championships occurring after each locale finishes up. I’ll try to catch you in Steam one day perhaps for a game. To anyone else reading, join the RPS BloodBowl group and even if you don’t lurk in the chat channel, you can see when others are on-line for a quickish game.

    @Dominic – I dream of progressing to comic relief, and that’s a lot why I think I want to stick with my gobbos. At this point I think I’m just cringe worthy, at best. That or I think most of my opponents must think I’m either an AI set to imbecile or that I just randomly move things around. No worries. The joy is in the playing.

    Also, I hate sports in Real Life, ladies volleyball lecherously excepted. That’s how awesome this game is. My wife asked me twice why I was playing, and paid for, a video game representation of a game I despise. I tried telling her that it’s like playing Tecmo Bowl for the NES, in that the fun is found in the ridiculous plays and the trash talking with a friend, but I don’t think she quite got it, being more of a Castlevania girl herself. She sees how much I enjoy playing though, and that’s enough. I love that woman.

  37. Vinraith says:

    @Markoff

    Got it, thanks. I’ll keep an eye out for you, just joined the Steam group.

    And yeah, I’m not much of a sports fan either, but this game transcends that completely. It’s a sport in only the most passing of senses, mostly it’s a small scale tactical wargame that happens to include a ball!

  38. cowthief skank says:

    This was a great read, thanks. I have gone from being totally disinterested in the game to very much interested in trying it out, if there was a demo or something…

    PS Yeah Necromunda would make a fantastic game.

  39. Vinraith says:

    For anyone totally unfamiliar with the tabletop game (the PC version is an exact translation in turn based mode) you might find the Blood Bowl rulebook useful/interesting:

    http://www.bloodbowlonline.com/LivingRulebook5.pdf

    I’d imagine it would also help with understanding some of the game elements Kieron brings up, if his own explanations have still left you unclear.

  40. Pantsmansoy says:

    I just wish I didn’t live 7 hours away so I could actually participate in this league. Oh well. Good write up, too bad Markoff didn’t get to unleash his chainsaw on you. And two KOs on trolls? How many rats do you have with claw?

  41. Pundabaya says:

    Anyone else really hoping KG gets to play a really crunchy team next?

  42. BookieGnu says:

    @Pundabaya – Do you think we’ll get to hear about it if the rats get crunched. I’m sure it would be a much shorter article…

  43. Serondal says:

    Ah so Vinraith is an astronomer , one more piece of info towards unlocking the reason why Vinraith is so freaking rich and is able to afford all these games recently (And a new computer) That’s right Vinraith I’m casusally stalking you mate ;P

    That being said if I get a little free money I’d really like to buy this game and field a dwarf team or orc team.

  44. Kieron Gillen says:

    BookieGnu: I think you’ll find I’m all about the whining.

    KG

  45. BookieGnu says:

    Then I’m looking forward to some beautifully descriptive prose re: the Crunching.

    Also looking forward to getting this game, although my down under timezone will unfortunately keep me out of these leagues, too.

  46. Pundabaya says:

    @BookieGnu: I’m sure Kieron would give us an in-depth breakdown of every casualty. His journalistic integrity wouldn’t allow for anything less. ;)

    Seriously though, when you choose to play as a squishy team (skaven, elves, gobbos, ‘flings or whatever) in Blood Bowl, you know that you’re going to get hammered into the floor at some point. That’s what the game is about. The elves and skaven can still win at their own game with massive casualties. That’s one of the advantages to the game they play. The crunchy teams can’t do that, they have to grind out every game, if they start losing manpower, they’re knackered. But they don’t go down easy.

  47. Serondal says:

    What about the humans, are they kind of middle of the road players that can specialize either way? Or are they just victims of the quick skaven and elves and then victims of the powerful chaos and orc type teams likewise with no real strengths?

  48. Kieron Gillen says:

    Pundabaya: There was at least one game in the first series I won by something like 4-2 despite having 4 players on the pitch or something.

    But yeah – I treat my people pretty much as disposable. It will be messy eventually, I’m sure.

    Serondal: They’re not actually totally middle of the road, from what I understand – if they put in all the teams, they’re one of the faster ones. In the games as is, they can go both ways. There’s a bit of flexibility to them.

    General note: I hope what’ll come across in the diaries is a picture of the game. Definitely pay attention to when I talk about stuff like misreading the dice. I’m planning to talk about that stuff whenever it impacts on the game. Which will be often.

    KG

  49. Dolphan says:

    People who are playing in the league – is everyone playing weekday evenings? I’m tempted to get it and join in, but I work 3-11, so I’d have to play games in normal people’s work hours, at the weekend, or around midnight.

  50. Railick says:

    I believe the way the league works Dolphan is that you get a game against another player and you set up whatever time you can both be there. So you may play one bloke at 1:00 before you go to work but the next guy it turns out it would be better for him to play at 12:00 after you get home. It is whatever you can work out with that certain player at that certain time.